Michael Palin’s final question in his interview with Jan Morris was what she considered to be good advice. The response was simple: kindness. Palin liked this idea, elaborating that love is exclusive and that kindness is inclusive.
A few days ago, the Home Affairs Select Committee criticised Jeremy Corbyn for a lack of “consistent leadership” that helped to benefit people who held “vile attitudes” toward the Jews.
As for the Tories well in the recent Conference, every other speaker wanted to flex their “look at me, I don’t like Johnny Foreigner either” muscles. They claim to work for those who voted Brexit, but they instead adopt the caricature that – in many cases – they used to defy us.
It’s not just in the U.K. either, in Australia, the debate about same sex marriage has prompted an outpouring of bigotry disguised as political discourse. The former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has claimed same sex marriage to be the “fashion of the moment” whilst political writer, Cory Bernardi has compared homosexuals to those who “say it is OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals.”
How did we end up in this scenario, how did the whirlwind of social progress in the latter-half of the 20th century culminate in a monumental soul-searching and division in the 21st?
It’s simple: we have forgotten how to be nice to one another. It may seem overly sentimental and simplistic but it’s the one that resonates with what we’re facing. 24-hour news cycles and the ability to make instant comments on any issue we choose, has led us to forget that the people we deride and oppose, are at the end of the day, people as well. We have forgotten that, when we argue against issues that matter to us, we are actually – more often than not – arguing against people.
This is not, in any way, an argument for us to abandon political argument and debate. This is not justification for abandoning reason and not protecting your principles, whatever they may be. You should be free to say whatever you want because, after all, freedom of thought is freedom of person.
But it wouldn’t kill any of us to be nicer to one another. We should accept people have varying world-views but that most of the time; it might be more helpful to spend time with them and simply be friendly. The personal is not political, and it’s time for us to separate the person from the politics.