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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale

Our age of storms in teacups

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

For eternity, discord has existed. I hope that I shall always enjoy the fortune of living in a free democracy, where a conflict of ideas shall ever shape how we are governed and the best path to progress forward in being able to shape our ideas through disagreement.

Bitter irony is to be extracted from the fact that through a pandemic, a tendency to generate general animosity and express disapproval towards the opinions of other people seems to be getting fueled.

Inevitably almost, COVID-19 and your approach towards it have been stringently politicised. Never would I say that this is a negative thing in itself. Everything can be political after all; divorcing the personal from the political is something that I view as integral for how to best run your life. In the most basic of formats, if you only entertain having friends with people that appear to think in the same way as you, your convictions may surely become something of an equivalent to being sheltered?

It appears increasingly as though people are becoming defined through the outlook that they take on issues, which often seem to be framed as emotive, in terms of representing something about a moral compass in themselves. Celebrating having opposing persuasions and still being best mates, seem to fast be becoming feats of the past in our politically polarised world. I appreciate that at times it may be difficult to differentiate, though it must be healthier – if not indeed just more accurate – to judge how well you relate to somebody and the behaviour that they have displayed towards you primarily and their political stance secondarily. Simplistic sounding maybe, but then many of the best things are!

What I think that I’m really trying to challenge is the fact that to solely discredit a sentiment on the basis that you disagree with it – profound as the differences in your impressions may be – does not go far beyond pure dismissiveness. With this, I think that the bottom line comes out, in that it all amounts to finding empathy in terms of building anything constructive to move forward.

Brexit, Trump, Johnson etc. etc. are all things that I have strong and feelings beyond disgrace towards. Nonetheless, I appreciate that folk who I know well and would consider myself close to, have incredibly different approach. So, beyond the odd lapse of consistent integrity, I cannot see much point to strengthening my standpoint in any way by demonising those who think differently.

This is particularly when it so often appears that so much venom and hatred is being expended upon people who are fundamentally like-minded. Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland may be one of the most long-standing examples. But we are once again seeing such like between Hard-Left and Soft Left factions in the Labour Party. It all comes down to a seeming liking for disruption close to home as it is must far easier to become immersed in such competitions for betterment. What is almost guaranteed, is that unkempt and morally dubious actions are thrown from one side to the other and that deadlock is soon reached. A lot of blood has been seem to be shed throughout history, being glossed-up through so many guises that fundamentally amount to a mere lack of understanding.

Hating something often seems far easier than building an understanding, which can take far more time and effort. I vividly recall back when I was aged about 14, our form tutor insisting that we had to adopt the other side of the fence from our viewpoint to build our argument. This seemed incredibly frustrating at the time, but now I think that I appreciate the value and the worth in this exercise. This is in terms that I do not see how you can ever categorise an argument as rounded, if you fail to understand the logic (including as much lack of it as you may perceive!) of the opposition i.e. you need to see things from the other side of the fence.

Grasping anything, can by means amount to having to agree with it, but the notion of moving forward without listening and taking aboard the viewpoints of others with the goal of reaching compromise just seems to be delusional. That is not even to say that I don’t feel that things should not ever be radical; wisely selected battles must just be paramount.

As the title of this provides, I think that prioritising of what matters is something that can so often be lost and I wouldn’t at all blame anybody for doing this. It’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly, but us chattering classes have just been made to feel so distanced from the decision making process in the societies where we live. Again Brexit, Trump, Johnson etc. etc. There is just such a wealth of anger. Justified as I believe that it is, being used incorrectly can’t do anything much positive.

This has led to us all – from the mind-set of a millennial at least – feeling detached and improperly represented by the decisions making process. Perhaps since teenagers emerged as a concept, this feeling has existed. It just seems that now, that with the long spiralling cost of property and the ever increased media fixation with success, so many of us are finding fulfilment to be an ever more distanced concept.

An asymmetry between how many of us see ourselves and our relationship with the rest of the world seems to be widening. To a significant extent, I feel that for many of my generation, this is in having being fed a lie. Being told that if you worked hard and were successful at school, you were as good as guaranteed a bountiful life; you could see that we were almost set up for failure in advertising a covert crude form of outdated capitalist message.

What we have been left with, is a form of disappointment and frustration, where the consistent validation that you received at school does not translate into – and I can’t tell you how much I’ve always resented this term – the real world. The fact of the matter is, that as invaluable as an education is, the reliable praise that prestige and status can never be reflected in broader horizons. That is all so often encouraged by the institution offering it (but let’s leave aside public schooling along with the increased marketization of education, from feats such as the open publication of school league tables from 1993) fails to be mirrored outside of being a student. From this, an often unwelcome realisation that the value and confidence may well be able to command esoteric information, does often not then translate into gaining much value beyond narrow parameters.

Storms in teacups are often justified and relief that they can provide. What I think that I am trying to celebrate is having perspective. Indeed there is unfortunately such an abundance of things in which we can justifiably release anger towards at the moment. Only I feel that it would be a better direction of our energy, to fuel it in promoting the causes that we feel with positivity, rather than internalising it towards people who you could instead cooperate with in creating improvements. Hope that you see what I’m trying to say; time spent on friends is nearly always better than time spent on disagreements. Or at least base the storms that we have on things beyond the nuances in the teapot of our discussions.

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