We can handle a crisis here in Birmingham UK. Coping is in the DNA of the place, and although dreadful things happen here as surely as they do elsewhere, it’s a multicultural city and we’re good at conflict resolution. Anything less would feel like social and economic suicide.
Enter Brexit. Enter Chilcot. Enter a rudderless ship of state where the mainstream media profits from the strident, nefarious narratives of difference and division. These things challenge the delicate balance of local communities, threatening to detonate the cultural bridges people have worked so hard to build over generations. It’s a cliche, but a forest takes centuries to grow and just a few months to chop down.
Recent upheavals have created a change in our mental weather. Not long ago the outlook was sunny, but storm clouds are gathering on the near horizon, and a cold front begins to divide Remain from Leave, Have from Have-not, Homed from Homeless. More worryingly, perhaps, it divides Christians from Muslims. The apparently educated from the great unwashed. Fingers stab across the margins of society.
Some people have already stopped talking to each other and are asking, ‘Was it you? Did you do this thing?’ I thought you were my FRIEND! This is extremely dangerous. Social and economic divisions are slow, invisible poisons. They begin with the green-eyed language of suspicion and soon erupt into verbal or physical violence.
Birmingham is still haunted by the dripping spectre of the 1974 pub bombings when the Provisional Irish Republican Army, who have never formally admitted responsibility for the act, murdered 21 people. We’re wonderful when we’re pulling together for the common good. Yet do I fear our nature.
When the drums of division beat, innocents die. Those innocents rarely matter to the mainstream media or people living in the Westminster bubble, until it’s far too late.
Oh, they’ll condemn random acts of violence against ‘decent, hardworking property-owners’. Not that they’ll dress it in those terms. That would be tasteless. But not as tasteless as their tacit support for the mechanisms of social division which define so much of our lives. Red top papers, Sky News, lapdog journos on the fat payrolls of power brokers.
We must all do something to challenge the corrosive language of otherness before it overtakes and destroys everything we hold dear. A storm is brewing.