“Due to overcrowding on this train, I am pleased to let all passengers know that the First Class compartments have now been declassified.”
Oh, the oft-repeated lament of the conductor on my commuter train services. It seems to be a permanent fixture of late. There’s an ongoing dispute between the crew and operating company and who comes off the worst? Of course, the passengers. Cancelled trains over and over and over again.
But then, this statement got me to thinking. No matter how often claims are made that we live in a classless society, it can’t possibly be true. Here in the UK we are staring down the barrel of the Brexit gun, with our in/out of the EU referendum taking place next week. The tone of the campaigning has made me feel very uncomfortable, to say the least, with many, many arguments focussing on very thinly disguised racism, on the part of the Leave campaign. We are not an isolationist nation (I don’t think), but that’s how the Leave campaign appear, wishing to pull up the drawbridge between here and mainland Europe, looking down on the policies and nationalities of our neighbours from a very ill-drawn and shaky high horse.
I grew up in Birmingham in the 1970s. Most of my friends were second generation immigrants – Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Afro-Carribean. I loved the fact that our school nativity play was as multi-racial as I imagine Jerusalem would have been back then. I learned so much from my friends, our neighbours, the shopkeepers about different cultures. Yes, there were disagreements, no, it wasn’t all easy-going, but it worked.
On Thursday (yesterday as I write this) a female Labour MP was murdered in her Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen. She was a shining example of a good person (from what I have read), someone who believed that we all had far more in common as human beings than differences. She was passionate about humanity, about looking after people. She strongly believed that we are better off as part of the EU than outside it.
I don’t tend to write so bluntly about politics, about racism, about isolationism on this blog. But I am terribly worried about the direction the UK is taking, about the direction many other countries are taking, about the polarisation of views, about the insistence that there is no need to understand the ‘other’, because the ‘other’ can’t possibly be right, shouldn’t be listened to. Shouting loudest (something that seems to be the vast part of our politics these days) is not the way to understand, is not the way to deal with differences.
Compassion. We all have the capacity for it. Where has it gone?
Here is my early-bird entry into the lovely Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where we are invited to write using the word ‘class’ as our prompt.
This was truly a stream of consciousness. Feelings in the UK are ugly right now, with the Brexit referendum right round the corner. It hurts. I don’t like much of what I am hearing.
Please do feel free to read – even better, take part. You never know where it might take you!