Horrified. Betrayed. Shocked. Enraged. Completely mortified
Just a few of the emotions I felt for Britain last week. Like I was a stranger to it.
My country … one that has come so far, had taken ten steps backwards in one very relevant vote.
Politics isn’t a topic we discuss ‘round these parts.
Usually it’s something that simmers in the background and we pay little attention to it.
But today? Today politics is more than significant.
One question, answered by one nation, is momentous enough to change the world we live in.
But in this article, I don’t want to analyse the politics. I won’t give you my opinion on the behaviour of British politicians, or the impact of Britain leaving or remaining in the European Union.
In this article, I want to talk about division.
And how, when division is created, compassion becomes a necessary and difficult noun to embody.
However difficult it may be, it’s still absolutely essential.
One of the many things that makes me proud to be British:
The nation is an evolving fusion of cultures
It’s an entire country that’s filled with countless people from different backgrounds – a luxury that’s usually found in most capital cities alone.
These people haven’t just survived with each other; they’ve thrived alongside each other.
At school, my teachers were English, Moroccan, Pakistani, African and Belgian.
At university, my friends were Arabs, Greeks and Russians.
When I moved to London, I worked with Romanians and Poles.
My British friend with Pakistani parents is marrying a white, British man.
One of my closest friends is Italian. An Irish friend’s like a sister to me. Her husband’s like my brother.
When I was growing up, we lived next door to a retired Caucasian lady.
She was lovely.
I remember my dad never used his words to tell us to look after our neighbours. His action did this for him.
At Christmas, she’d give my brother and me advent calendars. Given that my mum wasn’t fond of Christmas, I found eating the chocolate in them deliciously rebellious.
My dad would do her food shopping for her. He knew she was a fan of dried fruit and nuts. So was he. So whenever he bought almonds and sultanas, he’d bring a bag for her too.
We were neighbours. We took care of each other.
And so it became easy to show compassion to my neighbours. And in turn, they showed it to me. It’s a human thing.
But when I watch videos of young, white, British men telling other British people of colour to ‘go back to where they came from’, it makes me feel sick.
I’m sick even more so when these people of colour are called immigrants.
These immigrants. That have grown up as your neighbours. They’ve attended school with you. They’re working as your colleagues. They’re your doctors. Your teachers. Your politicians. Your police officers.
Where they came from is likely a few streets away from where you came from.
This behaviour is particularly sickening because when I witness it, I feel like an outsider in my own country.
Yesterday it was an Asian girl on a train. Today it’s a young black man in a tram. Tomorrow it could be me. Or my mum. Or my cousin.
When somebody makes you sick to your stomach, it’s near impossible to show them compassion
Why should I? He doesn’t deserve it. He’s full of hatred and makes it difficult for me to understand him.
Compassion’s easy when you’re showing it to someone you know.
You’re aware of their experiences. You’ve witnessed their temperament before. You understand them.
But when it’s a random stranger suddenly telling another random stranger to get deported, it’s tough to understand them. They’re not giving you anything to work with apart from their xenophobic words.
Once you move past your initial emotions – the hatred, judgement and blame – you start thinking with a level head.
You start to question:
What experience has this man had that’s made him xenophobic? What newspapers does he read? Where did he go to school? Who does he socialise with?
What messages did he hear as a child about immigrants? What does immigrant mean to him?
What’s lacking in his life that this scene reflects? Does he feel like he doesn’t have control? Is he alienated from friends or family? What is he really angry at?
What’s fuelling this behaviour? Would he act differently if he weren’t drinking?
The answers to these questions don’t make excuses for him. They’re the beginning of something new.
A lack of compassion actively causes a divide.
Retaliating to judgement with judgement is decaying. We both lose eventually.
And if you’re truly against division, it’s up to you to understand.
As difficult as it may seem at first. Stop playing the victim.
A racist may not be willing to understand you – be the one to make the first move.
Compassion leaves no room for hatred or judgement.
Scenes like this are infuriating when they’re first witnessed.
I felt that fury.
Then fury turned to disgust. Disgust turned to silence. Silence brought calm. And calm started to ask many, many questions.
You’re allowed to feel whatever emotion you’re feeling. Sit with it. Observe it. Witness how it evolves.
Once you get to the level head stage, start to think with compassion. And see where it takes you.
Emotion contains the word motion
How far will your emotion move you?