Summer of Hate

29 Jun

I was thirteen in 1967, just too young to take part in the Summer of Love, but was aware of a shift in attitudes, towards internationalism and away from nationalism.

Now I am 62 and am experiencing what might be best described as the Summer of Hate. Here in the UK all hell has been unleashed by the referendum on leaving the EU. There are racist attacks, the murder of a liberal woman Member of Parliament and the most appalling language being used to raise racial tensions.

The referendum was never about membership of the EU. The question should have been, “Do you fear or hate foreigners?” Thar was what it came down to. There was also a political coup engineered against the Prime Minister.

The rise of nationalism is frightening. This is because all nationalism requires people to be divided between us and them. There is no positive side to nationalism. Some parts may be less harmful than others, but it is all bad.

The comedian Mark Steel described a conversation he had with the owner of a small hotel. She said that she loved ‘Fawlty Towers’ because it showed how difficult it was for a small hotelier to deal with stupid guests. That level of stupidity and wilful misunderstanding applied to many people who voted to leave. There were other extreme nationalists, up to and including neo-nazis. Other voters just wanted to make a protest vote and protested about the wrong thing.

Now the reality of the Leave win is dawning and there is almost a panic. It was a victory for prejudice, ignorance and stupidity. It made it acceptable to use racist language and to hate people for what they were, not who they were. The genie is out of the bottle.

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