The Old Problem


The world we inhabit is not a good one. We don’t have anything to compare it to, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m not 100% certain that there’s a better world elsewhere. It’s a world full of cowardice, small-mindedness, racism, hatred, stupidity, incompetence, an inability to take ownership of mistakes, and monumental inequality.

These are all human traits that we’ve worked extremely hard at. The king used to lead his troops into battle, or at least be present on the field; now our leaders send soldiers to fight wars they can win from miles away, knowing that people get comfort from boots on the ground in a way they never do from bombs in the air. The past is something that we’re supposed to have left behind, to have stood on its shoulders to see higher and farther than before.

Crucially, we are supposed to have used the new connectivity of the internet and the instantaneous access that gives us to a mind-crumbling amount of information to make the world a better place. But the world is worse than it has ever been.

A rather sweeping statement sir, if I may. Yes, you may, but think on this; we have people numbering in double digits controlling half the money in the world. Those who win the fiscal lottery of being born into immense wealth, or being born heartless enough to make serious money, don’t like to give it back. Naturally, there are a couple of rebels (Bill Gates famous charity contributions etc), but by and large those with the money, keep the money.

Now how can that be in a modern society, as we so proudly name ourselves? Surely an individual surplus of money, especially totalling millions of dollars, would encourage even the least moral person to think ‘hmm, maybe I’ve got enough. Perhaps I should spread this about a bit, see what good it could do. I’ll still be wealthier than anyone ever needs to be, but some of that money might build a school, or a hospital, or stop children dying of hunger and excruciating  diseases instead of sitting in one of my many bank accounts.’ Remember, it is extremely easy to target the fat cats, the elite, the moneyed vermin, the landed gentry, whatever term you have for people that earn more in a day than you make in a year.

It’s so easy in fact, that it’s seen as a passe argument, a boring diatribe recycled by the same people who talk about ‘love’ and ‘healing the planet’. It’s not like these aren’t real concerns, but we’re supposed to shun people who approach these thoughts with a dismissive, sneering mindset, to have some special fact in our back pockets that we can throw in the faces of the non-believers, the leftist radicals that just complain. But here, here is the problem.

I am not a racist. I am not a fascist, a hunter, a creationist, a liar, a cheat or a christian. This does not mean that I love all people that aren’t white and Scottish, that I haven’t hurt an animal, that I know how life began, that I’ve never lied, that I haven’t coveted someone I wasn’t with, or that I hate god. Plenty of people are garbage, something I don’t attribute to race, or even to religious doctrine; a lot of people are simply arseholes, regardless of where they are from. A lot of the Scottish are idiots – not because they can’t read or write, but because they elect to behave in a manner that marks them out as idiots, irrespective of my classification. But lots of people from all over the world are idiots, so it’s not a Scottish thing.

The reason why we are so stupid is very simple, in a manner of speaking. We are, to a significant extent, products of our environment. This doesn’t mean that if you grew up in shitty housing that you’ll be a drug dealer or a rapper, or that if you were born in the extension of your family’s summer home that you’re going to run a boating firm, but rather that every detail of your early life will shape, in one way or another, your life and your choices.

I was born into a non-religious household with both parents alive and functioning, but I sang in church choirs. I had loving parents, but have spent all my life since the age of 5 or 6 battling genuine, suicidal depression. I grew up hating other people because they wouldn’t accept me, not because they were black or white or asian; because they kept me out. I was never shown that there is a difference between people’s colours, other than the fact that people from other countries (my parents never referred to anyone as an immigrant) worked harder than people from Scotland, because it was harder to get work. I have never seen this sweeping generality as a negative thing, because to me it was a compliment; I saw it as my father saying ‘these guys are going to burst their arses trying to make a living for themselves, because they have to work harder to do so. Don’t get left behind, and don’t take anything for granted.’

The idea that someone coming over here from somewhere you know little or nothing about to do a job that you would never had any interest in until you found out it was being done by somebody else is as British as tea-towels and sexual misconduct. The British went all over the world battering brown people, raping them and taking everything they had by force, installing themselves anywhere that they could, even to the extent of shipping their worst convicts to someone else’s country (Australia) because they couldn’t be fucked with them. By the time the world wars happened, Britain was still digging this, loving the idea of giving Johnny Foreigner a good hiding, sending them back where they came from.

This idea, this mentality that says that if you’re not from here, you can’t be trusted on principle, has dominated the headlines in recent times, especially where America in concerned. A country that prides itself on being deliberately ignorant, where it’s still perfectly acceptable to teach religion as fact, America is the poster child for the wrong way to do everything. A country that has never come to terms with the fact that it stole all it has from non-white people, America has a culture that is utterly defined by its need to be above others, to have the smartest comeback, to have the least book knowledge and the most street smarts, to kick ass first and ask questions later.

This breeds a certain type of human; the human that says that there’s only one way to do things, and that way is whatever it was taught. So, if you were raised in a creationist setting, you’ll always have an answer for anyone who challenges you on anything science related, and, if you’re a real American, you’ll answer that question with condescension and passive aggression, because you hate being challenged. This is not a uniquely American trait, but they are the best at it.

So, what happens when you raise a child in a country that was settled by thieving, pious, righteous and unscrupulous immigrants, who took all their land from other people, dismissing them as savages, who wrap themselves in the constitution, a document that states that a black man is worth less than a white man? You have a country that believes it’s doing the right thing, not because it knows it’s right, but because fuck you. It’s not a question of being moral, but of explaining why you choose your morality, and then defending that position because other people want to tear you down, which isn’t because you’ve said anything wrong, it’s only that they’re not you, so you have to find a position in which you are above them, and if you can’t find away round that, they hate freedom.

It makes total sense to me that America would have a problem with white nationalism, especially now. It makes complete sense that after having a black man in the White House that a viable candidate could be found in a lying, cowardly, venomous weakling like Donald Trump, because he so accurately represents the America that is in charge. To put a strong, moral, liberal candidate up there isn’t viable, because a) those sorts of people are in extremely short supply and b) no-one with any power would get behind someone like that.

This speaks to a greater problem. From here in the UK, I have the luxury of looking at America as a fools’ nation, one that I don’t have to visit to understand what’s going on. But that is a stance of ignorance. If I think that a country with escalating right-wing extremism, full of weak-willed, reactionary, gun-loving people run by a moronic coward isn’t a global problem, perhaps I should turn my eyes to France, where exactly the same problem reared its head in the elections, or to Germany, a country widely known for its targeted policies, which is dealing with a Nationalist party all over again, or to Britain, where, when they’re not burning the poor to heat their servants, the government and media are more than happy to devote hours of airtime to explaining every second of a bomber’s life with as many hateful buzzwords as possible, but doing fuck-all to prevent radicalisation of more young people, or, god forbid, trying to help the people that are in its borders regardless of where they are from.

And this is the old problem. Since we discovered that we’re all human and can’t ignore it, how do we prove our superiority to one-another? The only way is to cling to the past, to desperately profess that people from other places are still an invading force, that THEY are different to US and that WE are not the SAME. But we are; we are all the same. No-one truly knows how life began. No-one truly knows why we are here, or if there is indeed a higher meaning to it all. What we do know is that we need each other, every single day, to survive.

If that is a universal truth, why are we so opposed to doing it?

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