5 small tips for a post-Brexit world

July 5, 2016 § 1 Comment

 

There are some blog posts you start knowing exactly what it is you want to say and what it is you need to accomplish with those words.

This is not one of those blog posts.

Like the majority of Remain voters in the UK, I’m still struggling to come to terms with all that’s happened in the last twelve days. Like a great many of us living in the UK, regardless of how we voted, I feel like I’m trapped in some kind of satirical version of my own country: we have no prime minister, Labour politicians are eating their own at the expense of forming a genuine opposition, the mainstream media is awash with rumours, innuendo and scaremongering. Official police reporting shows a fivefold increase in racist hate crimes: community reporting suggests that the true number of attacks is far higher. Many industries, including those in which my partner and closest friends work, are considering divesting from the UK and moving their offices elsewhere. Without EU funding, and in the environment of another likely recession, I don’t know how the music industry here will survive unscathed and without major changes for the worse. Cuts to contemporary, fringe and classical arts have already taken a toll – selfishly and unselfishly, I fear for what will be destroyed next. Like many trans people, I’m pessimistic about what will happen to funding for trans-specific projects, and about the future of transition-related care in the NHS. I’m white, middle-class and a Londoner – luckier than most – but I fear for my loved ones, my interlocking and divergent communities, my students, and myself.

I was hesitant about writing this post because, in the face of what we’re facing, what do I have to offer? But, thinking through a few things which have helped, seeing what’s helped friends, benefitting from advice from those friends – I thought that anything, no matter how small, would be better than despairing and staying silent.

These are five things which have helped me over the last week and a half, and which I hope have helped me to support others. I hope they might provide some small help for you too.

1.Use social media/the internet for a specific purpose only

I put this first not because it’s the most important, but because I’m incapable of doing anything else without this foundational step. My manic depression is not usually situational but, in this instance, it most definitely is. I know I’m not the only one. Does this sound familiar: wake up, check the news, keep checking the news, check reactions, check conflicting reports, check in with your social circles, check back to Twitter, become increasingly hopeless, look up and realise that three hours have gone by, and that you’re now too low to move? I realise that this might sound hyperbolic and ridiculous to those without the tendency to this kind of cycle – but there it is. Greater connectivity to the wider world in some ways – and a greater sense of being trapped in our own heads, overwhelmed with information that feeds every anxiety and nihilistic impulse.

So I’m trying to limit myself to using the internet – any part of the internet – for a specific purpose only. This doesn’t mean ignoring what’s going on – on the contrary, I think we have a duty to keep ourselves informed and ready to act – but that there has to be an underlying reason and a goal. Writing to your MP? Check for facts and figures. Joining a campaign? Research your options. Wanting to support your friends? Check for guidelines and methods. But that endless clicking, that downward spiral of despair, serves no one. Deliberately exposing yourself to additional pain is not virtuous, and reading more and more about current and potential suffering is not, on its own, a way of combatting that suffering. Go in with a game plan – to learn, to comfort, to support, to act – and then get out.

2. Listen to those most affected and follow their lead

This one should go without saying, as should its reverse – those most affected should have no qualms about putting themselves first. But for people like me – white, British, not perceived as an immigrant (though I am) – it’s more important than ever to listen, learn and follow the lead of those who know best. Essential resources:

Media Diversified – start here

Stop Hate UK

How to intervene when witnessing racist assaults

Tell MAMA

10 ways to fight hate

How do I response when I see racial abuse in public? 

Here’s how we fight racism now that Brexit has won

3. Break out of the echo chamber

As a trans person who frequently needs to retreat from the overwhelming ignorance and cruelty of the outside world into spaces full of like-minded people, I’m not knocking the need for ‘echo chambers’.

What I am attacking is the way in which people with more societal privilege, myself included, frequently put our own comfort over the need to reach out, communicate and challenge. Sometimes, yes, it’s too much – too dangerous, or too damaging. But not always.

When white people (again including myself) shy away from a colleague or a relative’s racism, because we don’t want an argument and we don’t want to make our own lives harder. When a difficult conversation starts, but we avoid it because we don’t want the heartache. When we boast about blocking xenophobes and racists on facebook, even though they were our friends once and we might be able to reach them over the course of an evening, offline and over drinks, if we really tried.

It’s not that you can magically change someone’s mind overnight – changing opinions takes time, exposure and, often, the sense of being self-directed. But when we abdicate this responsibility, what is it that we’re doing? Leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. Someone who has a lot more to lose than we do.

So please – have that difficult conversation. Talk to your racist aunt. Listen and talk and challenge. This is the best advice I’ve found on the topic so far.  But don’t keep yourself ‘pure’ at the expense of other people’s misery.

4. Join something

In the past few months I haven’t exactly been subtle about the fact that I joined the Labour party as a Corbyn supporter. Nothing to do with a ‘cult of personality’ – simply because he’s the first mainstream politician I feel able to invest in, in an anti-Austerity, pro-peace kind of way.

That might be the right choice for you too, or it might not be – but we’re all needed, whether that’s in the main political parties, on the fringes, or in combination. In the same time it takes to send a string of tweets, we can send an email to an MP. Small campaigning and activist groups are always in need of donations and support – no matter how small, in time or money. Amnesty International always needs support for their letter writing campaigns. In you can march, march – it you can’t, there are hundreds of things you can do from home. But (terrible saying ahoy): you have to be in it to win it. There are the main political parties; there are groups like Sisters Uncut and The People’s Assembly.  We all have different needs, and views. But we can all find a place to do our bit.

5. Make use of these feelings, and make them count

It’s easy to remember when the feeling has passed, and far harder to do when in the throes of depression: every emotion can be fuel for the fire of change. Even depression, even the kinds of lows that seem the very definition of stasis, can be something, can help us to change, to make change, if we want them to.

I can’t pretend to a sense of optimism, and I can’t yet begin to see a silver lining. But I know that those feelings – despondency, hopelessness, enervation, rage – can engender the kind of action that can create something to be optimistic about. They don’t have to be end states – they can be beginnings. They can be ways of being cut off, and they can also be ways of forging ahead and bridging divides.

I find that easy to remember when it comes to the personal, and hard when it concerns the wider world. But my friends have reminded me of that, post-Brexit, and have given me goals to set those feelings towards.

I’m writing this to remind myself of the fact – and in the hope it will remind you too.

Good luck – to you, to me, and to all of us.

 

 

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