2016. The year of the “Other”

I am afraid of the “Other”. I always have been. So why didn’t I vote for Brexit? Why wouldn’t I have voted for the American Alan Sugar? Surely the brand of triumphant nationalism that has been percolating on both sides of the Atlantic, slipping it’s comforting arm around me and saying, “Don’t worry son, it’s not your fault, It’s them, over there, It’s their fault”, should hold great appeal for me, given that I’m a white male whose life so far probably hasn’t amounted to a great deal. I am being told that I should be blaming the foreigners for everything and yet I abhor this appalling effort to capitalise on my fears to further the aims of some idiotic ideology. I reject it absolutely. I am scared of the world but that has never meant, for me at least, that I wanted to reject it. If anything it has always been the opposite.

I have always been shy. Almost pathologically so. At nursery school (Kindergarten) my favourite place was this long plastic tube I would go and hide in and not have to talk to the other kids. In my first year of primary school I would scream and hold onto my mothers scarf until I was physically separated from her and dumped in the classroom. A classroom full of “Others”. Urgh. This shyness has been with me all my life. It always will be, it is part of my character. And ultimately, It is what gives me hope that the West hasn’t succumbed to the racism, xenophobia and all round bigotry that seems to be erupting everywhere. It’s why I can’t bring myself to archly dismiss all Trump supporters as racist, or all Brexiteers as Xenophobic.

It’s all about fear innit? People are scared. Since the financial crash began in 08, it has got worse. Everyone can see it, everyone is having a harder time, there’s less money, there’s more bombs, no one knows what the fuck is happening. In the UK jobsworth politicians began to blame the unemployed, the disabled, the Muslims and when people live in a climate of fear they get scared, they get angry. I know this, as I’ve always been scared and it used to make me very angry. But for a long time I had no way of communicating it, or even understanding it, so I would lash out, mainly at loved ones, so that everyone would be on the same painful playing field. And then I would feel guilty, but unable to vocalise it, it would feedback into self-loathing and then more anger and the whole miserable cycle would continue. I think on some level this is what Western society is doing, It is a massive outpouring of pain from groups who have no other means of expression than a pencil in a voting booth. And the self destructive attitude that comes with it.

I discovered music in my teens, as every teen does, and found the places I could go when I felt sad, or scared, or angry. I could say how I could listen to others vocalising the pain I felt or how these people understood me (maaan) but, on a purely hormonal level, I thought “chicks dig guitars”, so that’s what I would do. I would play the guitar and I wouldn’t have to speak to them, I could be all aloof and cool and people would come to me. Of course, It doesn’t work that way and I still felt a keen isolation from most, but I had discovered an outlet, a way to release the emotions I was too scared to show other people. Over the years I got better at playing and found that any heightened state of emotion I found myself in would lead to writing something good. Two of the best songs I’ve written came out of going on dates, one terrible one that left me a speechless sweating wreck, and one that was amazing, a truly beautiful experience. It was a way of finding positives in my own limited self and has helped me immensely over the years. Over time, I engaged with the world, I went to college and University, I took jobs that forced me to interact with people, I had friends and lovers and, although I still hit many speed bumps on the way that I was incapable of dealing with, many people showed me that my own fears were not always going to be a constant. It was never about race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation for me, I was scared of everyone. They were all the same, utterly unknowable and terrifying, but I was coming out the other side, and starting to understand that if I could feel like this then other people no doubt had their own insecurities and fears. My capacity for empathy grew immensely. (I’ve always had a fair share of empathy which I think, looking back, is why the volcanic rages of my youth caused so much guilt and self loathing. I think most of my reticence to impose myself upon other people now comes from a need not to cause them harm, rather than shyness. It’s a real bastard when it comes to relationships I tell ya.) This is where we come to the reasoning behind all this off the top of my head musing at 2AM and why I think we’ll all be alright.

The people of the UK and the US are lashing out and causing pain, but I think, or at least hope, that once the gears of Brexit and the Trump presidency start grinding everyone equally into the ground, the so called “racists”and “xenophobes” will see the pain they have helped inflict and realise that it wasn’t the “other” that did them wrong, It was their own inability to articulate their pain and rage, in a societal system which gave them no viable options to do so, and that the “others”, that they were goaded and cajoled into blaming, do in fact have far more in common with them then the likes of Trump. And they will start to empathise with them. Because they are them. We are all scared right now. We are all “other” to someone. And once we all start realising this and stop saying yes to the comforting hand of these insidious nationalists who would drive divisions between us for their own gain, the better things will get. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of people who are racist assholes, there are, I’ve met a fair few, but I can’t bring myself to believe the majority of people in this day and age are, and although divided right now, the best thing would probably be to try and empathise with people, attempt to understand why this has all happened and not just go on social media and try to score SJW points by seeing who can shout, “Racist” the loudest.

Obviously, I am aware that as a white male, with all the privilege that goes with it, that I may be talking utter bullshit and this won’t at all comfort or help those people who are living in a very real fear of harm at the moment, and may well come across as patronising, but I’d point out that no one will read this anyway, and also I’m just trying to understand what the fuck is happening in the world from my own very limited viewpoint and trying to articulate my own rage and pain at what is going on. And, on the plus side, I haven’t written the word “E***e” once. Come on, you know which word I’m talking about.

Fuck it. I might well write tomorrow about how Trump is going to wreck NATO and buddy up with Putin’s expansionist Russia and we’ll all end up dead in a nuclear fire, but that’s tomorrow and, as long as there is one, we’ve got half a chance. Well, maybe a bit less than that once Trump is in charge…..