Today I woke up to a world I no longer understand

June 24th, I woke up to a Brexit vote and cried for two hours straight. My world had just crumbled (or so I thought) and the unimaginable had happened — I have been a vocal pro-European for over 20 years and the European project meant a great deal to me and now it was being dismantled. This, in my eyes, was one of the biggest and most amazing projects we had ever done — coming together as 28 individuals nations, putting our differences aside and working closely as one community to create a better, more prosperous and peaceful world.

I cried, and then went back to work. Work for me that day meant congratulating my customers on a campaign well fought, both the Stronger In campaign and the Vote Leave Take Control campaign. Indeed, both had used NationBuilder to run their grassroots campaigns. I did so happily as it was an honour to have worked with both teams; equally as committed and hard working. These campaigns were fought by individuals who believed full heartedly in their cause. I didn’t need to agree with either side in order to provide them with the best service and support I was able to give.

November 9th, I woke up to President-elect Donald Trump and felt great sadness as I realised that highest glass ceiling wasn’t being broken any time soon. Gender equality is something else I have vocally stood by for many years. The American people had just elected a man I was actually frightened of. For many, the anger is much deeper and the sadness and fear much greater in ways I can only imagine.

These are not a unique scenarios at NationBuilder but these are mine. We all go to work everyday and proudly serve anyone who wants to lead, but it doesn’t mean we agree with all or even any of our customer policies. It’s not our job as a tech company to choose who can use our technology but that doesn’t make use ‘monsters’.

Today, November 18th, I woke up to a lot of angry people saying some inexcusable (and more often than not false) s**t about the company I work for, our CEO and my colleagues whom I have the utmost respect for. Today, was the day I woke up to a world I no longer understood. Not on June 23rd when the UK decided to leave the European Union, not on November 9th when Trump got elected but today. Today, I realised just how much anger, hate and intolerance** there is towards people we don’t understand and towards people who don’t think and act like ‘us’. We say we are open to others and their differences but today I realised we still have a long way to go. When did this casual hate and normalisation of intolerance become okay.

By all means disagree and voice your discontent with what we (or others) stand for — after all it’s what it means to be part of an open society. But please don’t pretend you know us or even understand why we do what we do without talking with us first. If I have learnt one thing from my time at NationBuilder is that it is easy to judge and hold our moral high ground on the things we believe to be true but it is excruciatingly harder to respect and understand someone else’s opposing opinions.

I know many people are angry and scared and understandably so. So I thought I would add a little context to what it is we actually do and why we do the things we do, like be nonpartisan.

One of our values at NationBuilder is to serve all communities, people and organisations. This is at the core of what we do every single day. Every day, hundreds of people walk into the offices and get to work serving all communities — some they agree with and many they fundamentally disagree with.

Doing this every day is fu**ing hard work. Every single day is hard* but none of us are doing this because it’s easy. So don’t ask if me if I am ashamed or embarrassed by the customers I serve because I am not. Don’t ask me how I can get out of bed and work with the ‘enemy’ because I don’t consider my customers the enemy. Don’t tell me my work funds hatred whilst hurling abuse at me. Why don’t you instead ask me what it is like to serve someone who is organising to destroy the very thing you believe in the most, ask me what I have learnt from serving all communities, ask me if I have changed my mind on certain policies since meeting all these diverse people with incredible stories… you get my point. I will happily answer any questions you have and listen to you as I think right now that is probably the best thing I can do.

Furthermore, I am gratefully for many things from my time at NationBuilder but most of all I am grateful because it taught me to understand others and their differences — all their differences, not just the ones I was willing to accept and comfortable with. It helped me understand that we all come with baggage, a lot of baggage. It is this same baggage that forges the decisions we take every day — the political parties we belong to, the candidates we elect, the policies we vote on, the groups we support, the communities we are part of … Our customers and my fellow colleagues have made me a much more tolerant person than I ever was and I haven’t lost any of my core values and beliefs as a result either.

Serving all these customers every single day that do things I don’t understand or I disagree was probably one of the hardest and best things I have ever done. It helped me respect them (more). Serving all communities has helped me comprehend that behind each vote, each decision, each action lies a very complex individual that has the right to his or her ideas and values, the right to be heard, the right to be treated as equal and the right to the software they need to lead and organise.

So you might not like the fact that we serve all communities and that is your prerogative but don’t for one second think that this is something we just do for profit, for fun or simply because we can and don’t care about the consequences. I have never met or had the pleasure to work with such committed, hardworking and incredibly giving people. Today was a miserable day watching passionate people who have lots to offer on both sides of the debate hurling abuse at each other in the name of creating a better world. Surely we can find a way to be passionate about the things we believe in, stand by them whilst being tolerant of others and their opposing opinions.

Finally, don’t get me wrong, there are some core, fundamental and inalienable human values (that are protected as legal rights in national and international law) that need protecting now more than ever.

*Hard is not a synonym for bad. Hard is good but it’s also messy and complicated.

  • *Thank you to Wilkes for helping me put a word to the thing that was making me miserable — intolerance.

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