It’s 4:30am on a Monday morning and I can’t sleep after being woken up by the dog needing a wee! After trying but failing to nod back off for half an hour I grab my phone to check Facebook.
The current hot topics are Covid-19 and the BLM movement.
My newsfeed was a light with both.
My instant reaction was “it’s too early for this” and I set my phone down to try and get back to sleep. Obviously by this point the dog was fast asleep again but I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking again about some of the posts I’d just seen and a comment someone had directed at me in a sub thread in the late hours of the previous evening.
Now I like to think I’m a fairly open minded, if not, out spoken character. And I surround myself with a whole melting pot of individuals with a whole host of different opinions.
Sometimes, some of them share content that makes my blood boil. But instead of blocking them, hiding them and un-following, I scroll past and think about what made them share that or say that? How did we meet and end up being connected on social media? What were our shared interests and what path did they take that I didn’t for them to end up with that thought process? By doing this it saves me, for the most part, from spending my time in an echo chamber and it can help keep my opinions balanced.
As a result i’ve seen my fair share of “Actually, I THINK ALL LIVES MATTER!!!” posts. As well as serious posts about how Boris and his government are doing a stirling job managing covid-19 and a lot of comments expressing anger at how the BLM movement has been allowed to mobilise during this pandemic when we’re meant to be staying at home and being alert!!
As a counter, I’ve also seen people coming back with various analogies to prove how wrong these sort of posts are. I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve been guilty of the same. I lean left of centre and i’ve used the burning house or rainforest analogy in comments to try and show a different way of thinking about how “All Lives Matter” totally misses the point of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I’ve recited statistics on Covid-19 and linked people to comparisons between our own country and others in an attempt to open eyes to my perceived failings of the government to manage this pandemic.
But it doesn’t do anything does it? Instead it creates confrontation and arguments.
I mentioned there was a couple of comments that were playing on my mind and that drove me to this blog. One of them was directed at me after I jumped into a comment thread on a photo an old colleague had shared. The photo was from a BLM demo that had happened that day in Chester.
The comment was quite long and well worded. It made some valid points, countered my opinion and pulled me up on my tone. But that wasn’t what was bothering me, as I said before, I can take the criticism where it’s due, and on this occasion, it probably was. It was the following line from within the larger comments that had me thinking.
“I feel like it’s time I shut up all together on everything. Everyone is judging everyone.”
It upset me to see this written by this individual. Having worked along side her for an good few years she has always been a voice I respected. While politics was never really the topic of conversation around the office, whenever it was, she was always on the side of the fence with the little guy! And she always does her best to put some humor and light into the world where possible. So to see her clearly defeated by what is happening around her, was sad.
Social media by design puts a physical distance between us all and helps to keep us at arms length. We can catch up with old friends without leaving our house. It make us less social, and by the same token it makes it easy to dig your heels in and be confrontational rather than reasonable and show understanding. Her point was valid… everyone is judging everyone.
Individuals feel it’s safe to post whatever they like and fuck the consequences. If anyone disagrees with you they’re snowflakes or they’re racist. Despite our best efforts, activism on social media platforms forces people into these weird little echo chambers where they end up surrounded by people on the internet with the same ideology as one another because that’s the algorithm we live by on our phones… we engage with that content so it feeds us more of it.
Then we are constantly surprised when we find someone with a different ideology and it shocks us into conflict. Some times this conflict will be veiled as debate, but its conflict never the less. The whole process is exhausting. I totally understand why she feels the way she does.
But unfortunately now is most definitely not the time to shut up about everything. Now is a time to be vocal on everything… to use the house on fire analogy, a lot of people’s houses are on fire right now and we need to come together to help put them out.
The BLM movement needs all our help. The BAME communities house is on fire and while we sit here arguing about white privilege and the meaning of “all lives matter” or the ethics of looting or the use of police horses at the demonstrations, momentum is being lost and voice of those who need your help is being drowned out.
Front line workers still need your help. Covid-19 is still taking our friends and family too soon. And our government has failed to protect us adequately as a nation. While we sit here arguing about VE day celebrations, the rights and wrongs of going to the beach or the issues of social distancing at a BLM Protests, you are letting the government get away with literal murder. When we blame one another for our individual actions we stop holding the government to account.
For every meme that is shared that points out George Floyd’s criminal past, shines a spot light on the looters, wags a finger at the protestors and accuses the beach goers of raising the ‘R’, you’re taking momentum away from real change.
We don’t find ourselves in this situation because someone simply ate a bat or pangolin in China. We’re here because over 40,000 people have lost their lives in the uk to a virus that our government failed to protect us from. We’re here because the BAME community are calling out for the support of their fellow citizens to help stamp out injustice and call and end to racism, something generations of governments have failed to act on. We’re here because people are angry. But don’t be angry at one another, by doing that your just letting more of our houses burn. Be angry at those elected to keep us safe and that have failed us.
If you want to do something, sign and share petitions instead of controversial memes. Join the demos virtually to show your support instead of undermining them by pointing out the failing to social distance. Donate to charities working on the front line instead of clapping for them on an evening. Hang banners from your house to get your voice heard if you must! But most of all, be kind in the way you talk to people, because together, we can actually effect change.