A couple of weeks ago, I posted this video of a song I wrote about The EDL.
With the recent changes in the organisation (if this language isn’t too grandiose for them), I thought perhaps the song was a bit out of date (the recording is from 2012) and nobody would be that bothered. Given the amount of comment and reaction it generated, both real and virtual, it seems I was wrong.
I am generally reluctant to explain songs and their meaning, for reasons I have articulated before, in various forums. However, after many questions and conversations about this particular song, I’m discussing here some of the main points:
Every time we demonise someone, we lose some of our own humanity.
And that goes for the EDL, the people they hate, the people who hate them, and everyone else.
I can’t remember who it was (and I wouldn’t embarrass them by saying here), but I saw a post on facebook a while back, which along with the usual “Fuck the EDL” also added: “Hate the haters”.
The immaturity displayed in this comment is so obvious it sounds like it might be satirical. Is it any more ignorant or misguided than the “back where they came from” rhetoric of the “extreme” right wing? (Was it satire…? I’m not sure now, it was a while ago.)
One common complaint about the EDL is that they are stupid and crass. If this was the worst thing about them, it would be funny, but this is the very reason they need our help.
(Is it not safe to assume that the dude who talks on camera about “Muslamic ray guns” has been failed by the education system? This is someone who could do with some of that there book-learnin. And we’d all be better off if he got it.)
I’m not trying to hold up my ideas/perspective/opinions as some sort of ideal, that if only everyone was as educated/sensitive/intelligent as me, everything would be fine (it’s probably true, but that’s not the point). Lots of us think that…it’s part of the problem.
As I see it, people hate mostly because they are afraid. Sometimes this fear is not what it is often thought of as – an irrational deflection of a problem – it’s a response to a threat. Why do Israelis and Palestinians sometimes hate each other? Perhaps they represent a credible threat to the other’s existence. The same could be said about many conflicts in many parts of the world and in many times.
If it is sometimes necessary to demonise The Enemy or The Other to inure us to the things we feel we must do to them, then we must, as if the ends justify the means. It happens in war, and it’s why most of us are right to want to avoid war.
This is where racism comes from: it allows Us to do unspeakable things to Them, because We’re Better than Them, or They deserve it, or They’ll do it to Us if We don’t get Them first.
The fear that causes someone to be concerned with Islamism or immigration (out of all proportion with reality) is harder to understand, so it takes a bit more work.
I’ve never liked binary opposition used to explain human difference, because I don’t think they relate to much human experience. When someone insists I take sides, I usually think “No. Fuck off.” The more the debate is polarised, the more I refuse to take sides…
(I know what side I’d take, mind.)
Fascism is not necessarily racism, although the words are used interchangeably in this debate. To equate the EDL with fascists raises their ill-informed bigotry to the level of political ideology – erroneously, because they are neither fascist nor ideologues.
One of the points I’m trying to make in the song is that there are bigger threats of fascism from within the establishment. (For example: attacks on protest rights, unions, freedom of speech, disappearance of suspected terrorists into a murky world of “rendition” outside the law and officially non-existent…)
What is fascism? It’s a word, (like “terrorism” or “extremism”, or, in an earlier era, “communism”) that is used to shut down debate – if someone is a fascist, shut them up, give them no platform. Just like fascists do to others…
When I was at university, the Student Union debated banning the BNP from campus, on the grounds of a “No platform” policy. As a friend said at the time: “Give ‘em a platform and we’ll cuss ‘em down innit.”
If we aren’t good enough at debating to disprove them then we should, as a matter of urgency, get a lot better at debating.
The issue with the EDL – and the BNP – is that they sound less like extremists, than a voice at the edge of acceptable debate, less articulate about their racist rhetoric than the mainstream media and certain politicians. So some have argued, cogently, that the problem is that they are a divisive organisation. However, as such, they are a symptom, not the problem itself. The problem is that mainstream politics and the media do not reflect public opinion, and attempt (often successfully) to shape it.
This is also a problem that can’t be solved by shouting at people in the streets.
It’s heartening to see that so many people are willing to stand up against fascism and racism, but if we do that by employing the same tactics as those we oppose, isn’t that a victory for fascism? Not many people will suddenly agree with you if you shout at them and call them names and threaten them everywhere they go – it seems likely that this will entrench them in their current worldview.
This is fine if you think it’s just a question of beating down whoever disagrees with you – there are plenty who agree with that approach, and some of them can reasonably be called fascists.
But if you want to change people’s minds….
What I am saying in the song is that if you think there’s too much hate, stop hating people.
If you think there’s too much violence, stop being violent.
If you think there’s too much division, stop dividing yourself from others.
If you think there’s too much demonisation of minorities, stop demonising minorities.
We must be the change we wish to see.