There’s something unpleasant going on. All across Europe, far-right parties are popping up, spreading a message eerily similar to one that you could have heard in Italy and Germany in the early 1930s. Different parties in different countries have their own individual policies but the common denominator is an anger at the current state of affairs. They demand an immediate stop for spending money on welfare to people of “foreign origin”. Borders should be closed, immigrants should be expelled or at least closely supervised and all international aid should be stopped at once. Basically, it’s a message of intolerance.
On a smaller scale, people in all walks of life seem to feel unjustly treated, as if they somehow have missed out on something. There’s a prevalent sense of envy and jaundice, of seeing oneself as a victim of some kind of conspiracy. Everyone else seem to be much better off, and they most surely don’t deserve to. It can be as simple as someone having a later model of a smartphone than you do, or what seems like a better job. Or perhaps a newer car or a bigger house. Regardless of the details, it comes down to haves and have-nots. And if we lived in a society where that could mean the difference between life and death, those things would matter. But in the modern post-industrial countries of Western Europe, we don’t. We have what we need. Our children get fed and educated, we all have clothes to keep us warm and places to live to keep us dry. And the few unlucky ones that don’t should be able to rely on a well-developed welfare system to help them out.
I know, it’s not a perfect system. People who need help sometimes don’t get it. And sometimes people who don’t need help get it anyway. But on the whole, it shouldn’t impact on your life or hinder you from making it a good one. So that sense of envy – which is most likely a left-over function from past times, when life was truly rough – is now more or less obsolete.
But that doesn’t really matter. The green-eyed envy and delusion of being subjected to government-made plots and conspiracies manifest itself as anger and frustration, which in turn easily and quickly escalate into a hot white hate, blinding us from any kind of logical arguments and reasoning. And suddenly we start to long back to simpler times, when all was good and people worked for a living (and with job titles we actually understood the meaning of). This in turn will promote conservative values, like the importance of traditional family structures (ideally banning all those newfangled PC alternative lifestyles all together) and stopping the immigration to finally get rid of all those multicultural influences.
And before we know it, the only party we can vote for is one of the new ultra-right single-issue ones. And that’s exactly what we see across Europe at the moment. From UKIP in Britain, SD in Sweden and NPD in Germany to Fiamma Tricolore in Italy, Front National in France and Svaboda in Ukraine, far-right extremist parties have gained momentum in the last few years. Even though they are still mostly in minority, they are loud and attention-hogging and their presence highlights that people more and more let their anger guide them where to put their votes.
The missing piece
What most traditionalists seem to miss, however, is that things weren’t all that different in the past. We’ve never had that traditional and simple society that everyone seem to remember so fondly, with a single culture, consisting of a single, racially coherent people. We’ve always had immigration and we’ve always been multicultural. And thank goodness for that, or we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the richness of culinary delicacies that are almost without exception imported from abroad – even (or perhaps even particularly) our treasured national dishes. We would not be speaking the languages we are speaking without the countless influences from dozens or more foreign tongues. Our multicultural heritage is what makes us us.
As a species, we have always been a melting pot of ideas, cultural memes and linguistic influences. That is what has ensured that we survived where the other species of humans did not. We absorb new trends and phenomena at a speed and with a delight that is unprecedented in the history of evolution. We are multicultural masters, picking and choosing the best from every new society we encounter. It’s our speciality and the key to our success. But I’m aware that I’m preaching to deaf ears. If anyone who feels threatened by the current state of affairs would end up on this blog and read this post – a rather unlikely scenario, I admit – they would no doubt dismiss it all as stupid socialistic propaganda at worst or as well-meaning but horribly misguided advice at best. The blind hate mentioned above has… well, blinded them.
The stench of intolerance
For me personally there’s an additional aspect to this topic however. I find intolerant people truly unappealing – revolting even. Intolerance disgusts me. The selfishness of the intolerant person make them somehow look smaller, like shrivelled up remnants of something that was once human but what has now been reduced to something much less. Something sub-human. Not from belonging to the “wrong” class or race or culture but from having willingly rid themselves of the most human quality of all: empathy. And in the wake of a lack of empathy, a range of unsavoury concepts eagerly awaits to fill its space: victim blaming, stereotyping and scapegoating, all fed by the celebration of ignorance, disrespect and contempt.
To be clear: we all have the full range of human emotions. We all sometimes feel envy, contempt or hate. Sometimes. And that’s the key. Without wanting to sound like a Star Wars fan, if we give in to the dark side it will consume us. All that will be left will be the sad remnant of a once proud, thinking, feeling and empathic human being: an empty husk, filled only with the smelly vapours of mistrust, hate and intolerance. The choice is ours and it’s a continuous one. Every day, every time we interact with another human being, we have to decide: “shall I be a real human being, making use of my full range of emotions and mental faculties, or shall I be an intolerant asshole?” Don’t be an asshole.