Me and my camera in my home town, my capital city, my london
Here’s my 10 pence worth..(it will take you bout 5 mins to consume but reading this will change your life forever! (my attempt at clickbait featuring wild and provocative claims to hook you in but maybe, just maybe…)
The population of Great Britain will be voting today on the EU referendum. There were a multitude of factors involved in deciding whether we should stay in Europe or not but sadly like most things in modern politics it seems to have boiled largely down to just one thing: immigration and the threat it poses. This fear obviously discounts study after study which shows that EU migrants have had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the British economy and that strained services with waiting lists are much more likely to be a result of austerity budget cuts than an influx of Europeans…but when did facts ever decide political opinion?
A vote to leave feels like the gestural equivalent of Trump’s plan to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans. The main problem with this approach is that both U.K and U.S populations are already heavily comprised of immigrant populations so if you are saying that you don’t want immigrants coming in to this country you are essentially saying you’d probably rather the ones that are already here weren’t here either. And would the logical conclusion not be that, at some point, if they were successful in their current aims, they would one day want to get rid of the ones that are already reside here too?
Maybe our geographical existence as an island has effectively created a conceptual approach to living which just won’t go away. ( A note to those who think they have any sense of entitlement to this territory: even the Anglo Saxons who are considered the native population weren’t from here – fyi we were all migrants once)
The fact is that the days of isolation are over – we live in a global community, we can’t turn back the clock, the Britain of before no longer exists. And even if we could reclaim that more “purist” society of yesteryear, would a return to it not be a step backwards, a step away from progress? We can’t remove ourselves from this situation in the vain hope that it will improve things for us. How? By sticking our head in the sand and becoming the United Kingdom of Ostriches? Has that ever worked?
We need to all cooperate with each other to solve the problems of the modern world. The refugee situation is not going away and if we think we can just turn our backs on it and hope it improves we are gravely mistaken. It made me utterly ashamed to be British to see that our Mps recently voted against allowing 3,000 refugee children into this country – I mean, how out of whack is our country’s moral compass that our representatives could ever come to that conclusion? And we think we are the good guys??
And as for a more long term threat, the ravages of climate change which will only intensify will require massive cooperation & unified action to have any hope of dealing with it. Only by seeing that we are all the same and in this together will we find a potential solution. This will, however, require us to move beyond the basic social structures of ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’ that have dominated humanity since the beginning. We are predisposed to fear ‘the other’ and thousands of years of evolution have only made a bit of a dent in this overly cautious approach to living.
In these sensitive times this is a hard thing to admit, but we are essentially hardwired to be racist. I learnt this in the book ‘The Organised Mind’ (which I have mentioned before and its full of mind blowing insights about how our brains operate) by neuroscientist Daniel J Levetin and scientifically explains why we feel the way we do about people from other backgrounds. He demonstrates that our brains essentially hold “an innate predisposition toward making trait attributes of out-group members which develop into stereotypes which are very difficult to abandon once established”. In short, we are born to be prejudiced.
He goes on to say we tend to be “innately suspicious of outsiders, where an outsider is anyone different from us” and also tend to prefer members of our own group. This is because there is a neurobiological bias in an area of the brain’s prefrontal cortex where neurons are fired up when we think about ourselves and people who are like us. This brain partitioning activates the perception that “we” are better than “they” even when there is no rational basis for it. We have a stubborn tendency to misjudge outsiders and assume that members of our own in-group are complex individuals whilst overestimating the similarities of out-group members.
Also, we have to bear in mind that the integration of different cultures is a relatively new phenomena for the human race. Several hundred years ago you might meet 200 people over the course of your entire life and they would have all been from the same ethnic background and mostly from your local neighbourhood. Now you will pass 200 people within 2 minutes of walking down Oxford Street. People were naturally weary of strangers back then and a lot of that of mistrust still lingers.
Levetin goes on to say that ‘racism is a form of “negative social judgement that arises from a combination of belief perseverance, out-group bias and categorisation error”. Basically, we judge an entire culture on the actions of a few. This is driven by our over-zealous brains that always choose avoidance over any potential risk in order to maximise our survival chances. Their efforts must be appreciated as they just want to protect us but is, in fact, the cause of a lot of the hatred and violence in the world.
The analogy he uses is that if we eat a piece of fruit and we can get sick, the brain assumes incorrectly that all pieces of this particular fruit are bad and to be avoided. This is how we make generalisations about entire classes of people. He demonstrates this even further with the following argument that suggests we can jump to the following false conclusion about an entire population or race or religion based on individuals acts.
1.0) the media report that Mr A did this
1.1) I don’t like the thing he did
1.2) Mr A is from the country of Awfulania
1.3) Therefore, everyone from Awfulania must do this thing that I don’t like.
This is sadly how our brains work and explains an awful lot in terms of people’s entrenched views . We need to accept these biological dispositions in order to understand our own thoughts and behaviours so we can do something about them. Sorry to get quite so sciencey but when there is so much xenophobic hot headed bullshit being hurled around we are in desperate need of some actual facts, driven not, by fear & false assumptions, but by rational thinking and scientific research. We need to counter balance the nonsense and the hate stoking frenzy being fuelled by the media (one perfect case in example of their blatant divisive nature: the mainstream media chose not to cover a demonstration in London by Muslims against terrorism. See here. This might have helped but better for them for us to be afraid than informed. Why? Simple. Cos fear sells.
The basic truth is this…there are good and bad people in every society on Earth. No exemptions. There is not a greater proportion in any one group and in any one country. The violent extreme is always a tiny fractious minority amidst the moderate masses, regardless of the politics,race or religion driving that society. Can’t we just accept this and move on?
Isn’t it time to bypass this neurological dysfunction and as I have stated before, see the overwhelming similarities between humans and not the skin deep differences? I know we have to overcome some heavy duty brain wiring which has been entrenched for millennia but it is do-able as a lot of us have already evolved beyond this perspective. Even though the rise of the far right in Europe is very apparent but to polarise into our respective racial groups is just one approach and a deeply retrograde and destructive one.
The alternative is to group ourselves not by race or religion but by people who want integration and peace as oppose to people who want conflict and isolation. Its still in-groups and out-groups, it just isn’t driven by the colour of your skin or where you came from or what god you worship.
You have until 10pm tonight to vote…
Me and my camera in my home town, my capital city, my london
I almost never take photographs of children for obvious reasons. People freak. It has basically become a total no no. It is even a no no to broach this subject. And so I flout both the taboo of the act and the chat with this week’s photographs. Why? Because it seems weirder to me to avoid than to not. In the words of Scroobius Pip: “Thou shalt not think any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile. Some people are just nice. ”
There was a case a while back that a school banned adults from attending the kid’s sports day in order to prevent any potential threat…when you are restricting life to this extent in the name of protection something has gone horribly wrong with society. There are numerous incidents on Facebook when people have their accounts frozen on obscenity charges for having what are no more than innocent family snaps. Child pornography exists and is one of the most horrific things on this planet but does everything have to be viewed with that slant, especially when its clearly anything but?
I was told off once for taking a picture of two kids on a donkey on Blackpool beach, sun shining, blue skies, Tower in the background, a great shot of old school England and the guy pulling the donkey saw me take the picture and called me a pervert. And that’s how bad its got. I’m really not sure how tantalising the picture would have been for anyone to be honest, regardless of their sexual proclivity. Maybe he thought I had a thing for donkeys. Or maybe he thought I was like that woman who fell in love with the Eiffel Tower and I was secretly lusting after Blackpool’s most iconic landmark…it is a rather attractive piece of architecture I have to admit, not really my type though.
Inappropriate joking aside, you can’t even smile at a kid these days without it being a problem. Poor kids, their whole lives will be spent with people ignoring them and avoiding them. A friend of mine works in a kindergarten in America and the carers aren’t even allowed to pick up a kid and comfort them if its crying. That is pretty messed up.
Truth is, the main reason I uploaded this set of photographs was not that I particularly wanted to broach this subject at all, I really just wanted to post the photograph I featured on Monday and the others sort of followed suit. I just loved the way the old man was sat there, with his walking stick, staring at the kid whizzing past on his skateboard, pining for his own lost and almost forgotten childhood, lamenting quietly that his days of mobility & youth were long gone. This is obviously projection on my part. I guess I could have thought he was some dirty old perve checking out the kid but I just can’t think like that. If you want to that’s your business but I choose not to look at everyone with this overly suspicious paranoid mind set.
I feel sometimes that as a country we feel collectively responsible for the horrors committed by Jimmy Saville and if everyone was just hyper vigilant we could stop it from happening again but we can’t do that by treating everyone as if they were a monster like him. Yesterday Cliff Richard was the latest innocent victim of a witch hunt that seemed to serve no more purpose than to destroy more innocent lives rather than save them. We need to be vigilant and do everything we can to protect our young but treating the innocent masses based on the actions of the guilty few just doesn’t seem like a rational or productive way to go about it. Its exactly the same as saying that all afghans are evil because one massacred 50 people in Orlando. Lone destructive individuals shouldn’t be an excuse to treat an entire demographic the same way. (I will be delving into this more next week)
Please note: Normal service of photographs featuring only fully grown human beings will resume next week.