I’ve resisted writing about Nick Griffin and the BNP. I live in the North West of England and believe me racism is always a current issue. I was angry when they gained representation in the European elections but, like many, had to acknowledge that people had voted for them. It really made me wonder who would actually sign up for this kind of singling out of minority groups based on dodgy reasoning which, even on Question Time, couldn’t really be explained?
Obviously the active membership of the BNP are a group of self serving right wing extremists who have had a taste of power and want more. I don’t agree with their political manifesto and would rather eat my own eyes than vote for them, but in a country where there is a right to freedom of speech (of sorts) then they have an equal right to speak as anyone else. But who is listening? Who is actually voting for the BNP?
Apparently one million people voted for the BNP in the European elections. It would be all too easy to call these people ‘stupid’ and ‘racist’ but I honestly believe that this river runs deeper than name calling. It’s comes right down to the basics: nature versus nurture.
When I first studied psychology I learned about group behaviours and the human condition. Dawkin’s selfish gene and Darwin’s evolution theory state that the fittest will survive and that there will be a complex competition for this survival. This hardly aligns with equality and human rights which encourages us all to get along, love each other and not fight or discriminate. In fact, I would say that although these two concepts are on the same dialectic, they are at opposite ends of the axis. I would propose that the synthesis between the two is a matter of understanding.
I’m defining understanding as being able to empathise with another human being. According to Piaget, children complete several stages of cognitive development. The sensori-motor stage and the pre-operational stage are the egocentric developmental stages where children cannot see the viewpoint of others the concrete operational stage allows more complex evaluation of multidimensional objects and the formal operational stage moves on to subjective, abstract and logical thought.
My theory is that some adults never complete these stages and stay in the objectifying concrete operational stage, where people are often perceived as two-dimensional objects. The whole education system is set up around these developmental stages and perhaps the failure to reach a stage where subjective analysis is possibly is due to not completing it, along with social conditioning from family and friends (as opposed to supporting open-mindedness through learning). My point is, that without the ability to abstract or empathise there is no reasons to act on anything other than biological responses. The reasoning and respect that comes with seeing someone else’s point of view comes with lessons learned, either through example or personal experience; those stuck in the (imaginary in this day and age) biological territorial conflict of survival of the fittest have not scaled the barrier of their own inability to listen or learn from another.
Opinions based on fear are usually those also based on social conditioning. Institutional conditioning has a lot to answer with it’s implicit mass-hysteria provoking bigotry. The multi-faceted complexity of the social world is often cleverly flattened into a set of instructions we are compelled to blindly follow. Media, religion, government, all a steaming pot of abstract concepts, almost begging for us to empathise with ‘other’, yet presented as a simplistic set of instructions, a ready-made recipe for life for those who have no capacity to construct their own being. Which is great if you are a free-thinking person capable of subjective empathy, for you would be able to see through this and make your own mind up without fear of retribution from an unseen – you are in charge of your own destiny. You could weigh up the options without judging or blaming, but with understanding.
But if you are already a victim of social conditioning and unaware of it (or in denial of it) then institutional conditioning is a breeding ground for opinionated discontent, where those whose motives are not so pure can take advantage of those who languish in the formal operational stage of cognitive development, playing on their adherence to the base requirements for existence (food, shelter, clothing) whilst instilling territorial fear that someone else is trying to deny them of it. After all, if you had no understanding or awareness of how another person could feel when bullied or discriminated against, why wouldn’t you go and do just that if it meant that you would get something out of it? It’s the understanding of walking a mile in the victims shoes that stops us, as caring people, from discriminating against them. If you have this awareness and still do it, then this is morally wrong as it is hurting another person.
What’s the solution? It would help if parents made sure their children completed all Piaget’s stages, and were benchmarked for this. It would help if the adults who had not cleared the developmental stages unplugged themselves from the Matrix-like hypnosis of TV and made an attempt to understand the needs and feeling of another person and went some way to help those people who are, through no personal fault of their own, victimised. I don’t really know the answer. But I won’t stand by and watch while the circle of hate spins, supported by a certain kind of Machiavellian social conditions borne out of status-led personal benefit.
From now on it’s zero tolerance from me on all racist, homophobic and xenophobic issues. I’m not judging anyone. In fact, I felt quite sorry for Nick Griffin on Question Time when he tried to have us believe that he positioned himself and other ‘English’ people (by that he meant white people) like the Aboriginal population of Australia. Maybe he truly doesn’t know the meaning of ‘minority’? Instead of judging and name calling I will continue on my path to help people to synthesise the nature/nurture dialectic through understanding. For some it’s demonstrating and activism. For me it’s through the propagation of theory about how we can understand each other and our identities. I can’t make anyone complete Piaget’s cognitive stages, but I can communicate the information in a media that makes people think. I’ll write about it.