Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thoughts on Democracy and Cosmopolitanism

Over the last few months, a little, tiny part of my mind has had a niggling feeling of uneasiness. It's been there for a while now, having a growth spurt the day that Nigel Farage was 'scared away' from attending a Cambridge University talk. I saw the facebook event about a protest. I even thought of going with a friend, who for want of a better word could be described as one those 'lefties'. While I was having a look at the event, I saw that something like 200 people were attending, in the end we decided not to go and I'm glad that I didn't. 

While many people feel that joining the anti-UKIP bandwagon is 'obviously the righteous path', I feel uncomfortable by it. I feel uncomfortable now, realising that I have and still to an extent look down at people who want to vote for them. I agree that their policies are terrible, and they haven't really got many, or any. But I also realise the importance of democracy, since we are apparently living in a democratic society. It is therefore ironic that it is these people who attended the protest are also the ones destroying the meaning of a liberal society where everyone should have a right to their own opinions and vote for whoever they wish. These people who wanted this protest were also the people attending in the name of the right to free speech. It is therefore ironic that they took that right from someone else because their opinions are not in line with theirs.  

I despise UKIP, I think they are terrible and believe that they have succeeded in getting anyone who was ever a closet racist to join their ranks and vote for them. Their ever-growing fandom has affected my life in ways that may not be obvious from the outset.  I'd never felt different to anyone else unless people asked me where I was from, and let me tell you that replying with 'Cambridge' is never the right or a good enough answer. These people then usually ask me where my parents are from and even though I sigh loudly, they never notice that they are the ones who've just made me remember that I am never going to be accepted for just being another human being, because they can see that my skin is darker than everyone else's in the room. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm proud of my heritage. I'm proud to be British and Punjabi, but being reminded, when I forget that there aren't any differences between anyone, isn't very nice. Because I am reminded that I cannot be privileged to have those thoughts because I am the one who is 'different'. I used to get asked the 'where are you from' question before UKIP got popular. It was annoying then, but I just put it down to people being ignorant or curious, but since that party's rise, it's gotten darker, with a hostile scent. I sense danger these days whenever I get stared at or asked what I do or why I'm here. I am less confident when someone asks me where I'm from because I wonder whether they will accuse me of being an immigrant or tell me to go back to my country (it has happened before). For some people I am their only 'coloured' friend. it's not delightful to know that they might use me as the 'I'm not racist, I have an Indian friend...' (also happened before). It's also not nice to be told by people moaning about immigration that, 'oh, it's okay, you're one of us, we don't mean you.' But what doesn't help is people who decide for me what's offensive to me and what isn't, and people who cannot accept my decisions when something that has to be offensive to me isn't actually offensive. A good example would be Citizen Khan and Goodness Gracious Me. These are my opinions, and they cannot be seen as the views of everyone who's Punjabi, or British Indian, or from South Asia. 

Having said that, it is important that when someone is racist or says something discriminatory, people no matter their socioeconomic status should stand up to it. Standing up for what's right is important; racism and discrimination are not opinions. People who hold these negative, oppressive opinions fail to see the bigger picture. They are forgetting that cosmopolitanism is as much a part of the human condition as it is past of human history. This idea is old as the time of Socrates and Cicero. 

We all have an innate curiosity of exploring the world, and seeing what's out there, past our own multiple borders. It's much more than about exploration and adventure though.  In my time in Sweden, I had the great privilege of studying Seyla Benhabib's text- Dignity in Adversity: Human Rights in Troubled Times. It is here that I was introduced to Kant. In Kant's view, every single person has the right to go wherever they like without the fear of hostility from their hostsWe, therefore, are quite privileged to see Kant’s vision come somewhat to life with being part of the European Union, as we have free movement throughout any of the EU member states, and on top of this almost all of the European countries are also part of the Schengen Agreement. The world, or our neighbouring part of the world is becoming even more accessible, or rather has been accessible for quite some time, and yet it seems further away in some people's minds. 

'Our little island apparently is too full, bursting at the seams, we don't want anymore of them.' This is an argument I hear almost all the time. I don't go out there to talk to these people, instead they come to tell me, sometimes they even look me in the eyes and tell me, as if I will go back and report to the immigrants and tell them to 'return- for this little island is full'. Instead of rejoicing at the idea that many countries are looking past their borders and giving people the right rather than the priviledge to move freely, many people are bemoaning it. Of all the reasons there might be to leave the EU, Farage chooses the reason that we have apparently got too many of 'them' here. Instead of looking at it as an opportunity, our citizens are constantly barraged with the overpopulation due to immigration, rather than the scandals surrounding the bankers headlines. 

Having said that, as I've discussed in other posts, the media has a lot to answer for, they are somewhat responsible for informing people and widening people's minds, yet our certain media outlets  owned by one single man) are set on imprisoning our thoughts and shrinking our horizons. Just take a look at Ofcom's initial decision that Green Party was too small to be included in the Election debates. Despite their decision, or perhaps because of their decision, it brought on this wave of people power that I had not experienced within British politic before. I believe that as a direct result of Ofcom's decision at that time, the Green Party's membership went through the roof. They may not have gotten such high regard or memberships had they not been effectively gagged. This time collective action gets my nod. 

Until next time,
Sen x

In case you are wondering, this is a post I've been sitting on for a while and have released at the same time as the one below. And it may well be the last political based post for a while, though no promises. But I have decided to mix it up and work with people and write an article on hobbies and the arts and crafts. So if you make jewellery, read, knit, sew, game, draw, write, or paint or anything else then please get in touch. If you would like your hobby and pictures added please get in touch:

You can find me on:
Twitter: @senlanoire

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