We are quick to name the culprits if there’s a possibility of reinforcing our prejudices.
Two instances are apparent today:
- the London riots – in this far flung outpost of the old empire we hear alarmed predictions of “how the same will happen here if we don’t stop the boats” and “just as Enoch Powell predicted.” Yet nothing I have seen or heard attributes the riots to ethnic unrest. On the contrary, I hear interviews where disaffected young people name a range of issues that affect their sense of empowerment. It has reached powder keg stage and it doesn’t take much to cause an explosion. History is replete with this sort of scenario. Kudos, by the way, to the thousands of “riot wombles” – volunteers who have appeared with broom in hand to clean up the streets and reclaim their neighbourhoods. There is always a better way than revenge and confrontation. And I must say, how wonderfully British!
- a local primary school, as a result of a survey showing 24% parental opposition, has ceased the practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at assemblies while it seeks further advice. Public response has been, again, to vilify foreign interlopers who “threaten our culture and way of life.” Most opposition to Christian based religious exercises, in my encounters, comes from those representing a “no faith” stance than an “other faith” position. And, whatever the reason for their disquiet, their voice needs to be heard and addressed reasonably, not hysterically.
Either side in a polarised community can fall into the trap of creating straw men to set on fire, thus diverting attention from the central issues that require further talking and listening with the purpose of finding common ground.
Of course, I could be jumping to a conclusion that common ground is common desire, couldn’t I?