Not particularly my views, but that opening sentence is a reasonably fair representation of those of a large number of islanders, especially younger ones, based on recent events and some troubling new research from the UK.
Let me explain. It started with the Youth Parliament, when a number of 13 to 18-year-olds took part in a mock States debate and concluded that inclusivity was the island’s greatest priority out of all the other issues we face.
‘We need to look at bullying and how language is used,’ said one representative. ‘People do not realise the severity of what they are saying.’
Blimey, I thought. Don’t look for work in a newsroom or any pressured, results-driven environment where individual performance impacts collective success and colleagues’ assessment of the part you’ve played – or haven’t.
Later I read Tom Rylatt’s column in this newspaper in which he took the establishment to task for many failings including – with much validity – not providing video of the States meetings themselves, and for the Assembly being so terminally old.
It isn’t easy being green when half the States are grey, he said, naming individuals he felt ought to be deputies. Alas, that’s where we parted company. I’m more interested in voting for deputies with relevant abilities rather than for their views or age. We had four years of the last Assembly pursuing firmly-held personal opinions and that nearly bankrupted us.
To get to the point with this, I’m now at that stage in life with more past than future and so have started to accept that things move on in ways I don’t necessarily understand or regard as for the better. But hey, if that’s what the next generations want…
In short, I have become my parents – something I always swore not to do – and find much of today a foreign land, like self-identifying and that story about the weightlifter competing against women. Or should that be, against other women?
For someone with views on most things and a fondness for expressing them as publicly as possible, it’s uncomfortable having no-go areas. Being savaged on Facebook’s Guernsey People Have Your Say is one thing. Attracting death threats for saying the wrong thing on sensitive issues is another. Look at J K Rowling.
In short, I was content to accept the problem was mine. Then came Monday’s headlines based on some pretty significant research: ‘“Wokeism” and the culture wars are on course to becoming the biggest dividing line in British politics, a prominent pollster has concluded following a major study into voter attitudes’, reported The Times.
There were two particular quotes that resonated.
1. ‘The problem with woke and with cancel culture is that it is never done. The conflict and divisions never end,’ said pollster Frank Luntz. ‘This is not what the people of the UK want – but it’s coming anyway.’
2. ‘When you have decided that your country is institutionally racist and discriminatory, you don’t normally go back.’
I’ve never minded people disagreeing with me because robust exchange of views and discussion of conclusions drawn from research or available evidence is – or should be – how things move forward and consensus is reached. Today, however, we are moving away from debate and towards conviction.
As one Times reader put it: ‘It’s the self-righteousness that is so destructive to social cohesion. The argument seems to go like this: “I’m a virtuous, right-thinking person, therefore my view of the world must be correct, so I can’t allow anyone to contradict me or express a different opinion. I can’t tolerate that because people with a different opinion from mine are wrong and evil. Minorities are intrinsically good. The majority is intrinsically evil…”. It’s profoundly simplistic and profoundly dangerous.’
Read that again and, I think you’ll agree, it captures much of the way ‘debate’ has gone in the UK and, to a degree, here. Read more of the research and it explains why so many so-called Red Wall parliamentary seats switched from Labour to Conservative – 81% of those voting Tory saw the UK as a nation of ‘equality and freedom’ and just 19% viewed it as ‘institutionally racist and discriminatory’. Among Labour voters, 52% agreed with the former and 48% with the latter.
Work that through and it means the Labour Party is in touch with its own voter base but pretty much disconnected from everyone else, hence returning fewer MPs than at any time since 1935. That means Sir Keir Starmer’s party ‘has got an internal conflict that is unsustainable’, says Luntz. It also no longer speaks for the majority.
This is significant for Guernsey on two levels. Firstly, those puzzled by the woke agenda – and it’s far from just wrinklies – are not alone. There is something to push back against and other credible priorities to pursue. Secondly, significant numbers of those advising government here are left-leaning and pre-disposed to facilitating the woke agenda (I use the term purely as shorthand, not judgmentally) which doesn’t have majority support.
The fact I have to make that distinction on the use of ‘woke’ shows how dangerous matters have become.
To paraphrase the research, prioritising equality over meritocracy is the goal because we have become intolerant of tolerance.
Yet bizarrely, the research also reveals how unhelpful these polarised positions are.
The most popular option among those polled was ‘protecting the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable’ – a pretty inclusive approach favoured by 40% and a code we can all sign up to. Revealingly, ‘letting people keep more of their hard-earned income’, the second most popular choice, was selected by just 27%.
All of which means most people are actually more woke than they knew – if only the self-appointed thought police would listen to the majority for a change and stop seeing them as the enemy.