Mere Anarchy is Loosed Upon the World

We all have multiple identities, so there are many ways we can all be othered and excluded, and most people have both minority and majority experiences pretty frequently. There are times when even affluent, well-educated heterosexual white boys find it necessary to hide that they vote Conservative or have a Scottish accent or are Christian or Jewish (or have a train set, or like musicals or don’t find that joke funny.)

The triviality of some of these examples should remind us that not all minority transgressions are treated equally. People who don’t watch Gogglebox still get asked for interview; lovers of Wicked rarely get murdered for it; Hornby enthusiasts aren’t over-represented in the prison population[1]. Certain people encounter far more venomous prejudice and discrimination than others, and far more frequently. Minority groups that are large enough to be perceived as a threat to the majority, or the status quo, encounter much more trouble.

I discovered, recently, that kids in England can get bullied just for having red hair[2]. This surprised me, but it shouldn’t have: kids are experimenting with power and will pick up on any possible weakness or difference to practice on.

Online trolls are replicating this childish behaviour (or they’re actually children) so they seek out your weaknesses. This means Black activists attract racist abuse at an even higher rate and intensity than the base level in society; outspoken women attract violent misogyny with such frequency that it must appear that the country is crawling with would-be rapists. In other words, the trolls confirm your worst fears. It’s a Satanic inversion of confirmation bias. 

On top of this, I think, as a species, we are particularly attuned to threat. It’s a survival trait. So, majorities see group difference as dangerous, but there’s safety in numbers, while, for minorities, a hundred gestures of welcome, inclusion and respect are outweighed by one utterance of hostility. This makes minority experiences of society qualitatively different from, and much worse than, majority experiences. 

Ours remains an unequal and unfair society. So, yes, there is still great injustice in the world and we need to work to end it, because the struggle is never-ending and gains made can very soon be lost. Things fall apart; schisms widen unless an effort is made to bind us together. That is the entropic law of the human experience.

But to do this we need unity, despite our differences. And that demands empathy and understanding, an emphasis on what we have in common. 


[1] As far as I’m aware.

[2] You couldn’t do that in Ireland, where I come from. You’d exhaust yourself getting everyone bullied. It’d be a full-time job!

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