Katy Lee, writing in The Daily Telegraph, recently (04/04/22), was reporting on how French people intended to vote in their upcoming presidential election. She’d gone to Arcachon, a coastal town in the south-west and discovered a worrying rise in support for Marine LePen, the far right leader of the National Rally party (which used to be the National Front.) A retired teacher, who voted for the left wing Jean-Luc Melenchon in 2017, gave her this explanation, “We don’t like all this ‘Cancel Culture’ and ‘woke’ stuff there is on the Left now, …I don’t feel like I abandoned the Left; the Left abandoned me.”
This is our own doing. The far right pose a genuine and serious threat to the health and well-being of our communities, our freedom, our safety, our struggle for a humanist equality, even to peace between nations, as we’ve seen in Ukraine. Now our lunatic fringe has provided the far-right with ample ammunition. They don’t even have to make up the usual lies to make us sound completely unreasonable and themselves as the voices of common sense.
This is what happens when you pursue a policy of confrontation and blame aimed at ordinary people.
Of course, the theory is that we will goad them out of their complacent passivity where they can pay lip service to liberal humanism without actually doing anything to effect positive change. But, if we tell them to choose a side when we’ve already rejected them, we’re driving them into the arms of the truly poisonous and dangerous forces in society. We are acting as recruiting sergeants for reactionary armies.
In our self-reinforcing bubbles we encourage each other to greater and greater unreasonableness, but, without challenge, we believe we speak for all sensible normal people and are resisted only by extremists. This is not true. In anything approaching a democracy we need to understand the point of view of those who oppose us. We need to reach out to them and negotiate a compromise position. They’re just people. (Except, maybe, the MAGA/ QAnon lot.)