The dark, a place we don’t understand, we can’t see, monsters may lie around the corner. As children, most people have a fear of the dark. Most people grow out of such a fear; there are no boogiemen lurking under the bed, they are the product of our imagination.
Fears remain, but as we grow, we tackle them one one by one. I used to be racist. I grew up in an exclusively white Caucasian community. One occasion, when I was quite young my family traveled to the city. I remember being in a market surrounded by black people. I felt scared, these people looked, dressed and spoke differently to me. I didn’t understand them, they could be monsters! Of course, I grew up to realise that people of different races and cultures are nothing to be scared of, simply different. Indeed I was being absurd, I grew up with Floella Benjamin; a wonderful Afro-Carribean childrens television presenter, who i love dearly.
Recently i have been trying to understand what motivates those of a right wing persuasion. I found an article that suggests that conservatives and liberals are psychologically different. Traditionally, liberal politics have been more progressive and in favour of reform, whilst conservatives favour stability and tradition. The hypothesis is that conservatives are more fearful than liberals.
The right wing media portrays a world of fear, whether of immigrants, of the Scots, indeed anyone different to themselves. Often such tales of fear are akin to the child in bed with the lights out. Ideas that are not understood, and the motivation behind them are also not understood; they might be monsters!. It is the fear that causes the imagination to take things to extremes.
For example, some objections to same sex marriage argue that this will lead to the legalisation of incest. This is laughable to people who understand the case for same sex marraige. However, the point is that something not understood, may lead to monsters. Traditionally homosexuality was a social taboo, society has largely overcome such a fear, Any reasonable society will never legalise incest as it is simply bad and wrong.
However, are not liberals, such as myself equally fearful? Liberals are as guilty as those of the right in viewing policys we don’t understand the motivation for, as leading to monsters. Perhaps the difference for liberals is that we are more fearful of the consequences of not changing, of not abandoning a tradition whose function is no longer relevant.
There is again the problem of British democracy. A two party system, that usually produces governement from a party of the right or the left. During governments, debate is taken away from the popular to within the factions. People may vote for either a centre-left or centre-right government. What the electorate then get is a more extreme government as the debate is no longer between conservatives and liberals, but between the extreme, moderate and centre-right (or vice versa), to the exclusion of the majority outside that party. Because those of the centre or opposing faction don’t understand the motivation behind that party, they are fearful; what will the monsters plot to do to us?
Generally there is less to fear than is perceived. The vast majority will prevent the extremists getting their way. Reform will generally stop once a reasonable solution has been achieved. However, as a European, I do have a real fear in politics. We have grown up in the shadow of Nazism and Stalinism. We are aware that it is possible for the monsters to get into power and perhaps this fuels our fear of the dark, of the other side, a world we can’t see.
If we keep trying to understand the world we can’t see and stop people when they take an idea too far, then there is hope that the monsters won’t appear when we switch off the light.