A few weeks ago, I read an article that broke my heart and made me angry all at once. On the 4th August, a far-right group of about 12 people stormed socialist bookshop, Bookmarks, in central London, shoving and verbally abusing staff, tearing up magazines, and throwing books to the ground. They chanted fascist slogans, hurled nonsensical insults against Islam and yelled at the staff, “We hope you burn down”. Many were wearing red caps reading “Make Britain Great Again”. One wore a Donald Trump mask. Three members of UKIP were arrested. Needless to say, I was ready to write a blog on this one.
But the problem was, I didn’t have a take. Sure I could relay the information, and say, “Isn’t this awful?” But, really, there wouldn’t have been a point – you could just share a link to the article for that. Usually, I would come out with 500 words to the tune of, “Let’s be better than this” or “Let’s speak up against things like this” but would that have achieved anything? The people who committed this crime probably aren’t avid Liberti readers – although you never know – but it’s likely I’d just be preaching to the converted, and making very little progress other than making me feel like I’d done something.
And that’s the issue with the times in which we live – it’s too easy to feel like we’ve acted. Something atrocious happens and we take to Facebook, to share links and spark debate, often finding that most of the people in our news feed are on the exact same page. We haven’t changed anything; we’re just shouting into the void and patting ourselves on the back afterwards for being so woke.
And we don’t really engage with people who are different from us. It takes effort to try and change someone’s mind. It can hurt when a debate turns nasty or the other person just doesn’t get it. It’s not worth the hassle, because they probably won’t change their mind anyway. And then we can’t believe it when Brexit happens or Donald Trump gets elected, But everyone I know told me they were voting like me…
But then another article, on the same story, published a few days later. A freedom of expression organisation, called Index on Censorship, sent political party UKIP a bundle of books to educate those of its members involved in Saturday’s attack on Bookmarks bookshop. The books included The Handmaid’s Tale, a copy of the Quran, The Color Purple and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, a book portraying the harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants, which was burned in the 1933 Nazi bonfires. These were books to show what it is like to be a woman, a Muslim, a person of colour, an immigrant, in a world that’s stacked against you; in a world where people who want to “make Britain great again” thinks that means getting rid of you.
Index on Censorship explained they sent the books because “reading broadens the mind and helps to create a more tolerant and inclusive society” and they thought the books “might help them understand why their actions only end up limiting their own freedom”. They didn’t just complain to their inner circle about the state the world is in, they didn’t just sigh and give up. They chose education. They chose to counter ignorance with knowledge. They chose to meet hate with love – not just love for the victims of the attack; but love for the attackers who, as they said, were only limiting their own freedom.
I don’t have much more to say other than, let’s do that. When an event or issue moves us, let’s not leave it there but let those feelings stir us to action. Let’s branch out beyond our own circles and actually respond, rather than just posting about it on Facebook. Let’s educate, tell stories, and love people until they realise that that’s what makes Britain great; people from all walks of life, coming together, to learn from one another and show love.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti