Social politics now defines our lives, and it is the hot, controversial topic of debate at present. With arguments over the use of the “n-word”, gender, and sexuality, it is clear that there are still many issues to be resolved. Almost everyone you meet will have a different viewpoint on these issues, and there are seemingly no clear solutions and answers to the questions raised.
But many people have made their mind up, and in the UK, the views of the masses (stemming from the political correctness bias in media) often mirror the views of reformists in America, despite totally different and occasionally antithetical social and political environments in the two nations. And this means that, often, people in the UK react in too extreme a way to changes in social politics; with the same knee-jerk reaction that is necessary, in the US, to oppose bigots on, primarily, the hard right wing.
Take the #metoo movement, for example. While, of course, this was triggered by events taking place not too long before it — the 30 women (which later expanded) accusing the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault — it was also symptomatic of the political climate in the States. With roughly half of politicians having, let’s say, questionable beliefs regarding gender in the US, people who oppose these reactionaries believe that their fight is is huge, and thus fight it with massiveness and purpose. And they believe as they do because huge change is still necessary, and extreme radicals attempting to hang on to a bygone age are still claiming successes far too often.
But what then occurred, after the initial accusations, was that the movement began to build up a head of steam, and jetted across the North Atlantic to Europe. When it arrived, it was greeted by the media with raucous and unconditional support, despite the disparity in social atmospheres and environments between the two continents. It was hailed as a huge victory for women, liberating them from years of sexual abuse scandals. For fear of sounding like a sexist bigot, allow me to clarify: the campaign was a huge victory, and support for it was entirely justified. But, as time went on, and the campaign had had the impact it wished to, with organisations setting up standards reviews and the issue of the “sleaze culture” in the UK Parliament being brought into the spotlight, the culture of the campaign itself became more and more virulent and vitriolic.
What had happened to cause this change was that it had been taken over and hijacked by what the Internet correctly labels “Feminazis”. Again, allow me to clarify: what this term means is radical, extreme feminists who believe that women are still in the doldrums of history, not all feminists as some people mistakenly use it. Why this hadn’t happened in America, yet had in Europe is due to both the seriousness of the situation in the US (women must campaign sensibly or face setbacks) and the romanticised history of suffrage campaigning in Europe, and, specifically, in the UK. The Suffragettes were lauded by so many as heroic campaigners — but few take into account the peaceful and effective movement of the Suffragists, who did not commit violent acts, and who, in my opinion, were the reason for women gaining the vote. Due to this romanticised history of radical, extreme acts and their supposed helpfulness in encouraging change, the situation in Europe was made to seem worse than it was, and knee-jerk reactions sprung up, with groups of radical campaigners taking the situation way out of hand.
Of course, let’s not forget that, with regards to this example and situation, there is still a lot of progress to be made on both continents, and, indeed, all over the world. Women are still oppressed, opportunities for women who wish to pursue an executive role are still limited, and pay is still an issue in some more secretive organisations, despite this practice’s illegality. But, despite the difficulties faced by women, we must not allow ourselves to be blinded to the huge contrast between America and Europe by the mainstream media, who are so tireless in their pursuit of political correctness that they forget to report the actual news and situation.
This is just one example where the situation was blown way out of proportion, despite the lesser extent of the problem in the UK and Europe. If Europeans continue to take advice from people in a completely different environment and on a completely different continent, 9 hours from our shores by flight, then the consequences will continue to be extreme. In his book, If Only They Didn’t Speak English, John Sopel quotes a colleague who is commenting on America:
“You see, if only they didn’t speak English in America, then we’d treat it as a foreign country — and probably understand it a lot better.”
And it is this that we should base our social progress upon — our situation, our lives, and our experiences. Just as we wouldn’t put into place measures or solutions being used in Iran, Yemen, or South Sudan, so we shouldn’t with the US. When the phenomenon is posed in this way, it seems clear, but few of us really ever stop to properly assess how we are conducting ourselves around social tensions and issues of the day. If we do, then true and lasting progress can be made. If we maintain our current behaviour, then the ensuing polarising climate and tensions will only make discrimination and prejudice worse, and, perhaps, leave Europe with a social environment similar to that of America.