Columnists > Once the doorway to fanaticism has opened, it is hard to close

10 November 2016 | by Clifford Longley

Once the doorway to fanaticism has opened, it is hard to close


Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Brendan Cox, widower of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, have both sounded the alarm about a serious deterioration in civility and social cohesion that is connected to the EU referendum and subsequent events. It is shown by a sharp rise in hate crimes reported to the police and by the experience of members of ethnic minorities such as Gina Miller, who took the Government to the High Court to stop it launching the EU withdrawal process without the consent of Parliament. She has been pelted with thousands of disgusting messages, many of them racist, some threatening to rape or kill her.

These are headline examples. Thousands of ordinary people who are seen or heard as in some way foreign or different have had unpleasant experiences of a lesser degree, at work or in the street. But ethnicity and race are secondary. Vitriolic abuse was heaped on Gary Lineker, the football TV celebrity, after he deplored the attitude of much of the popular press towards hundreds of unaccompanied children in the Calais migrant camp. And he is neither black nor foreign.

There’s a bully in all of us. And self-awareness usually proves insufficient to keep the demon under control: bullies generally do not see themselves as bullies. We need the additional inhibition that comes from seeing ourselves as others see us, and the emotional feedback that tells us how others are reacting badly to the way we treat them. We like to be liked.


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