Polarise (verb) – to divide into sharply opposing factions.
Humanity, it seems, is becoming more polarised with each passing day, with little or no hope for respite. Taking a world view and with a few exceptions (where polarity is not tolerated, like North Korea), each “democratic” country on Planet Earth seems to separate into different factions on an all too regular basis.
Take my homeland, the United Kingdom. For the first 4 decades of my life, polarity centered around several themes, politics (Labour or Conservative), football (Everton or Liverpool), music (Rock or Pop), animals (Cats or Dogs), sexual orientation (Hetero or Homo) and wealth (Haves and Have-Nots), and ones choice or preference didn’t really have a major impact on society as a whole (with the exception of wealth where choice doesn’t always play its part).
The United Kingdom and the population that resides here, was until recently a relatively united kingdom comprising of four component states, each with its own nuances and idiosyncrasies and by and large we got on quite well all things considered.
We joined a bigger family when we entered the European Union (then the European Economic Community) in 1973 and again, by and large over the last four decades, we got on well, with the added bonus of freedom of movement across the member states, which I have had the privilege of using many, many times.
Something has changed of late, and not in a good way. Our political system and the society I now reside in is completely broken. We have been used to seeing Red fight with Blue to gain supreme power since it took over the reigns from the Liberal Party in the 1920’s, placing our X’s next to our party of choice ever since.
The childhood I can remember was governed by the Conservative Party when Margaret Thatcher was at the helm, growing up in Liverpool in the early 1980’s when the shipping and manufacturing industries were decimated by Tory policy, making it difficult to put food on the table in the vast majority of households.
We cracked on as any community would do under the same circumstances, and we did it as a pseudo-syndicalist collective, coming together as one to support each other during what were difficult and challenging times, putting two fingers up to Thatcher and her “managed decline” edict, with the help and support of Tory MP Michael Heseltine, an unlikely hero still in these parts.
The wealth and the glory of bygone years (due to the profiteering of shipping merchants during the truly abhorrent Slave Trade of the 1700’s) and the excitement of the Merseysound had all but gone, but the city got itself up off the floor, dusted itself down, and had a renaissance in 2008 when it was awarded the European Capital of Culture, and with it, truly significant investments from our EU comrades. Run down areas and tired city centre establishments were all defibrillated back into life and until very recently, the city had enjoyed an upturn in fortune.
The real turning point (for me at least) was Brexit (as I have mentioned in my State Of The Universe Part 1). In Liverpool, we had just short of 60% voting for remain, a real mandate to keep things the way they are, but alas no, the wider collective decided against it, pushing the entire nation into the abyss, to go it alone.
We then had three and a half years of stagnation and another election, putting the Conservatives back in action for another term.
Now we have Covid, and with it, something even more divisive, even more worrysome. Never in my life have I seen and witnessed such polarised views.
Once again, we are faced with choice and what we believe in; truth (Fact or Fiction), masks (Wear or Don’t Wear), science (Real or Not Real) and political integrity (Honesty or Conspiracy). I dare say more choices are to follow, namely cure (Vaccinations or No Vaccinations), legislation (Support or Reject) and possibly totalitarianism (Acceptance or Anarchy).
Whilst previous views were by and large for or against the establishment or a personal preference which had no material impact on society as a whole, what has happened over the last few years (spiking with Covid) has turned (wo)man against (wo)man and with it the birth of divided factions, and with that some quite appealing behavior.
The venom with which targeted abuse is delivered is something to be utterly ashamed of too and it really brings into question the fundamentals of ones personal relationships.
Social media makes it far too easy for some to become keyboard warriors, sitting comfortably in their socially distanced locales, cowardly brandishing all manner of vitriol and verbal abuse on platforms that were meant to connect people together in a positive way, not to pour petrol on incendiary situations like we find ourselves in today. This week has already seen non-virtual altercations occurring in shops and supermarkets as the factions clash face to face, now that masks are compulsory.
It was a very easy decision for me to disconnect from all social media applications (with the exception of WordPress which is for me an anonymous and cathartic vehicle) and from what I have heard and seen most recently, the decision in January this year was the right one.
I now have to make a different type of choice, a preference as to whether the opinions and subsequent behavior of others is something I chose to acknowledge and accept or choose to walk away from.