Personal growth is hard work. Admitting mistakes is painful. Dealing with the shame of realising you’ve not done your best is embarrassing and exhausting. Yet if we don’t do these things, we don’t learn or grow or become better people. And it should always be our goal to do better, even just a little bit.
Yesterday I watched a video from the late David Graeber. It resonated, and not in a good way because I knew I’d have to take a hard look at some of my attitudes and actions and admit they were not good enough. He spoke about liberal elites and how they prevent left-wing ideas being implemented. Even though my background is middle class only by American standards, I knew he was talking about me.
Since the Brexit vote, I’ve been on a bit of a journey. Looking back, I can see I’d spent most of my life believing in centre-right politics. I was a ‘socially liberal and fiscally conservative’ knucklehead. I was for equal rights and low taxes, but I see now the two are not compatible. It isn’t possible to make everyone equal when some people are still trying to catch up after centuries of being held back by a system that saw their ancestors as chattel. When the entire economic model has a foundation of stolen resources being used to build on stolen land by stolen people, you have to accept that system is rotten and it doesn’t treat all people fairly.
I don’t want to be like Johnson or Trump in that the only experience I understand or care about is my own. That’s where I was five years ago, thinking the world was moving in the right direction. It wasn’t – Trump and Brexit have made that abundantly clear. The rot in the foundations has moved into the walls and ceiling, and the house is about to fall on our heads. Centrist policies won’t fix this just as wallpaper won’t fix the cracks in the plaster – and I can’t support that.
If anyone ever asks who radicalised me, say it was the Neo-libs and the Neo-cons. Say it was Brexit, and Trump, and every other right-wing act of harm. My politics are firmly on the left now and I plan to be more politically active than I ever have. I’ve never thought of myself as an extremist of any sort, but now I find myself in a position where Johnson says my beliefs shouldn’t be taught in English schools and Trump won’t let me into the US because I’m an anti-fascist. This isn’t where I expected to be at the age of 53, but I’m glad to be here. With all of the turmoil and worry in the world, I feel more at ease than I have with myself in years.