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© 2008 Mark Collins
Injustice, prejudice and ignorance always get me going!
My father was a man known for calling a spade a spade, and suspect I have inherited this family trait. Discussions around our family meal tables became very animated when politics came into the debate. My brother too is capable of quite strong expression of his views!
I suppose for me the single most important aspect of my approach to politics (which is actually all about how we organise our communities and manage our shared resources) is that everyone should be respected and treated fairly without fear of emotional or physical harm because of who they are or what they believe. Clearly how we act within the agreed framework of society will have repercussions but that's another issue!
Strangely, despite my sexuality, I have never been a great 'gay rights' campaigner, perhaps due to the fact I have not personally experienced the kind of hatred and bigotry that others have.
My company has recently supported the launch of an employee network for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and I was honoured to be asked to be the master of ceremonies for the first annual conference. As I introduced each speaker and listened to what they had to say, I came away with a few key thoughts that have changed how I feel about the wider diversity agenda.
I had taken for granted the enormous effort, pain and sacrifice that people have endured to get the issues of diversity on the national agenda and indeed who have succeeded in changing the law to reduce the state sanctioned prejudice that has been ingrained in our society. Many of these people have given decades of their lives fighting to improve the lot of others. I believe that perhaps one of the most impressive and inspiring things is someone giving so much for the benefit of others. We need to seek out unsung heroes and start singing!
I really dislike political correctness and believe it to be singularly unhelpful in pushing forward the way minority groups are treated. One speaker said he hated the work 'straight' in referring to heterosexual people because it came into use as the opposite of 'bent', an old fashioned word for gay people. I find such analysis and statements ludicrous in the extreme. I think it is better to learn to laugh about such things and move on!
Just because someone belongs to a minority group doesn't make their views any more or less important than anyone else's. Intelligent and tolerant people are just that - I have met many gay people who have very intolerant views, just as I know many many people who would fit the 'white middle class' description who have a world view that I consider just, are fair minded and committed to making the world a better place.
I should be more engaged with affecting change. After several years of involvement in local politics as a member of the Labour Party, I became rather disillusioned with New Labour and the disappearance of socialist policies from the main political parties. I do believe in active redistribution of wealth and state ownership of the key public services. Handing over control of the very things we need to survive and grow as a society to unelected international corporations is not my idea of democracy! Being a passionate believer in pacifism as a powerful way to change the traditional confrontational approach to international conflict I have found New Labour's approach to international affairs both depressing and morally offensive. The recent war in Iraq is consider unjust and it will be probably be ineffective in reducing terrorism or international tension, and demonstrates we have learnt nothing about what causes people to resort to violence. I have therefore resolved to reengage my energies where they can make a difference. Where that will be is as yet unclear!
Commitment, strength of purpose, strong leadership and intelligence, whilst all admirable qualities, do not mean that the person demonstrating them is right! I have observed over the years a tendency among otherwise intelligent and sensible people, to completely abrogate all responsibility in the presence of a strong leader. Perhaps we have an innate need to be led (or, as I suspect) we are all innately lazy!