Am uploading an article to Indy100 and my hacker blocks it again and my immediate downstairs neighbour moans loudly and disappointed when I realise what’s happened. This has been my life for over a decade now.
So then I submitted in a different browser but I don’t think it matters as I am on someone else’s VPN. He can block and change whatever he wishes.
But maybe I am wrong and maybe this is the one time that my digital experiences are not due to hacker interference.
Because once again, what I wrote has disappeared again. Poof, into thin air.
I click on my own profile’s link and it says:
404 page not found
(But of course, it is also possible that this is merely another smoke and mirrors game to make me look “crazy” should the article suddenly appear online after all.)
This is what I wrote for Indy100:
How do we change the language of otherisation?
Following the murder of Sir David Amess MP, Commons Speaker and MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle has echoed former Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales Arfon Jones by calling out for a change in the language that the UK government and Parliament use.
They’re also both repeating what I wrote in my book “Is cruelty cool?” a while ago.
I am a migrant from Amsterdam who’s also lived in the United States. For a long time, the apparent glorification of cruelty and aggressive language in the UK and particularly England and perhaps even more specifically southeast England has both baffled and appalled me.
So I dove into the topic. Among other things, I found that even the mildest otherisation primes people for aggression, according to Oxford neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor. From neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe, I also learned that power imbalances between in-groups and out-groups often lie at the basis of otherisation and can lead to hate, particularly when there is a great deal of inequality and a general feeling that there isn’t enough for everyone to go around.
I can probably give you a quick example of how the latter works. If you’re struggling to make ends meet and you have a cat, you will feed your own cat, not your neighbour’s cat and if your neighbour’s cat keeps begging you for food, it creates a lot of tension in you. Because that neighbour’s cat reminds you of your powerlessness, your own struggle to feed your cat.
But you don’t need to be poor for this to happen.
I too became badly otherised after I moved here from Amsterdam. I was working from home, so I was either a benefit scrounger in the eyes of people who get peddled lies about a foreigner’s abilities and eligibility for benefits, or on disability benefits in the eyes of people who have trouble seeing women as capable professionals.
Like Janice Morris in 2019, but unlike David Amess, I was attacked one day while sitting on a bench, except in my case, it was stones, sand and water. Two stones hit my head. Janice Morris simply sat on a bench because the weather was nice. So did I. I had no garden, no balcony. That I was reading and annotating a report about the forensics practice in the Netherlands made no difference. No matter what I was doing, I should have been able to sit on a bench without having to fear for my safety. Thankfully, I was working on paper, not on a laptop.
When I moved to another town, I instantly became otherised again. I suspect that this and both the bench attacks happened because single women in their mid-to-late forties are seen as flawed and “likely mentally impaired”, a weaker kind of species. If you stand up for yourself, you are otherised again. The fact that you are attacked or bullied seems to be taken as proof that you are a weaker and flawed individual who deserves to be bullied and attacked. It can make even the mildest person very very angry in the end, even if that person normally does not hurt a fly.
In my book, I wrote that people like Boris Johnson and Priti Patel do not seem to realise at all that they are whipping up violence in the country. But this is not specific to the Conservatives. Labour also otherises big time and even the Lib Dems do it.
I can see two reasons.
The first is those bonkers class ideas that still dominate so much of the landscape here. The second is the old tactic of “divide and conquer”, the idea that if you convince people that they have enemies and that you will do everything you can to combat those enemies, they will support you and vote for you.
Even the Met declaring the murder of Mr Amess a terrorist incident may be merely an act of otherisation. The killer has a Somali background and it is too attractive not to otherise him instantly and use the murder to sow more discord.
What do I mean by that? When someone in my home country went on a rampage and killed a number of people in 2019, the BBC was very quick to call that a terrorist attack and cite ISIS links. I found that disgusting. As a Dutch national, I can read Dutch and hence had access to the Dutch news. I contacted the BBC about this. The incident had nothing to do with Islamist extremism or ISIS but everything with personal relationships and health.
Otherisation, however, seems to be a cultural tradition here. Even in witty entertainment, TV personalities sometimes use phrases like “We Brits love to hate…”.
Where does this come from?
I don’t buy the excuse that, as one English woman once explained to me, it’s related to the invasion of the Vikings all those centuries ago.
I fear that the reason has something to do with – and this will hit hard and it is also complicated as well as rather intuitive – the stiff upper lip, too. Not just class ideas and the hunt for votes. Apparently, the English became obsessed with the stoics at some point n the past and got into the habit of denying their emotions, pushing them down to the point that it’s led to what has been described as “emotionally stunted” adults and to their tortured relationship with alcohol.
It explains shocking acts of cruelty like the Amritsar massacre and Jimmy Savile’s rather openly committed and conveniently ignored child sex abuse, but it also explains why the UK government just plunged a large number of people into deep poverty by cutting their income by 20 pounds per week while energy prices are soaring along with the prices of food and other necessities.
And thus the circle has been closed again. Greater inequality creates more otherisation and more hate and more people who will vote for you and support you if you peddle the lies of otherisation and hate long enough.
How do we change that?
It starts, indeed, in Parliament and in the UK government. Mr Hoyle should use his powers to bring that change about. When for example a Scottish MP gets ridiculed by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt when he asks questions that the UK government refuses to answer and Ms Mordaunt hides behind the language of otherisation, Mr Hoyle should step up and serve as a shining light. Every time. And when people Boris Johnson ridicule people like Chris Whitty, he should seek to address that too, openly and publicly, like he did when he wrote the following in The Guardian:
“If anything positive is to come out of this latest awful tragedy it is that the quality of political discourse has to change. The conversation has to be kinder and based on respect.”
That is where it starts. Because that is also where it begins.
Thank you, Sir David.