Nihal on why we should hold on to hope — off the record
One of the most overused quotes in my world is ‘a week is a long time in politics’. Since I started on BBC 5 Live back in September 2016, it seems not an hour goes by without some event occurring that asks us to re-evaluate the world we live in. After the Finsbury Park terror attack on the British Muslim community, I received a tweet saying we now all have to accept that someone somewhere in the world hates us. No matter what your sexual orientation, faith, age, colour or gender you can no longer believe that because you are a good person, life will nudge good people your way to swap positivity and move on.
Whether on social media, in a newspaper column, hanging out of the window of a car, or in the twisted mind of an extremist, there is someone who despises you because you are not them.
REMEMBER THE SILLINESS
Hate is a terrible word – we say it all too much and we can use it more freely when we don’t have to confront the reality of what hate can do when taken to an extreme. It is too easy to think of the world as gradually getting darker, as if there is a dimmer switch attached to optimism. It seems to be getting easier to forget about the silliness that surrounds us, such as the looping gifs of kittens maniacally chasing a spot of light from a little torch. I don’t want this month’s column to be an essay in doom and gloom, but events seem to be casting a giant shadow over all of us.
After every terror attack we are told that we are united, that ‘they’ will never win because we are together as one. Maybe we aren’t. Perhaps we should start to think of ourselves as fundamentally divided and seek to go on a giant bridge-building programme. This will require us all to leave our comfort zone. To look at our own worlds in microcosm and think much more about the wider communities we inhabit.
After the Grenfell Tower tragedy, I went there to report for the BBC. My kids used to play football in the shadow of that now burned-out shell of a building. I know those streets, but I had never seen them like that.
Hundreds of volunteers of every age, colour and creed in human chains handing boxes to each other. I saw hijabs and dreadlocks side by side, I heard accents from all over the world in one giant philanthropic choir. There was a camaraderie that had momentarily compartmentalised the anger. Do you live in a bubble? If so, begin to look wider and broader to the society you live in.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy exposed many things. One was that you can live metres from your neighbours but it may as well be light years. Division is easily created and difficult to defeat.
I wonder how many people it takes to create division. How many demagogues need to spring up with their YouTube channel and nonsensical polemic spewing ‘news’ channels to create deep fissures in our society? Whatever you may think, I am an uber optimist. I know that dimmer switch turns two ways and I am not about to let it get darker and darker. Are you with me?
Nihal hosts Afternoon Edition on BBC Radio 5 live, Mon-Thurs, 1pm-4pm, and the Asian Network’s Big Debate on Fridays, 10am-1pm.
Read more: Nihal on being bored of bigotry