Apologies on the lack of a blog post for the past few weeks. I’ve been back in Australia, catching up with friends and family, as well as attending a wedding and a christening. I can’t always say that my holidays in Australia are relaxing, with so many people that I want to see, but I do get a lot of pleasure from this time with friends and family that I’ve known for so long. There’s a common complaint when you go back to visit your hometown that everyone is stuck in the same groove while you’ve moved on, but in my case, it has been great to see careers filling with meaning, and growing families. I do learn a lot from my friends’ attitudes to life and really value their influence on me.
Needless to say, I enjoyed talking with friends about many of the topics that I blog about. But one thought kept hitting me as I talked to friends – how natural and easy the tendency is to divide the world into ’us’ and ‘them’, ascribing only good qualities to ‘us’ and only bad attributes to ‘them’.
At the moment in Australia there is a massive political divide, between those opposed to and those tolerant of the current government. Obviously not everyone is going to agree, and people don’t weigh all values the same. But it concerns me that far too many of those on both sides are failing to recognise any virtues in the other side or shades of grey. The majority of those I am friends with are opposed to the government (generally for sensible reasons). But quite often in conversation (and it is even worse on Facebook), I’d hear people comment that the government and its supporters were incapable of seeing or telling the truth, or thinking of anyone other than themselves. To their credit, when questioned my friends are pretty quick to recognise that in fact the vast majority of government supporters do care about others, and that many issues aren’t black and white. But it makes me suspect that there is insufficient honest and respectful talking and listening between the sides, and people are allowed to spend all their political thinking time with those on the same side.
Obviously, this situation isn’t unique to Australia, and it may just be that I’m noticing it as an outsider talking to people’s whose opinions I respect. But one of the things I love about London is that I genuinely feel that the ‘melting pot’ extends to political views. It would be a lot harder here for me to maintain a view that all of my political opponents are crazy or evil or that our side is always right, given how much time I spend socialising with them.
PS I really hope Australian friends of mine won’t be too offended at this post – I’m not looking to criticise anyone, particularly not the friends I respect so much – the post seeks instead to highlight a trap that we all find it too easy to fall into.