Opinion

Paul McNamee: Open up to the other view

The ONLY way to move ahead in the coming months is to be open to hear, to properly hear and care for, the view that opposes your own

2020

Summing up the end of a decade is a curious thing to do. While neat timings are useful and allow for lists – and who doesn’t like a good list?! – they’re frequently of little consequence. Events don’t simply begin and end at the dawn and death of a decade. That arbitrary top and tail, usually accompanied by a look forward helps, mostly, journalists get loads of content ready at a curious time of the year.

So here goes a summation of the decade and a look at the months ahead.

The last 10 years have been the era of social media. It existed before but the explosion of it changed the world. The Arab Spring, though ultimately unsuccessful, spread across Tunisia, Egypt, Iran and the Middle East, thanks to the ability Twitter gave people to mobilise. Social media was a communication agent for positive change. However, once the jar is opened you can’t control which way the smoke moves. And so social media, all of it, became increasingly a place to husband people who thought the same way, and for those people to claim others who didn’t think that way were lying. That they were spreading fake news.

Openness to opposing points of view, an ability that has been choked as we’ve moved to our own echo chambers, is one we must return to

As everything was digital, everything left a trace and those traces became valuable. And so it was that over the last number of years we became targets for those who wanted us to behave in particular ways, or for those who wanted us to believe particular things that weren’t true. The rise in populism and a particular sort of anger at the status quo and anger at the other was lifted and amplified by the global bellows of social media.

One other thing social media became was a frontline battlezone in the culture wars. It was good that people who had been on the margins before – whether because of race or gender or sexuality or politics – suddenly had a place to show why they should be respected and listened to. However, the flip side was that an opposing view, or even a flippant or casual comment, was seized upon and condemned. There was no openness to change or understanding. Either agree totally with the new voices, or be thrown to the wolves. This is a very bad piece of unintended consequence.

The ONLY way to move ahead in the coming months is to be open to hear, to properly hear and care for, the view that opposes your own.

Roaring and guldering at each other, whether on the street or on social media platforms, will be a zero-sum game.

It starts at the top. Boris Johnson’s government cannot simply ignore the will of many millions who do not wish for a hard Brexit. He needs to be open and conciliatory, to pack away the language of surrender and freedom. This extends to the Scottish question. There is a clear majority in Scotland who do not want to be ruled by a Tory Westminster government. Whether they want to be completely and immediately independent is moot. However, there has to be an openness to discuss this massive question.

Across the Irish Sea, as Brexit brings tough situations around the border and tariffs, there will be an upsurge in talk about a united Ireland. But that can only work if Unionists in Northern Ireland feel included. It will not be enough to state that it’s majority will. The other side must be respected.

Openness to opposing points of view, an ability that has been choked as we’ve moved to our own echo chambers, is one we must return to.

That’s the way to look up and forward into 2020. If we can, in 10 years, when we do our end-of-the-decade round-up, we’ll be in a much better place.

Happy New Year, from everybody at The Big Issue.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed
Tom Clark

Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed

If Rishi Sunak is so keen on our national identity, why is this British icon up for sale?
Paul McNamee

If Rishi Sunak is so keen on our national identity, why is this British icon up for sale?

Stacey Solomon is not afraid of having a go. She even makes DIY look easy
Lucy Sweet

Stacey Solomon is not afraid of having a go. She even makes DIY look easy

How the Northern Ballet's empty orchestra pit perfectly sums up UK's arts crisis 
Naomi Pohl

How the Northern Ballet's empty orchestra pit perfectly sums up UK's arts crisis 

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know