"As the days grew shorter in 2017, I get a feeling of déjà vu. It’s a disturbing sense that I’ve seen all this cruelty, intolerance and madness that is awash in our politics as well as our media, before. Our society in Britain and across the world stands at the hour of midnight waiting in dread for the peel of bells that will signal war or another economic crash. And yes, I’ve seen this ugliness before in the 1930s when I was a boy growing into a teen in Yorkshire.
I know how this ends in catastrophe- unless we wake up from our slumber of ignorance and intolerance. Then like now, society was polarised by want and wealth. Economic inequality allowed bairns like me to dig through rubbish bins for their tea while kids of the rich and middle class supped well. Children today are going hungry in record numbers just like they were over 80 years ago. And, just like in that long ago time, the right wing media poisons the trough of civilisation by slandering the poor and castigating refugees and new migrants as the source of our financial misfortunes. In the 1930s, these newspapers attacked Jews as unsavoury elements that were out to destroy Britain either through Bolshevism or by way of their religion. Now, these media outlets have found a new bogey man, the Muslim. Since the economic crash of 2008 when the banks destroyed the economies of the world, right wing newspapers and their online partners like Briebart have spread noxious lies about Muslims at home and abroad in order to create racial tensions. In my youth, these crude forms of propaganda didn’t work despite the low education levels of my generation. The reason why that type of racism didn’t take hold was I believe because my generation who had suffered so much at the hands of the entitled few, knew that that racism was just a tactic to divide and conquer the working class. Now, however, I fear the working class may not have the commonsense that kept my generation from embracing hate. Perhaps, we have become too addicted to twitter, to memes that can’t encapsulate the nuance of our human existence for us to fathom that a rise in racism is the first precursor to either authoritarianism or war with other nations. It is why; it is so important now that none of us to sit on the sidelines, while human goodness fights for its survival. We must be all in our own small way, fighters for tolerance, decency as well as kindness. In our workplaces, in our schools, in our homes and in our communities, we can no longer stand aside while racism rises like deadly flood water.
So, even though I am 94, I am going to travel our country and the world to stand up against racism, economic inequality and the destruction of the Welfare State. I owe it as one of the last representatives of my generation not to go gently into that good night. It’s why I am asking you to man the barricades of civilisation with me and prevent the voices of hate drowning out the decency found in all humans. Thank you."
Harry Leslie Smith is a British writer and political commentator whose most recent book 'Don't let my past be your future: A call to arms' is out now.