Monday, November 14, 2016

How not to win friends and influence people.

There were plenty of people on both sides of both the Brexit referendum campaign, and the Donald vs. Hillary battle in America, who probably pushed more people in the opposite direction to the one they supported than the one they did.

I found in my in-tray today a perfect example of the sort of attitude: a link to an articleby Mya Medina who describes herself as a "Writer, journalist, Feminist, cat-lover, London storm chaser and resident, sushi fanatic and meditator."

The article was called Dear America, I'm sorry, kind regards, the UK."

Here area a couple of extracts to give you the idea of how it reads: (bad language warning.)

"I woke up at 5am on June 24th to read the BBC headline that it was confirmed; Britain had voted to leave the EU. My fiancee and I held each other for a while as the early morning sun streamed through the window. We cursed the older generation for fucking up our precious futures — he is an academic whose funding relies heavily on the EU. We vowed never to visit cities that voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit — although there were many."
"The next day I walked around mentally labelling any white male over 40 as a leaver, a deserter, a fucking asshole who I hated." 
"I was angry, so angry. But they had won, the haters, because they made me hate too. The divide grew and grew."
You know, Mya that point about haters making people hate goes in more than one direction.
Writing as a white male aged over 40 who, after thinking about it more carefully than before any vote in my life, voted Remain, I was astonished at how angry I felt when I read that article.
Mya's article expresses the opinion that people like her were kidding themselves in imaging that the comments they made to one another and on facebook were doing anything to help their cause. She writes
"When we posted scathing articles of Trump’s misdemeanors or Brexit’s obvious flaws and received 50, 100, 200 likes, how could we fool ourselves into thinking we were affecting change? We were preaching to the converted."
Actually I think she may be right for the wrong reasons. Most of the people she was preaching to may indeed have already been converted. But, again, writing as one of the white males over 40 who she does not appear to like, and who lives in one of the Northern towns she has vowed never to visit, I suspect that if the tone of her comments during the referendum campaign was anything like as patronising as the tone of this article, and if any floating voters did see or hear them, she probably did have some effect - in the opposite direction.
During the referendum campaign, I never felt more like voting Leave than when I had just been exposed to the attitudes of a certain type of Remain supporter, and I never felt more like voting Remain than when I had just been exposed to the equivalent sort of person on the Leave side.
I'd like to think that I managed to put both sets of emotional reaction aside and that I voted on the basis of a calm and rational assessment of what was best on balance for the future of my country and my children.
But even if I'm right in my own case, anyone who imagines that this sort of emotional reaction did not have any effect on the result is probably kidding themselves. 

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