In an increasingly turbulent political climate – Trump, Brexit, and rising right-wing populism across Europe – that seems to be turning away from caring for our fellow human beings, it can be hard to know where to go next. How best should we respond to these upheavals? How do we voice our dissatisfaction when we don’t like where things are going? And what can we do to protect the most vulnerable members of our society? we sat down with Chandler and Frida, members of the green party, to talk about student activism, the future of the left, a more empathetic kind of politics.
Which demographic in society do you think is shown the least amount of empathy?
Frida – I definitely think migrants and asylum seekers, a lot of people tend to target them because it’s easy to target people who are unfamiliar to you.
The working class is a target group as well, especially with the Conservative government. It’s easy to target them as well. They cut down on benefits and taxes, and then demonise that group so it’s easier to justify those things.
How would you persuade people that view migrants in a negative light that migration is a good thing for society?
Chandler –I think a lot of it’s down to awareness. When the Brexit vote came back you saw the areas which voted to leave have the least immigration and are less exposed to these different cultures, they are the least aware of who these people are and the way that these groups are portrayed by the media and politicians has a lot to do with people’s interpretation, so that needs to change. People need to be educated as well in what the truths of migration are. Are they taking our jobs, are they draining the economy – well no, they’re not.
Would you say that education is important in getting rid of these stereotypes?
Frida – I think a combination of education, integration and active policies to provide inclusion. Education is important but at the same time if you don’t come across someone from a different country yourself it might not get the message across.
Moving onto the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender people. I know that the SNP made a pre-election promise to allow transgender people to legally change their gender. Do you think this will resurface or has it fallen through the cracks?
Frida- Unfortunately it’s easy for those kinds of issues to be forgotten just because of big economic questions, but it’s crucial for transgender people that these issues are addressed. The statistics on mental health issues among trans people are awful, so it’s important that we make time for their issues.
Chandler- It’s great to see David Mundell come out as gay and you think great things are going change for LGBTQ+ people and yet there’s no change.
Do you think that’s just the nature of politics, though – that you have to change who you are and compromise?
Chandler – It was obviously very difficult for him to come to terms with that. I don’t know his inner dialogue but I still can’t understand, even with this representation, why there has not been a change in policy.
On average the people that come to university are middle class so even though we may be left or left leaning politically do we stilll generalise the working class as this sort of xenophobic stereotype?
Frida – It is hypocritical that we do to the working class what we think they do to migrants, and it’s not correct to assume this, but there is a lot more to it. The working class is a large group of people.
Chandler- The working class have their own issues, my family is super working class so I can sort of come at that with a little bit of perspective. There are so many groups in society with so many different issues – working class, gay working class, minority working class. It’s not a time for generalisation in any sense.
But don’t you think people are guilty of that in a way? When people think of a Trump voter, for example, they think of a redneck stereotype.
Frida –We should be very careful of generalizing but at the same time if we want a society where fewer people would vote for people like Trump we need to see the people that voted for him and their reasons. It’s the same with feminism and anti-racism, obviously we don’t want to generalise too much and say all ‘woman are oppressed’, but at the same time we have to point out that there is oppression of these groups and with the people that voted for Trump and Brexit we have to try and improve their lives, so I think you are absolutely right that generalisation causes harm – but at the same time we have to be able to see where to make change.