Almost 30-years ago, when I was living in Africa, I met a man, who has since remained the person I consider not only my best friend, but also the guy I respect and trust the most.
We come from different cultures and different continents, and we have different political views on quite a few issues. Yet, most of the things I have learned, concerning many difficult to discuss subjects; such as race, religion, and what it is to be patriotic, I leant from my many serious chats, albeit over a few beers, with my friend.
Our friendship was forged in the days before “Political Correctness” became an issue, and during our various conversations, we used words that today would be completely “taboo”.
We never intentionally wished to offend each other and had to rely on our own morality, our appreciation of each other’s point of view, and our sense of humour, to overlook transgressions which occasionally occurred in the heat of the debate.
Yes, mistakes were sometimes made, and when I made them, I recall it hurt me realise I had inadvertently offended my friend, possibly more than he was actually offended. However, I also recall, because we are friends who can trusted each other, any transgressions made were quickly overlooked.
My friend, who is vastly more educated than me, has spent the last 25-years, dedicating his life to improving the situation in his country, fighting for justice and democracy, and working against the “crony-capitalism” which once plagued his country – and in this he has been extremely successful.
I, on the other-hand, have returned to greedy European life-style, and although less opinionated than I was in my youth (many of you won’t believe that!) I have chosen to join a “Patriotic” political party, who wants to take my country out of the EU and have chosen to make comment and enter into debates, regularly, in an effort to support of my party’s objectives.
Sadly, less intelligent people, mistake my patriotism for nationalism, i.e. they accuse me of hating foreigners instead of loving my own country – you see the difference?
Worst still, they mistake my lack of “political correctness” and regularly accuse me of being racist or sexist, of which I am neither. But hey, people have the right to say whatever they want! (Unless it is me: according to my critics!)
It is many years since I first sat under a mango tree with my friend and openly debated political issues, and I do miss our once regular “face-to-face” conversations.
Today, we have these wonderful things called internet and social media, on which everyone can voice their opinions – valid or not – to millions of people, and invariably criticise the opinions of others. – And because of the way this media works, we can do it without any need to consider whether we are causing offence or not. People forget their moral obligation.
I am extremely lucky, because my friend taught me many years ago, that as long as my morality was sound, i.e. I did not intend to do anyone harm, or have preconceived prejudices against anyone, the freedom to speak out, debate and comment, (even if occasionally not completely “politically correct”), should be a freedom everyone can enjoy.
I also learnt from my friend the necessity to protect one’s own culture and country, and indeed, the value of belonging to a tribe and a family – Something which has always stuck with me.
And finally, I learnt that religion was a good thing – no matter what the religion was called – as long as people practiced the religion according to their holy book, and did not “use” their book to cause harm to others.
All these things were valuable lessons learnt from someone who in many ways was different to me, and yet, in so many other ways is very similar. He taught me that it is never about the differences, it is always about having respect and understanding!
Now, why am I writing this today?
Someone in UKIP has used a term which, before “Political correctness” was in general use. And instead of people debating the issue he was discussing, they focused on his terminology, which many of his opponents have high-lighted and used, to accuse him, and other members of my party of being racist!
To be honest, I don’t know what the guy’s views are on racism, I don’t know him personally, but in my opinion, the term used was extremely mild, if it was racist at all.
What I do know, is it is the kind of term me and my friend might have used in our debates, and definitely a term we would have used when telling each other jokes – and we would have occasionally used terms which are considered today a lot worse.
Out of common decency and respect, we would never use certain derogatory terms, and I shudder today when I hear certain words used.
However, if, as was often the case and still is, he called me a “honky” or something similar, I would consider that a term of endearment, and why shouldn’t I – in the real world this kind of banter goes on between trusted friends and colleagues all the time.
Yesterday, I wrote in defence of the foolishly used “Bongo-Bongo” statement, because certain sectors of the UK press made a big issue out of it. I can appreciate that a politician saying such a thing, is foolish, especially in “politically correct” UK. But the way the press “jumped all over this statement repeating it endlessly on our televisions, making it a massively divisive and racial issue: for me, because of my personal experience, seemed unjustifiably wrong and quite pathetic!
I admit I don’t have much time for this PC stuff, and whether you agree or not, yesterdays media coverage was a clear indication that, when it gets to a stage when “political correctness” – like anything else – is used by fanatics for political gain, and use it to create division, then it is “no longer fit for purpose”.
We can argue about the abstracts of politics, we can argue the facts of economics, but the media have a responsibility not to create further division in our multi-cultural society, especially over a foolish or inappropriate term used in a hour-long statement. This does nobody any favours!
This morning, following my comments, my friend sent me greetings from “Bongo-Bongo Land”, my response was to invite him to visit his favourite “Honky” … I do hope he accepts!
The media would have a field day reading our communications.
TBH I don’t know if he is a little “pissed off” with what I wrote, I do know he thinks the guy at UKIP was foolish, and also as my mate has socialist leanings, he doesn’t like UKIP because of what he reads about the party…
But I do know, that whatever is said, we both know and trust each other’s morality, so if he agrees with me or not, it will not change or affect our affection and respect for each other, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about!
Many of my critic’s would not write such a personal observation or blog, because they are curtailed by a potential lack in their own morality or because they fear that what they say, might be misconstrued and lead to them getting attacked publically.
I have no such fears. I know what I believe in, people may disagree, but I know where I morally stand.
Moreover, unlike many of my critics, I do not attack individuals, but I am willing to address difficult issues, because no subject should be taboo. (Okay, perhaps I do attack a few EU officials, but they are fair game!)
So, providing you are happy with your own moral values, you make an effort to not personally offend anyone, and you are “as honest with yourself as possible”, I see no problem with a person putting their opinion across … and the occasional bit of Political incorrectness, just adds colour to the argument!