We are living in an era when hate seems to be in the ascendency, says Eddie Izzard. But there is a way to fight back
I think we could be in our last century on Earth. Keep on the way we’re going and we’re going to wipe ourselves off the planet. We’ve had the tools to do it for a while. We invented dynamite in 1860, the hydrogen bomb in 1950, and who knows what the hell we’ve invented by now.
We’ve had the radicalised people who might do it. But now we’re legitimising those people, emboldening them. Some of them we’re even electing.
There’s so much hate in our world now. Brexhate. Trumphate. It feels a different world to the one we should be living in, where we’re all trying to figure out a way to make the world work for all the seven billion people on it, and we start with the premise that every one of those seven billion deserves a fair chance. Everyone must believe that. If not, surely they don’t have a right to be a citizen of the world.
Instead we listen to false facts, untruths and downright lies which make us pull away from our fellow human beings. We turn our backs to the desperate who once saw us as a shining example of hope and fairness. We build walls and issue travel bans to keep out the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
We seem to want to run and hide from them. We’d rather stick our heads in the sand and hope they all go away. We’d rather stop trying to understand the world’s problems and just concentrate on hating the Muslims, hating the Jews, hating the immigrants. We’d rather go back to the 1930s. Remember how that turned out? And this is not alarmist – the First World War was called ‘the war to end all wars’. And then we had another one.
How did we get here? Because hating is easier than loving. Hate is a weapon and in politics it seems more powerful than love. Hate is beguiling. You can hate on your own, like drinking on your own. You can sit at your laptop in your bedroom looking for someone to hate and you can find them and troll them and abuse them without even leaving your bedroom.
Some of this emotion has always been with us. Some of it started in 2008, when there was a financial crisis caused by very greedy people who made tons of money through the sub-prime market and they didn’t give a damn about anyone else. That collapse hurt the poorest people, the ones who are now being called ‘the forgotten’. The UK government decided they would try to fix it with austerity, and guess who lost out again? The poorest people, the forgotten.
You might have expected them to blame the guys who created the sub-prime meltdown. Or to blame and hate austerity. But they’re rather amorphous targets. That left room for people like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump to come along to tell people who they should blame instead.
In Britain, Farage and the right-wing press said, ‘why don’t you hate these people, these immigrants and these European politicians?’ And that was an easy message, because hate is beguiling and because that was two groups of people who Farage knew wouldn’t fight back. The immigrants because immigrants never have a spokesperson, the European administration because no-one ever cheers for an administration full stop – whether it’s the UK parliament, a local council or the United Nations.
Then they just kept making things up, and saying we should hate experts. If we don’t trust experts, who should we trust? Idiots?
They said we should hate all the Turks who were about to flood in. They conned the country and promised that if we voted for Brexhate, they would spend £350million a week on the NHS. And ultimately hate proved more powerful than common sense and they won.
In America, Trump just said anything negative that came into his head about immigrants, and he made up other things too. He told the people in the middle of the country, America’s forgotten, that he was going to bring back their manufacturing jobs. In a time of globalisation and increased mechanisation, how is that going to happen? He’s a businessman; he knows it can’t be true.
Farage and Trump said they were working for the forgotten, but they’ve already forgotten the forgotten. Farage immediately resigned after the referendum, held an elite party at The Ritz and ran off to live in a golden lift, eating Ferrero Rocher. The people who voted for him won’t get better jobs for doing so; in fact they will suffer the worst. They wanted to say f**k off to Westminster, but instead they have said f**k off to the single market, which we needed to be in to ensure their future.
For now hate has power. Theresa May feels she has to run to the right and take Farage’s script, the values of a man who has hate flowing through him. Here is a man from an immigrant family, married to an immigrant, apparently now sharing a house with another immigrant, who appears to be overcompensating for all that by seeming to blame everything on immigrants. If you look up ‘hypocrisy’ in the dictionary it’s now spelled F-A-R-A-G-E.
And you have Trump surrounding himself with people like Steve Bannon, who embodies hate.
On both sides of the Atlantic, Farage and Trump now say, ‘shut up, we won’ and they give the Brexhaters and the Trumphaters permission to behave in the most vicious way towards ordinary people. Political trolling online now seems to be fine. The extremists can go online and bombard decent people while hiding behind their pseudonyms. That seeps into the public consciousness and you end up with May and the Tories pretending that the views of 48% of the voters don’t matter, and that everyone voted for Hard Brexit, and that anyone who says otherwise is just a Remoaner. If this is moaning, then we’re just taking our lead from the people who moaned about the first referendum for 41 years.
How do we counter that? By hating them back, harder? Moderate people don’t carry a lot of hate around, we won’t go online and indiscriminately hate. Because we know deep down that while hate is beguiling and it might be temporarily satisfying, it’s not going to make the world better and get people’s jobs back.
That doesn’t mean we are going to shut up. We have to accept the results of the referendum and the US election, but we don’t have to respect them. Farage and his ilk never respected the 1975 referendum result, with a 32% per cent majority, so why should we respect one with a 4% majority? Why should Americans respect the extremism of Trump when he has no mandate in the popular vote; when he lost that by 2.9 million votes?
We all know people like Fartrump have no real plan beyond ‘smash it all up, run and hide from the world’ but we can’t just let them walk backwards from humanity. There’s too much at stake in the world to keep on the path we’re going down now, with a super-rich and an extreme poor, which is what the extreme right want, what they desire, because they know it will create more hatred.
What happens then is that the people in despair get radicalised by the lack of jobs, and the right wing give them more people to blame, and the fracturing of our continents and countries continues and we end up removing ourselves from the face of the planet.
To stop that happening we need to stop separating from the world and to start working together in the world. We need to stop going backwards and start looking forwards.
We need to be positive about Europe. It’s our continent, why have we decided to run and hide from it? We need to be proud of ourselves, proud of our country but reaching out to other countries. Saying ‘can you learn from us, can we learn from you?’ is surely the only way forward for humanity.
We must always fight a Hard Brexit, to find some way of keeping access to the single market and keeping jobs in our country. And if Hard Brexit happens, we must do what we can to get jobs back to the people who are hurting the most, who I feel have been misled into voting for something that will make their situation worse rather than better.
We’re now back in the 1930s. It’s time to do your bit, to see where you can fit in, to try to stop the hate and to keep hope alive.
What am I doing? Even before the referendum I decided I would do my stand up comedy in different languages, to try to reach out to people in other countries. I have now added Spanish to German and French as languages I am performing in.
But it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. Be constructive, be positive, keep making connections with other people. Keep fighting, keep standing up, keep believing in our message. That’s what Churchill did back in the early 1940s when we were fighting the extreme right in Europe and that’s what we need to do again. He believed in Europe and his grandson said he would have voted Remain. He would be bitterly disappointed with the situation we now find ourselves in.
A few weeks ago, The New European’s front page said ‘We want our country back’, and we do. We also want our continent back. We want our world back.
We want to put hate back in its box and we want put hope back into the world.
Eddie Izzard is a stand up comedian, actor and writer