Challenge, change and culture in 2017
This past year witnessed a number of momentous events affecting societies across the world. The Refugee Crisis in Syria has seen hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes and forced to flee and now many of these migrants face the difficult task of adjusting to the culture of the countries they have settled in. In Britain, communities all over the country remain divided in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, while in the United States, the election of a new president has further exacerbated societal tensions. However, looking past gloomy economic forecasts and belligerent political rhetoric, at the heart of these events is culture.
Indeed, terms such as immigration and integration are becoming increasingly sensitive topics in the public discourses of Western countries. While for so long we have prided ourselves in Britain on being open and tolerant, heightened levels of division and distrust are damaging the progressive culture we have been striving to build. In October 2016, the BBC reported a significant increase in racist or religious abuse. Increases in abuse related to sexual orientation and to disability were also noted. Here it would be easy to place the blame for this rise in hate crime squarely on Brexit; however, it must be noted that 2015 had also witnessed a surge in hate crime. The key point is to recognise that attitudes, and thus aspects of our culture, are changing.
This is clear in British sport where a considerable number of incidents of racist, homophobic and gender based discrimination were reported across a variety of different sports. Incredibly, discrimination in football was reported to have risen during the 2015/16 season. Abuse was reported to occur at all levels of the game – from amateur to professional. While it must be acknowledged that British football has certainly come a long way since the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s when bananas were routinely thrown at black players during games, this very recent rise in abuse indicates a worrying regression that we must challenge in the coming year.
For those seeking to fight intolerance, 2017 may present many serious hurdles that will need to be overcome. However, it will also afford us a great opportunity to resist the regressive flow and constructively challenge people’s fears and viewpoints. Ultimately, we believe that the vast majority of people are good but are simply unaware that their own view, is just one way of perceiving the world around them. This year we can bridge perspectives, challenge prejudice and give people the opportunity to develop a strong cultural awareness. Only with such awareness, can we (as a society) get back on the right tracks and find our way again.