Liberality and Democracy are two things that make Britain great. Yet at a time when some of the more extreme views and ideas are getting more airtime than ever, it’s worth remembering how powerful a force for good moderation can be.
I don’t know about you, but in the midst of this election campaign I’ve found it hard to control my irritation with some of the opinions of people that I strongly disagree with.
“Those people are lying to themselves!”
“Those people have been fooled by ‘propaganda’!”
“Those people aren’t in possession of all the facts!”
“Their prejudices have gotten the better of them!”
“Why can’t they just wake up and smell the coffee?!”
If only I could make these things go away. Then, eventually, everyone would agree with me…
Bad news Pete. It ain’t gonna happen.
There will always be people who share the opposite viewpoint, who care more about things that you value less. That’s what democracy is FOR. To stop one set of values; one set of priorities or one particular viewpoint from having a disproportionate amount of say over the big decisions that effect us.
The alternative is a world where someone decides what is good for the rest; because deep down they believe that ‘they know better’.
We all know where that road leads: to a place called tyranny.
Fairness to a liberal means you and I should both get some of what we want, but not everything we want at the other’s expense. In other words: compromise. And this moderate, balanced, civilised sense of how to settle conflict and disagreement is what we as Britons have prided ourselves on for a very long time.
Take the humble British respect for queuing. Everyone wants to get to the same place, everyone wants to get there as quickly as possible yet many people want the same thing and they can’t all get it at once. Voluntarily, we submit ourselves to a sensible, ordered way of balancing everybody’s interests, beautiful and dignified in its way, that exudes the respect of a people for the notion of something greater than themselves.
When it’s in your nature to want to mediate, to stand in the middle of a fight, trying to cool and balance the passions on either side, sometimes it’s you that ends up taking a beating. When you stand in the way of two sets of people; determined to get their own way, then compromising sometimes means that they will both blame you when they don’t get it.
Yet in the heat of verbal and emotional battle we need someone to remind us that difference is a right and compromise a must if liberty for all is truly what we value. My rights end where yours begin and that is the rock on which our nation builds.