Ever get the feeling we’re becoming more divided as a country?
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about Brexit. Well, not just Brexit anyway.
For all our advances as a society, for all the progress we’ve made towards judging someone by the content of their character rather than their ethnicity, their sexuality, their nationality even, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that once again we are becoming primarily defined by what we are; rather than who.
We have a phrase in Scotland, “We’re aw Jock Tamson’s bairns”.
Loosely put, it means that we’re all the same under the skin.
And this egalitarian sentiment is perhaps my parents’ greatest gift to me, of many, as it was they who introduced then reinforced the idea that’s been central to my own view of the world ever since.
Take folks as you find them. Don’t pigeonhole. Don’t stereotype. Don’t label.
Yet many of those labels previously abandoned or avoided in pursuit of equality are now being worn as badges of honour.
It almost feels as if what unites us might no longer be greater than that which divides. Everything is tribal these days, and I don’t just mean the tattoos.
Some suggest that it’s a natural outcome of what’s become known as identity politics; the tendency for some to adopt political positions based on the social groups to which they belong or with which they identify.
For my part, I wonder whether the rise in social media has played a role – after all, it’s now the stuff of seconds to find someone somewhere who agrees with you, no matter how outlandish or regressive the point of view.
Certainly there are days when I feel like I’ve woken up after 10 years in a coma and missed the national conversation where we all agreed that we’re doing things differently now and woe betide the person who doesn’t.
And so, I’ve decided to do something about it. Which you’ll be less than surprised to hear involves me sitting down and talking to the people involved.
Freedom of speech. The rise of the alt-right and resurgence of the far right. Trans rights, gender identity and pronouns. White privilege, Black Lives Matter. Identity politics.
Oh, and Brexit of course. I’m sorry in advance.
All of the above are explored in depth in our new interview series, Divided.
Our goal was to find those conversations taking place, generally, away from the (evil) MainStreamMedia and plonk me right in the middle. With varying results.
To that end, I’ve chatted with: a young pop punk star in the making who uses his music and social media to talk openly about his sexuality and mental health; a drag queen ostracised for taking part in a free speech rally with controversial figures; a young black writer who confessed she’d taken a break from white men; a former YouTuber who ended up working as Tommy Robinson’s producer; and many, many more, all an attempt to dig a little deeper into a society which seems to be pulling apart rather than together.
I can’t promise you answers other than theirs, and frankly some will infuriate. Others will amuse. A few may have you reaching for the appropriate off switch.
But we hope all will make you think. They certainly had that effect on me.
Watch this week’s full episode:
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(c) Sky News 2019: No labels, no stereotypes: Dissecting a divided society