When a brilliant singer called David Bowie died, on 10th January 2016, little did people realise that he had been holding the world together. But from that moment on what people thought of reality began to slide. Shock after shock followed. In the United Kingdom, the people voted to
commit an act of economic self harm leave the EU. In the United States, the people voted for a racist, misogynistic orange guy Donald Trump. As the markets reacted to these events, confidence fell and exchange rates bounced up and down. Meanwhile, in a back room somewhere, some hedge fund guy made a billion dollars by betting against his own economy. Later on, people would look back at this year as a turning point. While some people said it was “the rise of the common people”, others called it “the rise of anti-politics”, and yet others “the rise of stupid”. Whatever. It was certainly a traumatic year for anyone who lived through it.
As the people known as “the liberals” hunkered down in their bunkers, waiting for the sky to fall in and the world to end, they began to ask themselves how this happened, and (more importantly) how they might prevent it happening again. And one shell-shocked writer came up with a list:
- Media Studies is a really, really, really important subject. In a world where a poster or a headline can swing a vote, and where people believe what they read in The Daily Mail, we need to teach children how to read and interpret what they see in the press.
- Facts have been superseded by a “post-truth” world, where some people will believe literally anything if you shout it loud enough. It is not enough anymore just to teach children facts; we need to teach them how to differentiate between facts and post-truth.
- As well as being like the greatest encyclopedia ever invented, the Internet is also an epic and unending source of post-truth. Digital literacy, the ability to ‘read’ it, is of critical importance for future generations.
- People will sometimes pretend to believe things that they don’t actually believe, especially if they feel that people might disapprove of the things that they do believe. While we can’t condone prejudice, we need to believe it exists to be able to challenge it.
- Social media can give you a completely false view of the opinions of other people, creating a bubble in which you only see the vision of the world that you agree with. Unfortunately, elsewhere on social media people with the polar opposite views are doing the same thing. You can mute, block or ignore them, but they won’t go away. However, there is no point in saying “follow those you disagree with” if all you ever do is retweet their comments with a sarcastic witticism attached.
- It is much harder to change people’s opinions and beliefs than you might imagine.
- Education is the only possible solution to prejudice and misunderstanding.
- However, teachers and schools can only do so much. We can’t just make endless lists of things for them to solve, and expect it to happen. The fault lies with those who stoke prejudice, and this mainly means politicians and the media.
- It’s important to stay positive, especially if you have children, or if you work with them. Some of us are old enough to remember the What to do in the event of a nuclear war leaflets and the fall of the Berlin Wall. These things too shall pass.
- If you’re a Remain voter, you might be feeling slightly better today, since the people of another country have shown themselves to be even more misguided than the people of your own. However, you would do well to remember: Trump is only for four years; Brexit is forever.