70 years ago next week is the anniversary of the Belsen Concentration Camp being liberated. On tonight’s BBC news was a feature about one of the liberators meeting a survivor of the camp and it was so sad to see that the pain that memory held for the former soldier had never left him. Why are such names as Auschwitz, Belsen, Dachau and others etched in all our memories and still taught to each generation of school children? Because the day we forget is the day it happens again.
Too often in situations like the atrocities of the second world war are brushed over as something from the past that we’d never allow again. Ask the people of Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Darfur, Cambodia and Zimbabwe about that and explain why in the last twenty years we allowed it to happen again.
The reason I state that nothing has changed is that we still see examples – maybe not to the levels of WWII but still important – happening around the world. Rejection of “others” and becoming insular in the politics of the day. More and more countries are leaning to the right politically across world including our own. Just look at the rise of the right in the UK with UKIP, EDL, BNP all finding positions to be heard. In France and Germany, Greece and Spain the right are rising again.
We still hear of barbaric actions in Syria, Yemen and across the Middle East in connection with ISIS. Genocide is not a thing of the past and we need to call it out when we see it. I remember Bill Clinton being interviewed and saying that his biggest regret in office was not acting when Rwanda was attacking itself.
Moving to the right in the way we are doesn’t mean we’re headed for the extremes in this country, but is an important lesson to learn and remember. Moving to extremes leads to an erosion of rights and decency; an acceptance of name calling and stigmatization of immigrants and asylum seekers to our shores; a condemning of other cultures and contributions. Those are the first steps to the extremes and we have to call them out and loudly.
The anti-Europe and anti-immigrant rants of the UKIP and the BNP that are being heard on our main TV and radio stations worry me. The majority of people are condemning them but there is a minority who are in support. And the more those voices are heard and accepted as “normal” the more dangerous the words become.
My point is that no matter how far down the path of racism and intolerance, it is a step too far. We must always remember the historic politics behind the attacks of the Jews, Romanians, Russians, Gays, Disabled, those of different faiths and beliefs can be seen in our politics today from voices like, Nigel Farage, Nick Griffin, Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen, Andriy Biletsky, Jörg Haider, Makis Voridis, Vladamir Putin – all in European politics. Even a figure like Benjamin Netanyahu us seen by many as a divisive figure in the Middle East.
Every time someone in the public eye takes a step down that path we have to remember where the destination could be and stop them with democracy.