“Don’t be a dick”. Those were the simple words with which Laurie Penny, contributing editor for New Statesman, ended an article for the weekly magazine a couple of years ago, January 2016. As New Year resolutions go, hers was as good as they came and one I would easily follow, especially now in 2018. If only I believed in New Year’s resolutions. The subject she and other writers had explored back then was the Ten Commandments and how to either re-write some of them or invent new ones for our fast-developing 21st century.
“Don’t be a dick”. Easier said than done. We grow up and in the process acquire ways of thinking that very often conflict with other people’s points of view. Rather than trying to reach a compromise, we try to beat them, to win them over. We put our side of the argument over theirs. We mock them, we deride them, we call them names. En bref, we behave like “dicks”. Even, when truth is on our side, when we can present evidence and this evidence is real, palpable, physical, we still behave like “dicks”.
Could 2018 be the year when we do less of this and we behave more humanely? I know it is difficult to keep a straight face when Donald Trump is still stalking the corridors of the White House. But we need to understand that, just like in Britain the likes of Nigel Farage and his merry band of immigrant-bashers won’t go away any time soon, in the States it is not Donald Trump who is the problem but the system that supports him. You can be a “dick” all you want towards his supporters and yet, the only outcome will be an enhancement of their sense of disenfranchisement.
Based on my personal experience, I can vouch for clear communication, respect, talking and a willingness to compromise as fundamental conflict-solving tools. Most of the time, of course. For a dialogue to take place you need two or more people. And one or more of those people willing to listen to you. But we should also be willing to listen. We do not have all the answers. Part of what makes us human is that eternal search for the meaning of our lives. Not just from a philosophical point of view, but also from an emotional, spiritual and mental one. 2018 is well underway now, fear-inducing mood an intricate part of it . Some of it is real. Poisoning in Britain. Data-harvesting by Cambridge Analytica, allegedly in cahoots with Facebook. Some of it, however, is being manufactured: the need to have armed coppers in London, to stop the ever-increasing wave of crime in the British capital
Sadly, every time this happens we lose another little bit of our humanity. The reasons for the recent upturn of the crime rate in London are manifold: gang-related incidents, an ever expanding drugs market and a macho-driven urban culture. Instead of focusing on the headline-grabbing press (whose thirst for this type of story is never satiated), we ought to look more closely at the people (human beings all of them) behind these crimes and what motivates them to break the law. Even if it means coming up against our own image on the mirror in a less than flattering way.
Don’t be a dick. It sounds easier said than done. How that translates to me is: choose life over fear. Yes, I know that the worst can happen to me just like it could happen to anyone else in another country, or city or town. But, I cannot allow politicians, such as Donald Trump or Theresa May, to manipulate me, to make me believe that we live in the worst of worlds. And whilst I will politely disagree with their supporters and will try to engage them in conversation and will attempt — with every single fibre of my body — to reach a compromise, I will carry on believing that we live in the best possible of worlds. In fact, it could become even better if we follow Laurie Penny’s advice: “don’t be a dick”.