Britain's historical issues around racism, sexism and homophobia have left an awkward and potentially irreconcilable difficulty at the heart of our democracy – one which sortition would remove at a stroke, argues Daz Pearce.
A few months ago in the capacity of my 'regular' job, I was chatting to the human resources manager after (much to my own surprise) winning one of those 'employee recognition' awards. Among other things, we discussed a period several years ago when things were, shall we say, less positive than they currently are. One aspect that I recalled vividly in our discussion was a sense that there were a handful of individuals deliberately making my life more difficult than it needed to be – those familiar with toxic office politics will understand the idea of being 'set up for failure' and then 'chastised' in public rather than in private etc. That the departure of one of these people coincided neatly with a positive shift in my own career fortunes served as confirmation that this problem had been real, rather than perceived or imagined.
Apologies if that came over as self-indulgent, the relevance is this: when I look back, I now have no doubt whatsoever that this sense of having been 'got at' affected me in many ways, all of them negative. It caused me to spend time looking over my own shoulder for slings and arrows, rather than 'playing the next ball' with a positive approach. It exacerbated a suspicion of authority that if I'm honest had always existed to some degree anyway, and fed a cynicism about the fragility of whatever you have worked hard for, this idea that someone who doesn't like the look of you could come and take it away at any time. Painful as it was, in a very narrow sense I'm glad it happened – being white, male, agnostic and heterosexual pretty much disqualifies me from suffering as a result of most forms of bigotry, but I got an idea of how its victims, or at least some of them, must feel.
On the subject of bigotry, there are two key points that probably need to be communicated before we go further: (1) a clear majority (at an educated guess, circa 90 per cent) of the population are not prejudiced on the common race/gender/sexuality grounds themselves, while regarding acts fueled by such bigotry and attempts at discrimination as dumb and dangerous in equal measure; (2) unfortunately, a significant minority still have 'issues with difference' in one form or another and that minority will continue to exist ad infinitum in all likelihood. By significant, I am referring to their nature as opposed to their number – a minority sufficiently motivated to 'get off their arse and do something' even (or maybe especially) a 'lone wolf' minority of one like Anders Breivik, could never be written off as 'insignificant' by any objective measure.
Power resides in what you're capable of, not simply how many of you there are.Read more