Folks. Sometimes I wonder why I am involved and interested in politics. My political views are well known and the term, ‘bleeding heart liberal’ has been thrown at me more than once. I looked up the definition of the term, ‘a person of left-wing or liberal views (i.e. of helping the poor, siding with the oppressed) who is deemed to be excessively soft-hearted’ and I don’t think it is really justified in my case. I am not excessively soft hearted, I like to think that I have a good heart and firmly believe that our place as human beings is based primarily on equality and not on where we are lucky enough to live, or the circumstances we find ourselves in.
The problem is that there is a stirring in the UK, a stirring against that very notion. UKIP’s strength is coming primarily from people who believe that they are more important than others. If they have a problem then they deserve help but if another person has the same problem then they don’t. That I struggle with so much. I’m not saying that at times I’m not a selfish individual because at times sure I am, but I don’t ever think that people should be treated differently because of any circumstances.
This brings me on to an article I read this evening in the Independent. The piece entitled Nigel Farage on HIV: Why the Ukip leader’s remarks may actively hinder treatment in the UK made me so sad. I mean genuinely sad.
Nearly 60 countries from around the globe deny entry to people with HIV or Hepatitis B according to the United Nations. These countries include the Bahamas, the Kingdom of Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sudan, the UAE and Yemen. All of them very liberal and forward thinking democracies. Well maybe not.
Nigel Farage thinks that Britain should only accept ‘quality people‘ and when pushed he responded, ‘people who do not have HIV to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.’ I mean c’mon folks. C’mon. I haven’t been exposed to HIV and as far as I know, no-one that I know has HIV so my knowledge of the condition isn’t great but I know enough to know that people with HIV can live for a significant amount of time and be extremely valuable members of society. HIV is a disease that can be spread but the UN say that restricting entry does nothing to protect the public health. The best way to deal with the disease is to better educate people.
I like to think I’m relatively educated. I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I’m also far from the least educated. Education is a vital issue that as a nation and as a race we need to embrace when it comes not only to HIV but also to the potential spread of all diseases. The more we know then the more we will know how to prevent the spread of diseases. The implementation of better sex education will do wonders compared to illiberal and draconian measures about banning people from entering the country if they have a disease.
This is something I’ve written about before. I was severely unprepared in my education with regards to sex. I mean the sex education I received was pathetic. It consisted of one day in Year 9, so I was what, 13? and if I’m being 100% honest with you, I wasn’t ready to learn. I thought the whole thing sounded disgusting and I had no interest in it. We all grow up at different rates and there will have been others in my year who surely felt the same. No doubt many of my fellow students were tremendously excited. Still I do remember most of what we were taught and I don’t think many people were adequately prepared by the sex education we received.
Now it is what, 18 odd years later and my knowledge is more rounded and I’m more prepared but that is due to my own personal education. It is clear to say that I’m not your typical person. I have not exactly been that sexually active in my life. I am sure there are others who, unlike me, may well have been extremely sexually active but be just as uneducated. This is a problem we have as a society and this I firmly believe has helped allow UKIP to form views like this and not see their whole façade shatter.
The thing is the Tories aren’t completely clean of this stain. In January, the following Conservative MPs, Stephen Phillips, Stephen Barclay, Tracey Crouch, Dominic Raab, Graham Brady, Charlotte Leslie, Mark Field, Nigel Mills, Jonathan Djanogly, Chris Kelly, Bob Blackman, Jonathan Lord, Craig Whittaker, Conor Burns, Karl McCartney and Sir Gerald Howarth added their names to an amendment that two Conservative MPs (who are doctors) in Dr. Philip Lee and Dr. Sarah Wollaston supported to do what Nigel Farage wants to do, to refuse entry to the UK of anyone who has HIV or Hep B. Do these people not understand that by doing so, it doesn’t protect the public or is it that they are pandering to those who are ready to be scared because they don’t know the facts?
I saw an interesting stat the other day, an Ipsos-Mori poll asked the public how big a percentage of the UK population was made up of non native people. The public said 31% whereas the actual number is 13%. When people don’t know the truth then they’ll form opinions based on incorrect information. This is the scariest part of politics and is the reason that UKIP are free to pretty much say whatever they want and are relatively teflon. People will easily believe something when it backs up their uninformed viewpoint. If you then attempt to bring facts to the case then they’ll tell you that facts can tell you anything. It shows that more people than ever before seem to be willing to close their minds and if that isn’t the scariest thing then I don’t know what is.
On the other side of the ledger it should be said that younger people are more open minded than they ever have been and that brings hope. They might not be voting Lib Dem for whatever reason but more than ever before would describe themselves as liberal. Young people are more accepting of people who are different. We are all unique and we should be free to express ourselves as such. Society though still dictates how many of us live our lives and we are afraid of ruining our reputations or careers because we may be different to other people. This is something our education system is woefully failing at, education isn’t about exam results but it is about preparing people for the world and letting people find who they are. This is key when it comes to sex education. Without good knowledge and an open mind then young people will think they are wrong or twisted or weird or depraved or immoral or whatever if they have urges that differentiate from the perceived ‘norm’. I speak with first hand knowledge on this matter.
In a way I feel as though I’m lucky that I didn’t let these feelings engulf me and make me feel worse than I initially did. I always had the thirst for knowledge and learned that things aren’t wrong or twisted or weird or depraved or immoral. They are just different. Nigel Farage, those Tories and a depressingly large number of the people in this country though are intolerant of those who are different. Banning those with HIV or Hep B from entering this country wouldn’t help solve the problem of the diseases spread but would further stigmatise those who have the disease.
What needs to be done is clear. It is so clear. People need to be better educated with facts instead of scare stories or school yard gossip. The better educated not only the youth of today, but all of us are, then the better we’ll understand what the problem is and how best to deal with it, instead of just pandering to an uneducated vocal majority who are scared because they don’t know the facts. As human beings the more scared we are then the more desperate and receptive we’ll be to solutions that don’t actually solve the problem, but sound like they will. This is a real problem that we need to understand and deal with. This is why UKIP are doing so well.
People are scared and in all honesty I don’t know why. If you are scared of what you don’t know then the best way to deal with that is to become more informed and not do what too many people are doing, putting their fears and worries on to a political party who inflates this fears and worries. Maybe that is just me but I don’t understand why people are willing to listen to rhetoric without knowing the facts. That isn’t using the brain that we are blessed to have to the best of its abilities. I don’t care if people have different opinions to me, that is life, but when they have such strong and radical opinions based on a severe lack or even no knowledge then that makes me sad. My opinions evolve as I gather more information on many, many things, as do everyone’s. Unless you allow yourself to gather more knowledge and information then your opinions will never change and that isn’t part of the human journey.
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