Helen Martin: Let’s work together in ‘our’ community

Young Fathers were themselves guilty of prejudice in their attack on privileged white people
Young Fathers were themselves guilty of prejudice in their attack on privileged white people
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LEAVING bigots out of the equation, the perfect society most of us aim for is surely one where race, colour, gender, sexuality and religion become irrelevant in terms of equality and friendship.

Moving closer to that ideal has involved many historical struggles and legislation to end persecution and bring about equal rights. There’s still some way to go.

John Terry posted pictures of his house and followed those up with holiday pictures during a skiing trip

John Terry posted pictures of his house and followed those up with holiday pictures during a skiing trip

We thought we’d banned slavery and consigned it to the history books, but now we know a new form of domestic and sexual slavery especially of Eastern Europeans exists here in the UK.

Regardless of historical and legislative development, Protestant-Catholic sectarianism still exists to varying degrees in Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland too.

And amid the complicated mess of global politics and terrorism, many innocent people suffer as war, genocide and power struggles stalk the world.

It’s all far from ideal, but ironically, one thing that helps fuel the fires of division within the UK is the modern definition of “community”.

Traditionally the word suggests a spirit of tolerance, of people from different backgrounds or wealth respecting each other’s differences and living side by side in the place they share.

Does any decent, rational person today object to people in their area who are gay, Muslim, white, black, Catholic, straight, rich or poor? That’s their local community. Getting to know neighbours is what makes us realise we have a lot in common regardless of places where we worship, sexual orientation, religion or colour.

But today, “community” is becoming a much more restricted term, specifically labelling only one part of a person’s identity.

The Asian community, the LGBTQ community, the immigrant community . . . in each case these thousands of people have probably never even met each other let alone communed.

It’s a handy collective noun when it comes to representing certain interests and rights, but it ring-fences people off into divisive groups rather than helping to build all-inclusive UK communities.

In a video commissioned by national portrait galleries here and in London, Mercury prize-winning Edinburgh band Young Fathers, had every right to comment that most portraits were of the rich, privileged, white, ruling classes of the past. (Correct – though inevitable as only the rich could afford to pay top artists at the time. That’s irreversible fact, like Roman statues; it’s the history of Britain and art, not discrimination.)

However, the band’s wording that those privileged white people are “a long line of inbred spawn, soon to die out themselves” was laden with prejudice, even if that wasn’t intended. Some of their descendants still exist. There are many rich people of every colour in the world. Racism cuts both ways.

I often wonder about “the LGBTQ community” phrase. Only straights are excluded from that. In my 60s, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t support gay marriage or 100 per cent equal rights regardless of sexual orientation (apart from some churches who need to get their anachronistic act together).

We cannot rewrite history. But now we have laws against discrimination, racism and sexism, and laws supporting gay rights. We’re on the right track. Instead of creating separate labels and division, can’t we all work together for everyone in “our” community?

Sadly, Young Fathers, the one thing we cannot achieve is financial equality across the board. That really would be Utopia.

Is your life an open Facebook?

I’M sure some people were delighted with Police Scotland figures showing that the figures for burglary in Edinburgh (“house-breaking” as it is officially referred to) has dropped by 20 per cent in a year.

Not round my way though. About eight attempted or successful break-ins occurred over a period of two weeks within a mile or so of each other.

As far as I know, none of the victims were as daft as John Terry, the former English football captain who not only posted pictures of his house on social media but followed up with holiday pictures during a skiing trip abroad.

There are some calls for parents who post pictures of their youngsters on line to be prosecuted for compromising children’s privacy . . . now that’s a tough call. But it wouldn’t be surprising if insurance companies refused to pay out for break-ins when customers had committed the social media equivalent of sticking a poster on their front door saying “Burglars welcome!”

Statistics don’t lie, apart from when they do

SCOTLAND’S Population Report, published by National Records of Scotland, last week left me baffled and scratching my head.

As the population ages and people live longer thanks to medical advances, the report warned that the number of pensioners would soar, creating a demographic timebomb.

At the same time the report revealed Scotland had the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe with the current average for women around 81 years and around 77 for men, both predicted to drop even further by next year.

It just shows statistics don’t always help when planning for the future. My sympathies, for once, go to the Scottish Government.

An open neck and shut case

WHO was the stubborn Lothian Buses boss who almost caused a strike by insisting drivers needed control centre permission to remove their neck ties in hot weather?

He/she deserves to sit in the driver’s seat for several hours in a heat wave as the wheels on the bus go round and round on Edinburgh’s congested streets, surrounded by other vehicles pouring heat and fumes from their engines.