Our modern society is plagued by division and partisan politics. It is time to have an honest debate as to where this corrosive climate is taking us and why, argues Alexander McKibbin.

One of the more vexing and insoluble aspects of living in the present, is the inability to see how future scholars will judge our society and events.

As John W. Gardener observed "History never looks like history when you are living through it". However, I think it is not presumptuous to assume that subsequent chroniclers will view what we are currently experiencing, as one of the more perplexing chapters in mankind's story.

Since the end of the Second World War the UK has enjoyed remarkable growth, both economically and socially. A time traveller transported from the 1950's would marvel at accoutrements that are staples of today. The poverty and inequality of yesteryear have vanished, yet far from a happy, largely healthy and contented population, we are a nation riven by discord.

But why?

It would be glib to try and pinpoint one specific cause but perhaps an overlooked issue is that of Faith. A society with little or no belief is a rootless and aimless community devoid of direction. Whilst fashionable to dismiss Faith as some anachronistic throwback ? perhaps our casual abandonment is more myopic and self-harming than previously believed.

In the UK mutual understanding has given way to two opposing hills of moral high ground. The subsequent clashes in the media make for unedifying displays of righteous intolerance.

The most alarming manifestation of this new dogmatism is the level of hatred and vitriol with which it is promoted.

Brexit is a good example. Egged on by a largely partisan media, proponents on either side battled it out with varying degrees of success. Facts and logic were jettisoned early on, replaced by calumny and insults. The EU debate exposed worrying flaws in the national psyche which should have set alarm bells ringing on the political bridge. Sadly, politicians were and remain "asleep at the wheel".

COVID-19 is another example of the factionalism that has become endemic in society. Whilst conflicting evidence and views emerged, it degenerated swiftly into a slanging match with the slurs "denier/granny killer" bandied about. The media went into a predictable monomaniacal overdrive. There was simply one view and if you did not agree with it you were ripe for abuse and ridicule.

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On the other side of the Atlantic the well-worn trope of Trump as a demagogue was endlessly recycled. Biden's hollow rhetoric of "healing" looks set to entrench existing divisions and usher in further debilitating disunity.

The mania that surrounded BLM and the haste with which posturing public figures jumped on the bandwagon has served no purpose whatsoever. The re-writing of history, tearing down of statues and assorted re-naming of streets, is for many people, simply incomprehensible.

Maya Angelou was prescient with her observation;

"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again". Amen to that.

The more we strive for utopia the further it recedes.

After all, if these progressive and fashionable causes bring so much obvious benefit, why the need for laws at all?

The overriding and corrosive aspect of this "right/wrong" thinking is the lamentable degree of self- censorship that both corporations and individuals now exercise as second nature. Academia is tripping over in its haste to purge literature and culture of anything that might remotely offend.  Is humanity now so devoid of critical thinking that it needs someone else to tell them when they should be upset?

How can healthy debate occur when emasculated by a culture of intolerance?

Like Cassandra, I foresee a far less happy future. A future marked by strife and a more draconian government that seems hell bent on ignoring and needlessly punishing the people it (allegedly) serves.

We need to work to understand what is truly right and have an honest debate as to where this corrosive climate is taking us.

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