Those who showed up to the Encompass event ‘Forget the F-word: The H is Silent’ were treated to a fascinating debate, illustrated by film clips and first-hand experiences of how humanity can be lost –and gained - in different circumstances. Chaired by David Brindle of The Guardian, the event was triggered by recent examplesof vitriolic verbal assaults on defenceless people on buses purely on the basis of their race or appearance. Most shocking had been the fact that nobody had stood up to defend them.
Eric of Encompass set up the debate by posing the question ‘What are we thinking?’. What stops us from standing up for a fellow vulnerable human? From asserting our humanity? We film the event in the clear understanding that is wrong, but don’t intervene. Zrinka Bralo of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum has seen the best and the worst of humanity – from violence and aggression to acts, both small and large, that show people willing to give up time and more to express their solidarity. There are great stories to tell, but we are not good at finding places to tell them and make an impression to match the depressing stories of inhumanity in action.
Julie Siddiqi, founder of Sadaqa Day, proclaimed herself a member of the ‘Glass Half-full Gang’ and, despite her own lived experiences of discrimination and abuse, highlighted examples of both individual and collective action that restore faith in humanity. So the question is ‘What makes good people go bad?’ Kathryn Waddington, Head of the Psychology Dept at Westminster University, gave an explanation of ‘bystander apathy’, what makes for ‘active bystanders’ and the role and effects of social media. Leaders who take action create the environment in which others then join in to assert their own humanity.
The lesson of the debate was that we need to tell more good stories, to show leadership and create the human environment. From a starting point of almost despair at the lack of humanity show in the situations illustrated, we emerged as all part of the ‘Glass Half-full Gang. As one member of the audience said – I came here feeling hopeless, I go away with hope.