The word ‘polarisation’ is currently being used extensively to describe many, frequently deepening divisions which seem to be taking place, both locally and globally. They focus on various aspects including race, gender, health, climate, economics and various combinations of these elements. Often the context is one of turbulence and the extent to which we are living in unprecedented times. There is certainly some truth in the fact that what we experience in the present may be totally new to us; for many, the pandemic would be an obvious example. Equally there may well be a significant strand of history repeating itself, this perhaps reflected, indeed reinforced by the family and cultural histories, stories and myths which have passed on through the generations. When faced with the apparently enduring certainty of uncertainty, polarisation may be energised by a yearning for solid ground, some sort of ‘normality’. Inevitably, polarisation can only take place if there is THE OTHER, whether real, created, imagined or a blend of these. If there is some validity in my supposition then if, for example, two groups are facing each other, then the creation of separate solid grounds will most likely lead to an ever-widening and deepening trench. This may be accompanied by strap-lines which offer supposedly simple truths in a world often experienced as ever-more complex.
My aim in this paper is simply to offer a perspective on some of the dynamics which could be at play. I am aware that in this I may succumb unwittingly to polarisation myself, whether in the content or manner in which I write. I am reminded of Glennon Doyle, ‘We are not going to get the racism out of us until we start thinking about racism like we think about misogyny. Until we consider racism as not just a personal moral failing but as the air we’ve been breathing’ (Doyle, 2020: 217). I am not always sure of the air I am breathing.
Clearly with polarisation there is the interweaving of the individual and the collective. The path of polarisation may be an intensely personal journey, inside or outside awareness. There is also inevitably the shared dimension: shared with and shared against. The journey, whether individual or collective may be tentative and hesitant through to a leap, sometimes of faith. Such words may well apply to my writing in this paper.
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