All Lives Matter, but why are so many so eager to judge people for their actions on social media? – SIMON CARTER

‘Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehoods. And the one man that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.’ Wise words indeed, and spoken by a wise man - Plato, the Greek philosopher.

By Simon Carter
Sunday, 7th June 2020, 1:56 pm
Updated Monday, 8th June 2020, 7:51 pm
A man raises a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest at the weekend in central London. Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images.
A man raises a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest at the weekend in central London. Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images.

I wonder what Plato would think of the world today? What would he make of the internet, of social media, of Trump, of Johnson? His Twitter page would make interesting reading, and he’d probably be called a lot worse than a ‘lunatic’ by Joanne of Sunderland. Pity Plato died over 2,400 years ago so we can’t ask him for his thoughts …

Strange times, for sure. Have they ever been stranger? Probably not.

Last week the market town of Alresford held its own Black Lives Matter protest following similar - and more high profile and better attended - rallies around the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death. When American police brutality results in locals taking the knee almost 4,000 miles away in semi-rural Hampshire, we know the world might never be the same again.

Fair play to Harrier Hammersley, just 16, for organising the Alresford protest. No doubt many keyboard warriors would criticise her for jumping on a bandwagon - after all, did the good people of Alresford protest following Breonna Taylor’s shooting by plainclothes Louisville police officers in March of this year? - but at least she didn’t sit on a sofa with a laptop and troll people.

There is nothing wrong with peaceful protests - but as we saw in the Poll Tax riot of March 1990 and as we again saw in London at the weekend, protests have a nasty habit of attracting the rent-a-mob brigade.

In today’s technology-dominated world, though, everyone has to be judged on their actions, and generally judged negatively, even if all they are doing is standing up for what they believe in (but not standing two metres apart in many Black Lives Matter rallies - lockdown is well and truly over, an annoying two-month state-controlled ‘experiment’ in the eyes of many.

All Lives Matter, of course they do, but in the eyes of social media so many lives have to be routinely criticised. Those queuing up for a burger when McDonald’s reopened drive throughs in Portsmouth last week were mercilessly slated online. Sure, I wouldn’t sit in a car for that long, I’ve got better things to do. But I also wouldn’t sit in front of a keypad and slag people off for the heinous crime of eating. #bekind was never going to last that long, was it?

I wouldn’t criticise anyone for attending a Extinction Rebellion rally, or anyone who attended the Greenham Common women’s peace camps, or any of the so-called ‘eco-warriors’ who protested against the building of the Newbury Bypass in the 1990s. Provided they acted within the law, they have my support. Better to try and influence change, after all, than just peddle poison online. Swampy - remember him? - believed in a cause. And he was slagged off for not washing his hair that often. I sometimes struggle to see the ‘Great’ in Great Britain.

Another thing I will never do is adopt a snowflake mentality. In Exeter, Devon, a petition has started up demanding the removal of a street name near where I grew up. The origins of why Blackboy Road is so called are not 100 per cent clear, but it is believed to come from the ‘blackboy’ nickname his mother called the future King Charles II (King of England from 1660-1685).

Your shout - would you want to live in a street called Blackboy Road? But if you change that, what next? The Whiteladies Road in Bristol, a city built on slavery in the 1700s? Is that racist, especially considering the city’s history?

I’m reminded of a Labour-run London council, back in the 1980s, saying it considered the nursery rhyme ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ racist. Some nurseries later insisted their children sang ‘Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep.’ Political correctness gone mad, or a sensible policy aimed at narrowing racial divisions?

If you back the latter idea, where do you stop? Our vocabulary has numerous phrases where the word ‘black’ is used with negative connotations - accident blackspot, financial black hole, black sheep of the family, blackhead, blackballed. Are they outdated in this, the 21st century? Do those words contribute to a racially divided society?

I ask again, where is a line drawn? ‘Did you see on the news, darling, another crash on the M27 at junction 9? ‘Oh no, that’s a real accident rainbow spot, isn’t it?’