Do you think that gay people are rapists and paedophiles? Only a tiny minority believe this in the UK. However, in Uganda such views seem to be very common.
Yesterday I saw a film called Call Me Kuchu. It is about the lives of homosexuals in Uganda where homosexuality has been a criminal offence since the days of British rule. The film followed a recent attempt to increase the penalty to make it punishable by the death sentence. The leading gay rights’ activist in the film was a man called David Kato who, during the making of the film, was brutally murdered in January 2011.
The film was followed by a Q & A. A panel member explained how the vast majority of people in Uganda have never knowingly met a gay person and that many Ugandans believe that gay people are rapists and paedophiles. It is easy to understand why they think so. The film showed politicians, the press and the church demonising gays.
People – who consider themselves to be reasonable and sensible - can easily be persuaded to hate a group within their society which they regard as “other”. One psychological benefit they gain is a sense of their own superiority.
In the UK we should not look on Uganda with any sense of superiority.
Right now the powerful in our society are demonising the poor. Like most bullies they never pick on someone their own size.
Many poor people are disabled. Many have children dependent on them. Many, on low wages, work as hard as anyone in society. Many are desperate to find work but cannot do so. Most are vulnerable. This is the group that is being demonised as morally deficient scroungers by politicians like Cameron and Osborne and by papers owned by billionaires such as the Times, the Sun, the Telegraph, the Mail and the Express.
The exploitation of the actions of the despicable child-killer Mick Philpott in order to smear all benefit claimants is the latest in a vicious catalogue of propaganda against the poor.
Millions of British people accept the message of the powerful. While similarly considering themselves to be reasonable and sensible, they hate the poor in the same way that their Ugandan counterparts hate gays.
Ultimately, only by educating people to be alert and knowledgeable and to question authority can we effectively protect against the cynical hatred-mongering of the powerful.No. 294