What Glasgow showed us about community cohesion and positive messaging
A Glasgow community successfully promoting a messaging of tolerance and unity, and freeing their neighbours from Immigration Enforcement emphasises the role of positive messaging in achieving social change.
Whilst the news and consumers of the news tend to have a negativity bias and may absorb negative events more than positive events — though this theory is now disputed — positive messaging often has more impact in terms of changing minds and effecting social change. It is easy, in the current climate, to become absorbed in the prevalent negativity, but events in Glasgow reminded us that positivity still has the power to transcend divisions.
Many political analysts have suggested that one reason for Brexit was that the Remain side was too negative with their campaign, and that the positive messaging of Leave appealed more to undecided voters. Often, the aftermath of a failure to win or humiliating losses will entail a discussion of how a candidate didn’t use enough positivity to engage with the electorate.
This phenomenon is easily transferred from political strategy to social activism; refugee and immigration policy provides a particularly stark example.
The U.K. has unfortunately been dominated by anti-immigration and xenophobic discourse — whose language does not deserve to be repeated on this platform. However, countering this negativity with more negativity or hard facts on immigration figures — when this is already a highly emotional topic — tends to have little effect.
Immigration is — to an extent — a political issue, but it can be easy to forget how little connection most people have with the intricacies of policy. Positivity and experiencing immigration first-hand make much more difference.
In May, the Glaswegian ward of Pollokshields garnered national attention when what seemed like an entire community surrounded an Immigration Enforcement van to protest against the attempted removal of two of their neighbours on Eid al-Fitr. The two men were then released. Whilst the sheer numbers of people who came to help was astounding, it is also revealing that most of the messages were on tolerance, antiracism, and community solidarity: this was a protest motivated largely by horror at a contravention of positive principles with little to do with politics or numbers.
Indeed, Pollokshields is a very diverse area and has four councillors from different parties, so it would be difficult to find a unifying political stance. It is also outrageous that the raid took place on one of the most important festivals for Muslims, but, in a diverse area where not everyone is even Muslim, religion also featured little in the protest.
The unifying idea was the positive sense of community cohesion and unity, and the sense of members of their community being forcibly removed by the authorities.
Similar events are understandably unlikely to take place everywhere, but Pollokshields shows the impact that speaking out about the positive effects of immigration and the many wonderful contributions that migrants and refugees can make to our communities can have. Rather than engaging with discourse about whether immigrants are a burden on state resources, we should steer the discourse towards focusing on what they bring — instead, focusing on the positives.
We at JAN Trust stand in solidarity with all the victims of inhumane immigration raids, and work against hate and intolerance by adopting a holistic approach to countering the negative discourse. Through Another Way Forward™, we educate young women and girls on the dangers of extremism and hate, empower them to take an active interest in such societal issues, and encourage them to make a difference in whichever way they choose. By fostering active discussions in diverse groups, we show our participants the positive value of diversity and the importance of interacting with people from different backgrounds.
We must start with positivity to make society a more positive place.