Debra Allcock Tyler: The sector must unite against the creeping evil it faces

Much of what is being done in our name by some of our political class is wrong and doesn't represent most British people, writes our columnist

Debra Allcock Tyler
Debra Allcock Tyler

I'm a fan of BBC Two's Mock the Week. In one episode there as a stand-up section on "things you wouldn't say in fantasy novels". One comedian came on and said in a strong north-east accent: "Sorry Alice, this is Sunderland".

I was in paroxysms of laughter, with tears streaming down my face. It was just a mild joke really, so why on earth did I find it so funny?

I think it's because I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland: completely confused, bewildered and, if I'm honest, a bit tearful about what I'm seeing and hearing in our country. I feel all discombobulated. At every turn I'm fully expecting to see a floating Cheshire cat fading into a giant grin and a white rabbit in a hat. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to hear the words "off with their heads" come out of the Home Secretary's mouth before long.

And there is something terribly reminiscent of Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the potential Boris Johnson/Donald Trump scenario. I feel like shouting, much as Alice did: "But I don't want to go among mad people..."

I wish this was a fantasy novel, because if it was I could put it down. Unfortunately, our world has become openly all "ist" and "obic" - as in racist, misogynistic, homophobic and many others besides. We can't just weep sorrowfully about it. Lewis Carroll wrote "'Come, there's no use in crying like that!' said Alice to herself, rather sharply. 'I advise you to leave off this minute!'"

And she was right. We have to put our big-girl pants on and face it head on. We have to be leaders. We have to step up. There is no point muttering quietly to ourselves, or yelling at the comments threads on our Twitter feeds or Facebook pages. Nothing will change if we avoid the difficult conversations with peers, colleagues, friends and family. We need to point out that so much of what is being said and done in our name by some of our political class is wrong, wrong, wrong. More than that, it is not representative of most of the British people.

If we do not unite against the creeping evil we face today, we risk ending up with even more folk suffering, in need, afraid. Our job is not simply to pick up the pieces of a broken society; it is also to find out why it broke and then do our level best to fix it so it doesn't break again. That means telling some very senior folk to "feck* off" when they try to gag us or threaten to take away our funding when we point out that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes - even if we are in the pay of the emperor.

It's our job as voluntary sector leaders to take risks. To say the unsayable. To stand up to those who would bully, intimidate, lie and dissimulate. Because if we don't, who will? Someone has to step up and lead by example - it must be us.

As Lewis Carroll wrote: "If you drink too much from a bottle marked 'poison', it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later." Well, we don't have to drink from the poisoned bottle. We are not Alice. And this is Sunderland.

*Feck is not a swear word

Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

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