Debra Allcock Tyler: The food accident that encapsulated the Brexit problem

The pain a chilli caused me reminded me that we need the milk of human kindness to restore some sanity

Debra Allcock Tyler
Debra Allcock Tyler

I had a very unfortunate encounter with a chilli recently. Stupidly, I rubbed my eyes after chopping one. I was in agony!

My eyes were burning like the very furies in hell! I staggered about blindly, screaming "My eyes! My eyes!", closely followed by my chap carrying a pan of milk, trying not to laugh and yelling: "Alkali, Debs! Alkali!"

He finally managed to bathe my eyes with the milk. I looked one hell of a sight with bright red bloodshot eyes and a face covered in milk and running mascara. But thankfully it worked and I regained enough vision to glare furiously at Andy for having the temerity to find my predicament funny.

It feels to me a bit like our country has accidentally rubbed chilli in its eyes and is running about screaming blindly, only it’s not remotely funny.

My problem was basic hygiene. I didn’t wash my hands properly. Is that what’s happened to our nation?

Is that why we’re in pain and cannot see? Have we forgotten the basic hygiene of good citizenship? Good manners? Listening? Understanding that others don’t see things the way we do?

Recognising that those of us who are comfortable in our lives are not representative of the whole? Noticing those crying out that they’re not being seen.

I’m a trustee of In Kind Direct, a charity that redistributes excess or unwanted stock to other charities.

At a recent board meeting we had a visit from the Oasis Partnership. Its representatives told us that the quality of the goods we give it to distribute to its community demonstrates to those it serves that they are respected, and the effect of that is to infer a sense of dignity.

They told us how treating someone as being worthy of nice things has an effect so profound it is hard to quantify. Oasis gives its folk the shea butter loo roll, the branded trainers, the posh pram. It believes that people who feel respected and who are treated with dignity are more likely to behave that way to others. And it's right.

If only more of our politicians would emulate the Oasis Partnership’s standards of behaviour: behaving with dignity; treating others with respect.

Instead, we witness rudeness and condescension to those who see things differently; taunts and tirades that set a standard for public discourse that is toxic, infectious and emulated by folk with bad intent.

They’ve obviously forgotten that history will not be kind to them. Their bad-minded manipulation of certain sections of the public and media will one day come back to haunt them. They will not go down in history as mighty leaders but as purveyors of pain and discord.

I make no apology for over-stretching my metaphor. When my eyes were in pain and I couldn’t see, I needed my man with a pan of milk. Our country is in pain and it cannot see. What it needs from us is the milk of human kindness to heal.

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