BalanceJulyIssue17 - 12


Nihal: off the record
Recent events may have cast a shadow over us all, but however hard
it is, we must all try to hold on to hope, writes Nihal Arthanayake
photography by WI LL I REL A ND


ne of the most overused quotes in
my world is 'a week is a long time
in politics'. Since I started on BBC
5 Live back in September 2016, it
seems not an hour goes by without
some event occurring that asks us to re-evaluate

and seek to go on a giant bridge-building programme.
This will require us all to leave our comfort zone. To
look at our own worlds in microcosm and think much
more about the wider communities we inhabit.

the world we live in. After the Finsbury Park terror
attack on the British Muslim community, I received
a tweet saying we now all have to accept that
someone somewhere in the world hates us. No
matter what your sexual orientation, faith, age,
colour or gender you can no longer believe that
because you are a good person, life will nudge good
people your way to swap positivity and move on.
Whether on social media, in a newspaper column,
hanging out of the window of a car, or in the twisted
mind of an extremist, there is someone who despises
you because you are not them.

After the Grenfell Tower tragedy, I went there to
report for the BBC. My kids used to play football
in the shadow of that now burned-out shell of a
building. I know those streets, but I had never
seen them like that.
Hundreds of volunteers of every
age, colour and creed in human
chains handing boxes to each other.
I saw hijabs and dreadlocks side by
side, I heard accents from all over
the world in one giant philanthropic
choir. There was a camaraderie that
had momentarily compartmentalised
the anger. Do you live in a bubble? If so,
begin to look wider and broader to the
society you live in.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy exposed
many things. One was that you can live
metres from your neighbours but it may as
well be light years. Division is easily created
and difficult to defeat.
I wonder how many people it
takes to create division. How many
demagogues need to spring up
with their YouTube channel and
nonsensical polemic spewing
'news' channels to create deep
fissures in our society? Whatever
you may think, I am an uber
optimist. I know that dimmer
switch turns two ways and I am
not about to let it get darker and
darker. Are you with me? B


Hate is a terrible word - we say it all too much and
we can use it more freely when we don't have to
confront the reality of what hate can do when taken
to an extreme. It is too easy to think of the world
as gradually getting darker, as if there is a dimmer

switch attached to optimism. It seems to be getting
easier to forget about the silliness that surrounds
us, such as the looping gifs of kittens maniacally
chasing a spot of light from a little torch. I don't
want this month's column to be an essay in doom
and gloom, but events seem to be casting a giant
shadow over all of us.
After every terror attack we are told that we are
united, that 'they' will never win because we are
together as one. Maybe we aren't. Perhaps we should
start to think of ourselves as fundamentally divided


Nihal hosts Afternoon Edition on
BBC Radio 5 live, Mon-Thurs,
1pm-4pm, and the Asian Network's
Big Debate on Fridays, 10am-1pm.

BALANCE July 2017

Shout back


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of BalanceJulyIssue17

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