What this show demonstrated more than anything else is what most refugee advocates have long believed: the hard line reflects a failure to empathise that reflects a failure to imagine.
Raquel copped it, but right from the start others riled me more. Surely those dishing out the vitriol in her direction could see at least some of the causes- a lousy education and modest circumstances (to put it mildly). Her racism was honest and refreshing in one sense; it is plainly not an uncommon view of the 'other' in this country but it is one furiously and aggressively denied. She said it, and said it simply and without malice. And as the show developed she made the most remarkable progress.
A couple of the others made far less sense in my view, having the benefit of more time in and understanding of the world. The homicidal hatred expressed by the ex-disability advocate was astounding.
But all of them improved markedly during the show. All showed capacity to reflect and learn. Which just sadly emphasises how far public opinion might shift if people were able to imagine their plight, and empathise. It casts light on the role of selective reporting as well. If each image of a boatload of Afghanis were accompanied by images of the Taliban hunting down schoolgirls it's not beyond hope to think that many people's reaction would be a little less hateful.
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