2014 was a tetchy year. The right wing press sank their teeth into immigrants, buoyed by the continued electoral success and column inches occupied by UKIP. The Scots voted to stay in the UK, but in a rancorous campaign, the result was anything but a full stop to that debate. In fact what's been left north of the border is a nation more divided against itself, with any dislike of England a mere sideshow.
In the world of entertainment, the late Peaches Geldof was all but condemned for having the temerity to be addicted to heroin and suffer a tragic overdose. Dreadful mother! How could she? The poor children! All that money... Meanwhile Madonna had the darned cheek to expose her naked breasts - I mean at her age - what was she thinking! And as for Kim Kardashian's arse, well, it would appear to be the greatest threat to international security since the arrival of al Quaeda.
Nastiness appears to have become a habit, a mindset. Fuelled by the often anonymous, cowardly vitriol of social media, hatred has become the default emotion in our society. We're told Josie Cunningham is a scrounging cow, rather than the dim and probably vulnerable person that she actually is. We're led to believe all politicians are corrupt and on the make, as opposed to what they probably are which is mostly hard-working, committed and actually underpaid. There I said it. Underpaid. You probably hate me now don't you? Why would a secondary school head receive double what an MP receives? Someone who regularly performs 14 hour days, has to ask for their job back every five years and is responsible for the welfare of on average 100,000 UK citizens? Sounds like a job worthy of £100k plus to me.
There's a terrific arrogance in all this hatred. I'm all for a hearty debate, particularly when it comes to, say, the remuneration of the aforementioned politicians. But this river of bile is too much. If a contributor to the Daily Mail's comments page hates politicians so much, why don't they get off their most likely fat arse and run for high office. See now I'm getting hateful. It's easily done.
I just think a rightly questioning press and a wonderfully democratic social media could change the tone slightly, because ironically all this viciousness, stereotyping and over simplification of complex issues preserves the status quo and plays into the hands of manipulative bullies like Farage, Dacre, Clarkson et al.
We need to think smart, read smart, talk smart and write smart. And given that so much of what we read is now generated by us - Twitter, Facebook, and, ahem, Huffington Post - we can change the tone of public discourse. And as a public we have a perfect opportunity this year: a general election. If we are to flesh out a solution to our many problems as a country - structural debt, strained public services, housing - we need to behave more like an adult, grown-up democracy, rather than a baying crowd of overly caffeinated teenagers at an X Factor audition.
And speaking of overly caffeinated, Russell Brand is perhaps the greatest case in point. Now I can't say I'm a fan of his 'revolutionary' ideas and I can't remember what happened to his comedy, but the hysterical reaction to his utterances speak volumes. Why is this bearded quasi-Dickensian freak in skinny jeans such a threat? Particularly when the core message of his admittedly confusing ramblings is an attempt to speak up for the weak in our society. Surely the Sun has bigger fish to fry than Katy Perry's ex husband.
Ultimately it's in our hands, the great British public. Every time we Tweet, blog or even converse at the bus stop, why don't we all try to be a bit more positive and constructive this year? We'll all benefit. Our society, our democracy, our daily lives. We could even start being nice about Ed Miliband. I'm joking. That's impossible.Suggest a correction