JO COX: One of Those Special People Gandhi Was Talking About…

Posted: June 17, 2016 in (Politics) CURRENT AFFAIRS, This Week's News (From a Certain Point of View)
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I can’t quite remember the last time a ‘breaking news’ story depressed me so much: or lowered my faith in human beings and society so much and so instantly.

And before anyone starts beating their chest or throwing things, this isn’t a politicized post or anything with an agenda: it’s about a human being, and human life, and a mother of two young children, and brutal violence and murder that is almost beyond comprehension.

It is difficult to think of a more likeable, harder working, well meaning figure in British politics than Jo Cox appeared to be. She seems to have been an embodiment of Gandhi’s call: to ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.

From a working class background (with her great Yorkshire accent) that she seems to have been immensely proud of (and indeed came back to to serve as MP), on her Twitter profile she described herself playfully as ‘mum, proud Yorkshire lass, boat dweller, mountain climber and former aid worker’. She was entirely self-made, was the first person in her family to graduate from university, and devoted the first half of her career to charity, aid work and fundraising, before later becoming one of the youngest members of parliament.

She was a tireless campaigner for Oxfam for eight years and led a campaign for trade reform, and was an impassioned advocate on humanitarian issues in, for example, Darfur and the Congo. A lifelong humanitarian, an aid worker, a senior adviser to the Freedom Fund (an anti-slavery charity), and a passionate worker for Save the Children and the NSPCC, she was precisely the kind of activist and social justice warrior we should always want in politics.

 
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And yet even being engaged in large international issues, she was by all accounts no less committed to the best interests of her constituency and place of birth in Yorkshire, and was heavily involved with efforts to strengthen Yorkshire’s manufacturing base and in campaigns to combat poverty and the cost of living crisis.

A living embodiment of genuine liberal, progressive ideals, Jo Cox devoted much of her short life to striving not just on humanitarian issues, but seeking to further the causes of both social and environmental justice both at home and abroad. A liberal, humanitarian conviction underpinned everything she pursued, whether it was campaigning doggedly for refugees or representing the needs and interests of her constituents in parliament; yet she knew she had to try to work within the system and that the best way to try to accomplish things was to reach across divides, go cross-party and try to work even with many of those who – on paper – were at the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Upon being elected to parliament, she earnestly said that she would hold on to a healthy amount of cynicism towards parliament and Westminster. And clearly, despite not being of the establishment, she sought to work *with* elements of the establishment in order to help further the interests not just of her constituents, but of society. She was wholly aware that she wasn’t part or product of a political tradition, and knew her background didn’t naturally lend itself to politics. “I didn’t really speak right or know the right people,” she said in this interview with the Yorkshire Post.

She was absolutely a bridge-builder and someone whose view of this country included the interests of all communities and cultures. She was a political figure who could work with and build mutually respectful, even affectionate, relationships with any section of the community; she didn’t see race, religion, class or gender. It is unsurprising therefore that many of the most earnest tributes to her on social media have been paid by people from minority communities and from charities.

 
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And yes, she campaigned strongly for the Remain movement and believed Britain should stay in the EU. That may or may not be the reason she is now dead. You may agree or disagree with her position; but what is certain is that someone like Jo Cox would’ve come to that position honestly and purely through her ideals, just like lots of people have – believing it to be the right thing. One of her last Tweets was a link to this article, which explains some of why she was pro EU.

This post is neither pro nor anti EU; it is a post only in tribute to an earnest and hardworking idealist for progressive politics, nothing else – so don’t waste your time accusing me of being a ‘globalist’ or a pro-EU propagandist, because you’ll just look like a child.

Many right-wing or Far Right people on social media platforms or websites today have been openly celebrating the murder of Jo Cox – openly glorying in the brutal killing of a 41 year-old mother of two infants. I’m not going to deal with that here. Nor am I going to deal with ‘false-flag’ theories doing the rounds for now. The police investigation is still going on; we don’t have all the information yet. And I am too dispirited by all of this right now to even try.

If there was one major thing I disagree with Jo Cox on, it would be her support for intervention against President Assad and the regime in Syria. But that’s democracy. Any political or public figure is free to propose something or have a viewpoint and anyone else is free to disagree. I have always argued, however, that most MPs and political figures – especially the rank-and-file MPs who do not come from or belong to the political elite – are often subject to the same skewed or questionable information as the rest of us are. Someone like Jo Cox, who was primarily a humanitarian and has a natural disapproval of dictatorships and sought a quicker end to the Syrian War and all the suffering it has caused, could very easily come to a logical position (from her perspective and her sources) that the best path would be whatever path ended the war the quickest.

And it is clear her motivation was centered on pushing for humanitarian aid to be delivered to key locations in Syria and in pushing the government to show more compassion to Syrian refugees. As I’m a grown-up, I’m perfectly able to disagree with someone on something and agree with them on mostly everything else. A lot of people don’t seem able to do that – I pity them.

I do worry, however, that some Western government officials are going to use her death to massively play up her thoughts on Syria in order to push for a bigger Syrian intervention. I’ve already heard, unfortunately, that one of the charities money is now being donated to in her name is the deceptive ‘White Helmets’ NGO in Syria.

As well as all the Far Right monsters who’ve made fun of her murder (and in doing so, have demonstrated what I already believed – that they truly are the scum of the earth) I’ve seen several people today denounce her, on account of her Syrian views, as a ‘Zionist stooge’ (yep, that favorite conspiracy-theory buzzword that acts as a catch-all phrase for anyone who happens to differ in any given belief or opinion). Which is a horrible, insensitive thing to say; and I don’t just say that because I’m of that last generation that was pre-Internet and pre-social media and was always taught to never speak ill of someone who has just died.

Yet we’re talking about someone who opposed Israeli war crimes, supported the Palestinian Solidary Movement, advocated for Palestinian rights and statehood, a supporter of the Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East, and advocated also on behalf of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). She in fact fought the Tories’ plans to ban BDS.

That’s hardly a ‘Zionist stooge’, and resorting to those kinds of cheap labels simply highlights how simple-minded and trigger-happy too many people – particularly that particular class of alt-media-devouring hipsters who just want to get off on feeling anti-establishment and like to always put people in boxes and reduce all life to tags – are.

Life just isn’t that black-and-white: people, circumstances and positions are complex.

 
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Arjan El Fassed, a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, was a colleague of Cox’s when he worked at Oxfam’s Dutch affiliate. “Jo was a true humanitarian. She was a caring powerhouse, giving the voiceless a strong, powerful voice. She was able to hold governments to their humanitarian obligations,” he said. “I admire her for her limitless energy to act and for spinning the powerful in a different, more humane direction.”

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If most of our politicians were anything like Jo Cox – genuine, passionate, unjaded by politics, and fearless – we would have a much, much better society.

She is also an important and powerful reminder that there are genuinely well-meaning, hardworking MPs and politicians out there. However cynical we may be about our politicians, however omnipresent the perception now is of the ‘rotten’, corrupt of self-serving politician, I have always understood that a great number of MPs and people in the political realm are genuinely decent people trying to do good, bring about change and serve the interests of either their constituencies or their countries.

For every Ian Duncan Smith or Hillary Clinton, there is a Charles Kennedy or a Jo Cox.

We’re talking about hardworking people, not members of the political class or establishment elite, and they don’t get paid anything like enough for the hours they work, the scrutiny they come under or the ridicule and hatred they are left open to.

Jo Cox had only been in parliament for a year when some maniac decided to chase her down the street, stab her multiple times and shoot her three times in the head and face, leaving her to die in the street. That she deserved better goes without saying: but we all also deserve better than to live in a society or a time where something like that can happen to someone like her.

Make no mistake – Jo Cox was one of the Good Guys. If you’re a liberal, a progressive, a humanitarian or a believer in trying to change politics and society for the better, with patience and diligence and over time, then Jo Cox was someone you wanted – whether you knew it or not – in Westminster, in British and European politics and in the world, for years and years to come. She was only at the beginning of her parliamentary life and political career – who knows how far she may have gone? A decade or two from now, she might’ve been a Cabinet Minister, or might’ve even have been party leader, leading the opposition or even leading the government.

At the very least, what she would’ve continued to be was a tireless public servant, a campaigner for just causes and a fair society, and a strong voice for the needy, for refugees and for the downtrodden. And we, not just as a country, but as a planet, need as many of those people as we can get.

We’ve got one less of them now.

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