I was on the train travelling back to Loughborough yesterday evening. I had to take a few unexpected changes due to delays, but I was grateful in the end that it resulted in some very chance and interesting meetings with others. The first person I met was a graduate student who studied in Manchester. We were sat at one of those table seats opposite each other. We all know how awkward it can get as you both negotiate trying to avoid eye contact so I decided I would speak to him.
“Excuse me what book are you reading?”
“Oh you like reading too?”
What started off as a discussion of books, soon turned into a discussion of all sorts of topics including politics, race, and religion. I could pick out all sorts of interesting sound-bytes from our conversation, but instead I want to expand on one issue in particular.
We had been discussing each other’s courses, when the topic turned to the question of morality, and how masses of ‘normal’ people can get involved in mass killings such as genocides. This was a topic I had written an essay about, and become aware of the many situational pressures that would push seemingly ‘normal’ people to rationalise and even moralise such evil behaviour.
“It’s usually the case that, because of the situation, people are put into situations where they cannot, or feel that they cannot escape. Then they’ll experience cognitive dissonance, an inconsistency, between their beliefs, and the behaviour they are carrying out. In this situation, people usually do one of two things, they either change their behaviour, or more likely, they’ll change their beliefs. For example they’ll dehumanise the victims and see them as sub-human in order to make their actions seem moral”.
“Yeah that’s so true, because no one wants to see themselves as the bad guy”.
I reasoned that it was quite a rare, and bold thing to do, to say to yourself “no – this is right, and this is wrong”. And to hold that as personally true, regardless of the situations. In fact, it represents functioning and thinking at a level of morality that the majority of the population usually don’t reach. This is according to research by Kohlberg (1958), who showed that for most of us, morality is judged on the bass of social approval, and the influence of authority, and not internal moral principles.
My new found friend agreed and started to tell me about his admiration of the actions of Nelson Mandela, a political activist and leader who showed just this type of moral thinking. His behaviour was strongly motivated by an internal moral principle of peace and justice, so much so that he was willing to face imprisonment for his opposition protests of minority white rule in South Africa. Even on his release and on achieving the role of presidency, he sought to reconcile and work with those who had imprisoned him. He even had dinner with those who had tried to have him killed in order to help bring about this healing peace-making process.
I agreed in amazement that this was a man with real conviction and courage.
Like Mandela, I have come to believe that Corbyn is a man of great moral conviction, courage, and personal integrity. Once returning back into my university halls, I was prompted by our conversation to follow some of the debates and look up the manifestos (rather than founding my political opinion on bits and pieces from my Facebook feed – which I admit is easy to do but perhaps not the most responsible way). I watched many different interviews with both Corbyn, and May, representing the Labour and Conservative parties respectively. I was impressed by Corbyn’s answers, and his confidence – even pride in defending and explaining his manifesto and plans. And, furthermore, the moral basis on which his manifesto was built. But I was also impressed by something else.
It may be no surprise to many of you reading, but it has been known and publicised that many of Theresa May’s promises and ‘priorities’ clash against her voting history and apparent convictions. One key example of this can be seen in her speech at Birmingham in July 2016, in which she stated that high-earning global companies, such as Amazon and Google, have a duty to pay their taxes. And yet – just months before, she had voted against implementing proposals intended to reduce tax avoidance and evasion. Jeremy Corbyn, however, appears to have great integrity, and has been quoted as such by many colleagues and acquaintances.
He has a track record of standing by the same socialist principles and convictions, even when the pressure to change his opinion gets tough. This can be demonstrated not least through his involvement in many campaigns over the years. He has served on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (which also resulted in being arrested in 1984 for protesting outside South Africa House), chaired the ‘Stop War’ coalition in protest of the Iraq War, and campaigned regularly against the conflict in Gaza. By his actions he has been shown to consistently promote the values of justice, peace, equality, and solidarity. Further to this, he appears to do this unashamedly, and without pride. It is noted for example that Corbyn usually has the lowest expenses of any MP.
The integrity of Corbyn really hit home for me when I heard his response in a Question Time episode by the BBC. Supporters of the Conservative party questioned him about his apparent reluctance to use nuclear weapons as defence. In response he replied, ‘look I don’t want to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people, and neither do you’. And it’s true – that even since being a school boy in 1966, Corbyn has been all for campaigning against nuclear disarmament. Rather than finding this act of determination and defiance worrying however, as others might, it filled me with trust and admiration. For it’s clear to me that, like a real leader should be, Jeremy is leading out of a strong sense of moral conviction. For his political behaviour evidently is not just a matter of politics, but of true, personal deep conviction.
A man of courage, integrity, and convicted on the grounds of equality, peace, and justice. That’s the kind of person I trust to lead me, and to shape the future of this country.
Who will you trust?