We live in a chaotic period of human history, and one person who has a lot of wise words and opinions to express on the subject is Sunny Hundal – a journalist, activist and commentator, who addressed street paper delegates on the first full day of the 2018 INSP Global Street Paper Summit.
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After grabbing the attention of the audience with an audacious, and some might say antagonistic, opening gambit – “we are all being radicalised and we don’t know how to stop it” – the deliberateness of his antagonism soon became clear.
Hundal spoke to summit delegates – who share a social cause, one which it seems obvious is constantly being attacked by populist, right wing politicians and media personalities – about the increasing necessity to approach those with opposing views with dialogue rather than reactionary responses. To show just how easy it is to be “triggered”, his opening presentation slide was an image of a person familiar to almost everyone – US President Donald Trump – with the caption, “how many get annoyed when you see that face?”.
Hundal proceeded to engage the audience in a debate about the idea that “we are all being radicalised and we don’t know how to stop it”. In other words, fear, hatred and aggression breeds the same on all sides of the political spectrum, and we no longer have the desire to engage the nuances of real, substantive debate, and instead revert to name-calling and frustration. Foremost in his argument was the idea that even if the same is coming from the other side, it does not mean all involved in discussing how our society is run should stoop to that level.
During his speech, he said: “We are faced with an avalanche of shit every day, but we all need to calm the fuck down.
“It’s so easy to go along with radicalisation and anger, and we find it so much harder to resist that temptation, and instead sit back and think more deeply about issues.
“Because of this, we are unable to convince those who disagree with us that our interests are trustworthy.
“We need to stop telling the people who voted for Trump they are white supremacists and the Brexit voters they are all racist – as they will start believing us and think it’s not so bad.”
He went on to talk about his family’s experiences of persecution and discrimination, his disagreements with his brother on the importance of his religion, the ways he has, as a person of colour, of Sikh and Indian heritage, criticised his own community for their failings, and how he has come to view approaches to peace and unity that, rather controversially, don’t place as much importance on identity politics.
As someone who has written for mainstream media outlets, and outlets such as openDemocracy and Barfi Culture which, like street papers, are considered alternative press, he also spoke about the role journalists play in this worldview.
He said: “Journalists have a responsibility not just to report on the world, but to do it in the right way. That’s the beauty that our profession can provide.”
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— Maree Aldam (@maaldam) August 21, 2018
After the keynote, Hundal was inundated with requests from delegates to dish out advice on how they can more effectively engage people, who have different ideas about social, cultural, economic and political issues, in dialogue.
Former executive director of Street Roots, a street paper from Portland, Oregon, asked: “So often we find ourselves on the defensive – what can we practically do not to have an emotional response, in a healthy way?”
Hundal responded: “Humans are emotional people, and that is something we cannot avoid, but I believe that we can be emotional while also having a conversation.”
Below, watch the live stream of Sunny Hundal’s keynote speech in its entirety.