This year I have had a few exchanges, some intelligent, some less so, with others about the rise of the UK Independence Party.
I understand the perspective of alienation, the rejection of all the so-called "mainstream" political parties. Ages ago I realised that once people organised themselves into a group, or a party, they were on the road to subsuming their individual consciences in the service of the greater entity. It's true of all areas of human existence, the tension between being an individual, lonely, and part of a group, a slave.
So UKIP are just like the rest in that respect, they are there to enlist the many in the service of a few. That's what groups are about. There is payback for the many of course. A sense of belonging, a few of your individual needs met, you are no longer lonely. But you are also a slave to the whims of the decision-makers.
I wasn't surprised by their victory in either Colchester or Clacton. UKIP play to fear, and let's be honest, prejudice and bias about another out-group - immigrants. Those who are different and would "change our way of life". Nor was the faux outrage at the parody of "white-man-van" particularly shocking. All politicians hold the electorate in some level of contempt, otherwise they wouldn't be politicians. I've been abused and nearly run over by men driving white vans to know that there is little tolerance in that in-group,
Let's suppose you decided to move from Axbridge to Manchester to seek work. Would that make you an immigrant? Would you expect to be able to use the services of Manchester Council immediately, even though you hadn't paid any Council Tax there? Or use their roads to drive to work on?
Or what if your colleagues did decide that if you didn't watch the X-factor every week this meant you were odd or weird, because so many do, and so there was just a little bit of scorn in the "banter" at work on Monday morning?
To focus on difference is pernicious, nasty, small-minded and at some level we all do it. Because we all have the same tension between being ourselves and wanting to belong. We may be at different points on that spectrum, and at different levels of awareness. But it's there, because it is a part of being human.
So what is to be done? Perhaps we could all start, for one day by being a bit more honest about our frailties, to ourselves if no-one else. I know I spend a lot of my energy trying to manage mine so that they are invisible to others. But I always feel better when I just concentrate on being me.
Maybe we could all be more thoughtful about how we genuinely balance our own needs with those of a wider group of humanity. If this sounds ridiculously idealistic then good, why settle for fear, prejudice and division.