A Mad New World?

A Mad New World?

I sometimes think I have woken up in some parallel universe where people’s minds are tuned in to some new radiowave of thought and I have been left behind.  Like someone has forgotten to update my software.  Did I really hear that:

  • The little green man on pedestrian traffic lights, so simple to explain to small children, is being replaced by two circles with arrows, the male symbol and/or the female symbol which is far less clear?
  • The Gay Rights organisation Stonewall has suggested that two biological men who choose to identify as women and are attracted to one another can call themselves lesbian?
  • The Freemasons, for ever a male-only organisation (thoroughly unfairly in my opinion) will now accept women but only if they started their membership as a man?
  • We have an American President who resembles a Court Jester (if only he was!)?
  • We might drop out of the EU without a deal?
  • A teacher who has decided that Maths makes students too anxious and could potentially be ‘racist’?
  • A convicted rapist, still a biological man, who can decide that he wants to ‘identify’ as a woman and gets moved to a woman’s prison where he carries out more sexual assaults?
  • There is a movement on both sides of the Atlantic to reverse the abortion laws so hard-won, forgetting how many women have suffered physically, mentally and financially (and actually died from backstreet abortions) while men walk away, oblivious of the high-handed nature with which they rule over women’s bodies and lives citing the law or religion?
  • We allow cyclists to cycle on our roads with no accountability, no insurance, no number plate, seemingly no reference to the Highway Code, slamming through red lights at pedestrian crossings and scattering toddlers and the elderly with no redress?
  • There are students who can erase the realities of history by tearing down statues and banning books and lectures?
  • There have been virtually no prosecutions for Female Genital Mutiliation that have taken place in this country despite many cases being reported?
  • By 2035 there will be more Muslim children in this country than Christian?
  • People don’t seem to consider, let alone acknowledge, the fact that using the phrase “male, pale and stale” is both racist and genderist abuse?
  • The number of referrals for transgender dysphoria has quadrupled in the last five years?
  • Apparently I can no longer have a fancy dress theme such as Around the World in 80 Days for my 70th birthday in 2020 because I might offend someone by dressing up in their country’s style?
  • Perhaps I can’t even write or use a recipe that comes from another culture as I might be accused of cultural appropriation?
  • According to some pearly words of politically correct wisdom I can’t write a novel about a black person because I am a white woman and may therefore misappropriate their culture. So presumably all my future work would have to only include white female characters?

 

Am I dreaming or just down a rabbit hole?  Is it that I have reached the stage of life similar to my parents moaning to me that the Rolling Stones looked hideous and sang dreadful songs? But surely all the above is far more serious than that?  Isn’t it?

The trouble is, I find, that if I raise any of these issues in a way that suggests that I am uncomfortable with some of the changes that are occurring I am looked at as if I am some kind of nearly-extinct pariah.  It seems to be very difficult to have any balanced discussion or debate with people because we are living in this binary black-and-white world where there doesn’t seem to be a middle way.  People just don’t want to hear concerns or questions on these subjects, let along views that differ from their own.

If one suggests that perhaps some of the Muslim population could work harder at integrating with British culture one immediately becomes an Islamophobe.  But they don’t want to hear that I would say exactly the same about English people living in France or Spain who don’t bother to integrate by learning the language and insisting on eating roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

If one dares to suggest that the NHS could benefit from financial and cultural change one is virtually treated as if one had suggested that the poor should be left to die, rather than that we might all benefit from a few efficiencies of expenditure, administration and performance.  To speak a word of criticism about the NHS is regarded as some ultimate betrayal of our welfare system, suggesting that I wish to eradicate help for the needy, which I don’t.  I just think there are some changes that could be made for the better.

If one suggests that while one voted to Remain one nonetheless feels that the EU should have overhauled its policies long ago one is regarded as potentially an idiot or some Little Englander (actually I am not sure which is worse).

The concept of AND seems to have got lost. And so does any kind of sense of humour, irony or just plain fun.

The EU can be a good way for countries to work together AND require radical review of policies.  The Muslim population in Europe can be thoroughly upstanding and good citizens AND possibly need to put some of their own house in order so as to integrate better into European life.  The transgender lobby can have an absolute right to change gender AND yet be sensitive to how a young girl might feel if a man identifying as a woman goes into her changing room or toilet. Cecil Rhodes did do some good works AND yet was a man of his time and also acted in ways that would not be acceptable today.  One can make a joke about the French, the Irish or the Brits AND still love and respect them.  There are bound to be some Remainers who are bigots AND some Brexiteers who are open-minded.  And so on.   But it’s extraordinarily difficult to say so.

We don’t live in a binary world.  None of us is 100% perfect nor 100% evil.  For example, the proposal to replace Boer leader Paul Kruger’s statue with a statue of Winnie Mandela is surely an odd one as both of them were flawed human beings.  As are we all.  Equally no policy is either all good or 100% hopeless.  No policy is tested until it is passed, so life is an experiment and that’s where the importance of feedback and review come in, where there is objective analysis and yet also people’s feelings and experiences are heard.

And oh dear, can we really no longer dress up in Mexican or Cossack hats without some virtue-signalling person accusing us of potential offence?  We seem to be having an open field day of others criticising the Brits in one way or another and, in our usual way, we self-deprecatingly shrug and take it on the chin.  Surely the world is a better place if we can gently rib one another for our various quirks?

But what we must surely be able to do is to challenge actions that seem to have very little common sense and are divisive?  I may be old fashioned but are the actions on my list at the beginning of this article not just a little on the mad-side?  Or is it just me…?

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  • shirley conran on Sep 19, 2018 Reply

    To my private shame and anger, I now feel the need to conceal many things: that I voted for Brexit; that I believe that the unelected top members of the EU gravy train are never going to alter their non-sensible or unfair arrangements until turkeys vote for Christmas or some country clearly signals that it will no longer put up with them. Among other things I need to conceal are major ones, such as my opinion that the NHS is not first class and badly needs admin improvement because its right hand knows not what its left foot is doing. I feel also the need to conceal minor matters lauded as major ones – such as my opinion that the bad-tempered, black tennis mother who had a temper tantrum on court was rightly penalised.

    • Helen Whitten on Sep 19, 2018 Reply

      Thankyou Shirley for your honesty – without honesty, debate and free speech I don’t see how we can have a civilised society.

  • Ashley Shah on Sep 18, 2018 Reply

    Well said Helen,
    Thank heavens I’m not the only one who thinks and feels as you do. It appears to be a rare thing these days called common sense and personal responsibility. I think it should be classed as a special sixth sense in world that has clearly gone insane.
    Refreshing to hear such lucid thinking. Bravo!!
    Hope you are both well and enjoying the new place.

  • Jenny McRobert on Sep 18, 2018 Reply

    It isn’t just you Helen – I totally agree. I wasn’t aware of some of the issues you raised and it’s a real eye opener!

  • Evie on Sep 18, 2018 Reply

    Thank you.