It is a sad reflection on our society that we have allowed ourselves to sleep walk into tolerating intolerance. It began through our innate sense of fairness, yet now our nocturnal perambulations have turned into a nightmare of fear. Not of offending others, but of being vilified, abused, dismissed and finally cancelled if one dares utter a word out of kilter with an orthodoxy written by an unelected Puritan elite. The new McCarthyites. And now the the Orwellian prediction of Thought Crime has finally materialised. Unconscious Racial Bias. And according to the Bar Standards Board, perpetrators can be hauled up before them for this wickedness, no doubt for the villain to be cancelled. By all means stamp down hard on racism but committing unconscious offences is unknown to British justice. The BSB really are dreadful bunch of jobswerf quangocrats who spend a great deal of time and my money thinking up dopey rules for us to obey. The latest wheeze is that barristers commit an offence if we don’t have a sign off at the bottom of letters and emails saying that we and our chambers are regulated by the BSB. Just what is the point? If we weren’t we wouldn’t have a practice certificate which is a criminal offence. But enough of that lot for now.
I haven’t read the full report of the government’s commission on race, which makes me well qualified to comment on it. Clearly the chairman and his team are clearly part of a terrible coverup to give a green light to racism. That they are merely uncle Toms and coconuts who have been pets of the white man for so long that they think like them. Worse, they think they are them. Oh, and they must be fascists.
From what I have read they are saying that racism does exist, particularly on social media, but that it isn’t institutionalised, in other words our institutions and public bodies don’t set out to discriminate against people who aren’t white. More important, they say, is to look at the geographic, educational and family circumstances and then you get a clue about inequality. There is nothing new in any of this. Education is the silver bullet to opportunity. If you come from a dysfunctional family you are more likely to live in sub standard accommodation, do badly at school, eat unwisely and suffer from bad health. So the pointer to discrimination and lack of equality of opportunity is deprivation more than any other factor. That is why family is so important. Chinese and Asian families tend to achieve significantly better than many of Caribbean descent or poor white boys. Because they have an ethos of family and education. And family really means only two things, stability and love for the children. There is no perfect module. There can be two mums, two dads, a mum and a dad, a single mum or a single dad. It doesn’t matter as long as they are striving for stability and love. Sometimes it is very very difficult.
I have always thought that politics is relatively simple. People want a decent roof over their heads, a job that is relatively secure and fairly paid, an education system that prepares their children for life, work and opportunity, a health service that is free and there for them when they need it and community care that allows them to enjoy old age with dignity. Achieve that and the rest is bollocks.
I am not going to go down the road of discussing Woke or political correctness. These a merely labels that send out a dog whistle to all sides of the argument. What I want to do is argue for more tolerance in everything that we do. Is it right for a teacher and his family are hounded into hiding because parents are outraged that their children were shown offensive cartoons of the Prophet in an RE class on blasphemy? Of course not. But spin it on its head. Is it right that the people who condemn them are often the people who were outraged and condemned teachers who informed children about same sex relationships? Of course not. Both are wrong. As is the notion that parents are the best judge of what their children should be taught. They aren’t.
In many ways we are the sowers of these dangerous seeds. Politicians of all shades have allowed a state of effective apartheid (often with the best intentions) in certain communities where many Muslims live in isolation. They live by their own rules, speak only their own language and can interpret what is basically a peaceful religion into something dangerously intolerant. All the Abrahamic religions have violent and intolerant texts. It’s just that we chose to ignore those parts which where written when the world was a far more violent and intolerant place. Christians don’t execute those who disagree with their faith any more. Every Saturday when I visit Saffron Walden Market I walk past the blue plague commemorating John Newman who was burnt at the stake ‘for his Protestant religion. We have moved on. Others must too. Though mutual tolerance and understanding.
And then there is the problem of policing protests. Again there is nothing new in this. The overwhelming majority of protests are peaceful, but become hijacked after a while by a small minority. That’s what you see on the news. And that is what the agitators want. As I have argued before that the new legislation on public nuisance, will not solve the problem, it will make it worse. Even more troubling is that polling shows that the public are losing trust in the police. The only way to reverse this is for politicians not to put them in a position where they are having to enforce authoritarian and unworkable laws.
Now back to the Puritans. It saddens me to say that we are allowing their orthodoxies to become main stream. The latest pronouncement is that actors can only play roles unless they are lived experiences. So gays can only play gays? The Mikado acted by Japanese? War heroes acted by war heroes? Superheroes will be a bit of a problem.....
Look, they are bloody actors. Let them act. And as for the rest of us? If we moderates who believe in tolerance don’t openly challenge these modern day McCarthyites and Witchfinder Generals there will be a terrible backlash. And it will be from the authoritarian right. It’s happening in Europe already and it will spawn the most appalling racism that this country has ever seen. Don’t let it happen here.