Small victories for common sense

YOU would have thought that, faced with the greatest challenge for more than 50 years, the NHS would have had better things to do than publish a new glossary of terms to be used, strangely not related to health but to race and gender. A highly divisive ‘alphabet of woke’, as one MP put it.

Thankfully the NHS hastily took down from their website the document which they then called a draft not intended for publication. Really?

I am grateful to Dominic Lawson of the Sunday Times for this example and also for the frankly amazing case at Cambridge University. They published and then quickly took down a list of inadmissible ‘micro-aggressions’ which set out ‘behaviours’ which students were told could be anonymously reported as ‘inappropriate’. These staggeringly included ‘raising an eyebrow’ if the recipient was from an ethnic minority.

It doesn’t get more absurd than that and there is something sinister about getting the young to inform on their elders in such circumstances. It is a practice indulged in by totalitarian regimes throughout history and across the world. But at Cambridge University?!

But I see one key element of these two stories that gives hope to those of us who have frankly had enough of the cancel culture, the virtue-signalling and wokery of the highest order – when faced with uproar and objection, both the NHS and Cambridge University withdrew from their attempted journeys into politically-correct La-La Land. Therein I espy the glimmer of the beginnings of a long-awaited victory for common sense (sadly not that common these days), for the silent majority (let me call her ‘Hartlepool Woman’) and for the return of a basic normality.

The need for tolerance of peaceful minorities in our society is hopefully obvious – it is important that people who wish to be known or treated in a particular harmless way are accorded the appropriate dignity and don’t suffer discrimination of any sort. But one sure-fire way of increasing ridicule of minorities, heaping petrol on the fire of racism and securing the exact opposite of what is being sought is to force the vast majority of people into positions they find absurd and to exercise a vociferous and threatening intolerance of an opposite point of view.

There now needs to be the building of a momentum to take on at their own game the extremely vocal, very insulting but numerically few inhabitants of High Wokeland who expertly use social media to make the few sound and feel like the many. They specialise in taking offence and encourage threats not just to individuals but to businesses, public sector departments and other organisations.

Above all else, we must see a stiffening of the sinews of those managers and executives whose cowardly actions in response to these siren calls allow the average person to feel that every day the world is going even more mad than the day before.

For instance, a new TV channel, GB News, recently launched and just because it purports to broadcast the other side of the argument, before anyone has heard or seen one shred of evidence as to what this might mean in practice, boycotts of retailers who advertise on the new channel were threatened and – yes, you’ve guessed it – the advertising was suspended.

Where is the standing up for freedom of speech, a cornerstone of our democratic values, in such action? But the uproar and stoic fightback from the new channel itself led to many of the suspensions being withdrawn.

The fightback needs to be maintained.

Worcester College, Oxford has called for the end to cooperation with Oriel College until the statue of Cecil Rhodes is removed, yet they have happily taken millions of pounds in a donation from the Sultan of Perak, where homosexuality is illegal. Why aren’t the woke brigade going after Worcester College? Perhaps challenging the college’s hypocrisy wouldn’t fit the narrative.

The ruling body of English and Welsh cricket, the ECB, speedily suspended test player Ollie Robinson for broadcasting offensive material many years ago, when he was still a teenager, yet happily promotes its team playing cricket in countries where misogyny and persecution of homosexuals are part of government policy. Surely the ECB’s values aren’t that easily bought by hard cash? But where are the calls for tours to or by such countries to be banned? Where are the calls for at least an explanation of these apparent double standards?

The artist Jess de Wahls had her work removed from the gift shop at the Royal Academy of Arts after she was accused of transphobia. Social media users had complained about her views that people cannot change their biological sex. Thankfully her work was reinstated, with the academy saying ‘it had no right to judge her views’ and that its original decision ‘betrayed our most important core value, the protection of free speech’. Spot on. And the number of social media users who had been offended by the artist’s views and to whose uproar the academy had supinely caved in? Eight.

What on earth is wrong with someone born (not assigned) as a female being called a woman for all her life if she wants to? Why should she (or indeed anyone supporting this point of view) be vilified and subjected to harassment or worse for expressing this view? As readers will know, an advertising campaign changed the word ‘women’ to ‘people with a cervix’ for fear of causing offence to, well, how many people exactly? Instead they risked insulting the vast majority of 51% of the population who were born female, identify as women and want to be known and addressed as such. It also invites ridicule from the wider society. Surely the hoped-for tolerance of differing views is not achieved by such action? Indeed it will, unfortunately, have the opposite effect.

It was Martin Luther King who wonderfully asked for people to be judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin. His heartfelt plea resonates in the current debate. Those who seek to cancel out views with which they disagree, and those whose inaction or surrender enable them to succeed, should remember that they will, in the final analysis and in the court of public opinion, be judged by the content of their characters as displayed by their actions rather than the opinions they affect to hold.

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