There was a time when the term ‘politically correct’ was everyone’s favourite hobby horse and we all hooted with laughter each time another excruciating example of what the chattering classes liked to call ‘political incorrectness’ was splurged across the media.
Those of us rooted in the real world (outside London) teetered between indignation and bemusement as we watched one PC idiot after another find bizarre new term for Christmas trees and Easter eggs so that minority groups and communities weren’t apparently offended by the blatantly religious connotations surrounding these words.
It all got completely out of hand and eventually became discredited after we were told that some local authorities had come up with words like Winter Trees or Seasonal Spheres to appease their supposedly offended citizens.
Last week the Prime Minister was photographed with a group of Morris dancers attending a festival near his home – ones who were blacked up Morris or Molly dancers. Now, you can imagine the kind of comments the twitterati posted online the minute they saw David Cameron’s face beaming out from a sea of heavily made-up and comically dressed white folks. Immediately their finely-tuned PC radars switched on and the PM and the Molly dancers were publicly denounced as openly racist and a moral affront to any right-thinking person’s sensibilities. Utter codswallop!
Luckily the storm passed as quickly as it arrived and the hysterical overreaction fizzled out within 24 hours without further comment but also without a word of apology or regret from those who had totally misinterpreted the situation even after it was explained that Molly/Morris dancing groups dressed in this dark makeup to disguise their features as traditionally it was necessary to avoid being recognised as a beggar.
Taking offence is easy. We can all seek to place ourselves on the high moral ground and feel pleased about the fact that we’ve chosen to stand up for the rights or feelings of others. But how often is righteous indignation more to do with making ourselves feel good at another’s expense?
How often should we try and take a hard look of what’s really important? You can be sure that a story about kittens being locked in a shed will elicit more outraged letters to the press from heartbroken readers than a story about a child locked in the same shed. I believe that individual involvement and communication is important to enable us to improve our world and improve our governance and we all have different priorities and opinions to express but while we allow ourselves to be diverted by Christmas tree names and Molly Dancers, the real life and death struggles across the world are in danger of going unnoticed. Keep those letters coming – they all count in the end!