I wasn’t going to write another word on this matter, for fear (yes, we really are reaching that point) of attracting accusations of being racist or, at best, insensitive. Neither of which would be justifiable.
But having read that complaints to the BBC regarding the axing of Carol Thatcher have risen, thus far, to over 3000, I feel that I have to comment on this further.
For me, quite surprisingly, it was a pop star — albeit a very intelligent and articulate pop star — who managed to hit the nail on the head.
Whilst speaking on the BBC’s Question Time, Will Young referred to a “culture of timidity”. Those three words perfectly sum up my fears for the future of our country (and, yes, yet again I feel I must say that I do think it’s — at least potentially — as grave as I make it sound.) As I was saying to Mike earlier today, I would certainly not ordinarily choose to use the word that Carol Thatcher used. Except, possibly, in a cultural or historical reference. But my fundamental concern is that “offence” in general is daily becoming a truly serious issue.
This goes beyond racism. Let me rephrase that: my concerns go beyond racism. This is something that touches upon sexism, homophobia, disability rights — every aspect of an individual’s life, right down to the expressing of a contrary opinion (and this, incidentally, is often why some of my posts very deliberately take a slightly different view to the majority — because I really do think we have a growing tendency to want to follow the herd and not take chances by expressing rather more honest opinions.) There are some Christians reading this who no doubt find my quite vocal atheism offensive. Does this mean I should not speak about it? No, as I’m sure they will agree, it doesn’t — and, yes, this is admittedly rather different to the Carol Thatcher episode. Nonetheless, I truly believe that we need to be careful. We need to be careful because people like me, people who are usually very willing to express an opinion — and discuss it calmly and, hopefully, intelligently — are beginning to feel the weight of that “culture of timidity” to which Will Young referred.
Some words are vile. And I for one would certainly hope that people use them responsibly, as I try to do. But should such usage be judged solely on the words themselves? Absolutely not. Context. Intent. These too must be considered.
I very nearly didn’t write this.