January 27, 2010

I do not much care for the obese. Worse, they make me feel nauseous. I dislike their shuffling and snuffling ways and believe them to be slothful, gluttonous, self-indulgent, undisciplined, manifestly unattractive and malodorous. You like them, you keep them, cherish them, embrace them as they invade your space with their open pores and stretch-elastic pants and eat noisily in the seat beside you on the airline.

There, I”€™ve said it. For I am prejudiced”€”unashamedly so”€”and I defy any to find a fellow-human who is not. Prejudice is simply gut reaction and preconception, is to have a point of view, is the bias within us all. It is as natural to Mankind as walking, talking, and making love. To attempt its control or suppression is as predestined to fail as commanding back the waves; to decry it is sheer cant and hypocrisy and ignorance of the human condition.

Which brings me to the smug liberal-left. As self-appointed guardians of modern orthodoxy and rigorous policers of our thoughts, these touchy-feely fascists go after dissenters with preachy and puritanical zeal. After all, to be left-of-centre is enlightened, while to be on the right is regarded as beyond the pail. Yet in my experience, the most blinkered, judgemental and lacking in common warmth are these brothers and sisters of the Left (ask the chauffeurs who have ferried Labour ministers around Britain for the past thirteen years).

Prejudice on their terms is somehow acceptable, for double-standards ever were the norm. They may attack me on grounds of class, but woe betide should I accuse one of their own of being unutterably common; a black MP may whine over a surfeit of blonde and blue-eyed nurses in the Health Service, but I cannot carp at African-sourced cleaners tramping the same wards; the Left will talk of “€˜inclusivity”€™, but falls remarkably silent when asked to represent the interests of those”€”among them huntsmen and armed forces personnel”€”outside their immediate voter base. How unpleasant. Scratch a “€˜liberal-thinker”€™ and you will invariably encounter a proto-Robespierre or St. Juste itching to consign you to the nearest re-education camp or guillotine.

“€œStereotyping exists because it captures the whisper of a truth, because it provides a convenient shorthand and is fun. Thus, Frenchmen have halitosis and Englishmen are repressed.”€

When recently in Scotland, I listened to the mewling complaints of those discussing racism and homophobia. Call me brave or foolish, but I felt compelled to point out that latent racism is merely tribalism by another name (of which we all are guilty); mild homophobia is often little more than residual dislike of difference, irritation at evangelistic “€˜pride”€™ and foot-stamping special pleading, and the by-product of concern felt by a species for its long-term genetic survival (something buggery and fellatio are unlikely to achieve). For good measure, I illustrated their own pet hates and prejudices: against the privately-educated, against town-dwellers, against any English incomer to Scotland. The revelation appeared to shock them. Later, during an interview with Radio Inverness, and bored with repeated questioning as to why I had never visited the Highlands, I replied that my forbears had doubtless been there to help with the Clearances. More controversy and consternation. For chippiness is as endemic to the Scots as alcoholism, meanness and acid-ginger hair.

Oops. I commit the cardinal sin of stereotyping. But stereotyping exists because it captures the whisper of a truth, because it provides a convenient shorthand and is fun. Thus, Frenchmen have halitosis and Englishmen are repressed; Scandinavian males are dull and Welshmen lachrymose and depressive; German men are hidebound and Italian men are spoilt hysterics with peckers scaled to their classical statues. As for the Greeks…Another time, maybe.

It is”€”or should be”€”a free market. That is how ideas are traded and tested and society thrives, with humor, insult, and ribald remark. To micromanage and legislate for every nuance and slight is to drain away our lifeblood. In some quarters, there is such innate fear at the risk of causing offence that many in conversation will hesitate to complete a sentences. As one British actor remarked, throughout Hollywood they simply use Oh, my God as a non-specific and uncommitted catchall. It has come to this. There is a need for manners, fairness and compassion; there is also a desperate requirement for space in which opinion and offense can be given. That balance is our birthright and the key to a robust democracy. You cannot iron out every kink.

I am no fan of the tyrant, the thug, or the bully. Nor would I condone the persecution or prosecution of an individual on grounds of race, color, creed, career, class, earnings potential, gender, age, size or shape, dress, political persuasion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle. But I recognize and accept that people will choose their group and comfort zone, will judge others by such criteria. I myself might even stoop to the occasional low jibe. The world is imperfect and so too its inhabitants. So, be like me. Throw off the shackles of political correctness and the dead hand of the Orwellian apparatchiks. Kick back and be kind to your inner intolerant self. Dream of hanging cyclists like voles from lampposts as a warning to others or dropping your least favorite thespian down a well. Articulate your views. And embrace prejudice.


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