In the north of England a boy was not allowed to attend his school’s Christmas party because his parents had insisted, ever since he joined the school, that he should not be required to attend lessons in Religious Education. The school presumably thought that they were being scrupulous in abiding by the wishes of the parents — but apparently not. The boy’s mum, a Ms Dawn Riddell, was incandescent at the ‘cruelty’ inflicted upon her poor son. Christmas parties, she said, have got ‘absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’. I think that’s one of my favourite quotes of this year or any year. And that’s where we are now, too.
Those Santa-based examples above, drawn from the liberal, developed, democratic world, do not contain absolutely everything which annoys people about how we are now, but they cover a fair few bases. Utter stupidity and ignorance, an irrational and institutionalised fear of paedophiles, an institutionalised but perfectly rational fear of litigation, vexatious litigation, the triumph of health and safety legislation over everything (allied to a fear of vexatious litigation), the notion of equal rights taken to absurd conclusions, the ability of an individual to become enraged when an imagined right has been infracted, corporate and local council obeisance to a PC agenda with which no sane person would concur, and so on. It has become a cliché, every Christmas, to point out this sort of thing — so much so that it has its clichéd corollary in the liberal press, its equally steadfast mirror image, that none of it is true. But it is true, colloquially and in fact; even though my examples above might be dismissed as singularities by those who, for reasons I do not quite understand, wish to deny how things are. There was a piece in the Guardian recently by a chap called Dave Hill who set out to knock down the story that Oxford had recently, in a fit of PC-mania, decided not to have a Christmas festival this year but instead ‘winter lights’. And it became evident as you read his piece that though he wished to knock the story down, it was perfectly true, at which point Dave began instead to justify how seasonal celebrations change over the years and that ‘winter lights’, therefore, were fine and dandy. All a bit like Freud’s example of the man who borrows his neighbour’s bucket and returns it broken, and when challenged says: ‘I never borrowed your bucket. It was broken when I borrowed it. It wasn’t broken when I gave it back.’