I believe it was Churchill who once said “If you’re not a liberal when you’re twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain”, but one of the genuinely worrying aspects of growing older is the constant need to avoid disconnecting from the modern world and wanting to live in the past.
In the context of our imminent General Election, one of the regular jokes going the rounds about Nigel Farage and UKIP is that they want to live in some unfeasibly rose-tinted view of how life was in the 1950s, i.e. a technicolour version of Harry Enfield’s brilliant Mr Cholmondley Warner parody sketches – see an example here courtesy of YouTube – THE WORKING CLASS
Nevertheless I have to confess that I may be on the downward slope. It seems to me that by definition – and those who espouse it would probably see this as a virtue – modern political correctness sometimes flies in the face of natural human instinct.
This is dangerous territory, of course. There was a piece on Radio Five Live yesterday afternoon reviewing a television documentary on the Carry On films, with most of the (mixed gender) critics involved looking back with degrees of nostalgia and affection upon the antics of Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques, Sid James, Barbara Windsor and the rest. They did this despite one male contributor admitting that the set-up between the sexes, i.e. ‘leering middle-aged men and women as either decorative ‘tits and bums’ starlets or matronly-figured harridans’ is generally unacceptable in modern Britain – the stereotypical attitudes it represents is too old-fashioned.
This much is probably true. Even when I think about it, today’s ‘equal’ society (though some feminists might insist that there is a long way to go yet) is infinitely more preferable and even healthier that the good old, bad old, days of the Seventies.
Somebody in the radio discussion then defended the Carry On genre as being superior in this respect to most successful television sit-coms of the Seventies – I leave my readers to fill in the following space with their favourites or best-remembered mainstream BBC and ITV examples of the time – but I’m not sure I agree.
Without doubt the vast bulk of the latter have not ‘aged’ at all well – though I might exempt The Likely Lads and Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads? from this barb – but that’s less because of their antediluvian social attitudes than the fact that they’re just not funny anymore. That’s the thing about comedy. Some jokes – and some comics – are just funny, period, because some humour is universal. Others are ‘of their time’ … I think, because (ultimately) they were never that funny in the first place. Or at least, do not seem so now.
Like everyone else, the recent and dreadful Germanwings air crash shocked and horrified me to the core. It did so to such an extent that, after the first 48 hours of drip-drip news developments, I totally switched off and even now by choice avoid reading anything more about it. I just don’t want to know.
And yet. Two or three days ago, it having been revealed that the instigator of the crash, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, may have had depression or other mental issues, the director of some British mental health charity did the rounds of television and radio studios demanding restraint and caution from the media. His main concern – and point – was that nobody should rush to snap judgements. He was there to express criticism of the media for making the immediate and direct connection between ‘mental health problems’ and the person concerned being unable to do his or her job.
His intention was clear. He was trying to protect a vast number – perhaps the majority – of people with mental health issues (including depression) from the possibility, let alone likelihood, who are in jobs but who, on the back of this latest air crash tragedy, might now be vulnerable to lose them because of a knee-jerk reaction by employers with a heightened sense of awareness regarding the potential impact of mental issues upon someone’s ability to do a job.
But, for me, he was missing the point. By which I mean those things that natural human instinct tells you.
Clearly, if you’re in a profession in which you may have the lives of hundreds of customers or members of the public directly in your hands – say take an airline pilot as an example – and you begin suffering from any mental or psychological issues, these should quite properly give rise to major concerns for your employer. To hell with protecting the sensitivities, let alone jobs, of other people with similar afflictions even if they don’t have so much responsibility for the safety of others.
It is now beginning to look as though Andreas Lubitz’s mental issues included severe depression and suicidal tendencies. There is therefore at least a depressing possibility that his employers at Gemanwings (and indeed previous to that) may not have acted on these symptoms and self-admitted problems, either out of lack of care leading towards negligence borne of inaction and/or a politically-correct nervousness about raising them and thereby being thought to discriminate against him.
That’s where political-correctness goes wrong in my view. Ideals and principles are all very well, but when it comes down to street level and life in the raw, human instincts are usually as reliable a source of wisdom as any other.
I’d even go so far as to encompass in this comment those described as champagne socialists who on the one hand decry private education and big-up the positives of the alternative comprehensive variety but then, on the other, send their own kids to private schools. In one sense it’s deeply hypocritical – yet (in another) it’s only human nature to want the very best for your kids.