Stepping gingerly through the minefield
The issues of nostalgia, political-correctness and modern, ‘let it all hang out’, right-on, ‘any-old-how-will-do’ latitude are – quite rightly in my view – recurring themes on the Rust and I’m not the only contributor to put forward his or her viewpoint upon them. At my age, one cannot help but think sometimes “If this is progress, I’m not sure it’s progress in the right direction … [or, alternatively] … please stop the world, I want to get off”.
In 2015/2016 the latest fashionable ‘thing’, a successor to the promotion of all things gay (civil partnerships, marriage, motherhood/fatherhood, adoption) to the point where one of my occasional drinking pals Gerry quipped at one point that he feared legislation would soon be passed making it compulsory, seems to be transgender-hood.
Because by definition we belong to the much-varied human race this has created its own problems. For example, the feminist sisterhood has split into two main opposing camps of principle – those who support gender-hopping or transition in all its forms, and those who are agin it.
I only ever read women’s pages in the media in passing, but apparently Germaine Greer has stirred a hornet’s nest by being brave enough to hold her hand up and declare [I’m giving the gist here, but I think it covers her thrust] “Look, you can castrate a chap, but that doesn’t make him a woman …”. Tens of fellow feminist thinkers have taken issue with this statement, but equally not a few have supported it. Meanwhile, of course, those poor unfortunates – and I don’t doubt that someone somewhere will attack me for using such an un-PC word – who are stuck in a body of one gender when their mind tells them they ought to be in another continue (in my view, and I’m not taking the mickey here) to be deserving of sympathy.
For those of us not in the first flush of youth the modern world that our successor generation or generations live in can be confusing and difficult to understand, not least because it seemingly espouses causes and theories that run counter to the received wisdoms of yesteryear and is ever easy to take offence (even when one is simply dredging up a thought – or even a term – of one’s youth).
To give you an example of the last of those listed above, I caught a bit of a backlash from the ‘right on’ element of the female family contingent when on holiday in a sunny clime last summer.
About twenty of us were sitting around an outdoors dining table in the balmy twilight one evening when the subject of a distant relative’s family came up in conversation.
I happened (thinking nothing of it as I did) to describe one of said family, a splendid and popular fellow in his early fifties as it happens, as a spastic. Suddenly a sister-in-law rose out of her silo like a Cruise missile on a mission: “Will, you cannot possible say that!”
I was completely nonplussed and asked for further clarification – why couldn’t I? I was told firmly that ‘spastic’ was an un-PC term and certainly not allowed in polite or thinking society.
This seemed ridiculous to me. Since practically the day his birth was announced, my said cousin was described by his parents, his grandparents, my parents … and everyone who ever talked of him … as a spastic. Because he was one.
(In truth I should perhaps add here that I’m not clear as to whether in the 1950s this was the strictly correct or habitual medical term to describe the condition or set of ‘issues’ that he had, but it was certainly the one in common use by Joe Public).
My point is that, on one level, I felt aggrieved that other people felt aggrieved at the word I had used to describe my cousin. He was a spastic, for God’s sake. Or, as far as I was personally aware, it was certainly the description that had been applied to him for at least forty five years. I therefore mounted a defence of my use of the word, or perhaps it should be more accurately termed as ‘a rather a feeble protest at being hauled over the coals for using it’.
I’d like to think it was a score-draw, but the truth is I took some flak and no doubt – among the younger generation present – I was probably secretly labelled behind my back as an ‘out of touch’ old fart.
What was also noteworthy in the circumstances is that nobody around the table that night could give me the ‘correct’ (or perhaps that should be ‘PC’) modern term to describe someone who once used to be called a spastic – that is, presumably, until some do-gooder decided this was somehow demeaning to them and or their feelings.
Which brings me to the nub of today’s post.
I met up with my brother, who lives in Wandsworth, yesterday for a coffee. During our conversation, the subject of our kids’ travails in trying to get on the property ladder came up. I happened to mention that I’d heard some property or financial expert spouting on the radio earlier this week, citing some statistic that these days the average person in work cannot and does not buy his or her first home until they’re well into their thirties – whereas, in our day, it used to be the middle-to-late twenties.
With both sets of our offspring affected, or indeed soon to be affected, by the above statistic, my brother concurred. But he also added something else. He said that in the area of London in which he lived, there were significant social and educational consequences to this shift.
I asked how so? He replied that, with so many girls these days delaying motherhood until their middle or late thirties, it was a stone cold fact that schools in his neck of the woods were now coping with a major issue over the number of children attending with ‘special needs’, i.e. who were autistic, ADHT, educationally sub-normal, backward … [I’m struggling to extend the list here, but my readers will hopefully get the drift – we’re referring basically to ‘duds’ in one form or another].
This comment was fascinating. The thrust of it was that – perhaps though nobody is allowed to say or acknowledge it for PC reasons – the shift in young women delaying motherhood to the age of thirty and beyond, either inadvertently or perhaps in order that they can enjoy the experience of having a proper working career (especially after having worked so hard and long to get the right qualifications to go to university and then study for their degree), has had the direct, consequential and measurable effect that a greater proportion of them are producing babies with health and/or mental difficulties or ‘issues’ – because that is medically what ‘geriatric’ mothers [i.e. those over the age of 27] tend to do.
Naturally, the physiological truth that older mothers tend to produce a greater proportion of ‘duds’ is a terribly inconvenient fact of life. Especially for those of the feminist persuasion who preach at young girls that men have deliberately held them back in all aspects of life (well, other than motherhood and housewifery) for thousands of years and that at last – in this modern age of hard-fought-for ‘equality of opportunity’ – every woman can have it all, viz. a thunderingly successful and well-paid career …. as well as the traditional 2.4 perfectly-behaved and high achieving children … and all this whether a merchant-banker-level-of-pay slob of a husband is involved or not.
I’m left feeling this morning not smug at all, but only that maybe – just maybe – the old wives’ tales and received wisdoms that I was taught or grew up with are indeed eternal truths of human existence … and not a large pile of old-fashioned claptrap capable of being reasoned into oblivion by the ‘right on’ PC-wielding brigade of do-gooders who carry such excessive weight with today’s Parliamentarians and media columnists.
Bring back the stocks, flogging and hanging, I say!