Time to Curtail the Wokes

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Why do we teach the young to be so super-sensitive?

For some time now a number of eminent education establishments and universities have engaged in an increasing escalation of extreme political correctness, often referred as wokeism.  Readers will be familiar with the past reports of demands to remove certain, now considered disagreeable, books, paintings, statues, authors and curriculum to protect our youth.

The latest being another arrow at Christianity, with Oxford university banning a Christian Union from having a stall at its Fresher’s Fair and a prep school, whose ex-pupils include Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, set to remove reference to Christmas and Easter terms. Like all previous acts attempting to airbrush Christianity this is being rolled out to apparently avoid offending non-Christians.

This is getting out of hand now to the point of lunacy.  This is a Christian country and the idea we should be apologising for our principle religious festivals is ridiculous.  Who are all these people allegedly offended by our celebration of Christmas and Easter anyway?  I’ve certainly never come across any and, frankly, would say any who are, are the ones who should be apologising for their prejudicial and offensive views.

I mean, we don’t get the educational establishments or governments of the Middle East, for example, airbrushing and apologising for their indigenous religious festivals such as Eid or Hanukah.  So why are we?  Where will it go next? Will there be a banning of the military at Fresher’s Fairs in case they offend pacifists?

Indeed, this increasing woke culture is, now seemingly, trying to reduce the potential of upsetting or offending people from what appears to be, in many circumstances, quite normal behaviour.

It’s my fervent belief that the vast majority of people in this country do not harbour hateful prejudice and those that do are unlikely to be dissuaded by legislation or, indeed, a sanctimonious and extreme woke culture.  However, I do fear many normally fair-minded people are becoming increasingly irritated by the direction political correctness is now going; so much so, it is highly likely to create an uncomfortable backlash if not radically curtailed.

Unfortunately, we now have government departments, town halls,  businesses, high street retailers, the NHS, schools and universities, to name but a few, frantically analysing almost every facet of their operations and protocols to ensure they don’t upset or offend anyone.  The difficulty is, it flies in the face of human nature.  In researching this, it was surprising to find out that there are over six different classifications of human emotions and over forty different actual emotions.  Happiness, love and compassion, for example, have a positive connotation, whereas the likes of anxiety, frustration and suffering a negative one.  Clinicians and social scientists have long acknowledged the importance all human emotions, both positive and negative, play in how we think and behave. The emotions we feel each day can compel us to take action and influence the decisions we make about our lives, both large and small. In fact, contrary to this modern politically correct inspired anti-offence dogma, anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health.

Attempting to suppress thoughts and emotions could backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment.  So there we have it; danger, hurt, upset and offence are perfectly natural experiences that ought not to be contained or managed by society or the state. Nor too, should there be any financial compensation for experiencing such natural emotions. We don’t, for example, expect a handsome payout when we feel happy or elated? If we reward people who feel upset or offended then people will seek such offence and upset wherever they can.

While largely noble in cause, much of our modern woke inspired doctrines, are now causing more problems than they solve. Like being trapped in quicksand, the greater the movement, the further one sinks into the mire.  Perhaps it is time political correctness was deemed a risk to sanity and should now come with a government health warning?  It should come with a warning because we need our schools to educate, our NHS to treat the sick, our police to uphold the law, our military to defend the realm, our athletes to win medals and our businesses to compete on an international stage. We can’t do that by holding back and worrying about who may, or may not, get upset by anything we do, say or depict.

While it is rightly unacceptable to be overly or deliberately offensive, we must be realistic about the degree and scope.  We do our young no favours educating them to be too sensitive and expect them to be hand held and mollycoddled at every mishap or confrontation.  This is important because, as they enter adulthood, they will face a very tough, challenging and competitive world where the more hardened and impervious people of Asia and other developing nations are simply and diligently getting on with a day’s work – thereby making them more efficient, profitable and attractive to investors?

There are no easy answers, and I don’t purport to have them all, but I do believe that if our industry, economy and society, as a whole, wants to reclaim its industrial and economic heritage we need to be led by fewer students of political correctness and more graduates in common sense.

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This column was published in the Newcastle Journal on the 7th October  2021.