by David Jones
I despair at the way this country is sliding into a pit of political correctness. Have we lost our national sense of humour? We used to be renowned for it. These days you can’t make a joke about anything, or even fire off a one-liner without being accused of perpetrating something dire by the thought police.
An incident in a supermarket, reported in one of the weekend papers, caught my eye.
It typifies what we are becoming – though thankfully not all of us.
A schoolteacher popped into the store to buy four cans of beer and some groceries. His 12-year-old daughter was with him.
At the check-out, he turned to his daughter and said:” That’s your beer sorted out.”
It’s just the kind of joke I might have made, in fact I think I might have already.
A female store worker demanded ID for the child and the store manager backed up the employee. The teacher left without his beer.
What is the world coming to? It should be obvious to even the most dim-witted store employee or manager that this was simply a harmless, off-the-cuff one-liner and that the cans of beer were not intended for a 12-year-old.
This was more than a simple sense of humour failure on the part of small-minded supermarket staff. They were so hidebound by rules and regulations they were unable to distinguish a joke from a real attempt to buy booze for a child.
Sadly, this wooden, heavy-handed approach can now be seen in many areas of our life.
Freedom of expression, the foundation stone of democracy, is being squeezed on all sides.
You can’t say what you think any more, even if you are stating a fact, without accusations of racism, homophobia or religious discrimination being thrown at you.
And to make a joke in public about any of these three… Well, you’d better watch out: the thought police may come knocking on your door.
My Codger colleague Peter Cook was taken to task by a letter writer for daring to say that the issue of gay marriage received publicity out of all proportion to its relevance to the majority. And so it did.
The BBC, for instance, went bananas with its coverage.
You would think that gay marriage affected every one of us in the land judging by the amount of airtime the Beeb threw at it.
In fact, it applies to a tiny percentage of the population. A classic case of the tale wagging the dog. This is a fact, and we should be free to say so.
It goes without saying that people should not be able to make unlawful or defamatory comments, especially about minority groups, but fair comment is a different matter entirely.
My fear is that the line between the two is becoming blurred and many of us, me included, are reluctant to express honestly held views in case we fall foul of those in authority who are just as small-minded as those supermarket staff.
It’s a dangerous road to go down if we value our freedoms.