Perhaps I should point out that I wasn’t trying to be preachy in the Demographic Delusion post below. My aim, as in the Ancestry post, was to write about something that’s hopefully surprising because we don’t often think about it, but which is, when we do think about it, quite obvious. I’m interested in the gap between Platonic thinking and reality. But Platonic thinking - discussing ideal categories and concepts - is just what we do, it’s natural to us, it’s often useful and we have to make a conscious intellectual effort to avoid it when it isn’t useful.
And talking of gaps, there’s a giant one between Nick Griffin (a real bigot) and someone who just starts a sentence beginning “Of course 95% of them are fine but…” because he’s thinking Platonically.
Whenever the issue of racism pops up, it is very easy to get all humourlessly high horsey about trivia which is, in the greater scheme of things, irrelevant. Witness the hysteria over Anton Du Beke and Bruce Forsyth recently – both crucified by the usual liberal pontificators.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been cursed with a sense of perspective here. In no particular order, here are three ways in which Britain has improved out of recognition since I was a kid: there’s much less dog turd on the pavements; there’s much less litter on the streets (I remember kicking through crisp packets like they were Autumn leaves); and overall we’re much, much less racist. (Football tells you the story here. After he scored his famous goal against Brazil, John Barnes was booed by England fans for being black. These days we’re so comfortable with our non-racism that we can happily boo Ashley Cole for a whole list of valid reasons (greed, arrogance, getting thrown out of nightclubs while his wife is off doing charity mountain-climbing etc) and we all know that his colour isn’t on it.)
As it happens, I am pretty sensitive to the language. I do cringe a bit when people of my parents’ generation say “coloured” when they ought to say “black” etc. But I don’t get all soapbox about it, or confuse it with real racism. And what’s so funny about peace, love and pragmatism? Broadly, the same lot who pronounced after agonised soul-searching that, yes, for the sake of our democracy and the integrity of the BBC’s charter (oh, such a cornerstone of the British constitution, the BBC charter) Nick Griffin should be allowed on the rubbish political debate programme Question Time, also crucified Brucie for defending Anton. To which you just want to say: oh get off it, lads. We’re not perfect, we never will be, but cut us some slack, we’re all just doing the best we can. Man.