Thursday 27 June 2019

The snowflake generation is ruining Christmas for the rest of us

 

Nativity scenes are banned in some shopping centres
Nativity scenes are banned in some shopping centres

Julie Burchill

We're always being told that Christmas is a "stressful" time of year, which considering that the modern secular season is composed of little more than eating, drinking and looking at various sorts of screens, perhaps tells us how we really feel about the prospect of spending more than a few hours at a time with our nearest and dearest. But in recent years, it seems that Christmas has also become a minefield of public as well as private conflict.

Just as people reminisce about The Sexy Years between the invention of the pill and the intervention of Aids, we tend to believe there was a brief sunlit upland of tolerance where life really did seem to be Liberty Hall.

It was never really like that, though; no sooner had Mrs Mary Whitehouse retired from public life in 1988 than copies of The Satanic Verses were being burned in the UK.

Like many things - misogyny, cosying up to oppressive religions, anti-Semitism - censoriousness has moved from the right- to the left-wing and, interestingly, from the old to the young.

The curmudgeonly old are easily understood; people are naturally nostalgic for a time when they didn't ache in places they never knew they had and can easily mistake their own disintegration for that of the world. But the curmudgeonly young are more puzzling - and there are so many of them now, the most ubiquitous of the breed being those whose answer to everything they don't like is "Ban it!". Compared to the Perpetually Outraged who stalk our social media, Mary Whitehouse was Anaïs Nin.

And there are qualities about Mrs Whitehouse which we can admire now we don't see her as a metaphorical mum forever tutting: "You're not going out dressed like that!" She wasn't thuggish like the No Platformers - no masks and mobs for her, she stood up and did it alone, which took guts. I doubt if we'll look back on the Perpetually Outraged of today so fondly.

For some reason, Christmas is a particularly triggering time for the anti-freedom league, with Santa seen as the ultimate invader of safe space, coming down the chimney shouting "Ho Ho Ho" in a distinctly slut-shaming manner. Scrooge today wouldn't mistreat his employees and humph "Humbug!" - he'd go around no-platforming opponents yelling "triggered!".

This year, the songs 'Baby It's Cold Outside' and 'Fairytale Of New York' have been tried in the Court Of Hurty Feelings. The first has been found guilty of exploring themes of sexual coercion and banned by many radio stations, leading the composer Frank Loesser's daughter Susan to provide a spirited rebuttal: "Way before #MeToo, I would hear people call it a date-rape song. I would get annoyed because it's a song my father wrote for him and my mother to sing at parties… flirting was a whole different thing back then."

The lyrics of the female singer in the second were beautifully defended by their author Shane MacGowan: "She is a woman of a certain generation at a certain time in history and she is down on her luck and desperate. She is just supposed to be an authentic character and not all characters in songs and stories are angels or even decent and respectable, sometimes characters in songs and stories have to be evil or nasty in order to tell the story effectively."

Christmas is a time of ritual, and the banning of the nativity scene in some public spaces is as essential a part of the run-up as opening the windows of the advent calendar. This year, it's a shopping centre in Scotland which has done it on the grounds that it "prides itself on being religiously and politically neutral in its behaviour within the local community".

Really, where will it end? Will they come next for snowmen (non-inclusive of trans-gendered) or for 'Merry Christmas Everybody' (drunken Santa reference making light of real addiction issues)? Can we just have a few weeks off from fussing and fuming? May your days be merry and bright, may you steer clear of Silent Fright and may all your snowflakes cease to be uptight - if only till a New Year of being endlessly offended is ushered on.

Irish Independent

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