Tuesday 20 February 2018

Ian O'Doherty: We are fighting a cultural civil war - and we are losing

Victoria Beckham and daughter Harper kissing on the lips.
Victoria Beckham and daughter Harper kissing on the lips.
Victoria Beckham and daughter Harper
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Victoria Beckham may seem a rather unlikely example of sexually inappropriate parenting. But who thought a picture of her kissing her daughter on the lips would cause such fury?

Most normal people who saw it would have shrugged their shoulders and moved on.

But we live in an age when being normal is not enough.

So, in one of those ridiculous social-media feeding frenzies, when people who should be in a home for the terminally stupid get to control the narrative, the designer was immediately slammed for the crime of kissing her own child.

It started slowly, at first.

She posted the picture to her 11 million Instagram followers and there, in the comment section underneath, a few messages squatted angrily - she was sexualising her child; it was inappropriate; what would the neighbours say etc.

A few demented messages is all The Machine needs these days and once the media picked up that she was getting a bit of static, The Machine kicked into gear.

The BBC enlisted some etiquette expert called Liz Brewer who parped on about how "I would be uncomfortable doing that and I think most people would be. If she feels it's appropriate, so be it. I wouldn't say it sets a particularly good example."

We now live in a culture of busy bodies, cranks and snitches and the VB shot was just another example of the accelerated stupidity which assails modern society.

Frankly, there are times when it feels like we're living through the end of something.

Sure, the existential threat of global nuclear war has receded. But this sense of impending doom has more to do with the culture than the planet.

Contrary to what social-media warriors would have us believe, in real terms most of us have never had it so good. People have more leisure time than ever before and that collision of indolence with social media has created a Zeitgeist of rancour, envy and spite. Mostly spite.

There's something profoundly depressing in the fact that we now have at our hands the greatest communications tool in the history of our species, with immediate access to all the libraries in the world. And we use it to demand Victoria Beckham has her kids taken off her.

What's really weird is that we live in an age of irrationally strong opinions held by people who are irrationally weak.

The rise of identity politics has meant status trumps character. So, if you disagree with anything a gay person says, you're a homophobe. Query anything said by a black activist, you're a racist. Don't even get me started on disagreeing with Traveller spokespeople.

In this era of incessant squabbling, people have lost their capacity to argue their case logically - simply because they don't need to. Not anymore.

Instead, they think that being offended by something is the argument.

How many times have you heard someone say that something is 'offensive'?

When asked why, they can't provide an answer and if you ask them why they think anyone should care if they're offended by something, they'll thkweam and thkweam until they make themselves thick and call you a 'hater' - another sign of a society which has lost all sense and perspective. Fundamentally, we are living in a weak culture, populated by increasingly weak people; a culture which places a virtue on victimhood and everyone is quick to hiss 'you can't say that' whenever someone utters something they don't like.

These are all very Western luxuries, of course.

Only people who have no real worries tend to worry about such irrelevant frippery. That's why things seem to have gone a little JG Ballard of late as jaded, spoiled, emotionally incontinent fools float around the ether making life difficult for everyone else. Just because they can.

Muslim terrorists don't need to plot the destruction of Western civilisation. We're doing it to ourselves.

Fundamentally, we're a society which has lost its mojo.

We have a front-row seat at our own cultural suicide and the whingers, the cranks, the spoiled and the demented are winning.

What does that say about the rest of us?

Nothing good, I'm afraid.

A real classy bunch of  people

Anyone who played sport as a kid will remember one rule - you can kick the shit out of your opposite number for as long as the match goes on, but you must shake hands when the whistle blows.

Without even realising it, kids are learning a valuable lesson - you can play as hard as you have to, but only a weasel and a cur would refuse a proffered hand at the end.

I wonder did any of the Labour front-bench play sport. Or do they think team sports are a bourgeois, Western conceit?

Cameron gave a fine farewell speech in the Commons the other day.

Heck, even Jeremy Corbyn found it in his heart to be gracious and that last exchange between the two was actually quite endearing. Even though they loathe each other, the final whistle had just blown on Cameron's career and the two leaders behaved appropriately.

When the ex-PM left the chamber, he left to standing ovation from all concerned - except for the bunch of lunatics sitting on the opposition front-bench. Oh, and the SNP also refused to stand. But nobody cares about them.

It was the kind of feeble grandstanding that comes from people who have no manners, no class and no style.

When the tables were reversed, Cameron insisted that his MPs stood when Tony Blair was leaving. They were hardly fans of Blair, but there are times when a grown-up has to do what's right, even if they don't particularly want to do it.

The very notion of shaking hands when the final whistle has metaphorically blown is crucial to any society which wants to function.

Instead, the MPs who made a big deal of remaining seated were simply revelling in their own small-minded showboating.

Labour's front-bench may be many things. Classy ain't one of them.

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