Gordon Brown’s Bigot Alarm
I think Gordon Brown has an in-built bigot alarm. When Gillian Duffy mentioned the word “immigration” Gordon’s bigot alarm went off and he then spoke over her, changed the subject and generally tried not to let her get into the racist rant he feared was about to follow. Possibly he was wrong about that and his bigot alarm is set too fine. Perhaps she was only going to comment on the useful work those polite young east Europeans migrants do and the value of the taxes they pay before returning to their homelands. Perhaps she was going to mention how migrants from Africa and Asia enrich our culture, broaden our horizons and add to the general variety of life in this otherwise rather bland and insular land. Perhaps; but we shall never know because of Gordon’s oversensitive alarm setting.
Mine goes off when into a conversation about something else entirely my interlocutor inserts the word “immigrant” or sometimes just by fixing me with his reumy eye and speaking of “them” in a meaningful way. At this my finely tuned bigot alarm system tells me that what is about to follow is a long racist / sexist / homophobic or other nasty monologue which I would much rather not listen to. Usually at this point I discover that I have forgotten a very urgent appointment and must leave immediately. This may seem rather craven but to tell my persecutor that I don’t actually agree with his prejudices would, experience tells me, only have the effect of making him (or her) continue the rant but louder, with pointing finger and flecks of foam building up in the corners of the mouth. I don’t have Gordon’s gravitas or ability to keep talking irrespective of interruption so I take the coward’s way out.
My alarm has been ringing rather often lately and not only when sparked off by politicians. There is for instance the George and Mick double act of former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester. George thinks here should be special courts set up with religiously sensitive judges to help Christians avoid the anti-discrimination laws the rest of us have to obey. He fears civil disorder will follow if the Christians don’t get their way. Mick agrees with George and in addition believes that civilisation itself will collapse unless British society follows the Judeo-Christian moral and spiritual traditions.
That faint noise you hear? It’s Bertrand Russell and Voltaire in their graves; not turning but laughing.