It’s no use accusing ‘them’ of dodging complexity while cowering in our own bunkers
AA Gill told Sunday Times readers last week that he is riddled with cancer: “the full English”. While other people look to the Bible, Bowie or Beethoven to transform their world view, for me it is usually AA Gill. Since my teens his magical words have transported me to the desperation of refugees, the hallucinations of alcoholics, the amiability of porn stars, and the terror of the best and worst restaurateurs in the world.
The news crushed me. So I stupidly went on Twitter, where I found him being described as the “noted baboon murderer”: his soul entombed in the slumped body of a primate.
Clare Fox talks about our young, sensitive and easily offended “Generation Snowflake”. But why limit ourselves to one flake? There’s a whole a blizzard of people shutting down anyone imperfect, bruised or tainted by anything less than fragrant. At a primary school football match last week a child said that another player had said something racist. No one else heard and the child’s account made no sense. But the match was stopped. Some allegations are so powerful they are true regardless of evidence.
A therapist once told a corporate workshop I attended “if we stop listening, they stop talking”. Which came to mind when an American mother my kids once went on a playdate with came out as a Trump supporter on Facebook. The vitriolic, self-righteous rage of her angry friends had descended on her wall. For a while she made her case and in the end she gave up:
Socialists [she means anyone with a passing acquaintance of The Guardian] are the most oppressive people. They claim they believe in freedom of speech but in the end if you don’t believe what they do they want to stop you. Bullied into all thinking the same way.
So yes, of course, we are battered, bloodied and bedevilled by Brexit and Trump. But when we can’t listen to the people who voted for them – listen and understand without just seeking to tell them why they are wrong – then we’re as foolish as the no-platform students who are offended by Germaine Greer saying that everyone is born one gender or another, or as those who rescind invites to Milo Yiannopoulos.
In response, I’m rebelling against my echo chamber “liberal metropolitan profile” on Facebook anyway by gorging on every pro-Trump piece I can. What do you know, more of my American friends are Republicans than my newsfeed admitted before. And we should listen to them because, whatever we think of Trump, they see something worth a vote and they too believe they are on the side of the angels.
If AA Gill were allowed fly, he’d be going to the rust belt and lasering Trump fans’ fears and prayers with his mental 12 bore so we could all better see what we’ve long been blind to.
So if you see him, wish him well. And tell him I don’t give a monkey’s about the sodding baboon.
Christine is co-founder of Jericho Chambers, contributing editor of Management Today and Chair of the Maternity Liaison Committee at University College London Hospital.