Friday, October 15, 2021

The downside of cancellation culture


                                      “I’m not scared to be alone because I have books to read.”

It’s a good quote, probably a notion that is so ingrained in writers and readers that we might not think it needs said. Who do you think said it?  Has the person who said it ever made you laugh? Has the person who said it become a cultural icon because their thoughts and words are so widespread? 

Maybe Aye and Maybe Naw as we would say.

A tea cosy on the lose

Many years ago, the local and regional council decided to be very PC and refuse certain activities on premises under public ownership.  And overall, that makes perfect sense. One of the things banned was racist language.  The police here can arrest you for racist language, so it also makes sense that using racist terms in any public building gets you thrown out. The issue is that the person making the complaint does not need to be the one on the receiving end, or even involved in the situation. They can just be walking past, catch a snippet and before you know it you are in the pokey.

During the time the library was being refurbed (public building!) our writers’ group had to relocate to the Town Hall. One of our writers was a white Scottish/ South African, writing her life story of growing up on a large farm outside Joburg, the story of the wildfires, the dogs on the farm, the old truck they used to travel about on; she didn’t know about apartheid until she went to school. When she was wee, she and the kids of the farm, black children, white children, anybody passing by,  all played together, and nobody thought any more of it.  Her family got into a lot of trouble for being supporters of the anti apartheid movement, more so as times moved on and violence began to erupt all around them. Some of the stories brought tears to the eyes. It was difficult to believe that this softly spoken elderly lady, in her cardigan and pearls, had known such dreadful atrocities at close hand.

And of course, her stories used the language that was used at that time.   

Somebody in the building complained that we were using racist language and we were told we were not welcome back. I tried to explain that we were a writers group, I tried to find out who complained.  To no avail. We were out on our ear.  We suspect it was the janitor. If we could have explained to him what was being said, I’m sure he would have been fine, but rules were rules, and that was that.

All that was a few years ago, and it’s much worse now.

It all kind of misses the point.

I’ve heard today that British Airways are ceasing to use gender specific terminology on their flights.

Mr Bond, shaken not stirred.

The Broccoli family have announced that James Bond character will remain with an actor with a XY chromosome.

The Scottish government has announced that 4-year-olds have the right to determine their own gender. At that age I spent my life wanting to be Lassie ( the dog in the films), so growing to be a human being was a bit of an issue for me. But then, reflecting, Lassie was one of the first transgender stars, being a laddie by anatomy.

Seems to me that cancel, culture is a very sensible idea that took a wrong turn somewhere.

At the moment, our little village is about to be swamped by COP 26 because we are so near the airport. Scotland is a small place, delegates are driving the length and breadth of the place, in expensive cars, to attend a conference on climate issues. 3, 500 of them.  That's 5% of the population of the city.  We don’t have enough hotel rooms so there’s now a cruise boat on the Clyde to provide accommodation. Drains and sewers are already being poked, checked, and sealed for security.  

Would it not have been better to have the zoom call to end all zoom calls!

But back to the point. The quote above was from Billy Connolly, a man who admitted that he would have been cancelled the minute he opened his mouth if he was starting out now.

Come on, you would stick this on your head, wouldn't you?

And that would be a shame. So many little nuggets of observational comedy. The wee Glasgow dog that looks like it’s just realised it’s five minutes late and needs to get a shift on.  The fact that Glasgow would be improved by a nuclear incident.  The notion that we need a faster national anthem to be any good at the Olympics. And of course, the one that has really passed into culture, especially crime writer culture in Scotland, the notion that you should never trust a man who, when left in a room alone with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on as a hat.




  1. Billy Connolly was being interviewed on Radio 4 this morning, Caro, about how he first suspected he had Parkinson's when an expert in the disease observed the way he walked. Still a funny, funny man.

    1. A very funny man indeed! He was walking across an hotel foyer when an expert in Parkinsons spotted his gait. I think a lot of drs do play 'spot the diagonosis when bored.'

  2. I so treasure my Fridays. Because of you!!!!

  3. Billy Connelly is hilarious, I admit.

    But on the issue of racist terminology, first think about who is being hurt and why and what they want done. Sensitivity should come first.

    As a teenager, when I read various types of books, including mysteries, I would freeze at any racist or anti-Semitic or anti-immigrant words. Then I'd close the book and not read anything by those authors again.

    I know too many people who've been hurt by racist or sexist or anti-immigrant, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-gay bigotry.

    When those rightists marched in Charlottesville at the notorious march, chanting anti-Jewish slogans, carrying bats and torches, I felt an electric shock go through it. I instantly understood how people who are impacted by bigotry feel. And it isn't good.

    Is it so hard to be kind and sympathetic?

  4. I meant I felt an electric shock go through me because my grandparents fled anti-Jewish pogroms in the early 1900s in Eastern Europe.