Privilege, self-satisfaction and the befriending of bastards

Privilege is a weird thing. Most of us have a certain level of privilege, and some of us even recognise it and try to use it to effect change. Some of us deny it exists at all, labouring under the self-imposed misapprehension that everything we’ve achieved has occurred as a direct result of our own unfiltered brilliance, and not because we live in a society in which more or less everything is heavily skewed in favour of straight, rich, white dudes. Others, of course, are so blinded by their own privilege that they see fit to stand up on national television and lecture those who are considerably less privileged about how they ought to respond to people who are, by any reasonable interpretation, objectively fucking awful.

“When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”

This was a statement made by US comedian and chat show host, Ellen DeGeneres, earlier this week, which, on the face of it, you might think seems quite laudable. Who could reasonably object to a world where people were kinder to one another, right? This video was widely shared on social media, with lots of other quite privileged people responding with comments like, “Well said, Ellen! What a great message!”

It’s only when you realise that Ms DeGeneres made this somewhat smug, self-satisfied statement to justify her friendship with a guy who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and who predicated his entire political career on denying rights to LGBTQ people, that you begin to see how fundamentally repugnant it is.

In terms of moral cowardice, this argument ranks alongside, “I know that Bundy guy was a little bit murdery, but he did make a lovely lamb casserole, and I just think you have to look for the good in people. We can’t only be kind to those who don’t think it’s acceptable to slaughter dozens of people in cold blood.”

There are, give or take, 7.7 billion people on Earth. Accordingly, there are 7.7 billion differing sets of opinions. It goes without saying that, if we were only ever friends with people whose opinions were aligned completely with our own, we’d exist in the same tragic state of isolation that Toby Young experienced on the night of his stag do.

I have a friend who thinks Star Wars is superior to Star Trek. I have a friend who fancies Chris Pratt more than Chris Hemsworth. I have another friend who thinks putting peanut butter directly onto unbuttered, barely toasted bread (like, it hasn’t even changed colour) is acceptable behaviour. They’re all disgusting people who should be shot at fucking dawn and I love them dearly.

I don’t, I’m proud to say, have a single friend who has overseen the destruction of a Middle Eastern country for their own political ends, or who has sought to deny people like me the right to marry, the right to access goods and services, the right to be housed, or the right to not be fired from my job because of who I’m attracted to. I don’t have friends like that because people like that are fucking abhorrent.

I’m just a little bit really fucking tired of hearing how it’s somehow ‘childish’ or ‘shallow’ to refuse to befriend a person with different political opinions, as though it’s some minor, inconsequential thing like a disgusting peanut butter/toast habit or the mistaken belief that C3PO is in any way more impressive than Commander Data. The fact is, our politics are a fundamental part of who we are. They define us. They are us.

For example, I could never form any kind of meaningful relationship, platonic or otherwise, with a Conservative voter. It’s not just that I disagree with them, it’s that I think they’re intrinsically unpleasant.

People are dying on the streets. Foodbank use is at an all-time high. Welfare spending has been slashed again and again. Mental health funding has been cut to the bone. People seeking to make this country their home are subjected to an environment that the government proudly describes as ‘hostile’. Queer asylum seekers are deported to countries in which they may be imprisoned, tortured or killed for being who they are and told to ‘act less gay’. On top of all that, we’re on the verge of the biggest self-imposed catastrophe ever to befall us, and the Tories are 100% committed to delivering something that will disproportionately affect the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country.

If you voted for any of that, you’re an appalling cunt, and there is no place in my life for you.

Similarly, I don’t care how well-received your sitcom was in the 1990s if you now spend every day of your life mocking, misgendering and directing hate at vulnerable and marginalised people. If I tolerated that kind of behaviour, I’d be as much of an arsehole as you are.

It’s so easy (and a bit fucking selfish) to say, “We should respect everyone’s beliefs,” if their beliefs will never impact you in any meaningful way. But if you’re a rich, white lesbian working in the arts, you don’t get to pontificate to black trans women on low incomes about who they should be nice to. They might just consider that the fact that they’re dying and being killed on an almost industrial scale matters quite a bit, and that offering kindness to those who would eradicate them completely is, in itself, an act of violence.

Views matter. Opinions matter. They are the essence of who we are. Of course it’s up to the individual to decide how much a particular belief matters to them and whether it’s a deal-breaker in any prospective relationship, but let’s not pretend that being nice to everyone makes you a good person. It doesn’t. All it makes you is complicit.

Top Gear 2020 to be hosted by Mary Berry and an otter

BBC execs have today confirmed the exciting news that the 2020 series of Top Gear will be presented by Mary Berry carrying an otter.

Following the sacking of steak-hungry producer-puncher Jeremy Clarkson, and the subsequent resignations of inconsequential sycophant Richard Hammond and that other prick whose sole contribution was to laugh at Clarkson's racism and say 'oh cock' a lot, producers of Top Gear have visibly struggled to settle on the future direction of the once-flagship show.

Their initial response was to set up a two hundred-strong presenting team headed up by unlikeable twat Chris Evans, as he engaged in a hilariously futile competition for attention with the hot one out of Friends. Following Joey's effortlessly comprehensive victory over Evans, however, he quickly became bored of producing basically the same programme every week, leading to another enforced change of personnel.

Today's announcement that some guy who once did quite a good cricket and the presenter of 'Blind Date For Cunts', Paddy McGuinness, would be taking over raised a few eyebrows, but it's the succession planning for when that inevitably goes tits up that has created the most excitement.

A spokesperson for the BBC said,

"Look, people who watch Top Gear are basically morons anyway. All they need to keep them happy is a familiar face twatting about in a fast car while shouting barely coherent slogans like 'mental' and 'epic' every few seconds. That said, Mary Berry is a national treasure, and we are confident that she will bring all the right ingredients to the Top Gear experience in 2020. Make sure you stress 'ingredients', ok, because that's really fucking clever."

When asked to explain the thinking behind the otter's inclusion, the spokesperson said:

"What the fuck are you talking about? Who doesn't like otters? Adorable little whiskery bastards. What sort of fucking question is that anyway? We're done here."

It has been intimated that further additions to the team will be announced in the next few weeks, with Sir Trevor McDonald and that endlessly punchable cunt off the 'Go Compare' adverts among the favourites.

 

Sometimes, it’s ok to state the obvious.

“I also understand the Pope is a Catholic!”

Depressingly, this seems to be considered by many to be the most appropriate response to a gay person coming out. No ‘well done for having the courage’ or ‘I hope you feel happier now this is in the open’, just plain old, 'tell us something we don’t know'.

Now, I don’t pretend to understand every LGBT person’s individual ‘coming out’ journey but I do know that for many, myself included, it can be a long, difficult, and sometimes painful process. The nights laid awake wondering how your friends, family and colleagues will react, the self doubt, the panic of not knowing whether the revelation will cause your life as you know it to blow up in your face. I’m sure for some people, coming out is the easiest, most natural thing in the world, but for others, it’s the single biggest step they’ll ever take. It’s a little soul-destroying, therefore, to see this momentous (at the least for the person taking it) step reduced to, “It was hardly a secret, was it?”

That’s why it’s always a little disappointing when a celebrity that people have decided ‘looks gay’ comes out, and social media is suddenly awash with commentators quick to point out how they’ve always known, and that it was blindly obvious all along.

That’s exactly what happened this week when Barry Manilow came out at the age of 73 after being in a relationship with the same man for nearly 40 years. Whilst Manilow was trending on Twitter, I’d estimate that more than half the tweets about the news were of the self-congratulatory ‘and I suppose bears shit in the woods’ variety. Now in Manilow’s case, matters are complicated somewhat by the fact that he married his partner three years ago in what was supposed to be a secret ceremony. That nasty rags like the Daily Mail invaded Manilow’s privacy to report the news a year later does mean that many people probably did know, but there’s also a pretty strong case for saying that it’s up to him to decide when he wants to discuss such private matters, and not some unscrupulous ‘journalist’ chasing a scoop.

I should point out that, in the vast majority of cases, there was no outright malice involved in the comments, but also little thought as to how they might affect others who might be thinking of coming out. Having been in that situation myself, much of what was said to me in the days afterwards was a bit of a blur. I do remember that, in general, most people were kind, supportive and loving, but the comments I remember most clearly are the ones that were not quite so positive - including the various sneery observations of those who ‘knew all along’. If I was thinking of coming out now, I’d be much more emboldened to do so by seeing others who have taken this step being received warmly and positively.

So next time an ‘obviously gay’ person comes out, you might like to consider whether you want your comment to be the one that helps someone else summon up the courage to join them, or the one that they’ll remember for all the wrong reasons.