BY now, the silent majority are well versed in the many ways that political correctness and box-ticking drives us all mad, especially when it comes to the big stuff: what we are and aren’t allowed to say any more, how a joke is now ‘hate’ in this brave new world, and how if we are not ‘on message’ with the latest fashionable diktats the possibility of losing our livelihood is very real.
But often it’s the more subtle, nuanced stuff that I struggle with, such as having to deal with people who work for local councils or customer service representatives on the phone, and shop assistants in person.
It’s as though the slow drip of fear that this wholly dishonest and spiritually bankrupt philosophy has brought about a disconnect between us all to the point where it feels, a lot of the time, as though the person I am talking to is speaking a different language.
Two recent examples.
I was on the phone the other day to my gas supplier. I had to punch in my account number before being put through to ‘Angel’ in customer services, so I had my bill in front of me, yet when it came to what I was querying, ten minutes later, I could not find it. I asked Angel to hold on a moment while I looked for it. I placed the phone on the desk in front of me and began to rummage through a pile of papers. After a few minutes I whispered to myself, ‘FFS, what have I done with it?!’
Then I heard screeching. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from for a moment, until it dawned on me that it was coming from the phone.
‘Hello,’ I started, but I did not get to the end of the word because Angel interrupted me to read out her company’s policy on ‘zero tolerance of abuse’. This was followed by a stern lecture on how she had every right to terminate the call.
It took a further couple of minutes to ascertain what Angel was upset about; I’d forgotten about my almost inaudible expletive, and it didn’t occur to me that she had heard it.
Another five minutes and Angel resolutely refused to acknowledge that I did not swear AT her, as she charged. I hung up in frustration when it became apparent that she expected me to apologise before she would help me with my query.
Another time I was taking my dog for his daily mad hour with his pals (he has a better social life than I do; I’m quite envious of his diary for this coming weekend) when I found a council worker locking the gates of the dog (running free) area as I arrived, a full hour and a quarter earlier than usual. I asked, ‘Oh, why are you locking up this early?’
In response, this giant of a chap, bearded, muscular and roughly 6ft 5in, held his arms out at full length in a defensive position and said ‘WHOA WHOA WHOA!’ This was swiftly followed by his showing me the reverse side of his lanyard, explaining the council’s ‘zero tolerance of abuse’, no less. Excuse me? I had not raised my voice when I posed my question, though no doubt it did contain an inflection of (justifiable) annoyance.
The startling thing was the reaction of the council worker: it was one of a man under serious threat; he looked alarmed, fearful even. Of me and my dog!
It’s apparent that the march of woke through the institutions and the associated culture of instant complaint has produced a phalanx of drone-like individuals who don’t appear to be able to deal with authenticity, frustration, irritability or any other emotion.
It gives the concept of ‘zero tolerance’ a new meaning – a code word for ‘do not, on pain of death, allow anyone to be human’.