During a Zoom group I got a call from the organiser of a mental health charity where I’ve been a volunteer for five years. The quiet voice told me I was banned from going on any more of their group outings. Once a month I received a social calendar listing events which I discussed with someone I have specifically befriended, hoping he will come along. He rarely does, suffering from what’s now called, ‘Social anxiety.’ But he did agree to join a visit to Tiggywinkles, a refuge for abused hedgehogs near Thame. I took along an etching of a baby hog as a gift.
On the bus I told him it was difficult to get a flu jab and a woman behind piped up, ‘Do you mind, your negativity is triggering me.’ We were both surprised by her aggression but I tried to pass it off with a joke. ‘I think we have free speech on the bus,’ I said. Obviously, we don’t. She reported me and I am off the bus for good.
‘Negativity’ and ‘Triggering,’ are two ‘Woke’ key words, and against them there is little defence. ‘Triggering,’ a violent term of course imported from the US, is now one of the most powerful words in our language after ‘race’ and ‘gender.’ People these days can be astonishingly easily ‘triggered’ going off like a Walther P-38 at a proliferating range of words and images, usually from the wicked pre-puritan past.
An espionage thriller on BBC Radio 4 extra, made in 1964, which was preceded by a strong ‘trigger warning.’ I listened hard for a week but couldn’t find anything offensive, except that the Scottish characters sounded crusty and eccentric. That presumably constituted racism or its lesser cousin, ‘stereotyping.’ Dad’s Army now has a health warning as does Rumpole of the Bailey on Talking Pictures TV. That series really takes one back to the drink sodden days of the 1970s and recently included a crossword puzzle clue, ‘Coloured Royals,’ answer, ‘Brown Windsor.’ That shot out of the screen as something utterly ‘offensive’ another woke key word, which would never be included in a modern program.
I didn’t return to Zoom after being sacked, feeling extremely ‘triggered’ myself although more deflated than anything. I felt like crying but didn’t, as I was brought up not. I was told I could take the matter up with the trustees, but what would be the point; the words used to attack me were right up to the mark. They meant: ‘Your words have caused me damage.’ Very hard to refute as no evidence is required. We often hear the same ones used to mean, those words used by someone in the distant past, or the speech about to be made will create a ‘dangerous environment’ for such and such a protected group. Whichever way they’re used, they’re aimed at controlling other people’s thought and language by use of an emotional sledge-hammer.
The ‘triggeree’ had reported me previously. On a previous trip she’d downloaded her life to me, lived mainly as part of a cult. I’d been fascinated, but later she’d accused me of ‘Asking intrusive questions.’ The organiser in another quiet phone message, had advised that if anyone started telling me anything personal, I should disengage and change the subject. Since, I’ve always done that, although it feels odd. When a man told me he’d been in hospital following a suicide attempt, (the word suicide is now non pc) I asked him if he’d noticed the heron by the lake, rather like someone from my parent’s generation who never talked about anything intimate with anyone.
Volunteering as a ‘do-gooder,’ now involves negotiating the new rules of Woke, which has tentacles around the equality laws, Health & Safety, and an obsession with privacy so strong that even doctors cannot pass information to each other……… Subscribe to this month’s Salisbury Review Magazine to read the rest of Jane’s article