I’m recovering from my Christmas Day. Since you ask, I was kept awake until 2am by the yipping of a dog as over-excited as a toddler, only pacified by his beloved human brother, recently returned from Canada, spending the night downstairs on the sofa to settle him.
I was busy all day so there was no time for awkward moments, nor were there any forced or ominous silences, apart from the times when the young people started to talk politics and were firmly rebuked for doing so. Apparently an agreement had been reached not to do so.
I had warned my own offspring to be non-controversial too, so this is fair enough in my book. It’s not a safe space mentality or anything like that, although I regret slightly that such a thing might ever be necessary in my house, which I deem convivial and open-minded enough not to have taboo subjects, but I suppose there is a time and a place for debates about politics; religion; whether we run our families on traditional or modern lines; all that sort of stuff, and Christmas Day is not really it.
I’m all for self-expression but not at the cost of making someone feel uncomfortable or excluded on a day where we had come together to bond as a family. Our lives are busy and we hardly ever have the opportunity for a family get together and, as an only child who has lost one parent to death and the other to dementia, these days I’m often acutely aware of how alone I can be in the world.
I guess we all have to learn to make compromises, and learning when to do so without forfeiting the things we hold dear is part of growing up.
Why do I mention this? Well, it’s in reaction to yesterday but I’m thinking about a couple of things that have been said on Twitter this evening. The North West (in particular) of the British Isles has been hit by a succession of disastrous storms which have caused terrible flooding in Cumbria amongst other places. Tonight’s news is that Northern cities such as Leeds, York and Manchester are underwater as the rain continues to fall and rivers burst their banks. Down here in the South, our weather has been a bit squally and breezy and grey but overall we’ve been fine. All we can do is look at the pictures on the news and hope that our friends further north are safe and that they recover quickly if they are flooded.
It is, however, not our fault that the weather here has been largely clement, enough for us to indulge in our usual Boxing Day pastimes one of which is going to the sales. I never do this: camping overnight outside a store, whether it’s Selfridges or Apple is really not something I’d ever consider and I find that the things I’d like are rarely included in the sales, so pedestrian are my tastes. Although I do like to dress reasonably well and I’m as susceptible to a pretty thing as the next person, I wouldn’t count myself as unduly acquisitive. Nor, however, am I a joy-sucking, disdainful puritan and I have little time for this sort of person.
Yes, the floods in the North are terrible but they are not happening here. And if people want to go to the first day of the sales to spend their hard-earned cash indulging their whims on things they want but don’t strictly NEED when people are flooded or fleeing war or famine or goodness knows what else in the world, who am I to berate them for doing so?
I become impatient with people who want to stand on their virtue-signalling soapboxes and tell other people that their priorities are wrong. How can they know the motivations of people who save up all year for one thing that they can only afford if its price is reduced in the sales? Perhaps they need it for work. Perhaps they work tirelessly as volunteers and donate huge amounts to charity. Perhaps they are a single parent with three small children and struggle to make ends meet. Or perhaps they don’t. But how dare they enjoy themselves when others are suffering?
You didn’t quite get what you want for Christmas? You’ve been given a jumper two sizes too big so that you have to exchange it? You don’t like sprouts? You find your parents’ decorative taste excruciating? How dare you complain when people are being bombed in Syria or others are depending on food banks for survival! How dare you even open your mouth when so many are in desperate poverty or suffering domestic abuse! Shut your mouth, keep it shut. Never say anything without first checking your privilege.
How can self-appointed arbiters of taste or decency stand in judgement over people whose priorities aren’t the same as theirs? Fine, be outraged at suffering in the world but do you think that being Negative Nora Wet Blanket is really ever going to endear you to the very people on whose help you ultimately depend?
I understand that people are trying to raise serious issues to a wider public but alienating and blaming people whose only crime is to be not suffering in a way you define is not the way to do it. As I said, learning that there’s a time and a place is part of growing up.