Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Shock and Orgreave
One of the more ridiculous stories of the last few days is the NSPCC’s claim that concerns about the US presidential election has resulted in an increase in British children turning to Childline to report their worried little feelings. Brexit, naturally, is also blamed for heightening the anxieties of the poor wee would-be sufferers. There always has to be somebody to blame, it seems and of course the law of unintended-but-entirely-foreseeable consequences means that if you open up a channel for grievance, the solemn ships of umbrage will sail right up it.
This doesn’t mean that the hurt isn’t real but every incident of crying for recognition feeds the all-about-me culture whereby every imagined slight must somehow be atoned for and as the clamour of the compensation klaxon increases the general mood of sympathy is diluted. Nobody wants to see children in genuine pain, but the more finely the butthurt cake is sliced, the less everybody’s appetite for redemption is satisfied. It’s like charity; the greater the number of demands for your patronage, the less inclined we are to keep giving. Chugging is an inelegant way to rob your peers.
And so to Orgreave. Since Ed Miliband’s disastrous leadership of the Labour Party it seems that every slight, perceived or real, must be answered by a public enquiry. The coal miner combatants can’t ‘move on with their lives’ without some acknowledgement of wrongdoing. They must have ‘closure’, which these days means somebody has to pay many lawyers to prolong the agonies and dig up all the forgotten hurt and lay it out so everybody can see, whether they care or not, what a horrible time was had by all.
It’s, frankly, pathetic. Were they not watching the quiet dignity of the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster just a week or so ago? There, 115 children and 28 adults, all entirely innocent of provocation, lost their lives. Public inquiries and hand-wringing statements from current officials on behalf of their forebears don’t constitute ‘closure’. Tony Blair ridiculously apologising for slavery he had no hand in healed no wounds; like all such token gestures it merely aggravates old sores and reminds people that these days they must feel wronged by somebody or other.
Whatever happened to ‘mustn’t grumble’? I’m not actually belittling the grievance or loss or wrongful accusations you feel have been levelled at you. I’m not denying that sometimes it really was a despicable action against you. I wouldn’t for a minute presume to know what agony you feel or what remedy you need. But I can see a bandwagon when I see one and these days bandwagons travel in battalions. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, is the saying, but there is only so much grease to go around.
That's it, I'm calling Esther!
Every action, Newton said, has an equal and opposite reaction. Currently the public mood is still, marginally, on the side of those demanding recognition. But there is a growing compassion fatigue which makes us wearier, year on year. Sympathy can quickly become indifference from over-exposure. Some grievances are best kept private, where the wounds can heal naturally... the British way. You might want to think twice before you ask the public to care about your own personal feelings. Maybe the Orgreave Hurty-Poorly Society could phone Childline?