Wednesday, 29 January 2020
The sickly yellow fluorescent lights in the canteen made a harsh buzzing noise, like an angry wasp trapped in a dustbin, as the queue slowly shuffled towards the grimy servery. The usual fare was rapidly cooling and Winston knew that by the time he received his daily ration of unspecified meat it would be sitting in a sea of congealing fat, surrounding the soft mound of overcooked vegetables, or at least what passed for vegetables in the Ministry of Truth cafeteria.
“Morning, Smith!” A fat, jowly blob of a man, always unnervingly cheery, greeted Winston as he joined the queue. “See the game last night?” Winston looked around him quickly and with dread in his eyes. Big Brother was always watching, always listening and always on the alert for words and deeds which fell outside the approved list. Only yesterday had come the announcement: Football banter bad. Winston tried to hush his interlocutor but it was too late; two men in party uniforms had dragged George – that was his name – from the line and began laying into him with batons.
The background murmur in the canteen became silent as everybody obediently turned to watch the beating. Nobody was quite sure if they should join in, cheer, or just stare with hopeless eyes at the inevitability of such punishment. But one thing they did know was they must be seen to witness the act; a good party member must show no squeamishness and be prepared to turn in their neighbour, their friends, their family, if any indiscretions came to light. Big Brother might be watching over you, but only you can protect yourself from harm, if necessary by using those you hold dear as human shields.
Seventy years ago, George Orwell wrote the dystopic nightmare, 1984, a work which has become synonymous with the worst excesses of party politics and the intrusion of the state into every part of your life, even your thoughts. Today, it is the go-to reference for every barmy utterance from the Joy Police. Opposite meanings are a trope in the world of Ingsoc, so you all know what is really meant by joy.
We are supposed to avoid offending anybody of a different hue, culture, religion, accent, gender identity, sexual orientation or philosophy, either deliberately or by accident. We are expected to anticipate that people may perceive offence where none was intended and we are minded to curb our tendency to use micro-aggressions. So subtle are such slights that sometimes even those on the lookout for harm don’t manage to nip them in the bud; instead they must pore over every sentence, every phrase, every roll of the eyes, interpreting the maliciousness through the lens of white privilege.
Thus it came as no surprise that on Monday Ann Francke, Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Management Institute appeared on the Today programme to berate us about office football talk. Why? Why, because it is not inclusive enough and may alienate those who have no interest in football. Even worse, it could lead onto – are you ready for this – banter. As we all know by now banter and what she referred to as ‘laddish culture’ is literally Hitler.
In a way I guess we can seek out the positives here and realise that if this is what the CMI is getting exercised over, then all of the other problems must be solved. The devil makes work for idle hands to do and I can only imagine that the very acme of idle handedness was responsible for this. Perhaps they could turn their attention to the hate crime of women talking about babies and reality shows in the workplace? Or better yet, run these genius ideas past a living, breathing human being before parading such idiocy for all to see.