Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Friday, December 10, 2004

And call off Christmas!

There's been angry muttering in the office this week. And it's got some very dark undertones.

I knew something was going wrong when my colleague unexpectedly went off on one. And then I noticed a few, slightly less right-wing ones do the same. The mumbling always took the same form
"and no-one's going to stop me celebrating Christmas. It's my right. I don't care if it offends anyone."

Depending on their political beliefs this may be followed up with a further:
"Whose country is it anyway?"

I'd been dismissing it all week as, well, poorly informed paranoia. It all stems from some unpleasantness a while back, when an overzealous manager asked a particularly lippy member of staff to take down her flags she put up for St George's day. She cited "multiculturalism", whilst appearing to fundamentally misunderstand the concept of a multicultural office. I'm not a fan of nationalism, but the English flags went pretty well with the Portugese flag nearby, and I thought that was how it was supposed to work. And this issue has raised its ugly head ever since April, frequently with that sinister undertone of "Whose country is it anyway?" floating to the surface.

So I didn't really take it seriously until yesterday, when the culprit immediately seemed to become clear. The Sun (who else) lead with the scream "IS THIS REALLY THE MOST OFFENSIVE IMAGE IN BRITAIN?". No, this wasn't trailling a topless teenager on page three, but instead featured a nativity scene. The caption read "Bureaucrats in Birmingham city council banned....may offend muslims"

Yes, the classic right-wing scare story about the left: Political Correctness. Throw in the words "Council" "Bureaucrats" and "banned" and you can pretty much make your own phrase. And as an extra bonus they got to blame muslims too.

Obviously I wasn't impressed. Although the right-wing all agree that Political Correctness is th biggest threat to society, banning Christmas is just so comically ridiculous, there's no way anyone could fall for that one. Like the Grinch or Alan Rickman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", it's just not believeable.

I was thinking about this story with a little trepidation this morning. The only thing that could make the feast of conspicious and economically useful consumption accelerate still further is the vague suspicion that it may be cancelled. Even though if there's one festival that's definitely not under any threat, it's Christmas. It's gone from being a single day to taking up a whole season, and shows no sign of letting up.

When I arrived at work this morning, I was stunned to be told by one of the other secretaries that staff in the other team had been asked not to put up Christmas decorations.

"Who said that?" I asked, still not believing that could happen in the real world.

"Greasy Slimeball", she said. (These weren't her exact words).


Half an hour later, my segment of the office was glittering with stars, tinsel and evergreen leaves. As I balanced a pinecone on the end of the desk, I went off on one.

"...and the point of multiculturalism is that everyone is able to celebrate any festival that's important to them. I want incense for Diwali, candles for Chanukah and seamless robes for Eid...even if that's likely to be a token gesture at best, as Borehamwood's pretty monocultural and this office has all of 3 non-white employees....Hell, I'll even take Christmas lights. It has to be all or nothing, and if we banned all festivals and all diversity, life would be grey and meaningless."

Or words to that effect. I just can't help but think that I just fell into a massive trap to get me to put up Christmas decorations. And dragged everyone else into it.

Although if anyone asks, they're actually solstice decorations (and trust me, it's got more to do with solstice than the birth of Christ). I'm just hoping Greasy Slimeball comes over and asks me about it.

Maybe I should blame the muslims. Everyone else does.


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