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The Silliness of the Ultra-Sensitive Brigade

Written February 2023

It is distressing to note that the modern age has ushered in a crisis of mental health in the western world, and children and teenagers are some of the worst affected. Generally speaking, families are better off than in times past, and children have more materially, homes are more comfortable and, on the surface, there should be fewer things to worry about. So why the crisis? Sadly, it could be that the crisis has arisen because of this progress, not despite it.

Like muscles that atrophy without use, it seems that the fortitude hitherto inherently possessed by humans has withered, as life has become more comfortable. In days gone by, while their parents concerned themselves with work and keeping a functioning home with food on the table, children found fun where they could, and spent time with their peers, outside the home, exploring the streets or the countryside, and learning and developing the way children had for generations. Of course, poverty was more widespread, as was illness, and the death of family members was more frequently experienced at a young age. But children, on the whole, coped, and grew up into rounded and capable adults. They flexed those proverbial muscles of stoicism, and faced their challenges head on. They had little choice.

Fast forward to the 2000s, and family life has become unrecognisable from those earlier decades. Children (again, broadly speaking) now experience little to no adversity, and what few difficulties they may encounter are resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible by mum or dad. It is a well-touted claim now, but a point that still stands is that much harm was done to the resilience of our children when schools started to phase out so-called old fashioned ideas like ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ in games and sports. Play is a hugely important tool in the learning process for children – in fact, for the young in many species. When a child learns that sometimes he or she will win, and sometimes he or she will lose, it is an important life lesson for facing challenges and disappointments in later life.

So, with depleted resilience, and surrounded by social media platforms such as TikTok where millions of people take centre stage in their very own cringe-fest of me-me-me-ness, our children are falling prey to dangerous self-obsession, and the horribly misguided idea that if they are not validated for each and every whim, then they are oppressed, and have a right to throw a tantrum that a toddler would be proud of.

The over-sensitivity they are nurturing spills over into pugnacious rants, spurred on by groups who take advantage of these young delusional people, and fired towards all manner of elements of life and society; Statues are pulled down of historical figures who are deemed to have profited from the slave trade hundreds of years in the past (while a paedophilic statue sculpted by a paedophile who had sex with his own children remains proudly on the building of BBC House); White people are branded as inherently racist, purely based on the colour of their skin (the irony is never acknowledged); Men and women are re-labelled ‘cis’, so as not to offend the gender-non-conforming folk; Pronouns have seemingly become deadly weapons, mortally wounding if used incorrectly; Priceless artworks in galleries are vandalised with paint and soup, by ‘climate activists’, who do not understand or are ignoring basic scientific realities, in their quest to be seen to be caring of and brave for the cause.

But this time, the self-righteous, social justice, virtue signalling brigade have gone too far – the gloves are off. They have gone after the master, the genius that was Roald Dahl. This seems an apt time to quote the tiny, angry little climate warrior, who could be a character invented by Dahl, and sketched by Quintin Blake: “How dare you!”

Yesterday, the news broke that Puffin, the publishers of the wonderful and brilliant stories by Roald Dahl, have brought in an outfit called ‘Inclusive Minds’, whose ‘About’ page is loaded with buzz words: ‘authentic representation’, ‘lived experience’, and ‘multiple facets of diversity’. The ‘collective’ that is ‘Inclusive Minds’, in their words, ‘works with the children’s book world’ to, well, in my words, effectively tell them that old classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are disgusting pieces of hate-filled shit, and that they must be edited to exclude any language that might offend the silly brigade, even though nobody has actually complained about being offended. What a load of whizzpopping (if you haven’t read the BFG, you really should) bullshit. Roald Dahl crafted his children’s stories with such beauty and brilliance, and with a touch of darkness that was a masterstroke in giving children a sense that life is sometimes hard, but that with endurance, humour and strength, it is possible to find the light in the world. His grasp of the psychology of children was remarkable, and it is no wonder that the worlds he created in the pages of his books are some of the most treasured in the childhoods of generations.

But now, thanks to the silly people, Augustus Gloop is no longer “fat”, but instead “enormous”; Oompa Loompas are no longer “small men” but “small people”, and Miss Trunchbull is no longer “a most formidable female” (the word female is, like the pronouns, mortally wounding apparently) but instead is “a most formidable woman”. These might sound like minor changes, but it gets worse. The brilliant little rhyme that the centipede in James and the Giant Peach recites has been completely re-written. Dahl’s version? “Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat, and tremendously flabby at that, Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire, and dry as a bone, only drier.” Comedy gold. The Fun-Sponge Brigade’s version? “Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute, and deserved to be squashed by the fruit, Aunt Spiker was much of the same, and deserves half of the blame.” Could not sound any duller.

This brutal assault on these magical stories is akin to a book burning. Where will children learn resilience if we take away any and all examples of the darker side of humanity? Recently, we learned that university libraries have, in a stunning turn of wokery, slapped ‘trigger warnings’ onto books, including the works of Dickens, Shakespeare, and Chaucer. And just last week, a ridiculous woman named Emmie Harrison-West wrote the most overly dramatic piece in The Metro (hardly high-brow, to be fair) describing her experience while she was reading a book: “As my eyes darted across sentences, my vision became hazy with tears and I felt a lump grow in my throat. Bile was rising while I started to shake, reading about the rape of a woman around my age.” Oh, the drama! She goes on to argue that books should always contain trigger warnings if they contain such content, as this would allow her to “prepare [her]self mentally and emotionally for it”. You are talking about reading a book, dear, not undergoing radical medical treatment.

We are raising a generation of wimps with no backbones, and no capacity for facing life, and all that it inevitably throws at us. A generation who also lack any sense of humour, and the ability to see the funny side of life. I hope and pray that the tide turns, and sanity returns to the fore. Right now, it feels like we are living in the middle of the worst kind of trogglehumper, and if it goes on like this, we’re all bopmuggered.

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