We have had the fuss about the cinema chains not showing advertisements for the Lord’s Prayer before the ‘Star Wars’ films on the spurious ground it might upset someone; given what’s in many modern films, if that was their main criteria, they’d show a lot fewer films. This week’s loons are the people who run Rochester railway station, who have decreed that a proposed mural showing St John the evangelist, cannot be put up because it might offend folk. It turns out that they think something overtly Christian might offend ‘multi-cultural values’. I am not sure what a multi-cultural value is, but if it does not involve respecting the traditions of Rochester – which has been Christian since the seventh century, if not earlier – then it is worth asking what these values might be?
What makes folk cross is that they know what is really going on here. It is, in its own way, what happened in far more serious circumstances in towns like Rochdale and Rotherham, where the police, aware that gangs of Pakistani men were trafficking young white girls into prostitution, turned a blind eye for fear of being thought ‘racist’; it is better to be thought an incompetent idiot and risk damaging young women’s lives than to incur the charge of ‘racist’. We know this, and one reason there is so much simmering resentment among many folk is that even to say this is to incur the charge of being ‘racist’ – ‘racist’ has become the all purpose ‘shut up you’ epithet.
The bosses of Network Rail, who run the station, have not been able to identify a single individual who is offended or would be offended, but it doesn’t matter, even the mere possibility someone somewhere might be offended is enough. ‘Multi-cultural values’ appear not to be about communities and individuals in them having identities, and yet we all have traditions with which we identify, and it seems entirely unclear why that of the majority community – which is a Christian tradition – should be set aside. No one was proposing compulsory baptism or conversion en masse, it was just an icon painted by someone whose father was a Muslim – there’s multi-cultural for you. But it is the wrong sort of multi-culturalism.
Network Rail is funded by the tax payers, as the art would have been, and as many arts projects in the UK have been. There’s been many an installation and play to which I have roundly objected, but I never expected anyone to stop it for that reason – no one died and made me God. Live and let live is not only a really good old English value, it is what will make any form of diverse culture work. In our local flooding disaster, no one asks whether I am a Baptist, or whether the chap driving the 4×4 is a Muslim (he is) they are glad to see us and happy to have food and blankets. The local mosque is working with the local Christian churches, and we’re getting on helping folk who need it. That is the sort of ‘multi-culturalism’ we need more of.