How should we deal with people who sneeze in public places? Stephen Jackson, aged 49, has found himself in court as a consequence of taking direct action against those people who are kind enough to share their nasal mucus with the rest of us. Stephen’s answer is usually to slap the offender across the head and say: ‘Don’t sneeze in front of me.’ He will be sentenced in a couple of weeks on four similar charges of assault, the victims all being people who sneezed when he was nearby.
There was one other charge, mind, which involved spitting at a baby in its pram. Now, it may well be that we’ve all spat at a baby at one time or another — but to my mind that doesn’t make it acceptable behaviour. No matter how smug and infuriating the ‘My Baby First’ fraternity can be — hogging the seats on public transport, demanding preferential treatment wherever they might be, smirking indulgently as their foul issue screeches at a level several decibels above a concert by the Who, or lobbing their mammaries out at the first available opportunity in order to ensure that their brat grows up with no sense of deferred gratification — still, I would aver, spitting at the baby itself is usually inappropriate. Spitting at the parents, preferably surreptitiously, is another kettle of fish, of course. Or ‘accidentally’ kicking them hard on the shins when you get up to leave the restaurant, or wherever it is that the creature is being fed.
Anyway, I digress. Mr Jackson has something against sneezing and is effecting his own ‘community justice’, as Stalinist liberals would put it. There is a lot of this about right now. I suppose it is something to do with social media — and people feeling that they are empowered to impose their own values on the rest of us.
For there is also Andy Leek. Andy uses the Tube in London and has become distressed by the number of fellow commuters he sees every day who do not look very happy. They do not look very happy, Andy, because travelling by Tube is not usually a pleasant experience and it is always made worse by some goatee-bearded, bright-eyed halfwit looking at you with faux compassion. Mr Leek has taken to inserting uplifting messages in the free Metro newspaper and leaving them on the train seat. These messages include, but are far from confined to: ‘Try to love yourself as much as dogs love walkies’ and ‘Chasing a dream is the same as living it — so what are you waiting for?’ and ‘Risks are vegetables for the soul.’
Yes, yes, I can imagine right now how cheered up you would be, confronted by one of these asinine, clichéd, boilerplate axioms while stuck in the tunnel between Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters. I suspect you would feel an overwhelming need to spit at Andy or, if Andy was not nearby at the time, maybe at a baby in its pram, just for the sake of it. It is the presumption that offends most, of course; closely followed by an irritation at the stunning vapidity of Andy’s exhortations.
Mr Jackson and Mr Leek both have reasonable excuses for their intrusive behaviour. Mr Jackson suffers from schizophrenia and Mr Leek works in advertising — two sides of the same coin, then. I wonder if something similar afflicts Marin Alsop, who was employed by the BBC to conduct the Last Night of the Proms? OK, she is an American lesbian feminist who looks a bit like Sandi Toksvig, but that is not a disability quite on the same level as being schizophrenic, or working in advertising.
Whatever, in between ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘God Save the Queen’, she divested herself of a tirade of leftish internationalist banalities, on about the same intellectual level as Mr Leek’s injunctions. There were not-so-veiled references to the migrants flooding here from the third world — let them in, show them love! — and lots of other vacuous drivel quite out of keeping with the tradition of the evening. Just shut your mouth, pick up your baton and give us ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ again, poppet. The concert is not about you, Marin. It’s about us. That’s why we wave those flags.
But we’re back with the baby in the pram, aren’t we? If we were to spit — and I felt like spitting when I heard this generic liberal love-everybody hog swill — then spitting at Ms Alsop would have been a waste of perfectly good phlegm. Something else was to blame, wasn’t it?
Listen, BBC. You’ve at last got rid of Clarkson, which is what you wanted all along. No more of that laddish and un-PC Top Gear. You parachute your most expensive presenters in for half an hour to the safe bits of Syria or Hungary or Serbia in order to let them emote for a couple of minutes and convince us we should open our doors to an unlimited number of what you call refugees. You’ve got a big four-part special coming up on BBC3 about how appallingly racist white Britain is today. On Radio 4 your presenters react with outrage when accused of being biased in favour of the European Union (despite the welter of evidence to support that point). You have your middle-class liberal agenda — fine, OK, we know all that and while it galls from time to time, we’ll rub along. All we ask is that you let us have the Last Night of the Proms: pomp, circumstance and patriotism, unleavened by your usual bien-pensant ill-thought-out sentiments. Can’t we just have that? No mention of refugees, vibrant diversity, vulnerable people, etc?
Nope. The BBC hates the Last Night of the Proms. It hates it as much as it hated Jeremy Clarkson. So they bought in a foreign lesbian feminist and told her to stick it to the audience — the BBC’s licence-fee payers. Next year, if it’s still running, the conductor will be either Jihadi John or Jeremy Corbyn.