Thursday, August 31, 2006



That is, unhappy firemen.

After they have been through the re-education camp, oops sorry, I mean diversity training, they may continue being unhappy, but they will not be anti-gay in any other sense.

The story of the Glaswegian firemen refusing to distribute leaflets at a gay march raises many points. For a start, the position of the firemens’ union, at present tactfully silent, but surely facing the possibility that its own brand of economic egalitarianism is put to the test against the gay lobby’s social egalitarianism.

Indeed, I was struck in reading this story, by its similarity to Mo Mowlem’s sending out a special branch officer to buy her tampons when she was Northern Ireland Secretary. Classy bird that she was, she dispatched the unfortunate man whose job it was to protect her life with the words, “It’s all part of my mission to civilise the Ulster male”.

And then there’s the ludicrous statement of the spokesman for Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, “Firefighters cannot, and will not, pick and choose to whom they offer fire safety advice”, as if the firemens’ refusal to distribute leaflets at a political rally (would they be disciplined for failing to turn up at the Tory conference?) is analogous to a refusing fire fighting advice to someone who happens to be gay.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Glasgow also made an interesting point about the conflict between conscience and ideology when he said, “That the officers concerned are being forced to undergo diversity training is alarming. The duty to obey one’s conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders”. Ouch!

But finally, the whole episode struck a chord with me because I am presently re-reading 1984. The Strathclyde Fire and Rescue spokesman said, “The nine now accept that they should have performed their duties. Their refusal was a fundamental breach of their core responsibilities”.

“…why do you imagine that we bring people to this place? [O’Brien asked Winston Smith]

“…No! Not merely to extract your confession, nor to punish you [But] to cure you! To make you sane! … We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.

“…You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston … We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission … We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us … We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him”

And to think, Orwell expected they would need electrocution and a phobia of rats to convert heretics! He didn’t anticipate the touchy-feely tyrant. Which reminds me: the authorities at Leeds University have been very quiet these last few months about Frank Ellis, the lecturer who was in such desperate need of race re-education. Dagnabbit, I mean race diversity training; I must check up…


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