Optimism has been expressed in some quarters that our poisonous culture wars will fade away under the impact of a global emergency with real victims and real heroes. So how’s that playing out? Not terribly well.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower, the ship that sailed from Plymouth for the New World bearing 102 Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England to start a new life. Commemorations are being organised by Mayflower 400, a UK-wide body that has created a variety of resources to enable children to learn about the historic voyage.
Teachers who belong to the National Education Union, however, are calling for the material to be “withdrawn and reviewed” on the ground that it whitewashes a “colonial land-grab” and the Puritans’ links to slavery.
Indeed, the crisis has turned one aspect of grievance culture inside out. Pre-virus, the baby-boomer generation was blamed for buying their prosperity, in the form of expensive houses or big pension pots, at the expense of the young who had been priced out of houses, education and financial security. Now though, some baby-boomers are raging about proposals to “imprison” them, as they put it, in extended lockdown while the young may be freed to get on with their lives.
But such shielding is intended solely to protect the old. So while victim culture has turned the harming of others into a human right, virus culture is turning the right to protection from harm into into a denial of human rights.
Like Covid-19, which it is feared may mutate, grievance culture appears to be adapting to create even more division and disharmony.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.