In a time when people are lightning-fast to take offence where none is intended and councils ban events which have been going on for centuries just in case of some freak accident the likes of which has never, ever happened before, the following examples of overreaction are probably unsurprising. Just very annoying.
Colin Atkinson is a 64 year-old former soldier who works for Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) and has kept a palm cross on his company van’s dashboard.
WDH said he failed to comply with company policy which prohibits employees from displaying personal items in vehicles.
The company said it had started an investigation into the incident which could result in disciplinary action.
So, if someone puts, say, a cuddly toy beside the windscreen or displays a small plastic Homer Simpson on the dashboard, or for that matter, hangs up a novelty air freshener then they will be subject to an investigation?
Can you imagine the news story?: “A Yorkshire housing association has suspended one of its employees after a Homer Simpson toy was found in his van. A spokesman for the company said that they didn’t want to give anyone the impression that they had a sense of humour.”
Mr Atkinson said of his case:
“I’m really shocked and surprised by all of this. I have always had that cross in my van. It’s a symbol of my personal faith. It’s not offensive. It’s in a discreet place and I am acting lawfully.”
Sounds reasonable in a fair and free society, yes? But…
WDH, where Mr Atkinson has worked for 15 years, asked him to remove the 8ins (23cm) cross and started an investigation after a tenant complained about it.
I never know whether to believe this excuse. Did a tenant really complain, or does someone want Mr Atkinson out? Maybe at 64 he isn’t as quick as he once was and they can’t sack him because of his age.
Or maybe someone really did complain. What was the person’s problem? I know that a few people out there have as serious a reaction to seeing a cross as Dracula in the noonday sun.
I knew a man who delivered those teensy Bible tracts round this area. You’ve probably seen the type. Maybe even benefited from them. These ones were A7 size, so an eighth of A4. He was telling me that he was popping these through the letterboxes in a village up the road when a man he had just delivered to chased after him, shouting all sorts of obscenities and warning him to stay away.
A short time later, this old friend of mine was enjoying a well-earned cuppa in the village cafe when the other fella walked in. My friend asked him if he could buy him a cup of tea, to which the reply was, “[Bleep] off!”
Maybe this was the sort who complained about the cross in the van. Maybe staff were scared of him and thought they better “comply” with his demands. Or maybe the complainer was of a different faith and the staff felt that the easy option was to stick the knife into their colleague. Or maybe it was one of the army of the professionally offended, who on spotting the cross, nearly fainted at such an obvious display of homophobic and Islamophobic hatred!
Here is some more dramatic overreacting with Birmingham Cathedral’s decision to ban the public from taking pictures of the choir.
Birmingham Cathedral has erected a notice near its entrance saying that ‘for child protection purposes photography and videoing is not permitted during services and rehearsals’.
But a child protection charity called the ban ‘ludicrous and unenforceable’ and anti-censorship campaigners have accused the cathedral of ‘hysteria’.
But if you want to see overreaction at first hand, you could always burn a Koran and have someone video it. A BNP candidate for next month’s Welsh assembly elections, Sion Owens, was charged with a public order offence, after police were passed a video appearing to show him burning a copy of the Koran.
The case was withdrawn last week, but the inquiry continues.
Why? If religious things are so offensive, surely it’s good to get rid of them? You would think that the “authorities” would praise Mr Owens for disposing of something horrible and in a way that it couldn’t be used again.
Or is it just cross-shaped items which are offensive and must be got rid of?
It makes me wonder if I should carry a garlic bulb with me anytime I have contact with the local council or police. Vampirism seems to be on the increase among the powers that be.
The really ironic part is that the things people should be getting angry and upset about, like the loss of freedoms and soveriegnty and the re-engineering of our society are seen as mostly irrelevant to the majority. If they think about them at all.
I guess that’s the idea. To fill our minds with utter tosh to deflect our attention away from the important things. The things that really matter.
Everyone is now supposed to live in fear of terrorists and perverts and that means that the likes of Islamists and paedophiles are setting the agenda.
Not by their actions, but by our overreaction.