What! And Piglet too?
Everyone has the right to whinge, object, protest and complain. Indeed, the "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" is a well-known caricature in the British political landscape. So, in this latest example of rank stupidity and bureaucratic absurdity, I do not blame the whinging whiner, but the authorities who acceded to his ridiculous objection – and those who supported it - need to be shown up for the idiots that they are.
So, what happened? Well, it appears that a Muslim employee of Dudley Council complained about pig-shaped novelty items in the workplace – in this case a stuffed animal ‘stress reliever’ – saying they were ‘offensive to Muslims’. The innocent promotional giveaway, it seems, has now caused anxiety rather than relieving it.
The stress releiver was apparently distributed by pigsback.com, a direct marketing company. According to their webiste, the company's name is derived from an old Gaelic expression "ar muin na muice", meaning "to be on a winner" or "to be a step ahead.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Now calendars showing cartoon pigs, porcelain figurines and even a tissue box with a picture of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Piglet have been ordered removed or covered up by the Council honchos.
According to a report in the Express & Star News, the move has not improved office relationships. On the contrary, one staff member, who remains anonymous, told the paper: "It's caused a bit of an atmosphere in the office. The staff did comply but it's just crazy - things like ornaments that have been on desks for years have had to be removed."
But not everyone aggress. Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practicing Muslim, said he agreed with the action taken:
"If it is a request made by an individual and other officers can reason a compromise it is a good thing, it is a tolerance and acceptance of their beliefs and understanding," he said.
It is this sort of action that trivialises real oppression and real offence. Few would dispute that a pigs head left on the steps of a Mosque or a Synagogue is a vicious and offensive act, but to ban cartoon pigs on a box of tissues from the workplace on similar grounds? Doesn’t that just make a mockery of tolerance?
I say this as a defender of “political correctness”. I think it is perfectly legitimate to take steps to be inclusive and minimise offence. It is perfectly reasonable to ask for halaal, kosher and vegetarian options in staff canteens if there is a demand for it. I support the move to change “Merry Christmas” to “Seasons Greetings” in acknowledgement of the fact that many religious groups and secularists celebrate Winterfest in different ways. In spite of the hysterical ravings of “Councils Ban Xmas” that appeared in some tabloids, it was the right decision. Workplaces ought to be, if not entirely secular, at least faith-neutral.
But seeming to equate a piggybank on a desk or a video of ‘Babe, Pig in the City’ left lying around with the acts of neo-Nazis is really not helping the case for genuine political correctness. Rather than fuelling religious tolerance, it fuels resentment – and the tabloids!