If I were to name one defining (and, to me, the most endearing) characteristic of the English, I’d probably opt for a sense of humour. Take it away, and England would be like Germany, but without the efficiency.
Not only is a sense of humour prevalent in England, it’s also unique and diverse. It can be cutting or affable, self-deprecating or savage, dry or ribald, subtle or direct.
Above all, the English have one commendable trait that perhaps only the Jews possess to the same extent: they can laugh at themselves. In that they are different from the French, who only do a good job laughing at others. And of course the Germans’ mirth is only ever provoked by bodily functions.
If humour is a defining characteristic of the English, then losing it would be tantamount to cultural genocide. Which is exactly the catastrophe unfolding before our very eyes.
The unsmiling, self-righteous woke brigade is taking over with the stern resolve typical of all totalitarians. It’s declaring ever-expanding areas of life to be off-limits for humour, realising – as all totalitarians do – that laughter can defeat them faster than rage.
Back in the day, the Soviets rewarded political jokes with 10-year sentences in the Gulag death camps. The Nazis also quashed all attempts at humour: Charlie Chaplin lampooning Hitler was their worst enemy.
Our budding totalitarians have all the same instincts, but they don’t yet have the same power. Hence they can only contort their features into a sanctimonious grimace, voice their displeasure and demand that the hapless wag be censured.
That fate befell the BBC sports presenter Gary Lineker, in the past an England footballer. Gary naturally has impeccable left-wing credentials, which partly explains why he became BBC’s top earner.
Yet also contributing to his popularity are his professional skill, easy charm and, well, sense of humour. It’s that latter faculty that got him in trouble.
Covid gave Gary a bit of downtime but, now the Premier League is back, so is he. Lineker hasn’t changed much from what I can see, but the Premiership has – in line with the neo-totalitarian BLM diktat.
All footballers, managers and referees have to take the knee before each match. I can’t help thinking that, among the several hundred people involved, there have to be a few who disapprove of the international pogrom spree inspired by the BLM slogan – this without being racists.
But the genuflecting craze leaves no room for disagreement, not for someone who wishes to keep his job. Totalitarians demand uniformity and are prepared to enforce it with every means at their disposal.
As part of their re-education campaign, they demanded that every player replace his name on the back of his jersey with the words Black Lives Matter. Thus, instead of saying, for example, ‘Harry Kane 9’ the shirt now has to say ‘Black Lives Matter 9’.
Gary Lineker responded to that holier-than-thou absurdity by tweeting a little joke to his 7.5 million followers: “Had a tenner on Black Lives Matter to score the first goal.”
If he forgot that life in England is no longer a laughing matter, he was quickly reminded of it. A torrent of reprimands wasn’t slow in coming:
“Out of order Gary! Is casual racism a thing with you now?” “So the last two weekends it’s been a serious message, we’ve had TV shows cancelled but this joke is acceptable?” “This is making a mockery of the message so yeah I fully expect people to want him sacked.” “Wow. Nothing to joke about, Gary. You’re cancelled.”
So far Lineker has been neither sacked nor cancelled, but the BBC, though declining to comment, has contacted his agent. We’ll wait and see.
While waiting, however, we can observe that the ethical standards imposed by the woke mob are considerably stricter than those demanded by Jesus Christ. He, after all, only placed the Holy Ghost off-limits:
“Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
Never mind all manner of sin and blasphemy. These days – in England! – a man can lose his livelihood for making an innocent joke. He can’t yet lose his life, but one can see where things are going.