Hard as I try, I struggle to learn all the isms and phobias to be shunned.
The moment I figure out the difference between haemophilia and homophobia, paediatrician and paedophile, agism and agility, misogyny and miso soup, a new offence is identified and proscribed.
Being mortally scared of inadvertently offending a vulnerable group of sensitive people, I try to keep up as best I can. After all, moral laws are part of divine revelation, and no one said they were given all at once.
Hence divinely inspired people should be expected to update morality as they go along. And it behoves the rest of us to obey new prescriptions and proscriptions as faithfully as we obey the old ones, earlier vouchsafed first to Moses and then to those multitudes at the Mount.
Those of us who refuse to do so or, worse still, mock the new morality risk public opprobrium. If they happen to be public figures, they may also find themselves under investigation – as the football presenter Gary Lineker has discovered.
His two colleagues on BBC Match of the Day, Danny Murphy and Alan Shearer, are both follicularly challenged or, if you insist on using outdated offensive vocabulary, bald. Hence they belong to a widely abused group requiring especially sensitive treatment.
Yet Lineker (and no report of this offence failed to mention his £1.75 million-a-year salary, a highly relevant fact) saw fit not just to make light of this handicap but actually to mock it. He thereby offended not only his two immediate targets, but all follicularly challenged persons – and also all of us who are out to uphold the standards of new morality.
The presenter discussed a “hair-raising” start to the Premier League season, adding “’unless of course you’re Alan Shearer or Danny Murphy”. He thought that blatant display of hairism was funny, and so did Messrs Shearer and Murphy – or rather they pretended to smile, doubtless trying to suppress the acute pain they felt inwardly.
Predictably, the incident generated numerous complaints from individuals and institutions alike. We, sensitive people, will no longer tolerate offensive remarks. A spokesman for Alopecia UK certainly won’t: “It’s a shame that those in the media,” he stated, “still use that platform in a way that reinforces negativity towards hair loss.”
And, he continued, “In today’s society, it seems that jokes about bald men… can lead to men with hair loss feeling they are not supported when they struggle to come to terms with their change in appearance.”
The BBC is investigating the incident, and none too soon. After all, its own internal guidance states that “The BBC is for everyone and should include everyone whatever their background.”
Presumably, Lineker’s criminal quip has the effect of excluding about half of the adult male population, who’ll now give Match of the Day a wide berth. Since my own bald spot is bigger than Lineker’s, though not as big as Shearer’s and Murphy’s, I hereby undertake never again to watch that programme – or at least not to tell anybody if I do.
We must all of us, follicularly challenged or otherwise, close ranks and fight against hairism – and if I’m the first to come up with this neologism, then I’m proud. Lineker’s crime makes my hair, what’s left of it, stand on end.
We should be vigilant and never forget that everything about modernity must be progressive. Including its madness.