This article is taken from the October 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.
It is pretty remarkable that Jo Bartosch should imagine that “a shadowy cabal of patriarchs” is plotting to eliminate biological sex (The Critic: Aug/Sept 2021). The only people I have seen trying to do so are third-wave feminists. Nearly 25 years ago in Cambridge (where else?) I had the misfortune to share an office with a young woman who systematically dressed her first-born as a different sex on alternate days of the week. I often wonder how the unfortunate child turned out.
Burwash, East Sussex
The Reverend Marcus Walker (The Critic: Aug/Sept 2021) might be cheered to hear that “Bread of Heaven” has itself survived for decades in football stadiums (or certainly used to, when football chanting was more common). It is sung when the supporters’ team has equalised or taken the lead, and directed at their counterparts, with the lyrics “You’re not singing/ you’re not singing/ you’re not singing anymore/ you’re not singing anymore”.
Growing up was a gas
Charles Saumarez Smith’s piece headlined “Gaslighting London” brought back good memories for me. I was born in 1942 in the mining village of Bentley, near Doncaster, and lived in a basic two-up two-down terraced house with an outdoor loo until I left home in 1962. We had a gas standard lamp outside our front window. It had an auto timer switch for on/off and a man with a ladder visited regularly to adjust the mantle and check the timing.
Our street, about 200 yards long, had about four or five of these lamps under which, as kids, we played in the winter evenings and even attached make-shift rope swings to the cross pieces just under the lamp box.
More exciting, the A19 (main road from Doncaster to York) ran through our part of the village and it, too, had gas lighting. In the winter evenings, we worked our way from one gas lamp through the darkness to the next. Lovely, mysterious and exciting times.
Unfortunately, and inevitably, all the gas lamps were ripped out and the main road illuminated by the most ghastly orange sodium lamps. That killed stone dead all the excitement and mystery of being out in the evenings. I am not against progress but those old gas lamps were really rather special.
Ella Whelan is correct to argue that resilience should not be a dirty word (The Critic: Aug/Sept 2021).
If the only narrative now allowed is that of victimhood without moral agency then that contributes to a cultural norm of forlorn passivity; everybody can whinge about something, because all of our lives involve adversity of some sort.
A caution here is that subjective moral agency is a separate matter logically from the uneven distribution of objective victimisation. It is easier to rejoice in the tent of plenty than in poverty and in peacetime rather than in a war zone.
Some of us get through childhood unmolested but some do not (child sexual abuse is massively under-reported and so under-estimated). Surely subjective agency and objective evidence on differential risk are both relevant for us all to reflect upon?
Dr David Pilgrim
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe