I want to venture a little further here and explore the idea of the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ and its products. Those products include, and are symbolised by, everything the Mail or Express or Sun might describe as ‘political correctness gone mad’. Those who feel themselves restricted by these things understand them as the imposition of values that run counter to certain atavistic instincts relating to gender, sexuality, race, diversity, health, dependency, ceremony, and, very importantly, to the language, that underlies them all.
It is not so much that certain people are hostile to foreigners, to women, to different social practices, to those claiming support and so forth: most people, most of the time can handle that and are capable of great kindness and generosity. I know UKIP supporters eminently capable of open generosity, people in fact more generous than I am.
It is, I suspect, the way in which liberal values are articulated and put into practice that has long galled them. The 'liberal elite' they say, don’t talk to them but dismiss them out of hand. We oppress them chiefly through law but also through opaque and often patronising language. We don’t argue, we impose, exclude and shame. And they are sick of it, they cry. Why should they stop doing something they, and possibly their parents, have always done? Why should they be made to feel ashamed of something they’ve said or thought? Why should their instincts be outlawed by those who don't live like them, live where they live, in their circumstances. We, who are comfortable and superior and elite have no right to lecture them.
This has long bothered me and I have always felt it would get us – we ‘metropolitan, liberal elites’, we ‘citizens of nowhere’ - into trouble at some stage. Now that trouble is here. Not that our values are bad but that they are good but we don’t argue them in terms to which they can relate. Because we impose them. Because we don’t care for their values or examine them. Because we are scared to even touch them with a bargepole for fear of our own censoriousness.
That, at least, is the charge and there is some truth in it. Why, you might ask, engage in Socratic dialogues with racists or sexists. Why not just tell them what they are and let them understand these are bad things to be. Why not just fire bad words at them, and indeed at any of us who don't seem to get with whichever programme is going?
Bad words are like bad eggs. Once those eggs are thrown they stink up those they have hit. We may even compliment ourselves on our aim. Hit that one fair and square, we smile, angry but smug.
You can’t come in stinking like that, says the notice on the door. But there seems to be something of a crowd outside.