Another day, another example of intolerance
The latest example to hit the headlines concerned the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ campaign. The Trust had required volunteers at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk to wear rainbow badges and lanyards and when some expressed discomfort at this they were told “we will ask you not to be on duty in a visitor-facing role.” After sustained criticism the Trust later reversed this decision, making it an “optional” matter.
The Trust had already faced criticism for producing a film about the donor of Felbrigg, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, being gay: friends of his expressed the sense of intrusion a deeply private man would have felt at being outed in this way. At best the Prejudice & Pride campaign is anachronistic in seeking to make gay icons of former property owners who would not have identified themselves in these terms; at worst it is cynical and coercive.
But of wider concern is the Trust’s lack of tolerance towards its volunteers. That those who did not wish to wear a symbol of the LGBT movement were deemed unsuitable to be seen by members of the public was as perverse as it would be to ban gay people from ‘visitor-facing’ positions. How ironic that something meant to represent diversity should be used as a hammer to enforce social conformity.
A situation such as this exposes the lie that the LGBT agenda is simply about diversity and equality. The reality is much more totalitarian - there is no point at which the movement will say ‘enough’. It would be unimaginable that an institution like the National Trust would compel all its volunteers to wear the emblems of Greenpeace, or Black Lives Matter or the Liberal-Democrats – so why should the rainbow flag be privileged in a way unlike any other minority or campaigning group?
It would be easy just to roll one’s eyes at this lunacy and ignore it but the way totalitarianism gains power is when the population at large are too cowed or too weary to resist it. We need to resist. What is at stake are our civil liberties. Not so long ago only the most swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist would have suggested something like this, but now it doesn’t feel so far fetched to say it is not that big a step from National Trust volunteers being banished from public view for not wearing a particular symbol to all of us being compelled to wear that symbol in order to participate in public life.
When we see injustice or unfairness masquerading as ‘diversity’ we should challenge it. An example: for the past six months I have been engaged in correspondence with my local council about how minority groups might have their symbols flown over the civic centre. This is because the rainbow flag flies for LGBT month but there is no process by which other groups can apply to have flags flown. This is unfair and shouldn’t go unchallenged. Note, I am not saying the LGBT flag should not be flown - only that if it is there should be a mechanism for other groups to apply for similar privileges.
To challenge things like this isn’t about being petty minded: it is to fight for meaningful diversity. It is to resist the creeping totalitarian impulse. Thankfully this time around there was sufficient resistance for the National Trust to reverse its decision. Let’s keep resisting intolerance.