There are a number of subjects in today’s Britain that you can more-or-less guarantee will be among the areas of expertise of your local pub bore. You know the guy I mean; still lives at home with Mum, his job is nothing more than a desperate waste of his huge intellect, and he bathes regularly (in the same way that Halley’s Comet regularly passes Earth). He sits on the same bar stool in the same part of the pub, cracks the same jokes, has the same conversations. But he’s an expert you know, don’t ever doubt it:
“Political correctness” – tick. “Immigration” – tick. “Crime” – tick. “Health & Safety” – tick.
Oh yes, he’s an expert is Ken (though of course sometimes he’s a Colin or a Brian). A veritable mine of information, always ready to give you the benefit of his opinion, whether you ask for it or not. Especially when you haven’t, actually. Ken’s logic goes along the lines of “political correctness is nonsense, immigration and crime are out of control and ‘health and safety’ is both nonsense and out of control”. Obviously Ken refers to the latter as “elf n safety”, which always guarantees a laugh. Well, at least from Ken.
The problem with Ken and his friends (he assures me that he has some, despite a worrying lack of any visual evidence) isn’t necessarily what they think, but their steadfast refusal to discuss their opinions with you. They assert the “facts” of a matter, not as a starting-point for debate, but as both an opening statement and a closing argument all rolled into one. You are expected to sign-up there and then for Ken’s manifesto. Questions are for cissies, students, piss-takers and liberals. They serve no purpose, and in Ken’s Britain they would be banned. Ken’s opinion is not up for discussion having, as it does, the advantage of being “common sense”, whether it’s in respect of the Euro Crisis, proposed changes to cricket’s LBW law, or the possibility of life on Mars.
Once, after a particularly heavy session, I decided to pursue Ken on one of his favourite subjects: “political correctness” (of the “gone mad” variety, obviously). I wondered aloud (far too aloud) whether Ken just labelled anything he disagreed with as “political correctness” and if, to disprove my suspicion, he could name any policy with which he disagreed but that wasn’t at the same time an example of “political correctness”. I was attempting to lure him into a trap as, inspite of the predictable effects of seven or eight pints of strong lager, I was still slightly more coherent than Ken. He’d taken a half-day off work and had devoted it solely to improving the share price of Theakston’s Old Peculier. He misunderstood my question, which was pretty inevitable in the circumstances.
“Kids playing conkers with goggles on…bleedin’ political correctness gone mad” he raged.
My suggestion that such a scenario was more a “health & safety” issue than anything else fell on two very large, purple, swollen, deaf ears. In Ken’s defence, the sight of his fourteenth pint of Old Peculier being knocked from the bar just seconds earlier by a rogue Irish Wolfhound had possibly diverted his attention from the issue at hand, though I might be being unnecessarily charitable in that assessment.
“All the same” he slurred, “whatever you call them”.
Quite why things that were the same would have different names was a question I thought of posing, but I could tell he was in no mood for that. Besides, it looked as if the huge, unsuspecting canine was on its way back, and Ken needed all his powers of concentration in order to deliver his right foot to the precise area of the beast’s anatomy that would cause it most pain.
Such is the nature of debate with Ken and his ilk. They “know” what is “true” and anyone attempting to challenge their views, perhaps through the medium of logical thought, can expect harsh words but little in the way of enlightenment. These men think for themselves, despite their opinions corresponding almost totally with the editorials of one or two of our more despicable daily rags. They “call a spade a spade” of course, which is usually code for being rude and boorish and completely unacquainted with the possibility that you might be wrong about something. They certainly don’t “suffer fools gladly”, and why would they?
One fool in your life is plenty, isn’t it Ken?