BBC Radio 4's Today programme is the way my day begins - I wake up when my radio alarm decides it is time for me to start listening. It's good in a number of ways - I get to keep abreast of the news, and it is excellent therapy to be exposed to rational, articulate people who do not curse or communicate in txt-speak. Unfortunately the content is not necessarily going to improve my blood pressure. Never mind. Each new day comes with no guarantees - just be glad you lived to see it. To misquote Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates - it is bad for your teeth and you don't like most of the centres.
This morning I am, of course, mostly impressed by the continuing adventures of Messrs Trump and Kim. I have been keeping a gentle eye on the betting odds against The Tronald completing his term of office - just for academic interest, you understand. Now I am wondering what sort of price I could get on none of us being alive by the end of his term of office. Problem, as someone will point out, is that I would have difficulty collecting my winnings.
To brighten things up a bit, I stayed with the programme this morning, and was confronted by a spokesperson (female) from a fine single-interest group called Let Clothes Be Clothes - they are committed to campaigning against what they term gender stereotyping, and their target area is eliminating the distinction between boys' and girls' clothes. She was celebrating the fact that John Lewis, the very famous and successful UK department store, have removed the signs from their children's clothes - all clothes they sell for children aged up to 14 are now just clothes. Now there's a mighty step forward. I have a 6-foot-tall, 14 year old son who would be prepared to headbutt you in the mouth if you suggested that he may no longer wear boys' clothing, and I do not believe this is entirely due to stereotyping or conditioning to which we have unreasoningly subjected him.
Initially I listened to the item to see if it were a wind-up, or if someone was about to pour a pail of water over the spokesperson's head, but - no - it was for real.
Now, of course I disapprove of stereotyping or prejudicial behaviour of any sort - at heart I even disapprove of my own stereotyping of women with irritating voices on the radio early in the morning, especially women who have the answer to where the human race has been going wrong for some thousands of years.
I don't really care what people wear - if they are comfortable with how they look and with the reaction it produces in others, and if it doesn't upset anyone else or break any laws then that's fine. If a medical examination indicates that an individual is male but he chooses to wear girls' clothes that is fine too, but I would be happier if he bought them in a girls' clothes department rather than having all the rest of us pretend that there is no such thing.
For my liking, this is all too soon after some other worthy on early morning radio was enthusing about the need to encourage young children to reject their default gender if they wanted - there will be a queue of volunteers to help them, counsel them - maybe sign them up? Perhaps individual councils or schools will score points according to how many defenceless children they can trap into making some blood-curdling mistake?
I fear I am not selling myself well here, but I am worried. Coping with individual preferences and exceptional life choices is positive and necessary; making such minority lifestyles into a new mainstream, and/or forcing the rest of us to change to fit in - that's maybe not so positive. If there is a serious market demand for unisex clothing then that's a different thing - let's have shops that cater for it. That's well and good.
Imagine: you have a 12-year-old son and you wish to buy him some new shirts for school. Seems straightforward enough. OK - where will you buy them? If he is forced to buy a gender-free, non-stereotyped "child's" shirt, which way will it button? How will it line up with his school uniform regs? What other issues have not been thought through? How much trouble are we saving up for the future in mental illnesses and young people being unable to adjust to society - not being able to understand what they now are, what they should relate to? Frankly, I do not care how much of a personal triumph the squeaky woman on the radio felt this is - I think it is a mess.
The Mad Padre recently summed this up with his customary breathtaking precision. I shall attempt to give a resume of what he said, though I am by nature more verbose and less precise. The problem with so-called political correctness, he said, is that it is nominally aimed at increasing tolerance, yet in itself it is completely intolerant; it is decreed absolutely that you will show and offer tolerance to such and such a group or personal status, and here are the strict, inarguable terms and conditions, and here is a list of the things we shall do to you if we decide you have been intolerant.
I'm keeping a bucket of water handy.