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21st Century taboos

Here are sime taboos that have ocme into play in our present century. Let me know what you think and if you can also name a few.

They are the 21st century taboos. How many have you broken so far today?

A homeless person begging for money (Image © David Cheskin/PA Archive/PA Photos)

1) Giving money to beggars

Once there was no stigma attached to the practice of handing over loose change to somebody asking for money on the street. The equation was clear. They were down on the luck; you could do something about it. Now there’s a morass of moral mazes to negotiate, all of which inevitably lead to the implicit assumption: walk on by. Voices in your head are now conditioned ring out the likes of: “It only encourages them”. “It isn’t helping”. “You’re only making things worse”. “You’re adding to the problem, not the solution”. But when did giving someone ten pence for a cup of tea become an epic ethical conundrum?

2) Speaking to a stranger on a bus or train

Woe betide the person who dares to essay a conversation with someone they don’t know on public transport. Once, such an innocent pastime was considered the height of good manners and to be encouraged. Nowadays such actions are treated as the product of a disturbed mind and someone up to no good. They might as well paste up a new poster alongside the no smoking signs: Button Your Lip.

3) Holding a door open for a woman

At some point in recent history this noble gesture of courtesy got redefined a shocking act of chauvinism. It’s not clear when precisely this happened. Perhaps Mrs Thatcher was to blame. Perhaps it was The Young Ones. Whatever, Britain went into the 1980s with its sense of etiquette intact and came out of it engrossed in an emotional free-for-all. Heaven help anyone, meanwhile, who compliments somebody – male or female – on their appearance.

Ex-Beatle and professional world peace salesman John Lennon (Image © PA/PA Archive/PA Photos)

4) Saying that ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon is rubbish

There’s speaking ill of the dead, then there’s speaking ill of a dead Beatle. A multi-millionaire asks us to imagine no possessions. He does it in as dreary and tuneless a manner possible. Then he gets his wife to sit next to him in the video looking insufferably smug. Then they exchange a horribly intimate kiss right on camera. But never mind all that business, because the multi-millionaire died in tragic circumstances, and ‘Imagine’ sounds a bit sad and soppy, so let’s regularly vote it the best song in the world ever!

5) Complimenting a friend/relative on their children

A real taboo, this. On no account must you venture even the mildest of observation about somebody’s kids. Society dictates even the vaguest, most throwaway of remarks is tantamount to a confession of something dangerously sordid, if not criminal. Physical contact is even worse. Teachers suffer more than most because of this, unable to pat a pupil on the back for fear of being landed with a lawsuit from a vengeful mob of school governors. Something has gone terribly wrong when fear of child abuse – which has always been around and, sadly, always will – becomes so all-pervasive that we end up living our lives on a paedophile’s terms rather than our own.

A nice cup of tea (Image © PA/PA Archive/PA Photos)

6) Owning up to drinking full-fat milk

It’s still readily on sale in shops across the land. But do you ever see anyone admitting to enjoying a cup of tea made from proper milk (let alone with a couple of lumps of sugar)? There’s a corollary to this, which is…

7) Asking for a cup of tea in an upmarket cafe

If you do this, you are treated like a fool. Clearly you’re off your head to even enter a branch of Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero or any other well-known high street purveyor of beverages and have the temerity to ask for something as ordinary as tea. Why, implies the look of disgust on the face of everyone around you, are you not ordering a tortuously-named exotically-tinged cumbersomely-prepared brand of coffee – despite the fact tea is advertised up there on the board as being able to select, buy and consume?

Princess Diana (Image © John Stillwell/PA Wire/PA Photos)

8) Being irreverent about Princess Diana

If they still sent people to the Tower of London, the Daily Express (for one) would be petitioning for anyone who dared besmirch the name of this self-appointed Queen of Hearts to be dispatched there forthwith. She’s been dead for almost a decade, yet there remains an astonishingly priggish attitude towards the idea of questioning the woman’s life. While other members of the royal family are deemed ripe for abuse, Diana’s legacy is patrolled in a vicious fashion. This is likely to only get worse as the 10th anniversary of her demise approaches.

9) Arguing that taxes are good

They pay for things that need to be paid for. Yet to even breathe a word of argument in favour of taxes, never mind the idea of putting them up, is to single you out as variously a) insane b) a communist c) a threat to the nation d) sick. The equation, again, is simple. More taxes = more money for schools, hospital, public transport, the environment and the wellbeing of the nation in general. Yet somehow this relationship has come to be classed as invalid, or defunct, or simply intolerable. Everyone – the public, politicians, the media – needs re-educating about tax, rendering the link between what you pay in and what you get in return utterly self-evident and incontestable.

10) Contesting that England has a third-rate football team

Never mind, runs the argument, the appalling track record in competitive tournaments, the woeful efforts at penalty taking, the innumerable preening egos, the thunderously mediocre management, the hysterical coterie of hangers-on and the patronising attitude towards each and every foreign team – England still won the World Cup!*

*41 years ago


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