Our Parent Who Art in Heaven - is it Woke? Or Does That Powell Bloke Dare Joke About the Non-Binary?
Are you woke yet? Are you wondering whether Our Parent Who Art in Heaven is a panegyric to wokedom? And if it isn’t, it sodding well should be, shouldn’t it?
Since most novels these days are so serious – so very earnest, as Wilde would have said, so ‘full of passionate intensity’ as Yeats characterised ‘the worst’ – shouldn’t I write praiseworthy novels about morally uplifting themes like misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia, like everyone else? As a writer from a working-class background, maybe I could describe my ‘lived experience’ of encountering snobbery as an undergraduate at Cambridge? Since we are only allowed to write about characters exactly like ourselves now, there must be some way, surely, I could turn my life story into a victim narrative? I could proselytise a bit, preach about social justice, equality and so on. You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you?
Well, maybe not. Maybe you’ve had enough of it by now. I have. Although I have loved fiction all my life, I can hardly stomach most of what passes for it these days – thinly disguised memoirs about oppressed people, usually women, and often gay or trans or black or brown. It all gets a tiny bit tedious. And while I could have written an outraged condemnation of Creative Writing programmes – oh my dears, you have no idea how atrocious most of them are – I couldn’t see the point. We’re already so polarised; do I want to be another furious person, slinging mud (or that other brown stuff) at my opponents? Do I want to join that idiotic slanging match? I don’t. My opponents would write me off, and why preach to the converted, or the choir?
Besides, as you may have noticed, the wokerati, as I call them, hate comedy. They don’t like laughing – life is far too serious, and there’s always a danger that some poor soul might be offended, or get their feelings hurt. They might even cry! So we’d better not giggle, or snicker, or snigger – whoops, that contains the ‘N’ word, better not mention that very dangerous racist activity – or joke, or rib, or guffaw, grin, smile, or anything that might possibly reveal that you are amused at someone else’s expense. Because that’s basically what humour is: having a laugh at someone’s stupidity. Sometimes our own, as in the typically English humour of self-deprecation. (And we’d better not do that, either, because, you know, we should all love ourselves, because we’re all so very, very special.) The trouble is, it turns out that if you can’t make a joke about other groups of people, your freedom of speech is severely limited. And what’s more, without the safety valve of the joke, feelings and prejudices (yes, we all have them, even the woke, as they should know from all their subconscious bias training) tend to grow with repression and explode into violence. Which is perfectly fine if it’s directed at right-wingers or representatives of authority. Or statues. Of course. Anyway, you get my point. Humour is being hounded out of existence. The braver comedians, the Bill Burrs and Dave Chappelles, are on the battle lines. But most fiction writers have simply chucked down their pens and run. When was the last time you read a funny novel? One that made you laugh out loud?
Perhaps you’re beginning to see why I wrote a comedy. Really, it couldn’t have been anything else. Anyone who’s worked in a university Creative Writing department, or any department in the humanities or social sciences, knows what I’m talking about. The old adage that you couldn’t make it up holds. But if you want to know just what kind of loonies are teaching your kids, and what they get up to in private, you’ll have to read Our Parent Who Art in Heaven. I’m not promising you’ll love it. If you’re a social justice warrior, you might loathe it. I nearly said, ‘I certainly hope so’, but that would be awfully childish of me. What I really mean is that I hope it gives you pause, makes you think, ‘Am I like that?’ And gives you a giggle.
If you can still laugh at yourself, there's hope for you yet. And all of us.