In the previous term I worked with a tall, young, male teacher who spent most of his free time doodling, either on bits of paper or on any free space of whiteboard around the school. He was an entertaining joker. One day as I sat in the staff room with the other teachers he pointed to a funny drawing on the whiteboard behind my head and asked, ‘Did you draw that?’ I turned round to look at it. It was vaguely political in content but I can’t remember the exact theme. Just to join in his joke I playfully admitted, ‘Yes, I did.’
One of the female teachers gave me a strange look and said, ‘No, you didn’t. I drew it. Why on earth would you say you did it when you didn’t?’ I tried to explain that I thought the joker had drawn it and I was just going along with his joke. Despite the fact that the only people who could have drawn the picture were now in the room, thus ensuring that my lie would be found out, she clearly wasn’t convinced by my explanation and thereafter probably assumed that nothing I said could be trusted.
Sometimes when I was a child my father would come into the living room and if there was a lull and at that instant none of us three children were talking or doing much he would ask, ‘Were you talking about me?’ This was his jokey way of commenting on the eeriness of the silence. Sometimes we would say ‘No’, to which he would reply, ‘Why not?’ At other times we would say ‘Yes, we were’, to which he would respond with, ‘Good, at least you weren’t wasting your time.’ Simply through habit I occasionally I find myself saying the same thing. Doing so outside the family though is probably a mistake, as I found out a couple of weeks ago.
I walked into our staff room where three of the new teachers were sitting in apparent bored silence and so I said, ‘Were you talking about me?’ Unfortunately one of them, T, perhaps a little surprised, admitted that they were. (Do they now think me paranoid and that I spend my time listening outside the door? Reader, I can assure you I’m not and I don’t.) T continued that they had commented on how my views make up a package and are thus easy to predict: people who are against mass immigration are generally sympathetic to ideas that races differ in intelligence and in crime rates, are pro-Israel, pro-Trump, pro-Farage, pro-Le Pen, Pro-Brexit and probably pro some other beliefs that commonly hang together.
What had prompted them to talk about this was a comment I had made an hour or so earlier that I didn’t think there was a bright dividing line between the way farmers have been breeding strains of cereals for millennia and the use of GM crops of today. The main difference is that farmers bred cereals by trial and error while now it is done more scientifically. The other teachers claimed that this was all of a piece with my right-wing views.
I’m not actually convinced that being pro-GM crops is a right-wing obsession. Aren’t we conservatives supposed to who want to conserve the traditional countryside and old ways like fox hunting? Aren’t GM crops the best way of feeding the Third World that I am to a large extent indifferent to? In my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I belonged to Greenpeace which I think of as lefty. And isn’t atheism supposed to be a thing of the left while the political right loves Jesus? Shouldn’t I be anti-gay when I’m really only against gay activists forcing Christian bakers to bake them cakes with gay messages on?
Whatever. I don’t mind my views being predictable. After all, this is just another way of saying they are internally consistent. Whether the other teachers see their own views as part of an opposite package I really couldn’t say as this was not commented upon. Maybe they think they are. Or maybe they imagine that while I gullibly and mindlessly swallow Nigel Farage’s cunningly-wrapped package of nastiness whole, they on the other hand take a careful and clear-eyed look at each individual issue and only then come to precisely the same view as all their friends.