The thing of it is, I am a nice, ostentatiously educated, middle class liberal. I like to entertain the fantasy that I have no prejudice. I get furious and shouty when I encounter racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, fattism; of course I do, what else would you expect? I spend a lot of my time pondering where bigotry comes from. I am excessively fond of imagining I am immune. And yet, and yet. I am suddenly, acutely conscious of how I make ruthless judgements, often based on thin evidence. This revelation did not come to me from reading Jung, or Kant, or TS Eliot. It was not the product of deep thought. I was watching one of the flashy American TV shows that I secretly like, and a character said: ‘That’s Bach. I love Bach’. He was a supporting character, thinly sketched. The writers had not necessarily made him loveable, or even three dimensional. On top of that, he was a Catholic priest, and as a feminist and an atheist, I should have some doubts about that. But the moment he said he loved Bach, I loved him. It was like coded shorthand, speaking to my deep heart.
But that is crazy, I thought, the moment I got the warm loving feeling. The Nazis loved Wagner. I am perfectly certain that sociopaths and bankers have been moved to tears by a Schubert quintet. It made me think how judgy I am, despite my fantasy that I am quite disinterested. It’s tribal, I think. It’s a lower order of assumption, not quite the irrational idea of putting people into groups because of their gender or skin colour or sexual orientation, but not so many millions of miles away. If someone knows The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, can tell me who Lady Brett Ashley is, has read the diaries of Chips Channon, watched Blue Peter in their youth, shamelessly adores the novels of Nancy Mitford, has Blonde on Blonde in their record collection, I am at once inclined towards them. If they think that the two greatest lines Bowie ever wrote are: ‘As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent, you asked for your favourite party’, and ‘It was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor’, then I am their friend forever. If a person uses the words ‘human condition’ in casual conversation, I shall want to listen to them until the end of time.
If I am being finally, brutally honest I think that women who are obsessed with shoes are letting the Sisterhood down. I am suspicious of men who indulge in pornography. When someone tells me that they believe in free markets and Milton Friedman I at once have the thought that they might regard the poor as undeserving and single mothers as a blight on society. I have a mild and inexplicable suspicion of double barrelled names and anyone who owns a yappy lapdog and people who buy their clothes from the Boden catalogue. I am very leery of the wildly rich. Any columnist who starts their piece with ‘Why oh Why?’ or ‘Am I alone in thinking?’ is an instant joke to me.
The horrible truth is it turns out that I might have just as many knee jerk reactions as the people I casually mark as ‘prejudiced’. I may keep my notions to myself, and present a lovely liberal exterior to the world, but that’s not good enough. I am going to go away and work on it. I am, for the moment, putting myself in the corner, until I can work out the difference between reasoned opinion and irrational judgement.