3 March 2023

Sure signs of grumpy old man syndrome

| Ross Solly
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Willy Wonka meme

Circle of strife: it started as a book, became a film, morphed into a meme and then life imitated art. Image: File.

Indications I am becoming a grumpy old man – clue number five: Sensitivity readers.

We don’t employ sensitivity readers at Region, to which some may say, more the pity. But they’d have their work cut out with some of our writers.

What we do have are several hard-working, long-suffering sub-editors who have the forlorn task every week of reading through my 500-word diatribes and somehow turning them into something that can be presented to the public.

This month, we learned of the emergence of a new form of employment that sits alongside influencers as a career choice of the modern era. ‘Sensitivity readers’ are finding work at book publishers, combing through the works of authors we once revered but it turns out were racist, sexist, body-shaming charlatans.

It’s the works of Roald Dahl which brought this literary cleansing process to our attention.

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It turns out Dahl has sprinkled words like fat and ugly throughout his works, and dared to assign a gender to Oompa Loompas.

We now know Roald Dahl was a bit of a Willy Wonka in his private life. But his books have entertained youngsters for generations and somehow made it through to 2023 before someone somewhere decided people might feel offended.

Good lord, if some find Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offensive, what hope have some of the other classics got? Beauty and the Beast is surely doomed. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol must surely go lest it offends people who don’t celebrate Christmas. Don’t even get me started on David Copperfield.

Mark Twain’s Tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn can’t be allowed to survive. (In fairness to the sensitivity readers, when I read Tom Sawyer to my children, I did self-censor one or two words.)

The big talking point has been whether this is sensitivity or censorship? Surely it has to be the latter.

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When you change something to protect people’s feelings, that smells like censorship to me. I know what some are saying – Ross, you are a white man who has lived a privileged life, what would you know about being offended by someone writing about witches needing to wear wigs because they are bald?

Granted. So maybe I have no right to complain about the removal of entire paragraphs of James and the Giant Peach, or that Oompa Loompas are no longer small men, but now small people.

The group overseeing the rewrite is called Inclusive Minds. A spokesperson said the aim is “to ensure authentic representation, by working closely with the book world and with those who have lived experience of any facet of diversity”.

So that’s not me, so I’ll butt out, but not before saying – the world has possibly gone mad.

*Earlier clues of my becoming a grumpy old man, as displayed by previous writings on this site:

1. Railing against Andrew Tate.

2. Railing against Twitter.

3. Railing against the use of AI

4. Railing against the use of mobile phone detection cameras.

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peakyblinder12:58 pm 06 Mar 23

1984 by George Orwell is a novel. NOT a guide.

Capital Retro7:20 am 01 Mar 23

For years, Noddy books were banned because of their “racism.” Critics have pilloried the author for presenting “black toys” as villains, because in one book, a group of golliwogs asks for Noddy’s help in a forest, only to steal his car and clothes.

And who could forget the way the “big, bad Banksia men” were portrayed as black villians in May Gibbs’ the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Also, even the great Walt Disney had a group of “baddies” called “the Beagle Boys” – not exactly black but very swarthy.

Most of us grew up with these stories and characters and I didn’t become a racist.

@Capital Retro “… and I didn’t become a racist.” You forgot to add “IMHO”

I am a former IS professional, Systems Analyst, Risk Manager for the HIC, Medibank Private, Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

I have very serious doubts about Artificial Intelligence. I would be MUCH happier with two programs one Human and t’other AI, at all times and in all cases!
AI is NOT as intelligent as a lot of senior managers think it is. Very much because IME senior managers are NOT always as intelligent as they think.

Being good ‘at fitting in’ is often much more important to the executive branch than it should be.

Capital Retro7:37 am 01 Mar 23

Wow, that’s an impressive CV so, from now on, I will refer to you as Mister TimboinOz.

With all of this re-writing of classic books, I can see the book burning isn’t far off…

Another reason why I don’t like eBook, movie, music etc streaming services) where your access remains online and they can change it whenever they want…
At least I know if they remove/censor a movie on Netflix/Stan, I can still watch the original on my DVD/Bluray.

I’d say this article indicates that you’re more of a wise man than a grumpy man.

HiddenDragon7:20 pm 27 Feb 23

Have to disagree with your earlier clues 1, 3 and 4 of GOM syndrome – they’re really symptoms of grumpy middle aged man syndrome.

A GOM would not have heard of Andrew Tate unless he had made detailed inquiries as to why a grandson was behaving like a complete jerk.

A GOM would not have heard of AI but possibly would rail against the use of Al (Gore) to explain why the beloved Commodore (vehicle, not computer) should be replaced by something with enough battery power to run a thousand Dolphin lanterns .

A GOM would know in his heart of hearts that the world was a much better place when we got by perfectly well with landlines, PMG ‘phone boxes, and the occasional red phone (as seen in Aldo Godolfus’ deli) – so he would be absolutely fine with mobile phone detection cameras.

A GOM would, of course, rail against Twitter – unless, of course, he had, in earlier times, driven a Renault with SOLIDARNOSC, NO DAMS and “Don’t Mine Myall Lakes” stickers on the rear window – in which case he would be railing against what Elon Musk is trying to do to it.

Finally, a GOM would also know that the current carry on about Roald Dahl looks very much like a repeat of what happened, several decades ago, with the likes of Enid Blyton and Biggles and, lo and behold, the popularity of the latter two (albeit with deplorables of the worst kind…..) abides.

Roberto Bettega1:43 pm 27 Feb 23

Allowing for the full range of what can be expressed (often knocking on the door of the ambit of hate speech) is the preserve of entitled and advantaged white audiences.

GrumpyGrandpa10:11 am 27 Feb 23

If people go far enough back in history, they’ll find accounts of “book burning” and and restriction of speech. When rewrite as required to “sanitise” language, are we that far away from those “book burning” and restriction of speech days?

Most Australians, in my view, are sick of this politically correct rubbish. Sick of being told that history needs to be sanitised to protect those who may be offended. Sick of being told that they need to respect people’s choice to misuse pronouns and that gender can not be determined until that decision has been made at some stage in the future by the child.

Ordinary Australians need to pushback against this woke rubbish. I boycott organisations and companies who sponsor wokeness. I don’t use the word “Partner”; it’s “Husband or Wife”, I don’t buy cheese that has changed it’s name. I celebrate Christmas, on 26th Janurary, I celebrate Australia Day. I respect the Anzacs and consider Easter sacred.

Am I a Grumpy Old Man? Maybe, but I definitely am is someone who respects traditions and calls out wokeness.

Couldn’t agree more and I’m not an old man. I’m a youngish female.

Philip Creagh9:50 am 27 Feb 23

It’s been said before:

“The moving finger writes
and having writ moves on
nor all the piety nor wit
shall lure it back to cancel half a line
nor all the tears wash out a word of it”

Capital Retro7:13 am 27 Feb 23

Is “the fat conductor” now portrayed the “easily seen conductor” in Thomas The Tank Engine?

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