Two words I would like to ban: two wrongly diagnosed phobias

I have said before that certain words are overused or used inappropriately.  Iconic and literally come to mind.  There are another two words that are misused  more than almost any other: homophobia and Islamophobia.


A phobia is ‘an exaggerated or irrational fear’.  See any dictionary. Not everyone who dislikes dogs is ‘canophobic’, or whatever the word is.  But some are.  They are terrified of even a picture of a dog.  Ask yourself if you really think that everyone who is critical of Islam or of the gay rights movement has an exaggerated or irrational fear of it.

I am a Protestant.  I am not anti-catholic but I have views contrary to the Roman Catholic religion.  There is a lot I like about it and I certainly like a lot of Catholics.  Nobody would call me ‘catholophobic’ just because I have my criticisms of that Church or its doctrines.

So why can I not be allowed to express views critical of certain aspects of Islam without being called Islamophobic?  I am not afraid of Islam or of (most) Moslems and I do not accept that my criticisms are irrational.  That is for others to demonstrate.

In the same way, you might disagree with gay marriage without being afraid of gays.  The view that marriage is essentially between one man and one woman is no more irrational than is the opposite.

If this thinking spreads to other subjects, (Brexit?) all criticism and discussion will be stifled.  Words convey meaning.  We should be careful how we choose them.

The First Step to Happiness: Don’t be a Basil Fawlty!

This is the first of a series of articles I am writing about happiness.  If some of my content seems obvious, it is because many people are obviously overlooking it.

John Cleese once said that he based the character, Basil Fawlty, on a real hotelier he encountered who was totally unsuited to his occupation.  He had a dislike of guests.  He seemed oblivious to the fact that his business existed in order to provide services to guests.  Likewise, he failed to grasp that managing employees is an integral part of managing a business.  He was the last person who should be in the hotel business.  He never seemed happy.

Many people are unhappy because they are in occupations for which they too are unsuited for one reason or another.  The term ‘a square peg in a round hole’.


How does it happen that so many people are unhappy in their work?  Surely you would apply for a job only if you wanted it?

  • Often you do not fully appreciate what a job entails until you are in it.
  • Recruiters have to work on limited information and anyway they make mistakes like everyone.
  • Jobs evolve with time, restructuring and technology.

On top of these factors, there is the Peter Principle.  This states that people are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence.  You were an ideal assistant widget-maker but a hopeless chief widget-maker.   I will resist the temptation to illustrate this with examples from the World of politics.

What can you do about it, if you are not experiencing happiness in your situation?

  1. Change your job.
  2. Learn new skills.
  3. Analyse the content of the job and see if some parts suit you and others do not. When I worked in accountancy, I used to enjoy dealing with the big picture issues of financial management.  I also enjoyed auditing, which involved investigating and problem-solving.  What I did not enjoy was the minutiae of book-keeping.
  4. Try to arrange your work to minimise the time spent on the less enjoyable parts. Perhaps you should have a chat with your boss.  If you are self-employed, outsourcing certain elements might be the answer.

Life is not all about work.  Not for all of us.  You may be surprised to find that the same issues apply to your family or social life.  I have never been any good at ball games.  I can neither throw nor catch, kick nor bat, with any accuracy.  My father wasted a lot of time and effort trying to help me to overcome these ‘deficiencies’.  Fortunately, for both of us, he was not as obsessive as some parents and wanted me to be myself rather than a junior version of himself.  Not all children are so lucky.  Some continue into adulthood trying to be someone else to please parents, teachers, peers or whoever.

I love horses.  Riding has given me a huge amount of happiness.  Nobody ever tried to force me to ride.  It was just in my nature.  What is in yours?

This applies not only to work and sport.  Some people try hard to socialise, when they much prefer a quiet night reading or watching TV.  Others, particularly women, try very hard to deny that they are not family-people.  They do not like children.  They do not want to spend a lot of time playing with them.   They feel guilty every time they opt out by leaving the kids with someone else.

What about Church?  Here is a special application of all this for Christians.  Read what St Paul says about spiritual gifts in Romans 12, I Corinthians 14 and Ephesians 4.  Get it?  Do not beat yourself up if you do not have all the gifts or any particular one.  It does not say the lists are exhaustive.  Use what you have.  Be the person God made you to be.  If your church does not accept or value you or your gift, find one that does.

In summary, if there is a lack of happiness in your life:

  • The first thing to do is to change the situation.
  • That may be easier said than done. So accept it.  Admit to being who you are.
  • Enjoy being yourself.

In case you were wondering, I enjoy writing.

I may be on The Road to Little Dribbling

Of all my Christmas presents last month, I think the one that has so far given me most pleasure is The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson.  He is an American who came to Britain some forty years ago and is still here.  He comments on the changes he has observed, good and bad, over the years.  He writes about his travels around this island, sharing some fascinating information about our history and geography as well as sharing his impressions of the places he visits.

Bill Bryson is a man after my own heart in many ways.  (Sorry.  I will try to use fewer cliches.)  I find him expressing views I did not know I had, as well as enthusing over the beauty of this country and the many good things we have.  Where I disagree with him, I have enjoyed reading his well written and thought-provoking remarks.  He also has a similar sense of humour to mine.  Perhaps we are both just grumpy old men.  I hope we are both interesting grumpy old men.

I may be tempted to quote a few lines or pass on a few pieces of information from time to time.  I will try to remember to give him the credit.  I am not a plagiarist: but if something is worth saying it is probably worth repeating.