Being boringly inclusive 

Lionel Shriver is opinionated. She got into a lot of trouble in some quarters for criticising the  idolisation of diversity’. Mary Beard is similarly opinionated (but has an endearing smile); however, she tries to be balanced. Owen Jones is opinionated – just listen to any debate he takes part in. Diane Abbott raises hackles with her strong words.

Being opinionated is human. People of all classes, education, wealth and ages spout happily. I do myself on occasion. And in response we can all throw something at the radio, chuck the newspaper into the bin or click off a website. But blanket blasting on social media without forethought is like verbal diarrhoea which can have very unfortunate consequences: spreading untruths/’alternative facts’, damaging reputations unnecessarily and causing deep, scarring personal hurt.

People should be able to say what they think or feel, but the reader (or audience) has a responsibility as a human to respond in a sensible and thoughtful way however crazy or unpalatable they consider the original opinion. Equally, we should shrug off the tyranny of always appearing to be perceived as being politically contact or on message. 

Lionel Shriver is not my personal cup of tea, but she is expressing a view held by many people: the categorisation of identity and how difficult it is, whether by race, colour, gender or background. She didn’t even touch on age and religion. Her theme was was that in an effort to reflect current ethnic make-up of the population, especially in publishing, too many labels and sub-categories were being used for people not white, male and middle class. The corollary was that all white-skinned people irrespective of their origin were lumped together as one group. 

Dissecting the ins and outs of that argument is not my objective. I’m just rather sad that I’ve seen the nuances of what she said and her freedom to say it have been shouted down without analysis and thought. But I’ve experienced that over Brexit. As a remainer, I’ve tried to present facts and reasons in the face of wobbly, ill-informed ranting but they are met with the classic brick wall of the closed mind. A great pity.

Me, I don’t care what ethnicity, age or gender an author, publisher or agent is, or anybody else for that matter. It’s irrelevant. I am an unrepentant meritocrat. And I reserve my right to read what interests me and to talk about any subject I like, the latter obviously within the bounds of civility. Oh, and I speak as a white, middle-class, straight 60+ woman of Saxon, Flemish, Brigantes, Irish and Welsh descent with a dash of wrong-side-of-the-blanket aristocrat, educated to masters’ level and living in Europe. 

Oh, was I a bit opinionated?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIAINSURRECTIO and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is available now. Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter

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