Don’t dogpile, even if the pronoun is wrong

A friend was talking to me recently about how he had inadvertently used “he” when the person involved wanted to be referred to as “them/they”, speaking in an academic seminar setting on zoom, and had promptly got dogpiled in the chat section by people saying that he had “committed an act of violence” towards the individual in question. Of course, he apologised promptly, but apparently that wasn’t enough. He was, to me entirely understandably, very upset by this, partly because it ruined his learning experience and effectively silenced him for the rest of the session – and he’s now paranoid about it, and feels that he almost can’t speak at all, for fear of getting it wrong again.

Takeaway #1 – don’t cripple someone’s learning experience.

But look, I can also understand that for people whose gender identity is not simply allocatable to “he/him” or “she/her”, it is galling to be forced back into answering to pronouns which not only don’t fit, but are a reminder of a stereotype which they’ve had to struggle very hard to overcome. And yes, they also may have had their learning experience ruined, at least temporarily. They might even feel silenced by the wish not to have the error repeated. Yes, I was brought up with the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot hurt me” being dinned into me – and I decided at an early age that that was garbage, because I was easily hurt myself by other people’s words, and could see that others felt much as I did. “Man up” was not a helpful thing to say to me at that point (the person who said it is now dead, so that issue is sort of over…)

My friend is of similar age to myself, maybe a year or two younger. In my own case, I only woke up to the fact that people were really concerned about other people’s use of pronouns for them about 9 years ago (OK, in my defence, the previous ten plus years I’d been so focused on my own psychology and recovery that I wasn’t participating in any venues where it was an issue). Perhaps I should have woken up to this move in language earlier, at least had I been connecting with the rest of humanity. That means that I, at least, spent something like 60 years being acculturated into the use of he/him and she/her, and it is VERY difficult to change habits which have taken that long to be instilled. For what it’s worth, my father (born 1920) left some writings which I’m only now getting round to going through, 21 years after his death, and 8 after my mother died and left me the sole custodian. Some of the language he uses of other races leaves, shall we say, a lot to be desired, and although he was in general a very broad minded individual and made friends with a number of people not of white anglo-saxon stock (including nearly marrying an Indian lady) his language never became wholly politically correct. My mother for many years fought a losing rearguard action against the use of “gay” for those of same-sex orientation. She grew up with “gay” meaning happy and carefree, and resented having that meaning taken away from her – even though it was obsolete language by the time I was in my teens, and she died when I was 61.

I have got people’s pronouns wrong on occasion, been told about it, apologised and moved on, to try harder where that person is involved in a conversation. In all cases, my apology has been accepted, the person involved said they understood that it was difficult, and I tried harder. But I haven’t been dogpiled, particularly by people being offended on behalf of someone else (which, to me, seems wrong). If I were, I fancy I might have my defence mechanisms kick in without any conscious move on my part and say something REALLY unforgivable. Or I might just never talk to those people ever again, as I have a huge avoidant streak. In any event, it would ruin my engagement with them thereafter.

I fancy my friend is in much the same position, and commend him on not being strident in opposition to the dogpiling.

I got used to using the pronouns appropriate to a person’s outward appearance rather than enquiring more about gender fairly early on, and acted as lawyer for, on my calculation, all of the transsexuals in my (rather small and provincial) town at one time. They liked our (myself and staff’s) open mindedness and lack of judgment – and, of course, the fact that we were using the “right” pronouns for them. I’ve always had more problem with those whose appearance is ambiguous. Certainly I take offence at people who want to call nonbinary people “it” – that is obviously offensive (and, sadly, removes one of the possibilities for my referring to God, even though “he” is a deeply problematic usage and “she” just looks like an attempt to over-correct – I know plenty of people who are happy to say that, for instance, gravity is an “it”, but not God, even if they don’t really think of God as personal). The trouble is, “they” and “them” have a collossal association with being plural in my subconscious, and are very difficult for me to slip into using naturally, if I’m actually thinking about the content of what I’m trying to convey rather than about being politically correct (and I find it more and more difficult with age to do both at the same time). The recent fabrications like ze/zir/zirs are horribly difficult for me, not least because I can’t remember them or pronounce them with confidence, although the fact that I don’t actually interact with anyone who uses those in order to get practice may be the most important. What I generally try to do is just use the given name as much as my brain is capable of.

So, to anyone I may inadvertently offend this way in the future (and I probably will), I apologise. I do try, but it is very difficult for us old people to manage. Let’s face it, many of my generation haven’t got to grips with metric units yet, and they came in in the 1970s and the process was pretty much complete by 1980.

Takeaway #2 – older people have more difficulty with this than younger ones. Try for a bit of forgiveness – you know, love your neighbour as yourself, even if they get things wrong.

And I do really question whether people other than those who have actually been called something they don’t like are actually as offended as they claim, or whether they are actually making a power play to silence older people (i.e., in this case, my friend). After all, I used to knock around with a group of gay friends in my 20s, and had to get used to the fact that they referred to everyone female or male as “she/her”, including me (which was jarring for, say, half an hour…). OK, despite having now been happily married to one woman for some 40 years, I did have a period of some gender confusion in my early teens, am very impatient with male gender stereotypes (which I often don’t fit well) and I could for some time after puberty have best been described as “bisexual”, looking at sexual partners – so perhaps I was less wedded to a “he/him” identity than many. Add to that the fact that side effects of the medications which are keeping me alive and somewhat sane have rendered me effectively asexual, with neither capability nor libido (so I’ve gone from one of the “A”s in LGBTQIAA+ to another), and I’m honestly not worried what gendered or non-gendered pronouns you use for me, as long as I recognise they’re meant to refer to me. Which I probably won’t if it’s “ze/zir/zirs or the like.

I also see it as just plain bullying when more than one person does this. If someone is down, don’t keep kicking them.

I also think I detect a strong element of “virtue signalling”, and of demonstrating that “these are my people”. I understand that, but if you make it more and more difficult for people to be fully on board with your views, you are going to end up an increasingly tiny group. Politics 101 says you need to make alliances with those who are similar but not the same as you. So for goodness sake, cut people some slack…

Takeway #3 – if it isn’t your pronoun, it’s probably not your business.

(Yes, I’m fully aware that I’m taking up arms to support someone who I perceived as hurt by someone’s action, even though it isn’t me who is hurt. I felt sympathy for him, but also a level of indignation at the bullying aspect which might, on reflection, be over-the-top. But I’m not doing it in an environment which is calculated to silence anyone. Nor am I virtue signalling – indeed, perhaps the opposite, as this post will probably annoy some people who otherwise think very similarly to me.)

Takeaway #4 – don’t be a bully.

But don’t call people “it”… And yes, I’d be offended if someone in my presence called any human being “it”. But if it wasn’t me, I’d probably not call them out on it. I maybe wouldn’t even if it were me.

Paul the S4 sandwich?

One of the keynote speakers at Wake this year was Richard Boothby, whose book “Blown Away” talks of his reactions to his son’s suicide some years ago. He’s a philosopher, with a strong interest in psychoanalysis, so fitted in well with Pete Rollins and with the psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster. She was mostly speaking at the GCAS seminars next door, but as the two shared some content, Jamieson was there for a three-way conversation with Richard and Pete.

I may well come back to Boothby, but one thing which slipped out was that he isn’t a great fan of St. Paul, something I most definitely share. As he said, Paul was capable of some amazingly evocative language (largely on the subject of love – 1 Cor. 1:13 is perhaps the crowning glory of those passages), but he also had some very unpalateable things to say about, for instance, slaves and women – and had some horribly authoritarian views. Pete, on the other hand, thinks that Paul is wonderful, perhaps taking his cue largely from Alan Badiou’s book “Saint Paul, the Foundation of Universalism”. Incidentally, unlike the other books I mention in this post, I have and have read this, and gone through a book group discussing it together with Zizek’s “The Puppet and the Dwarf”, which also focuses on Paul. Badiou definitely suggests that Paul created Christianity by either creating or noticing an “event”, i.e. an unrepeatable phenomenon which changes something about your view irrevocably. Badiou sees this as the “stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks” from 1 Cor. 1:23, something which calls into question the philosophical foundations of both Judaism and Greek philosophy. Zizek similarly sees an event, but one sweeping aside the then-existing distinctions between Jew and Greek, man and woman and slave and master (Gal. 3:28); Rollins sees a fundamental Hegelian/Lacanian contradiction in the concept of the death of God, which he regards as Paul’s overwhelming contribution (personally I think Jesus’ resurrection is a more key moment than his death, and his lifetime ministry is more key than either, so the gospels were an urgent corrective to the Pauline letters which were written first, but there you go…).

Personally, I don’t think picking out one or two passages from a larger body of work and using them as the touchstone for the entire remainder is a valid move, which all of Badiou, Zizek and Rollins seem to me to do to a great extent – add to that that I have the hugest doubts that Paul would agree with or perhaps even understand what any of them have written or talked about in him. However, “Death of the Author” and all that – you consign the words to the page, and the rest of the work is in the head of the reader, and as author you don’t really get to tell people not to read you that way. Being dead, that is… I can’t see, for instance, that Hegel and Zizek would get along well, were Hegel not dead.

I’m therefore aiming to buy a couple of other books. One of those is “Jesus I have loved, but Paul” by J. Daniel Kirk (whose “A Man Attested by God” I much enjoyed. The other I only stumbled across today, called “Profaning Paul”. It sounds strongly as if it might fit very well with the current state of my thinking on the man!

I particularly liked that in the review, mention was made of Colcannon not dealing with the issue of which Pauline letters are actually Paul, which may be a bit Paul, and which are basically forgeries. Let’s face it, I’m not competent in koine Greek, nor am I a textual scholar, and while I can do a bit of theme analysis and come to some conclusions which pretty much match the general run of non-conservative Biblical scholarship, my opinion isn’t worth much, and delving into the rationales is a bit beyond me. Add to that that, whoever actually wrote them, they’ve been part of our canon for at least 1650 years, probably longer. I can do without the argument that I can’t go criticising the authorship from my more conservative friends, given that they’ll criticise me anyhow for not taking scripture as something perfect given to us by divine dictation for all time, or bending with the times. To both of those, I’ll plead guilty and defend my position, which is rather akin to why I don’t think we should still be operating in the UK according to Norman-French laws of the 11th century.

Looking at the description, it seems the author, Cavan Concannon, is not scared of a little scatological language (and neither was Paul), so I’ll sum it up as thinking that Paul is like a shit sandwich – you may get some sustenance, but you have to contend with a very nasty taste in your mouth.

And I’ll still, on occasion, say “My Jesus trumps your Paul”. Even if Paul managed to go to print before the four evangelists…

(there’s a follow-on…)

Being a liminal Christian

Brian McLaren has a new book “Do I stay Christian“, and the link gives access to an interview with Tripp Fuller as well as to a group and a forthcoming reading group around the book.

Having just got back from Peter Rollins “Wake” festival (which revolves around his Pyrotheology concept, combining Radical Theology, Philosophy and the Arts, generally the more subversive arts), I was reminded of a parable Pete told again this year (here’s a link to a previous telling).

Now, being a Christian is something which I was told I was by a couple of people some time after I started moderating the Christianity section of the then Compuserve Religion Forum (effectively defunct since AoL took over, but there’s still a group of that name). I, of course, denied it at least three times before rather reluctantly accepting that yes, at least by their standards, maybe I was. But if I am, I’m not a very good one. Maya Angelou said “I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I go, ‘Already?'”, and I can pretty much identify with that. I’m very impressed by Jesus (not so much by the Christ of Pauline and subsequent theology), but I don’t remotely measure up to Jesus’ very high standards. At least, I’ve got this idea in my head that they’re very high standards, despite Jesus also allowing as followers some strikingly imperfect people – but then, I have this immensely irritating perfectionist streak, which I seem to apply only to myself. Perhaps I need to love myself as I love others? Incidentally, Dave Tomlinson has written a book about being a bad Christian (and being a better human being) which I recommend.

I’m definitely not a Christian by the standards of a lot of Christian groupings, including the Catholics and most Evangelicals. Indeed, there’s one of the authors I’ve edited a couple of times who likes to call me his “unsaved friend”. That brings me to the idea on which Brian and Tripp agree, early in their discussion, that Christianity is (per Brian) a “team sport”. Now, as they discuss, there are a lot of reasons not to stay a Christian (all of which have influenced me in the past), and as they say, anyone might find it impossible to stay within a tradition which (for instance) has been a set of complete shits towards those of their mother religion, Judaism. I actually find that individual congregations can be similarly really good reasons not to be a member of them, particularly if they would take major exception to what I said if I were to outline what I actually do think is (at least probably) the case – and in the past, some have done just that, and I’ve followed the Biblical injunction to shake the dust off my sandals as I left. But, in conscience, I’ve never found a congregation in which I feel totally free to talk about my theological ideas, which is one reason why I so much value the Wake festival. Harking back to another discussion which went on this year (in one of the GCAS seminars which accompanied the event this time), I’ve tended to be liminal in any congregation I worship with, just as two of the GCAS doctoral students were as they pursued PhDs in Radical Theology while serving confessional congregations as clergy.

But, not being clergy, nor having any sensible chance of becoming clergy (though one of the two people I mentioned earlier also suggested that I regarded my moderating of the Christianity section as a “pastoral mission”, and again after a LOT of argument, I reluctantly conceded that he was right), I don’t have the same need to stick with a congregation.

Is it reallyt a “team sport”, though? Again, in a conversation at Wake, someone quoted “when two or three are gathered together”, implying that community is foundational. I held my tongue, as I could have quoted back the Gospel of Thomas Oxyrhyncus version as translated by Oresse “Jesus says: “Where there are [two (?) they are] not without God, and where there is one, I say <to you>, I am with him. Raise the stone, and there thou wilt find me; split the wood: I am even there!” “ As long as you’re broad minded about what constitutes scripture, that’s the counterpoint – and, indeed, one translation (Attridge) renders that “Where there are [three], they are without God, and where there is but [a single one], I say that I am with [him].” So no, I don’t think it has to be a team sport. But I’d massively prefer that it was, thus the pilgrimage to Belfast, postponed by Covid from 2020.

And I’m really sad to hear that there won’t be one next year. Being with “your” group only for a few days every two years – well, it just isn’t enough. Thank goodness for Zoom! Although even then, I’m not sure how much it’s community, for me, and how much it’s just getting sparked with new ideas. There will probably be quite a few posts coming based on this year’s Wake!

The end is nigh…

If you’ve been reading through the sequence of “apocalyptic” posts I’ve put up recently, you’ll have read war, pestilence and famine. I actually started writing following an extremely timely piece which George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian some while ago, given that at the time the COP26 talks in Glasgow were just starting. I agree with virtually everything he says, but think the chances of the world generally taking sufficient action to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures are very slim indeed. The end result of COP26 doesn’t improve my outlook, unfortunately. I also agree with the UN’s take on the situation. A meter of rise in sea level would be fairly disastrous, but probably supportable, but at present we’re headed for something between 2.5 degrees and 6 degrees. That would be wholly unsupportable, given predictions of somewhat over two meters of rise for each degree in temperature. Many of the world’s biggest cities would be underwater, the crop-growing temperate zone would be in Siberia and Canada, leaving all the current agricultural powerhouses desert or semi-desert, there would be an even greater destruction of wildlife including, perhaps most importantly, insects. My own house, 40 miles inland but only about 4 meters above sea level, would probably be flooded (I live in mid-Yorkshire, just south of York, and am in the middle of the red splotch in Yorkshire on this very cautious projection), along with the large area of productive farmland around it.

The targets set at Paris (which would have produced a rise toward the bottom end of that bracket) have not been met, and this is COP26. There have been 25 previous meetings, and very little has been achieved, particularly in the biggest current contributors to climate change, China, India and the United States. It is now over three years since Greta Thunberg walked out of school and sparked a global movement, but her message has so far fallen on deaf ears (though she does, I think, represent another feature of apocalytic scenarios, that they throw up someone who is a shining example to the rest of us, even if doomed to failure). A dishonorable mention here to Brazil and Indonesia, both of which are busily removing old rain forests which fix large amounts of carbon. Hansi Freinacht wrote (in 2013) “If we are to globally make the cli­mate goal of keeping the temperature below a 2°C increase (which is still possi­bly catastrophic, as we’ll have more carbon in the atmosphere than for millions of years), we need to re­duce our carbon emissions by something to the tune of 25 billion tons per year before 2060 (as compared to the “bus­iness as usual” scenario). Now imagine this. Re­ducing with one (!) bil­lion tons would require either doub­ling the world’s nuclear power output, or expanding our wind power output by 50 times (some two million new mills), or expanding solar pow­er by a factor of 700, or using a sixth of all globally available arable land to grow biofuels to replace fossil fuels… And if we do all four (linearly increa­sing the output over the period 2013-2060), we are still only done with a small fraction of the overall necessary carbon red­uction; four out of the nec­ess­ary 25 billion tons reduced. And as things stand today, carbon emiss­ions are still grow­ing according to the “business as usual” scenario.” It seems extremely far-fetched to think that we can now, 8 years later and with no significant progress, reach that goal.

Since I starting writing, we have the recent IPCC report – which gives us three years to start seriously reducing emissions (not just stopping the increase), if we are to have a chance of 1.5 degrees of warming. I see little chance that this will happen, despite the pious mutterings of world leaders, 195 of whom have signed off on those proposals. (This post has been hanging around for quite some time, most recently delayed by personal sampling of Covid, which I do not recommend – but have survived).

Is this an apocalyptic scenario? Well, in the sense of apocalyptic used in Biblical studies, meaning an unveiling of a hidden truth, what has been the case since the beginning of the industrial revolution has been progressively revealed over the last 30 or 40 years. It has been a hard sell for many of those of my generation, who grew up with the opposite fear, that a nuclear exchange could bring about a “nuclear winter”. What it has most definitely revealed is that governments everywhere (though somewhat less in Europe than elsewhere) are afraid to take the steps necessary to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperature, presumably because they don’t think they can sell the concept to their electorates. It has also revealed that there are many among us (particularly, it seems, in the USA) who are prepared to use any excuse, including blatant falsehoods, to avoid limiting their profligate use of natural resources – so the governments are, perhaps, right. There is clearly a massive failure of public education going on, given the number of people who kick and scream against what the science is telling us (and telling us more and more forcibly as time goes by); at least in a substantial number of European countries, there seems to be some generalised appreciation that things cannot continue along the trajectory they are doing, but this is by no means shared worldwide.

Companies are hamstrung both by the tragedy of the commons and the neoliberal dictum that shareholder value is the only consideration, which leads to incredibly short-term thinking. We cannot expect companies in the grip of this belief system to act in a communally responsible way, they need government action to compel them. Arguably, just government action is insufficient, we need global government action, and there is no functioning global government (and little prospect that there will be).

Is it apocalyptic in the more popular sense of the end of civilisation, Mad Max style? The best known Biblical apocalypse, Revelation, obviously has a large amount of doom and gloom scenarios in it as well as “revealing hidden truths”, so the popular understanding is hardly without precedent.We might, however, want to recall that Revelation includes the lines  (Rev. 21) Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Even in the Bible’s most “doom and gloom” book, there is a promise of something better…

Well, with a lot of careful planning, the vast populations which would be flooded out or find themselves living in deserts might be moved to newly agriculturally productive areas and those might be sufficient to provide for the surviving population – but that’s the sort of careful planning which could remove the need for such massive relocations and which is clearly not being done. Add to that the generally joyous reception given to large scale migration in the world (sarcasm alert), and I see a recipe for a lot of wars and rumours of wars. Not quite, however, Mad Max territory, perhaps, unless you add in the possibility of killing off pollinating insects or one of the vast grain monocultures such as wheat or rice. Without those, we could possibly get away by killing off only, say, 95% of the world’s population. With them, we’d probably be looking at something more like 99.9%. Even that would, of course, still leave several millions of humans potentially alive. It wouldn’t however, leave our economic systems intact.

And, indeed, Monbiot is almost certainly correct in suggesting that in order to achieve climate change goals at all, we need a radical restructuring of our economic systems, which would probably also demand a radical restructuring of our political systems. Conservation, protection of the planet, is just incompatible with economic systems which demand constant growth in order to continue functioning. The report “The Limits to Growth” is now nearly 50 years old. The Guardian commented on it at around the 40 year mark, and was not optimistic. There seems little reason to be any more optimistic now. The only way I can see that the world might move towards the kind of systems Monbiot envisages is a worldwide popular uprising, sweeping away most of the economic and political structures we have in place at the moment. Gradual change is something we are probably already too late to rely on – and that kind of popular uprising might be nearly as catastrophic as the anarchy which I envisage when climate change renders much of the globe uninhabitable. Tad DeLay, on the other hand, is pessimistic about the likelihood we will do this.

There are, of course, those who have a touching faith in the ability of science to find a solution where none currently exists. To me, it resembles the faith of Biblical apocalypticists that God would intervene and create a new world order, which I might point out has not happened in the nearly 2000 years since the last of those canonised was written. The days of the “Deus ex machina” appear to be over. Yes, maybe science will find some solution (though wholesale alteration of our climate in the short term seems to be an incredibly risky prospect), but that is wholely in the area of “hope over experience” at present.

This post is the fourth of the series, corresponding to the Fourth Horseman:- “When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a pale horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”— Revelation 6:7–8 (New American Standard Bible)

It is very tempting to see that passage as a prediction of the effects of climate change, which will bring war, famine and probably pestilence with it, and most certainly chaos. Not, however, so much of the wild beasts of the earth, as we are in the middle of a great extinction and many species are disappearing before humanity. But I don’t, except inasmuch as all total failures of a society look somewhat similar. The probable target of that vision of the future was of a collapse of the Roman Empire, which the writer no doubt saw coming in or around the second century (whereas it didn’t happen until the fifth century for the Western Empire and, arguably, the fifteenth for the Eastern). For the writer, the Roman Empire was essentially the whole world. Climate change, however, IS  a whole world problem.

I hope above hope that I might be being unduly pessimistic here, but in conscience, I just think I’m being realistic. My generation and that before it, in particular, have failed our descendants. I apologise on their behalves. We will not be around to see the full effects and apologies then…





Speaking as an UK national and resident, we are lost. We’re in an unpleasant place (with 9% inflation, stagnant growth, a major cost of living crisis affecting disproportionately the poorest among us, difficulties recruiting labour for all sorts of occupations, not least the NHS… and I could go on virtually ad nauseam).

Most of us, including those who voted Brexit and still seem wedded to the concept, are prepared to acknowledge that we’re lost. Gone are the days when Leave voters would say “we haven’t given it a chance yet”, aside from a few die-hards.

The thing is, when you’re lost and asking for directions, the first question you’re going to be asked is “where are you?”. And we’re apparently not allowed to mention Brexit. Economists are broadly agreed that a significant amount of the inflation and the stagnant growth are due to Brexit, but the government will not allow talk of Brexit, and the BBC and much other broadcast media seem to have been cowed into avoiding any mention of Brexit as well (not to mention that the majority of the press is still trying to find positives in Brexit). The BBC’s “Countryfile” programme recently had a short piece on difficulties caused by Brexit in farming, and there was a deluge of protest from Leave-voting viewers that they had dared to suggest there was anything negative about Brexit.

It is not always useful to rehearse how you got there when describing where you are. That, I think, is the main thing which produced those howls of protest – the thought is that they voted Leave, it’s clearly a disaster, and they are therefore to blame. No-one really likes admitting that they’re to blame, and some (including our PM) avoid doing it like the plague. We can’t, in any event, retrace our steps on Brexit completely. Many things have changed irreversibly, such as the movement of companies and European institutions out of the country. We could never expect to get back the discount we had on membership contributions. I’ve no wish to berate people for their vote back in 2016 – what is done is done, and we need to move on.

But we can’t move on successfully if, returning to my analogy of being lost and asking for directions, we won’t consider one or more of the possible routes out. Clearly, in this case, we could massively improve our trading position by regulatory alignment (which would remove the need for a large number of checks at borders, “non-tariff barriers”), rejoining the customs union (removing more) or rejoining the single market (removing all of them plus allowing us to get migrant workers from Europe again and restoring the position of our Financial Services industry). None of those would require rejoining the EU, so the sanctity of the Brexit decision would be preserved. The trouble is, our hypothetical friend on the phone is suggesting that we take the road marked “regulatory alignment” (for instance), and we’re being told that isn’t a route. We can’t do that, despite the fact that the original set of Brexit options included all three of those possibilities.

No, instead, the government rejects three of the four directions available and doesn’t even stop at the crossroads we’re at, it keeps suggesting that we motor on down the same disastrous road by tearing up the Northern Ireland protocol. Which will give us a trade war with Europe on top of our existing woes, and (as it will be a breach of the Withdrawal Agreement and probably prejudice the Good Friday Agreement as well) will break international law and demolish what’s left of our international reputation. No-one will want to make agreements with us after that.

The route we’re on runs over a cliff. Please can we pause, accept where we are, and decide that we don’t have to plummet to an even worse national disaster.