No, they didn’t try to ‘ban Christmas’ (they just did something much stupider, that’s all…)

The nature of ‘Christmas’ itself will not change one iota, just because you use a different word to describe it. It will still remain precisely the same old religious festivity, to people who choose to regard it that way

You will, no doubt, have noticed the use of the third-person plural pronoun ‘they’ in that headline: even if it was a reference to the (singular) Grinch who (apparently) tried to pilfer Christmas from right under our noses last week.

… and, well, there’s a reason for that. I was trying to follow the internal communications guidelines recently drafted by the European Commission: you know, the same document which reportedly ‘tried to ban the use of the word Christmas’… or to ‘stamp out the use of Christian names like Maria’… or even (though this part was strangely omitted from most news reports) to ban expressions such as ‘the Colonisation of Mars’ (!!!)…

Now: never mind, for the moment, that all those accusations (except the last one) turned out, on closer scrutiny, to be a bunch of total bollocks, from start to finish…

… and that, in any case, the guidelines themselves could never possibly have worked. (Take the one about ‘Maria’, for instance. Did the European Commission even pause to consider how that might affect Broadway musicals such as, say, ‘West Side Story’? “Malika! I just met a girl called MALIKA…!” Sorry, Helena, but it just doesn’t sound the same… and you know it.)

Fact of the matter is that – mispresented though they undeniably were, by press and politicians alike – those internal guidelines were drawn up for a specific purpose… and that purpose, it seems, was: ‘not to offend anybody’.

Ouch! Already, you can appreciate the sheer futility of such a harebrained scheme. For let’s face it: ‘trying not to offend anybody’ – in this, the Year of Our Lord (Lady?) 2021 – is the equivalent of ‘trying not to inhale any oxygen when you breathe’; or ‘trying not to be pulled downwards by this mysterious force known as Gravity’…

It’s just one of those things that will never, EVER happen. Indeed, the attempt to ‘not offend anybody’ may even be more impossible than all those other things put together: because – as was so spectacularly demonstrated by that same EC document – there is clearly an unwritten law of Physics, that states: “If anyone, anywhere, can possibly interpret anything at all as being remotely ‘offensive’ or ‘objectionable’… THEY WILL.”

And from there, it follows as a matter of course – in all circumstances; but particularly, in a context as polarized as European politics – that some people will be on the constant look-out for possible causes of ‘offence’; and that, even if they can’t actually find any… they will distort whatever they do find to make to look as ‘offensive’ as they possibly can…

Which brings me to the single most perplexing aspect of this entire affair. I mean… what on earth was Helena Dalli even thinking? Couldn’t she have instantly predicted – just as easily as you or I would have done, had that memo landed on our own desks for approval – that that is PRECISELY what was all along going to happen, in this particular instance?

For let’s face it: there was simply no other way that document could conceivably have been interpreted… other than as a living embodiment of the one fear that the European Right just loves to stoke, at every single opportunity.

In other words, the same fear that Dr Zeuss had so magically evoked, in his 1957 classic ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’; only this time, transposed onto a very real backdrop, characterized by a very real resurgence of nationalism, populism, and undisguised Fascist xenophobia… all fuelled, in turn, by this vague, woolly phenomenon we refer to as ‘multiculturalism’.

But let me guess: it simply never occurred to anyone at the European Commission, that this private, internal memo would immediately be leaked to the press – no doubt, by a disgruntled employee somewhere towards the bottom of the food-chain – specifically, to create the false impression of a ‘political crusade against Christmas’.

Not even when the Commission knows – or should know, by now – that the mere existence of such a document would seem to magically ‘confirm’ the widespread popular misconception, that… yes, actually.

People really do believe European Union intends to gradually ‘phase out’ their more cherished popular customs and traditions… and all precisely in the name of ‘equality’ and ‘inclusivity’, too…

And what: are we to seriously understand that the European Commission didn’t even realise, from long beforehand, that those very tactics would be used against it? Honestly: that actually shocks me a whole lot more, than any number of scenarios in which the European Commission were to really try to ‘ban Christmas’ (or anything equally daft or outrageous).

Because if the Commission really were stupid enough to wage a pointless war, against a phenomenon that – for better or worse – clearly signifies a very great deal, to a very, VERY great many European citizens out there… well, so be it. The worst that could happen is that the Commission might end up collapsing under the weight of its own stubbornness (and let’s be honest: it would only have itself to blame …)

But if the Commission is going to invite that very possibility… not on purpose, but simply because none of its highly-paid staff – with all their experience, and qualifications - possessed the political nous to even comprehend how such a potentially explosive document might be (wittingly or unwittingly) misrepresented…

I mean… what can I say? Small wonder they’d also be debating how to refer (in their internal email communications, please note) to the ‘Colonisation of Mars’. Clearly, the European Commission must be inhabiting an altogether different planet from the rest of us, down here on Planet Earth…

But what I find so much more infuriating, is that… it’s all so perfectly POINTLESS, at the end of the day.

Let’s go back to my own use of the pronoun ‘they’. Like I said, I was only trying to follow the European Commission’s own guidelines – even if, quite frankly, they were never intended to apply to me: or to anyone else, beyond the Commission’s own staff – and even then, only insofar as ‘not offending anyone’ on the specific basis of gender alone.

But… how successful was I? How many people out there would have even noticed – still less, appreciated – my attempt not to draw any public attention to the subject’s gender (or even ‘singularity’), in that particular sentence?

I can assure you: the answer is ‘none at all’. And this, too, arises from that same Universal law I quoted earlier: for just as everyone will always immediately notice – and kick up a godawful fuss about – those parts of any communication that they find personally ‘offensive’… nobody in the entire Universe will ever so much as bat an eyelid, if something does not challenge their own preconceived notions in any way.

And this implies that, even if those internal guidelines were never leaked to the press at all… and, as a consequence, remained in force to this day… they would simply never have had any form of meaningful impact whatsoever.

For one thing, because the people the Commission was trying so very hard ‘not to offend’, would not even be aware of its efforts to begin with… and for another: because those efforts are only going to infuriate a whole bunch of other people, whose existence the Commission may not even be aware of at all: and who will invariably have their own (often entirely dishonest) reasons to be artificially ‘offended’.

Likewise, no one is ever going to be fooled by my use of the plural form, to indicate a decision that we all know was taken by only one, solitary individual. (Still less, by my efforts to conceal the precise gender of that individual, behind a misleading pronoun).

Leaving aside that there is another, entirely philological dimension to this same issue: not every European language is as ‘gender-neutral’ as English, you know… try doing the same with Maltese – where gender is denoted not just by pronouns, but by a complex system of verb-conjugation – and the entire grammatical structure of the language would simply collapse altogether…

But I’ll save that for another time. The bottom line is that no amount of ‘linguistic tinkering’ is ever going to change the fact that there is only one European Commissioner for Equality, responsible for this entirely unnecessary fracas… and that ‘her’ (not ‘their’) name is Helena Dalli.

By the same token, the nature of ‘Christmas’ itself will not change one iota, just because you use a different word to describe it. It will still remain precisely the same old religious festivity, to people who choose to regard it that way: and all the more so, to those people who (rightly or wrongly) really do sense a ‘threat’ to their own, most cherished beliefs and customs.

Ironically, the only way we could ever realistically reach the sort of ‘equality’ envisaged by that document – that is to say, when people no longer take offence when they hear ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Happy Christmas’ (or vice versa) – is when the people themselves stop giving such a lot of cultural importance to that particular festivity in the first place.

And there are only things to add to that: one, it’s not exactly looking very likely, at the moment; and two, if it ever does happen at all.. it will certainly not be because of any ‘guidelines’ or ‘recommendations’ issued by the European Commission.

No indeed: they would have much better luck trying to ‘colonise Mars’, if it ever comes down to it… for that, at least, does fall squarely within the realms of the possible.