A couple of articles caught my eye this week. The first was a description of the growing trend for universities across the United States to provide “Safe Spaces” and “Trigger Warnings” to protect sensitive students.
As an example, for those of you who are not familiar with these new concepts, university administrators were recently forced to create a “safe space”, a special room complete with calming music and Play-Doh for those students who were upset by a debate on sexual assault. The safe space was for the use of students during the debate, not after they had been exposed to it. Even the idea of a debate was enough to upset some sensitive souls.
A Trigger Warning is an alert that lecturers must issue if the content of a course might upset any student. At many universities, a literary course that includes books such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses (trigger: sexual assault) or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (triggers: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence) must now have a trigger warning.
Even Oxford University law students are being issued with trigger warnings before lectures containing material deemed too “distressing”. Prior to lectures on sexual offences students were warned the content could be upsetting, and were given the opportunity to leave. It was not clear if sexual offences would be removed from criminal law to avoid upsetting future lawyers’ sensitivities.
The second article described how “Militants armed with a car bomb, grenades and automatic weapons killed at least 14 people during a 10-hour attack on the American University of Afghanistan.” It did not say if there was a safe space or if sufficient Play-Doh had been available.
Various forms of these two stories appear with increasing frequency. On one hand, there is the sensitive, caring, politically correct, idealist who is all for peace in a world without war. On the other is the fanatic, driven by allegiance to a higher authority, who will do anything, however violent or inhumane, to advance the cause.
Each time I saw a new story about a student suffering from Micro-aggression (this is newspeak for words with no malicious intent which a distressed recipient interprets as an act of violence) or an axe-wielding lunatic on a German train, it left me with the feeling that I have seen this before. Then it came to me: this is the world of H. G. Well’s science fiction novel, The Time Machine. We don’t have to move forward to the English countryside of CE 802,701, we are already there.
In H. G. Wells book, the world is divided between two species that have evolved from humanity – the Morlocks and the Eloi. The Morlocks are brutish and disgusting. They live underground; their only access to the surface world is through well-like structures that dot the countryside. The Eloi are beautiful and graceful, but weak and fragile. But perhaps the most important difference between the two race; the Morlocks work and the Eloi do not.
The Morlocks and the Eloi have a symbiotic relationship; the Eloi are clothed and fed by the Morlocks, and in return, the Morlocks eat the Eloi. It turns out that the Eloi are descended from the idle rich and the Morlocks from the working poor. The novel shows how social class evolves over time; those on top now may find themselves on the bottom later.
Is this what is happening right now? A large section of humanity is quickly developing into Morlocks. They have no feeling for anyone who does not join their violent fundamentalist doctrines. They will enslave, behead, all who do not believe in the group’s interpretation of their holy book. A journalist who spent some time with one of these groups kept hearing that they want to “conquer the world”. He was particularly struck by their belief that “all religions that agree with democracy have to die”, and by their “incredible enthusiasm for killing hundreds of millions of people”. Like the Morlocks, these groups are prepared to work; to use modern technology, sometimes for better but usually for worse. I don’t need to tell you who the Morlocks are – I’m sure you’ll recognise them when you see them.
In the meantime, the Eloi are also increasing. They want a peaceful world, where Morlocks will stop building nuclear weapons just because the Elois ask them nicely. They are happy to give up their age-old customs, to hand over their houses, even their countries, to streams of Morlocks climbing out of their underworld. They will do anything to avoid causing distress or offence. They want a green world where the earth’s abundant riches remain in the ground, even if this means starving. They do not want to work at anything that might disturb their world’s delicate balance, but are content to enjoy the fruits of the Morlock’s labour.
They tirelessly advocate a world where animals have the same rights as humans. They do not notice the waiting Morlocks who see the exact opposite; humans have the same rights as animals, and therefore make a tasty lunch.
The Elois want a safe world, a politically correct world; a world where “distressing” articles like this will not see the light of day.