The Times weekend supplement for the Christmas season features a front-page photograph of a family, with the headline "Are you having a smug middle-class Christmas?" Inside, the cheery festive mood is kept up with a two-page quiz, "How middle-class is your Christmas? Take our test," all illustrated in full colour.
It is not only Christmas decorations and board-games with the family that are now supposed to make us squirm and cry "Bah, humbug!" The article launches a guilt-attack on everything from wood-burning stoves to Christmas cards. Guilt, guilt, guilt and snobbery galore. We are told that the bottles of wine we take when we visit friends are a "payment" and that the same ones are likely to come back to us. Rubbish, they get drunk on the spot and there is nothing wrong with being middle class. Unless we are all multi-millionaires or paupers, there is bound to be a middle class, end of story. Why is it that the people who read the Times newspaper are supposed to feel so guilty about celebrating Christmas, and why is it "smug" to have a good time? If that means it would be better not to enjoy ourselves, or to writhe in self-criticism and a sense of failure, well - stuff that!!! We don't need to hate ourselves to be moral.
The family in the photograph - mother, father and three children - are being subjected to a ritual humiliation because they are white, heterosexual, reasonably well-off and actually or nominally Christian. They are not vegetarian, unemployed, drug-addicts, in an ethnic minority, a one-parent household or anything else trendy, so they must be sneered at and snubbed like one of Anne Robinson's victims on her nasty TV quiz. I think that Britain is the only country I know that would indulge in this sort of masochism at Christmas, of all times. It reveals a national self-hatred that is unhealthy, negative and harmful.
In Saudi Arabia you are not allowed to celebrate Christmas. Last Wednesday night the religious police swooped on the house of a foreign diplomat there and arrested 41 people for doing just that. They were accused of being drunk and defying the laws against non-muslim religious observance. All the men and women present were taken away in police vans and are now in custody under conditions that will make them feel far from "smug". Is that what we want? Is that where our national self-loathing leads us?
Britain used to be a rich, proud and powerful nation. It has plummeted down in the last fifty years until it is now an omni-shambles, a poor, indebted, crippled country, that cannot even govern itself, or find homes for the injured servicemen who come back from Afghanistan and Iraq. We are torn apart by extremist ideologies, crying for the "rights" of prisoners to have votes or children or some such nonsense, and our education is lamentable. The only morality that seems to survive in some circles is a lingering guilt about being "middle class". This sort of self-hatred is the way to make our problems worse. We need to have a glimmering of self-respect if we are ever going to find our way out of the mess that we are in.