Hang that Belgian freak with the Something About Mary hair

‘Adult education’, as a phrase always amuses me. I always picture education of an adult nature rather than adults being educated. It’s much like ‘children’s fiction’ (or ‘military intelligence’) in that it can be misleading as a phrase. In my day (to exercise a phrase my late grandfather overused, even when he wasn’t finishing the sentence with ‘this was all fields’) we were fed the classics. When I was only a wee columnist, we did not have contemporary bestselling children’s books revolving around children my age learning to use magic, tame mythical beasts and use esoteric powers to fight dark forces. No. We had to read A.A. Milne.

And while I quite like the idea of Milne’s ‘James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree, Occult Practitioner’, or Enid Blyton’s ‘Five Read Chicken Entrails in an Obscure Voodoo Ritual and Have a Jolly Good Time’ now, at the time I was perfectly happy with the originals. How things change. Last week’s news revealed that an online petition has been started, begging author JK Rowling not to kill Harry off for good (as she might in the latest instalment of the series, due out on 21 July). The petition was started and is administered by Waterstone’s Bookstores (for purely literary and altruistic reasons, I’m sure) and aims to reach one million signatures before the release of the next book.

Which is worrying, since the highest number of signatures on any petition on the 10 Downing Street Open Petitions website is about 244,700. At this point I should say something like: ‘Isn’t it sick that we seem to care more about a fictional character than real human beings and serious political issues?’ But I won’t. Because the Number Ten petitions are not all entirely serious. The top one aims to be, I’m sure. But really it isn’t. It’s the one where Christians petition against the building of a ‘mega-mosque’ in London. A mega-mosque for which there are currently no submitted plans, and about which, according to the Mayor of London, those sending those annoying petition emails have almost every fact wrong. But apart from that particular sterling bit of outreach to our as-yet unsaved Muslim neighbours, there are other cracking petitions.

For instance, the petition to repeal the laws against fox-hunting is countered by one to ignore the repeal petition. There’s a petition (in the top 15 petitions) to make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister. Innocent Smoothies have a petition to cut taxation on smoothies. One of my personal favourites (with almost 5,000 signatures) says: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to …stand on his head and juggle ice-cream.’ And, almost at the bottom of the pile, a petition that demands that all people in nightclubs be tested for drugs, and if they test positive, should have to be quizzed on current affairs, economics and social history.’ Those scoring less than 50% should ‘have their frontal lobe removed with a spoon as a lesson to others.’

‘Save Harry Potter’ is looking positively relevant now, eh? But other children’s characters were also in trouble last week. Tintin, and his adventures in the Congo were the target of a banning demand for inherent racism (not to mention bloodthirsty killing of a rhino with dynamite). ‘Political correctness gone mad’? I think not. Racism is repugnant and not something we want to teach our kids. But I think the decision to simply move the title to the adult ‘graphic novels’ section was probably sufficient. Bookstores, after all, can sell Mein Kampf and the Marquis De Sade. Herge (who revised and all but disowned Tintin in the Congo) is hardly in their league. That said, I’m still starting a petition to hang Tintin for crimes against humanity. Seriously.


(see comment section for Number Ten’s response)


2 Responses

  1. I submitted my petition to hang Tintin or at least to try him for crimes against humanity. Unfortunately this is the response i got back. sigh.


    I’m sorry to inform you that your petition has been rejected.

    Your petition was classed as being in the following categories:

    * Intended to be humorous, or has no point about government

    If you wish to edit and resubmit your petition, please follow
    the following link:

    You have four weeks in which to do this, after which your
    petition will appear in the list of rejected petitions.

    Your petition reads:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to: ‘try Tintin
    for human rights and environmental abuses in the Congo.’

    The Belgian reporter has got away with it for far too long. It
    is time for him to hang.

    — the ePetitions team”

  2. I have been following both stories, and am also a personal fan of the Number 10 petitions site.

    Made me laugh your piece, that it did.


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