Silos & Narrow Definitions


We are told that:

‘good uncles take an active part in their nieces and nephews’ lives. They spend time with them, offer valuable perspective on the family, and help resolve conflicts. They’re people who children and parents can both trust with difficult subjects and to advocate for their interests.’

By this definition an uncle who cannot even recognise most of his nephews and nieces must be a dreadful uncle, right?

As one of seven children and married to one of five, I am now uncle to over fifty children and great uncle (in my mere forties) to three.

Greta Thunberg, up yours.

I once knew the names of all my nephews and nieces, as one knows the names of the first Gremlins before they get soaked in water and start popping out all over the place like Omicron spores. But what is the point now? Just come up with a Christian name and one of them will have it. There are so many of them now, they are starting to pinch the names of old family dogs. Over fifty birthday/Christmas cards and gifts a year? Not to mention the baptisms, communions, confirmations and other fascinating events. Unfeasible. In any case a surplus of cake clogs one’s arteries. Fifty plus nephews and nieces is silly and unmanageable. I know my children’s school friends better. I could not pick out most of these blood relatives – let alone my relatives in law overseas – from a line-up. It sounds sad to say, I could be standing next to them in the street or sitting next to them on a plane and have no idea that they were family members.

Yet by the above narrow definition I am a dreadful uncle?

I fear – after talking to an expert on trans issues last weekend – that there is a danger we are once again descending into unhelpful silos on an issue which affects very few, but which affects the few it affects in a too often life-threatening way.

I totally understand the one silo which warns of the dangers of identity politics, postmodernism, willies in girls’ changing rooms and the fanatical sickos urging young children to transition. I claim no affinity with the other silo which claims gender is on a continuum, male trans athletes can compete unhindered against women, or that there are hundreds of genders which we must show children, as being open about gender feelings – only they insist – is ‘crucial’. But what about those stuck in the middle of the argument who are as confused as hell and actually could do with someone unbiased and sound to hear them out? Each silo is unhelpfully biased and held back by narrow – in some cases sinister – definitions.

The same with rewilding. There is the silo that sees rewilding as synonymous with communism – a way to wreck countryside sports and farming, upset the balance of the countryside and implement Marxist countryside carving in the failed style of Chavez via the back door. On the other you have the rewilders who insist on rewilding wherever they can, who fail to appreciate existing moor management and see gamekeepers and farmers as their mortal enemies. Again, I ask what about those in the middle who don’t really mind if an area gets rewilded to a certain degree but who respect sound countrysiders’ livelihoods and sensibilities? Plant as many forests around Woking, Basingrad or Slough – who are you upsetting? Again the guys in the middle are getting thwacked by narrow definitions.

The same has happened with Covid.

The silos with their tribal arguments should really have disappeared after Brexit. Instead the phenomenon is lingering, not helped by shrill public voices on either side of various important debates. People are too quick to judge and too slow to understand others’ points of view even though such points of view may contain an element of illuminating truth. Black and white may be more fun to argue but where’s the grey gone? Where’s the nuance that reflects reality?

Social media is mostly to blame – Twitter lacks the characters to develop sensible characters. Such warmongering takes on a momentum of its own where beginnings are identifiable, but endings lost in the hot air of battle. Winning a Twitter spat has little sway on real world arguments but that it has any influence on real world politics is worrying as hell.

As Churchill once wrote: “The statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”

Dreadful uncle?

Dominic Wightman is Editor of Country Squire Magazine.