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Peter Rhodes on a pithy problem, smartphone diagnoses and the precious freedom not to speak

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Politically-correct headgear?

Melania and pith helmet

A NEW smartphone app can measure your daily mental performance and detect the earliest signs of dementia. Leaving aside the obvious question - do you really want an early diagnosis of an incurable disease? - what about the privacy? Today, your app score begins to falter, hinting at mental decline. Tomorrow, not only do you receive an invitation to visit your doctor but your travel, car and life-insurance policies are mysteriously cancelled. It couldn't possibly happen? Wait and see.

IT is ten years since the financial crash. Everyone has been raking up their memories. I have four:

  1. The faces of people queuing outside Northern Rock in Birmingham, terrified that their money had vanished and yet still joking in a very English way.
  2. A worried couple whose ruinously overstretched business was going bust because they were allowed to borrow a colossal sum based on eight times their combined annual earnings - with no proof of income required by the bank.
  3. An interview on a train with Gordon Brown, who used the word "global" to distance himself from the crash more times than I could count.
  4. An economist who told me that, even if not a single American bank had gone bust, Britain would still be "deep in the ****" because of our debt levels.

MELANIA Trump, the President's wife, got some flak during her recent Africa trip for wearing that symbol of colonialism, a pith helmet. It's so hard to keep up with politically-correct headgear, isn't it?

IT'S not just the colonial issue. By wearing a hat developed principally by British and French settlers, Melania, a Slovenian, was also guilty of cultural appropriation, as she would be if she decided to wear a Mexican sombrero.

AS it happens, I have a pith helmet. Thankfully, it is not a colonialist pith helmet. I bought it in Vietnam where the Viet Cong guerillas fighting the Americans adopted the helmets worn by their former colonial masters, the French. So mine is not only an anti-colonial helmet but an anti-American helmet, too. As politically-correct Leftie fashion goes it is right up there with a Che Guevara T-shirt or a Palestinian keffiya scarf, as worn by Jeremy Corbyn fans everywhere. Don't you covet my pith helmet, comrades?

SNAG is, my Viet Cong pith helmet is not the real thing. It is a replica sold to tourists. It is made of plastic and will therefore probably end up killing marine wildlife. Such is the modern dilemma. Just when you're scoring all the points in the anti-colonial headgear stakes, you choke a dolphin. Dammit.

SKY TV's online petition to force political leaders to take part in TV debates during election campaigns strikes me as illiberal and unBritish. Freedom of speech means nothing if we don't also have the freedom not to speak.

IN any case, where's the proof that TV debates tell us anything? The 2010 TV debates suggested the rising star of 21st century politics was somebody called Nick Clegg...

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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