I have a friend who thinks crystals will heal you, and another who’d like to bring back corporal punishment. Arguing with views like this isn't just good for you—it's the essence of civilisationby Miranda France / July 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
How different are your friends? If you had to assemble a kind of sports team of difference, who would be in it? I’m not talking about racial or sexual diversity here—although let’s make those differences our base. More specifically, do you know any monks or fund managers? Anyone who works in TV or in a factory? Does anyone you know go hunting? Do you know any hunt saboteurs?
My own friends include lawyers and bankers—hard to avoid in south-west London—but also communists and anarchists, from my time living in Spain and Latin America. I know scientists who demand evidence for every theory, but I also know a shaman who can recover lost fragments of your soul from the universe. Some of my friends own two houses; some rent rooms. One lives on a boat.
This seems important, because these are tribal times. Any hesitancy to celebrate the demolition of statues, or the faintest association with JK Rowling is enough to provoke not mere disagreement, but something more like excommunication—or in the new parlance “cancellation.” There’s a hankering for purity that rules out conversation, let alone friendship, with people who think differently.
And yet I have a friend who thinks crystals will heal you, and a friend who’d like to bring back corporal punishment. I know a wine merchant who sometimes calls women “girls” and a designer who thinks it’s more inclusive to call them “womxn.” Both terms infuriate me, but we still hang out. Recently an old friend talked me through her previous lives. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I wasn’t offended—just a bit bored.
Probably the only thing all these people have in common is that they’re good company—otherwise they wouldn’t be friends. Not all of them are close, of course, and some of them I barely see from one year to the next. They’ve been gathered over many years, in childhood, at university, in workplaces, at the school gate. There’s nothing like having children at a large inner-city school to infuse your middle age with the lifeblood of new friendships.
It was at the school gate that I acquired a Catholic friend who opposes abortion and a Ghanaian friend who thinks homosexuality…