Color Blind & Tone Deaf

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People ostensibly on my side used to suggest that we become “color blind.” These included Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, they were referring to skin color only, and would probably make some space for a doctor who had noticed his patient turning bright green.

For the realities of “tritanopia” and “achromatopsia” – medical conditions – apply only to color perception, and not to social programs. Most of us can spot a metaphor after it has hit us in the face. The “rainbow coalition” is another example. It has nothing to do with atmospheric optics. It is pure political theater, though hardly pure in the moral sense.

Verily, our attention to skin color is now enhanced. Old-fashioned, aging types like me are now counseled to note race carefully, and ignore all aspects of it EXCEPT skin color. This becomes confusing when, in spite of this general instruction, we are told that, for instance, conservative blacks aren’t really black, and ought to be persecuted more than “white racists.”

Metaphors develop lives of their own and attempt to rule us. So I should watch my figures of speech. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” the rifle enthusiasts used to argue, and the same might be said for metaphorical posturing.

I was myself taught to be “color blind,” when small, and had no trouble with this as a child in Pakistan. In my school class, only one other boy wasn’t brown. Too, he had freckles, and red hair; and to top it off he was also named “David.” Everyone seemed to notice our race, and I wished they wouldn’t.

Older, I came to know a talented painter. I praised her imaginative work as a colorist, until she told me, “just between us,” that she was medically color-blind. That was probably why she had painted the moon under water in such a novel way. The two goldfish in that composition were also quite original.

But as for making an issue of skin color, let me go back to school. This one was in Canada, back when children in small Ontario towns tended to be lily-white, but there was one boy from Trinidad. A group of playground rednecks liked to give him a hard time. One day, the lily-white son of the local undertaker intervened. The junior rednecks were getting particularly rough, in the absence of adult supervision, and they were threatening to hurt their victim, in a non-metaphorical way.

I strayed on the scene. The undertaker’s son had put it all on the line: “You’re just picking on Teddy because he is dark, and I won’t stand for it.”


It was a good show. The undertaker’s son was somehow able to put the fear of God into the nasty wee mob that was forming. When I got home, I told my father, who immediately telephoned the undertaker, to say how proud he should be of his son.

‘What happened to color blind?” I asked facetiously, for I was always eager to debate with my father. Well, it turned out we should ignore skin pigmentation, except when we shouldn’t. Our hero had used the word “dark,” correctly.

Lots of fun can be had, undermining metaphors and similes. Let us move on to the sense of hearing.

I’m aware that I don’t have “perfect pitch,” and sometimes wonder what that would sound like. Some don’t have it even more than others, and I could prove that by trying to sing. Yet for all my disabilities, I love Bach. Also poetry, although I gather that “tone deaf” people have no trouble with scansion or the music of speech.

Yet I know a mother who can distinguish musical notes exactly (she is an accomplished musician) whose recently “woke” children now call her “tone-deaf.” This is because she is far from “woke” herself.

According to her delinquent kids, she should use terms more politically correctly. They accused her of “triggering” them, until they heard that “triggering” and “trolling” are terms of art now belonging to the other side. Still, she should show more “understanding” for their woke generation, and others whose attitudes she finds appalling.

She shouldn’t, according to me, as a practical matter. We have a war to win, even within our families, and surrendering to the leftist thought police is a poor way to start. Let mama use English with indifference to blather. She was herself, after all, well educated, and doesn’t cuss or swear. (She can be delightfully dry, however.)

But there’s an argument that goes deeper than that, expressed by such as Saint Paul, and Our Savior. To be faithful to our calling requires us not to utter falsity – even when this makes us unpopular. And woke terminology is a tissue of lies.

This is what I would call the Christian version of “stand your ground.” It involves calling things by their common names. It is consistent with the plain use of verbs and adjectives. It acknowledges that truth doesn’t change, because the words change, and has the class to avoid both smears and euphemisms – except when showing a jolly sense of humor.

It means being “tone-deaf,” as it were, to the world’s verbal subterfuges, except when calling bluffs. For behind woke language lies a long history of bluff, in which even those who consciously disagree are invited, or intimidated into agreeing with propositions that are wrong, to others who would never return the favor.

Are words so important? You bet. Like guns, they can be “weaponized”; and as weapons they can be used to change a person’s behavior. This is why, as a Catholic and Christian, one should turn up to a confrontation – even within one’s family – also verbally armed.

Children, too, should be fully armed from birth, or from as soon after as they can learn to “carry.” Let us all be armed with tone-deafness, and use it till the enemy panics and flees.


*Image: Man of Sorrows by Neilson Carlin, 2015 [Neilson Carlin Fine Art]

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: