Nia, a train from Africa, is another new friend joining the Thomas & Friends team.
Nia, a train from Africa, is another new friend joining the Thomas & Friends team.

Why is the UN coming for Thomas the Tank Engine?

LOOKING back, it was only a matter of time before they came for Thomas.

The cheerful, obedient, very useful, coal-swilling, carbon-belching tank engine who has delighted generations of children for decades is finally having his blue privilege checked - by the United Nations, no less.

According to news reports over the weekend, Thomas the Tank Engine is about to be relaunched to be more gender-balanced, multicultural, and in keeping with the United Nations' "Sustainable Development Goals".

In other words, they're about to make the show as interesting as an HR department's diversity training video.

Some male trains will be cashiered to make way for female characters, while the new diversity-friendly line-up will include Hong-mei (a Number 1 Blue Tank Engine from China) and Churubala, a female railway controller from India.

Oh, and there's also Isla, an Australian Flying Doctor, who will presumably bore all the other trains with stories about how ashamed she is of her government's treatment of asylum seekers.

Thomas the Tank Engine is getting a new group of friends thanks to the UN. (Pic: supplied)
Thomas the Tank Engine is getting a new group of friends thanks to the UN. (Pic: supplied)

All of this is in service of a number of these UN propaganda - er, development - goals, including "gender equality" (though 40 per cent of Thomas fans are already girls), "sustainable cities and communities", and "responsible consumption and production".

Honestly, it's enough to make one trains-phobic.

But it's no surprise that Thomas is being re-made for the 21st century. In some ways, it's a wonder it took so long.

Putting aside the fact that the trains of Sodor run on coal (or, in the case of one particularly malevolent engine, diesel), respect authority (God forbid), and are ruled by an obese middle-aged white guy, Thomas the Tank Engine has always been high on progressives' public enemies list.

In 2014, the Guardian denounced the show's "classism, sexism (and) anti-environmentalism bordering on racism". In 2016, online magazine Cracked claimed that "Thomas' home is a realm of fear and despair, of racism and hopelessness."

One would be tempted to say to these people, "hope you're happy now". But one gets the sense that the sort of people who spend their days applying critical theory to beloved childrens' shows in the name of advancing their personal revolution aren't really big in the mirth department.

Rebecca is one of two new girl friends that Thomas the Tank Engine will have. (Pic: supplied)
Rebecca is one of two new girl friends that Thomas the Tank Engine will have. (Pic: supplied)

This relentless drive to turn the whole world into a Benneton ad (and fingers crossed it doesn't turn into the Balkans) has its sinister side as well.

While worries about the UN's attempt to re-engineer the world are often dismissed as the stuff of tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy dudes, the idea that a mob of jetsetting global bureaucrats could leverage a company like Mattel into a re-make like this should give pause for concern.

Because although the goals may seem like nothing more than motherhood statements ("no poverty" and "zero hunger" being the first two of the 17) they also act as a stalking horse for an agenda that is not only politically progressive but also threatening to the very free-market, capitalist systems that have gone so far to raise standards of living and put food on tables around the world.

They are also a license for every meddling bureaucrat on the planet to do everything from peek into your trash to directing your tax dollars to politically in-favour companies. (See Goal 12, which is all about "reducing food waste, corporate sustainability practice, public procurement, and making people aware of how their lifestyle choices make a difference.")

And of course, they were developed through a shadowy black-box process that never once saw them put to the people whose lives and economies - even TV shows! - they might affect in the course of, as the UN's website puts it, "transforming our world".

It's a shame we'll never get to see the episode of Thomas where the Fat Controller tells the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Trains to head back to the mainland and go cause trouble somewhere else.

James Morrow is the opinion editor of The Daily Telegraph. @pwafork



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