Is Bad Always Bad (and good always good)?

This question was inspired by a comment from the lovely PJ over on another great site – Let’s have A Cocktail. It’s just something entirely valid that PJ said, but that often worries me at times and that I wonder about.

PJ’s comment was something along the lines of, “How many times have we heard a racist joke and said nothing?” It’s a fair question and there’s also been a bit of a fuss over at the BBC in the UK about some comment made (off camera) by one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing. There was also an incident a while back involving Prince Harry and a friend of his. Apparently, in the UK, in each case someone was called a “Pakki” (I’ve no idea if that’s how you would spell it, but the meaning’s the same – it’s short for Pakistani and generally refers to anyone from the Indian sub-continent).

Now, I can understand that, if I call someone in the street, or in a shop or office, a “Bloody Pakki” that might well be offensive. Firstly, in such circumstances, my intention would undoubtedly be to be offensive and I can’t see how that’s particularly worse than calling him (or her) a “fat lazy asshole”, or worse for not doing his job properly and causing me grief, but apparently I’m entitled to do that, but not to refer to his race. The Australians have referred to the English as “Whinging Poms” for years and the Americans called us “Limeys”, and I can’t say I’m particularly offended by it. The whole thing seems pretty stupid to me, especially since there are real and serious racist issues that still need addressing.

More importantly, though, we’re not, as far as I’m aware, really talking about anything spiteful here, but about humour and largely between friends. If the friend in question isn’t offended, why the hell should anyone else be? To me, it’s simply political correctness gone madder than ever.

What worries me most is, where do we draw the line? What’s it doing to the richness of our language and our humour? I can see perfectly well that some things that some of these so called comedians say is offensive (whether there is racist, sexist, or whatever comment) and I rarely find them funny anyway. Mostly, to me, such people are just unpleasant. But the English and the Irish have been telling jokes about each other for probably ever and I have to say that most of it’s hilarious – in fact by far the funniest “Irish” jokes are sent to me in email by Irish people.

When someone falls over and looks pretty daft doing it, we laugh – even if they’ve sometimes hurt themselves somewhat. Some may find it offensive that we laugh, but that doesn’t stop us and it’s not sexist just because the person involved is a woman, or racist because the man or woman is not white, or ageist because the guy’s getting on in years, it’s just funny because it is and that’s life.

So, I suppose what I’m saying here is that it can be summed up as: whilst I think that racism, sexism, ageism and practically any other “ism” is not only undesirable, it’s also generally bloody unacceptable too, plee-eease can we keep a sense of proportion about what a normal person would find offensive and, above all, can we please try to keep our sense of humour intact? There are far more important problems in the world to deal with – including real racism and sexism!

Addendum: I tried to add an example here as an addendum and then removed it because it sounded awful! I couldn’t explain myself properly. The fact is, it seems to me that, without context, personal knowledge of all the people involved and hearing tone of voice etc., it’s almost impossible to tell if something said within a group (rather than completely publicly) is really racist, sexist or whatever, or not.

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2 Responses to “Is Bad Always Bad (and good always good)?”

  1. I think we agree on political correctness going madder than ever; however in the USA, the worst and most common racist jokes are told about people of hispanic descent and African Americans…and they are nasty, mean-spirited, red-neck (American term for the ignorant folks, generally living in the southern US) jokes that I always interrupt to quiet the teller, because they’re toxic and infectious. Someone tells one and someone else feels the need to follow suit for whatever reason.

    When sexist jokes get vulgar, I do the same thing. What two or three people, who know each other and their boundaries well, say when they are alone is their business. When it comes to a party, dinner, workplace, any gathering of people that includes someone whose sensibilities are unknown, for me there is no excuse for any of it.

    But I’m old and cranky and Democrat…..what do I know?

    • I agree with you 100% (more if that were possible)! The fact is that, in public, these things are simply in bad taste and objectionable. What I can’t understand is why we need LEGISLATION to tell us that – surely a bit better education would achieve more in the slightly longer term…

      …And more people like you of course, who are prepared to just say, “I don’t think that’s funny!” (or perhaps something slightly less polite??) 🙂

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