Archive for racist

Is Bad Always Bad (and good always good)?

Posted in People, Society and Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2009 by AF

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.

It’s All There in Black and White.

Posted in Writing and Things Literary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by AF

The publishing industry, like many others at the moment, is currently in what I think can fairly be described as a somewhat parlous state. That is I suppose in large measure due to the economic circumstances of our time – i.e. yet another victim of the hugely greedy bankers (or do you spell that with a ‘w’). There are also, though, enormous changes taking place, not least because of the Internet, the effects of which have I suspect hardly even begun to be felt yet. 

I personally am at a stage in my life when two things seem apparent to me: firstly, a lot of the time we are seemingly daily bombarded with so much crisis and doom and gloom on TV and in the newspapers and elsewhere that, when I read a book or watch a TV show or film, I simply want to be entertained – to escape – to laugh, or even to cry more for joy than for sorrow and I think many people are suffering from this ‘doom overload’ that is afflicting me; secondly, publishers are looking for ever more certain winners in terms of profit – the fast buck that comes from either an already established author, or more frequently than ever, anything (who writes this stuff doesn’t matter a darn) that has a name tag to it that is instantly recognisable by the book buying public. Famous or infamous is irrelevant, the name is the thing. As Jennifer Astle has pointed out in this post…

“It seems as though another pre-packaged celebrity is going to stretch out her fifteen minutes of fame by penning a memoir about the trials and tribulations of being a 22 year old, heterosexual, rich, white, blonde, beauty pageant winner.  Move on Anne Frank, Carrie Prejean has a story to tell.” (full post here)

I’ve never thought that the publishing industry, or the media in general was as altruistically full of the integrity they would have us believe, but then which of us is? However, in these strained economic times, it does seem that they are becoming even less prepared to allow mere facts to get in the way of selling what they can, however they can. I can’t say I entirely blame them for giving the public what it wants, or attempting to, but it does raise some serious questions, as this superb post by successful female TV Producer Maria Lokken shows…

“There’s a controversy brewing over a new Young Adult book about to be released in the US entitled “Liar.” The book, written by Australian author Justine Larbalestier is about a black teenager named Micah. However, the cover art, beautiful as it is, is of a white girl with long straight hair.” (full post here)

To some extent, this situation may well say far more about the book buying public than the publishing industry itself and I suppose it’s also a very reasonable argument to say that, particularly when times are this financially tough, a corporation’s gotta do what a corporation’s gotta do. Nevertheless, it’s also an entirely valid question to ask just how far we are any of us entitled to go in pandering to another’s less than laudable emotions and attitudes, simply in order to make a sale.

All that said, the really sad thing is, as Maria points out, these marketing guys are probably just plain wrong and it would be a whole lot better for everyone if they simply took the trouble to get their facts right in the first place.