Thursday, 24 April 2014

Fair Game

Racism is still taking centre stage this week what with all the St George and anti-St George rhetoric of yesterday. In fact racism is the prejudice du jour for anybody who wants to be anybody. But its ubiquity is a big part of the problem. As the definition is diluted and broadened and applied thinly to the merest perceived turn up of the nose we are rapidly nearing a racism event horizon, a Lenny Henry singularity whereby all failure can be excused by one’s appearance rather than by one’s performance. Black, white, red, yellow or blue (Scotland) and from under whatever national flag, it is all the fault of other people’s prejudice against your origins. We’re all going nowhere but at least we are equally victimised.

The trouble is where does it all stop? There have been genuine and sincere attempts to have ginga-bashing classified as a form of racism. Thank goodness the blondes haven’t risen up and complained; it’s probably because they don’t get it, a propos of which I bring you this oldie but goodie:

A blind man walks into a bar, taps the man next him, and says, "Hey, wanna hear a blonde joke?" The man replies, "Look mate, I'm blond. The bloke behind me is an eighteen-stone professional wrestler and he is blond. The bouncer is blond. The landlady is blonde and the bottle-washer is also blond. You sure you still want to tell that joke?" The blind man is silent for a few seconds while he considers his options. Eventually he makes up his mind. "Nah, I wouldn't want to have to explain it five times."

New-racism is founded on an odd paradox. While the old racism was caused largely by ignorance and a perfectly normal wariness of strangers, which led to antipathy against the interloper, modern racism turns inwards. Today’s racism is more a product of white self-loathing. So far have we moved from judgement by skin colour that the only uneasy colour is the one we refer to as ‘white’. Even that is a shocking stereotype; at best we’re a blotchy, doughy pink. It’s all gone too far, so today I launch the search for a new, acceptable prejudice.

It’s tricky old thing because most of them have been done already. Left-handers, short people, the bald, the short-sighted, stutterers, Sloanes, chavs, Scousers, the Welsh – see there we’re bordering on racism again, even though nobody seems to be able to properly explain what they mean by race. (Today even the Cornish have been accorded their own protected racial minority status) At a Manic Street Preachers gig some years ago somebody in our group casually remarked that they were good but it was a shame they were Welsh. A perfectly earnest student type felt the need to butt in. “That’s racist” he informed us. We assumed he was joking so burst out laughing. He was serious and now he was offended. Naturally we upped our game and all adopted cod Welsh accents until he piped down. 

But would you dare do that today? The reviews imply that even Ricky Gervais, who built his entire career on offence-causing has given way to opinion and toned down the caricature for the second series of Derek, which aired last night. Fair enough, I think most of us balk at mocking disability but even laughing and pointing at the plain, every-day stupid has to be done in ‘safe’ company for fear of attracting censure. No. We need a less defensible target; a group who, whatever the truth, is universally loathed and set apart from the rest of humanity, ideally by their own choice.

We need a common enemy

But what sort of person would deliberately set out to become a part of a despised minority? And furthermore, what sort of person would not only know they were considered reprehensible by everybody else but would continue, despite all the flak, to keep doing the very thing that attracts our opprobrium? Who could be so thick-skinned that almost any type of resentment against them would be considered fair game? In entirely unrelated news, Ed Davey is justifying putting up the electricity bills again. If only there were more people like him to hate?

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