I was poking around on the harddrive looking for a particular file last night when I stumbled across the below: a post I wrote nearly TWO YEARS ago that somehow never made it to the blog. It was a direct response to something that happened on a live TV show, but it's still just as relevant and thought-provoking. So this week, you get a long, thinky post :) It's a little vague in places, but nonetheless asks some interesting questions. Enjoy.
Australians will poke fun at anything and everything, and claim it is their right to do so. There are very few icons of our own that one could mock and be slandered for it; we value our sense of laid-back humour and our ability to mock one and all. But are we guilty, because of this, of perpetuating negative stereotypes when we laugh at jokes that are fundamentally based on discrimination and said stereotyping?
Where, for example, does one draw the line? Is a blonde telling a blonde joke less discriminatory than a brunette telling it? Are we allowed to laugh? Are we allowed to laugh if a brunette tells it, but the blondes in the room laugh? And given that casual mockery is such an essential part of Australian culture, do we have to ask questions like, to what extent is a culture allowed their own character, insomuch as that character may hurt and offend others? And ultimately, is mocking based on racial or sexist discrimination any less harmful in the long run than, for example, the oppression of women in some eastern nations?
And most importantly: does this mean we’re not allowed a sense of humour? I dispute that: I believe that humour is an essential quality of being human, of life. But on the other hand, I refuse to find things such as Australia’s Funniest Home Videos funny; I find nothing amusing about people hurting themselves over and over in obvious, predictable and painful ways. Is it a matter then of choosing what we find funny?
It’s no wonder we live in a post-post modern age; moral relativity and globalisation are utterly incompatible. We simply cannot argue that what is right for me is right for me, and what is right for you is right for you, in an age where even the very concept of nationalism is up for grabs. Western nations will permit non-western nations to have power and influence only to the degree that they conform to our ideals and values; there is an absolute, and it’s ours. Granted, nationalism (global recognition that a country conforms to certain standards and thus has the right to autonomy) has always been a case of good for the goose but not for the gander, but in an increasingly global society there can be little doubt that nations are no longer truly free to choose their own identity; if they are to have any sway in the political community they must conform to certain standards of “justice”, “equality” and “democracy”.
But in the end, who’s to say that our judgement stick is the best? By no means am I suggesting that I am anti-democratic, or anti-anti-discrimination; but the point remains: we are guilty of forcing our will upon the rest of the world, whether they want it or not. It is for the good of the majority – on the whole.
So what are we going to do about it? It starts with being able to admit that we are part of the problem; with being able to admit that we are part of a society that perpetuates stereotypes; with being able to re-examine our own habits and beliefs, and being willing to accept that we were wrong – and that we can change.
I acknowledge that I have been naive. And I resolve to monitor more closely what I find amusing, and why, and to think about the broader implications that that may have not only in my own life, but in the life of others, even be they far, far away from me.
The world will change one person at a time. What will you do to change it?