Racialism

Please read carefully. You don’t want to stumble over the rest of this post. I wrote it carefully because I didn’t want to stumble either…

We often hear people being accused of racism. Or things being referred to as racist. Both are deemed wrong and unacceptable. A great deal of writing and speaking, as well as legislating and litigating, is done to eradicate this. Time will tell whether it will be successful, though I have my doubts when this might be achieved entirely.

But how about eradicating – or at least reducing  – racialism. That’s what I call the all-pervasive concentration upon race and upon ethnic matters so that it becomes the pivotal point of all thought and behaviour. Not just seeing black and white things as black and white, but deliberately turning down the saturation on the rest of the world so that there is nothing to see but black and white.

Don’t believe it can come to that? I have heard people make a racial fuss about sandwiches, numbers, and hair styles. I have heard people make a racial matter out of the choice of a colour scheme for a new car. God knows what they would do if someone asked them to buy a non-racist, non-sectarian, gender-neutral water pump.

I can even do it. I can look at certain teeth in certain jaws and even if I cannot see the rest of the person, I can tell you whether it’s likely they come from Beijing, Leeds, or Dresden. ( Though I was fooled by Cyril von Shanghai once…)

The main effect of racialism upon me is boredom, and a feeling of dread. It is an indication that the conversation will be directed to take a decided turn for the worse at every possible opportunity. That every pathway will be a political one and none of them will be worth treading. It will as if the old bolsheviks and their fellow travellers had risen and gained traction again. The brave black – and white – banners will be flying and it will only be a matter of time before they break out the bayonets and the marching songs.

Bah!

( Not baa, or baa baa, because that would suggest black sheep and we would get nasty notes from the NAACP, the Farmer’s Federation, and VMF 214… I could stand the first two but the thought of Boyington’s ghost terrifies me)

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Things I Never Write About

While I have treated of many topics here on ” Here All Week ” over the past six years, there are some that I do not deal with. Others may approach them, but I do not feel myself qualified to comment. Certainly I do not think I could make things better.

a. Suicide.

I have known a number of suicides in the last few decades. All of them had a history of distress, but few of their acquaintances knew to what depth it went. Two instances were reported truthfully, and one was clothed in deception.  One I have decided to believe the report, though I strongly suspect it. In the end it is all the same.

b. Adultery.

Is that still a thing? It would be for me, but I may be living in a parallel universe. I should not know how to deal with it, in any case.

c. Family abuse.

I recoil from it when I hear, and wish never to hear more…but for the sake of the victims, there are occasions when it should be boldly and openly discussed. I can offer cake and sympathy but sometimes I have no idea what to say. Have some more cake…

d. Extremist politics and religion.

I can stand a certain amount of Trump-bashing or Morrison-bashing before I react, and the reaction is mild anyway. I also grit and grim ( as opposed to grip and grin ) when I see racism, sinophobia, or xenophobia tricked up in pseudo patriotism and generally just let it through to the keeper…in the knowledge that no-one wants to keep it anyway. I am inclined to ignore ignorance.

I do not react well in other areas – when someone decides to be anti-Semitic or anti-American thinking it to be kewl. But I have been able to rein in my replies reasonably well – the 30-day snooze button on Facebook has been a godsend. But, like a snooze button on a clock radio, you can only press it so many times before you decide to just unplug the damn thing and throw it away.

Note: I am more aware these days of the psychological consequences of associating with idiots and ratbags, and seek to reduce this to a minimum. If Facebook friends are still able to read this as a shared message, they may take it as a favourable endorsement of their characters. Otherwise…

 

 

 

The Question Of Race, Including The Pit Stops

It turns out that if a question is poorly asked, it is poorly answered.

Take the business of black and white. Black people and white people… There are some humans who are really very close to black and some very close to white, but they are a very small percentage of those who are described with these two words. Most of us are either pink, tan, or brown, or a combination of the three. Doesn’t quite have the graphic impact of black and white, but is demonstrably true using a Macbeth colour chart…or our own two eyes in the sunlight.

Or the business of conflating two sets of information to describe someone…and making a horrible set of generalisations while doing it: ” Korean – American ”  to describe someone whose parents were born in Korea or ” African – Australian ” to do the same for someone with parents from Africa. The latter is marginally better than the former on  a pure land mass vs country basis, but not by much. It becomes even weirder when we look at ” Euro- Australian ” or ” Asian – American “. If the last-named has any semantic legs at all it should cover the native American tribes as well as all the peoples who eventually pushed on down to South America. After all, we’re not limiting our classifications to last week, are we? Ice Age is ice age…

And can we footle with the words when the air fares are advantageous? There used to be a classification of ” Eurasian ” that was used to be mean to people in both Europe and Asia by making them feel like they were strangers in their own lands. Now that the luggage and the parrots in cages are going the other way, are there ” Asiopeans “? ” Asiamericans “.

How about ” Afropeans “? ” Asiafricans ”

If the Inuit ever take a fancy to move to Madagascar via the West Indies is it all going to go to hell in a linguistic handbasket?

I vote we all do like Morgan Freeman says and just drop the multi-state-continent-race thing and just refer to people by where they live. I’m an Australian. Not a  Caucasian Germano-Hebraic-Americo-Canadian-Australian.

Just plain Australian…I pays my taxes and obeys the law. Nothing much before my emigration really affects me except for my prairie figures of speech and a deadly hatred for Edmonton. And that seems to be common on all continents.

If nothing else, reducing my classification to just one thing will save a bundle on Dymo tapes for the name tag.

 

Exercising My Uncivil Rights

I am going to make an assumption here than may prove to be incorrect. I don’t mean it to be, but I am somewhat unversed in the law and so must feel my way.

I am an Australian citizen, in Australia. I am not in the military – and so not subject to military law – and I’m not a prisoner of a state or federal institution – so presumably have all the civil rights that the next person has. They have not been suspended.

I would like to think at this point that I share this happy state of affairs with Americans, Canadians, and Britons, as well as any number of people in Scandinavian and European countries…but I know at the outset that there can be widely differing rights. We can’t own a military rifle here in Australia except in some especial cases – in the USA they can. They have other restrictions from which we are free ( we can ask for black or white coffee and get it without a racial argument ). And so on though each nation. Different cities have different civilities

I wonder if this applies in converse – are there different uncivil rights for each country?

” What is an uncivil right? “, you may ask. Broadly speaking, it’s the freedom one may have in a particular place to be unpleasant, unhelpful, unwashed, and undesirable. Add to that unthinking, ungrateful, and unintelligent. Really…all the horrible fun stuff.

Of course your uncivil rights may impinge upon other’s civil rights. The oaf on the train roaring and reeking comes to mind…though not to the attention of the transport police often enough.

Unpleasant speech is proscribed at various levels – here in Australia we’re not allowed to incite racial, religious, or ethnic hatred under penalty of law. It may also apply to inciting sexual or political hatred as well, but there seems to be a lot of this passing back and forth anyway. I think you are still allowed to incite hatred for inanimate objects like publicly funded sculptures or for food like liver and lima beans.

You are allowed to speak in an unpleasant manner as long as the words that issue are legally defensible. No-one has yet been able to legislate an accent.

You can certainly be unhelpful and get away with it…though not in life-threatening situations or those where a citizen is expected to assist the police with their enquiries. Then you have to do wheat you think is the right thing and trust that  lawyers will later think of it in those terms. But you are allowed to watch as people are drenched by water at bus stops or become tangled with the dog and the groceries.

Lack of hygiene is so common that it nearly escapes censure. Unfortunately.

Unintelligent? Well, if you pass below a certain level you are entitled to sympathy and assistance and no-one should deny it you. If you are in the operational range but decide to remain stupid this is not as civil – but again you can restrict yourself if you wish. Unthinking is no crime…if it were, would most popular music of the last century exist? Indeed, sitting on a porch in the evening with a long drink and no responsibilities is a delightful form of unthinking until the cat drags in a half-dead rat.

Ingratitude rarely collects an earthly punishment. It’s one of the deadliest of ancient sins, and one of the keenest cuts that can be perceived. The mistake the ungrateful make is to think that they get away with it unnoticed. It is never unnoticed, and never forgotten. Perhaps we should put it in the category of a bad purchase – you’ll regret it when you finally pay for it.

 

 

” Break Not A Jest ” – Or – The Sturmovik In The Teacup

I think I have need to apologise to the shade of General George Washington – I’ve failed to follow his 64th rule for civility and decent behaviour – the one that prohibits ” breaking a jest where none take pleasure in mirth “. I may also have laughed out loud as I did so, which is further sin.

In my defence, it was a passing thing – an odd remark seen on the internet called forth an equally silly reply, and then a series of increasingly hyperbolic posts – culminating in  the heading picture of the Ilyushin Sturmovik and an account of a pilot who uses it to strafe the Oktoberfest grounds just for old-time’s sake. Please note that the picture is an Easy Model 1:72 scale model…$ 14.95 at good hobby shops all over town.

Well I probably would have got away with the joke if the person hosting the thing had not been worried about me interrupting her satirical Facebook page. The page itself is a hilarious send up describing arrogant and entitled people who live in the posh beachside suburbs of our city. Well worth a read – and apparently it has some 1200…or was it 12,000 readers in her data base? I can’t remember exactly how many she mentioned, but it was a lot, and I’ll bet that they all like that bit of good biting satire.

Apparently I also made a blunder when I described the old pilot of the Ilyushin as a Slav. Unbeknownst to me this word is racism, and needs to be apologised for, or so she says. Bit puzzling, that, as the Wikipedia article on the Slavic people lists a great deal of their history and seems to say that they are very nice. This is my opinion too, as nearly all the other people who I have met with some claim to the title seem to be energetic, intelligent, and cheerful.

I am going to have to be much more careful in the future – not about mentioning the various divisions of mankind ( or womankind…) – after all, everybody has to be from somewhere – whether that be from Pilsen or Posen – and no-one need be ashamed by any of it. I mean, I know about the Posen bit – that’s where my Grandmother Elizabeth came from. And the Pilsen was home base to a branch of the other side of the family.

No, what I’m going to have to do is make sure that the people I break a jest with take pleasure in mirth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go pull through the prop on the Ilyushin. The front two cylinders tend to clog up with oil and Oktoberfest is just around the corner.

Culturally Sensitive Political Incorrectness

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Well, let’s face it, in today’s society you are going to offend all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. You might as well do it with precision and style. You will be no worse thought of than if you just blundered and will have the satisfaction of an artist.

There are any number of topics that easily get danders up; race, religion, sex, politics, etc. They are fields can be left to others to plough – the skilled practitioner gets more pleasure and recognition by dealing with ideas that are either hazier or that are intensely specialised. Let me give your some examples.

a. If the person whose armour you wish to pierce has any hobby or interest that is outside of the mainstream they are an instant mark. If their passion is the theatre you can either criticise the idea, finances, or ethos of it. Ethos is a good word because you can then link it to pathos and bathos and turn your nose up. Be careful not to mention Aramis or D’Artagnan or your victim will know they are being gulled.

If they are sophisticated, be rude. If they are boors, be intellectual. And then, midway in the conversation…just as they start to heat up…swithc to the other mentality for a few sentences and switch back. Do it deadpan.

b. Give praise to Jonathan Swift for his “Modest Proposal ” about solving the overpopulation in Catholic Ireland by eating the babies. He wrote it, got it published, got it into the hands of readers, and then ran for it. The people in authority who he lampooned got the message, as did everyone else.

c. ” Lampoon ” is almost the same as ” Harpoon “. Perhaps it is derived from the practice of using a coal-oil lamp to capture whales. Perhaps not.

d. If someone is offended it does not mean that they do not agree with you – it sometimes means that they are mad that they did not get to say it first.

e. Righteousness is a salable commodity – just ask Elmer Gantry or any of the television evangelists. So is sinfulness – otherwise Northbridge, the Tenderloin, and any number of theme parks would not exist. Why not invent a way of combining the two for even more profits? Sinful righteousness or righteous sinfulness sounds like you could sell it in bags at $ 50 a pop.

f. You must ask yourself what use is political incorrectness? How can it benefit the average man or woman? If you heat up a university student to incandescence with a carefully orchestrated series of insults and gibes, can they be plunged into a tub of cold water to heat it up and do the dishes? If so, it would probably be the only time in their entire university careers that they ever did the dishes…

g. Can the naked truth about something be politically incorrect? And viewed from the other way, can something that is politically incorrect be absolutely true? I think it can – if you understand that anything someone does not want to admit to can never be spoken of, then you can get away with doing quite a lot of unspeakable things. Remember that you can effectively turn a conversation away from your own flaws by accusing someone else of having the same ones…but the deluxe model with added brimstone.

Indeed the topics under consideration need not even be arcane – as long as you can howl racism, sexism, ageism, or any other current buzz word, you can derail any train of thought. It will give you time to loot the mental baggage car and ride away before an intellectual posse can be formed.

 

The Art Of Party Conversation

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Too many young people today miss out on the chance to cause havoc and dismay in a genteel way when they neglect the art of party conversation. If they restrict themselves to four-letter profanity or buzz phrases they may fit easily within their own social group, but the chance to strike out for real social success never comes to them – and they never know why. The truth is that you must make an effort in their communications if you are to become the sand in someone else’s festive salad.

And you can’t do this without some intellectual background – a store of knowledge that you can dip into whenever the conversation flags. As well, a basic knowledge of the English language and a grasp of grammar. And finally, a sense of timing. Too soon, too late, or too much spoil the mix. Oddly, too little often helps the effect.

Let me give an example. The party has just started – the keg has been broached and the cheese on a stick is starting to make the rounds. ( Note that at some parties the canapés do not change until the last one of the current round has been taken from the plate. Make a note of these parties and avoid them in future. Or have Domino’s deliver a pizza half-way through the night via the front door… ) At this early point in the proceedings people will note, remember, and judge. It is not to time to advocate politically incorrect policies. You must mouth platitudes while watching to see who drinks fastest, and listen for a hint of their prejudices.

At the middle part of the evening you use these hints to home in on the speaker. They will have several glasses inside them by then, and may fancy themselves as either up or coming. Find them a listener who opposes their point of view and then pose an innocent question. Note: bimetallism and Polish borders were innocent questions until 1900 and 1939…Grow quieter as the volume increases and step free of the zone of engagement. No-one wants to get glassed innocently.

As the stoush heats up and widens, you must ask the hostess to call for the police. Mention the fact that there is a rowdy element loose. And drugs – even if that proves to be Lomotil and Gaviscon it is still technically drugs. ” Gang Warfare” is a fun phrase, except where there is gang warfare.

In the final phase of the evening, as the hosts sit weeping, you should turn up the lights on the carnage and take a mobile-phone picture before leaving. It can always go onto Facebook with a merry quip and youcan be sure it will eventually make it onto the feed of the host’s employer. Nothing that good ever remains hidden for long.