The other day someone said to me, ‘You do not have to always write about movies and movie stars. You can write about other things, anything in fact, because it is, after all, your blog.’ So, for a slight change of pace, I thought I might discuss two of my pet ‘hates’ – political correctness and racism. For many people the two are irreconcilable. You must always be politically correct if you are opposed to racism. Conversely, a politically incorrect person, in all probability will turn out to be a racist sooner or later. I beg to differ.
Take, for instance, the use of nicknames or racial abbreviations. Back in 2009 there was a tremendous surge of indignation after a piece of video film, shot by Prince Harry at a Cyprus airport three years earlier, was made public. Harry was in the British Army at the time, waiting to board a plane, when he panned around and spotted one of his soldier comrades. ‘Ah, our little Paki mate, Ahmed’, he joked. If anything, it was said with genuine affection. The soldier in question, Ahmed Raza Khan, was a friend of Harry’s, and a popular member of the platoon. Nevertheless, the weeping and wailing that would emanate from the prince’s ‘lack of respect’, his ‘political incorrectness’, would be both loud and long. He was even ordered to attend ‘counselling’ sessions, as if he had some kind of psychological impulse to verbally offend, and it had to be exorcised out of him before it contaminated others!
Conservative leader at the time, David Cameron, couldn’t wait to leap on the bandwagon in the hope of snaring a few extra Muslim votes. ‘It is obviously a completely unacceptable thing to say’, he trumpeted to the press. Mohammed Shafiq, the director of Muslim youth organization, the Ramadan Foundation, went considerably further. He was incensed. ‘Prince Harry as a public figure must ensure that he promotes equality and tolerance and this rant, whether today or three years ago, is sickening and he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.’ I have watched and listened to the video (it is on You Tube of course), and how anyone can refer to it as a ‘rant’ and ‘sickening’ defies belief. Surely, Mr Shafiq has never even heard it. Have a listen and judge for yourself.
Private Khan’s uncle, Mr Raja of Croydon, was quoted at the time: ‘I am proud to be British and if someone called me Pakistani I would be proud to be called that, but Paki is definitely a derogatory remark and it’s insulting’. Which raises the whole question of abbreviated nicknames. In Australia, we are notorious for abbreviating everything. I can only imagine it is because we are a bit lazy when it comes to the Queen’s English. Some of the words are just too long. Why say New Zealander when ‘Kiwi’ is quicker and easier? Or American when ‘Yank’ is shorter? In similar fashion we call Welshmen Taffys, Englishmen Poms, Irishmen Micks, Scotsmen Scots, and we even shorten our own name to Aussies. Nobody complains. We used to shorten Pakistanis to Pakis and Aboriginals to Abos – but not anymore. For some reason, all the other abbreviations are acceptable, but these last two are definitely not. Why is that?
When I was growing up I was a chronic ‘abbreviator’, like everyone else I knew. It meant nothing. And, like most people I knew, I referred to Aboriginals as Abos. There was nothing derogatory or malicious about it. It was just quicker. Today, we are expected to say ‘Indigenous Australians’! It would be quicker to draw a picture! Back in the fifties and sixties I had never even seen an Aboriginal in the flesh, much less knew any. Consequently, I had no opinion about them one way or the other. Since then, I have come to know quite a few, through darts and Australian football mostly, and we all get along just fine, which is as it should be. The only thing that bugged me was my inability to beat any of them at either sport! As far as racism goes, I have always considered it to be the height of stupidity, practiced by basically uneducated morons, and I have publicly said so many times. To dislike someone because of the colour of their skin is akin to hating redheads or left-handed people. There is just no logic in it.
Having said that, I am directly opposed to the often-used statement that ‘we are all equals’. Rubbish. If we were all equals we would all be treated equally, and I doubt if that is ever going to happen. Not in my lifetime anyway. As long as there is wealth and poverty, sickness and health, smart people and stupid people, honesty and dishonesty, political adversity, religious intolerance, nationalism, cultural difference and language barriers, we shall never treat each other as equals. So why fool ourselves. We are different. But diversity can be a wonderful thing. What we must learn to do is to accept and understand those differences, embrace them, and realise that we will be more complete human beings when we do.
At university about three years ago I was discussing ‘behaviourism’ with a few colleagues, three lady tutors as a matter of fact. I mentioned that character is all about behaviour, (scarcely a new concept, I know), but true all the same. I then added that I had recently written out a list of the ten people whose behaviour I most despised, and that on it were nine white Australians and one part-Aboriginal. I qualified that by saying that the Aboriginal, my neighbour in fact, was ‘top of the list’. He was simply the most worthless individual I have ever had the misfortune of knowing, a drug dealer and addict, a thief, and an anti-social, inconsiderate pain in the ass. The response from my colleagues staggered me. All three immediately accused me of being a racist! Evidently, I should have chosen one of the nine ‘white’ jerks to head my list. I wish I had. Unfortunately, none of them had run down my 84 year-old father-in-law as he attempted to cross the road (walking stick and all), and then ran away without seeing if he was still alive! To this day I still do not know if my colleagues genuinely thought I was racist, or if they were making an ‘appropriate’ response, just in case someone was listening and might accuse them of being racist if they did not. I learned something that day. When it comes to issues related to colour or ethnicity, common sense, judgment and honesty (for most people) go straight out the window. So watch your step. These topics are minefields. The first casualty of political correctness is courage, the second is justice.
If that sounds a little ‘over the top’, then take the O J Simpson fiasco, as an example. The man murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend. I know it, you know it and he knows it. Yet he was found not guilty. Why was that? The answer, of course, is self-evident. He was a much-loved sports star and actor – and he happened to be black. A guilty verdict would have resulted in riots by thousands of people, blinded by his colour, and equally blind to the fact that, black, white, green or purple, he was as guilty as sin of stabbing two innocent people to death. It really was an open and shut case. Add in a jury of twelve citizens mortally afraid of delivering a verdict that might even hint at having racial overtones, however, and OJ was always going to walk. As I stated earlier, the first casualties are always courage and justice.
Back to Prince Harry. There was a second video taken on manoeuvres in Afghanistan (I think), in which he referred to the enemy as ‘ragheads’, a derogatory term for people of Arab descent. For some reason, this remark was not condemned anywhere near as much as the innocent ‘my little Paki mate’ comment. Again, I ask why? Racist remarks are commonplace in combat situations, and have been throughout history. But times have changed. Today, if you are a soldier, it is most important that you kill your enemy without hurting his feelings. In World War Two, killing Krauts and Nips was considered par for the course. Not today, of course. Today, you would only be allowed to kill Germans and Japanese. Even the word ‘Japs’ is considered to be a ‘no-no’ these days for some obscure reason. I have no idea what names the armed forces of these two nations called Allied soldiers, but I imagine they were not overly complimentary or politically correct either. Anyway, in this day and age, it is best not refer to a Taliban terrorist as a ‘raghead’, even when he is trying to blow you up with a home-made bomb, because it simply is not the ‘politically correct’ thing to do. In a world gone mad, it seems that the killing is now considered far less hurtful (or important) than the name-calling.