The Fine Line

There’s plenty of controversy been doing the rounds during my final fortnight in Mexico City. It all kicked off with Top Gear’s tirade against Mexicans. And was rounded off with a little spat, which has continued elsewhere, about multiculturalism. I defended the former, in firm belief that a little stereotyped humour hurts no one. Many people disagreed with me. I disagreed with myself, a little bit at least, when I became aware of  one comment in particular, along the lines of ‘Imagine waking up in the morning and remembering that you’re a Mexican…’. That was indeed plain offensive. There was no pun, stereotype or witticism in that comment. I had missed it the first couple of times I watched it on YouTube. Not paying proper attention.

Although I still belief that poking fun at a stereotype, in most circumstances, with the right audience and when done in the right manner, is fine. And ambassadors are no more off limit than any other public official. But it has got me thinking. Who else found it funny? Fat, ignorant nincompoops living in the 19th century? Do I want to put myself in that category? Well, plenty of people, from all sorts of backgrounds found it, at least in part, funny. Even if with a reservation or two. So I can wipe the sweat from my brow and relax. It’s a shame about that one comment I mentioned. Rather soured things. And, dear Mexican amigos, be rest assured that not everyone in the UK thinks it’s fine to broadcast such ‘comedy’, as you’ll see in the video below.

On to multiculturalism. It’s a hot topic. One worthy of discussing. It has merit. Unfortunately, it’s one of those subjects that attracts the less intelligent, less tolerant, members of society who prefer to contribute to the debate via their backside. Politicians aren’t immune, either. I’ve often asked opponents to multiculturalism to offer a decent description of the concept. One with a decent consensus. I’ve not had a sensible response as of yet. It is many things to many people. Cameron refers to ‘state multiculturalism’ and says we must stop “encourages different communities to live separate lives”.

What’s to be done? Should we picket rest-homes and prevent old ladies from going down the Post Office to collect their pensions, which they then gamble away down the bingo hall? Of course not. What many people really seem to mean has nothing to do with multiculturalism per se. It’s about Islam. And for the most part, only about Islam. That Indian communities that exist, and have existed for a long time, in the UK are simply not on the radar. Nor are the Huguenots. Of course, with time, they became assimilated. Time…..

Elements of Islam in the UK present a genuine issue. As they do in a number of EU countries. So why not face that issue, the real issue, instead of hiding behind the pretence of there being a multicultural issue? Do we need common grounds, common forces that bind us together rather than seperate us? Of course. Language is one. And the rule of law is another. A law which is blind to race, colour, religion et al. A law that is fair and impartial. There is no more important ‘commonality’ in our society. And yet, one of the solutions being offered by some, mentioning no names, is to adopt racial profiling. Adjust the law to favour one over another.

That’s not providing a ‘commonality’. That’s doing quite the opposite. I do wish these people would think things through before making such silly statements. The law is there, or certainly should be there, to protect the rights and freedoms of everyone. To ensure that all law abiding citizens can go about their lives doing as they please, without interference or prejudice. And to prevent those who would interfere in others lives because of prejudice, extremism and ignorance, among other things.

Which brings me back to an earlier point. I pondered on who I was laughing with when watching Top Gear. Who are the ‘anti-multiculturalists’ aligning themselves with? Do they really want to be in that sort of a crowd? It could simply be that there are some shared and reasonable opinions that overlap between the moderate and extreme ends. But maybe there’s more to it. You’d think some might pause and reflect on that. But I suspect they won’t.

I received more email responses to my post than comments in the post itself. Something of a first. Like I said in that post, most people are intelligent enough to be able to understand a point of view without deflective defences, which are usually quickly seen through. All made the point, in different ways, that the only thing wearing lipstick and a pretty dress was a unmistakeable dose of bigotry. And that I was not the perpetrator. I thank you for you responses.

The most recent email told me to ‘keep up the good fight’. I disagree. There is no point engaging for too long with stupidity, once you’ve identified it as such. As the expression goes, they’ll only drag you down to their very base level, and beat you with their vast experience. The best thing to do is simply deny them creditability. The don’t like being put in boxes or to be labelled. It scares them witless. So I think it’s best to do just that most of the time. Put them in a box, quite literally unless you’ve moved onto flat screens, and laugh at them.

Labelling them can be more difficult, for reasons I gave in my last post. One shouldn’t hand out labels like candy and devalue the term. But labels do have definitions and sometimes, when bigotry is unmistakeable, and when the label fits, then stick it on. It seems unfair that it should always be the innocent wearing yellow stars on their overcoats.

[vodpod id=Video.5552712&w=630&h=395&fv=]

9 Comments

  • Hello Gary,

    Your comments relating to this issue caught my eye at the site you’re careful not to mention here, so I came here to read a more extended version of your thoughts on the matter. Very true, it’s a complex issue with no easy anwers… and politicians, God bless ’em.. just trying to appeal to the ‘masses’, or whatever they call the lowest common denominator these days…
    I’ve written a post at my site, with a link to your site. I disagree with your take, and hopefully make it clear as to exactly how and why. You need not worry about it being seen by many or becoming the kind of celebrity no one wants to become.. I’m absolute shit with the marketing of my site and all indicators show that barely anyone reads it anyway. There’s no intention here to be unfriendly… just to make a point that I believe is valid and I see no one else, or few others making.

    Feel free to answer, or not to answer at all. Whenever you get back to this neck of the woods, let’s have a couple of beers… yo te invito!

    • You wrote a perfectly intelligent piece, although it’s a little vague and idealistic – like many others, there is no acknoweledgement of reality of human nature, and splitting two concepts between ‘child’ and ‘adult’ doesn’t really work. At all. But it’s really more of an addendum or side dish to the conversation I and Felipe were having, rather than support or rebuttal of either. You’ll have to let me know what specifically I said that you are rebutting, and with what. I don’t know how long you’ve been following the ‘conversation’, but it’s spread across a number of posts and Facebook comments. But I’ll add my comments to you post:

      Is Felipe a pretentious dolt? I wouldn’t have called him a pretentious dolt before, but putting up the post and poll of that title was rather pretentious and doltish. I have little respect left for the man I’m afraid. I had stopped commenting after his censorship and false claims about my comments. I knocked his blogs off my reader list a few days ago. His lack of coherency across posts and inability to answer a question are frustrating. He complains of discourtesy, and yet is thoroughly discourteous himself. There’s little reason to go back until he learns to take a little of what he gives. It’s probably too late for that though. Old dog and new tricks etc. Shame. I used to enjoy his blogs and the conversations.

      I don’t disagree that mixing different cultures causes problems. Neither do I disagree that European governments policies on multiculturalism have not worked. I believe in equality for all, regardless of skin colour, sexuality, religion etc etc. Don Felipe, on the other hand, though he sometimes feigns otherwise, does not not. He wants ‘commonalities’. Yet the one thing that should bind us equally is the rule of law. And here is one area where I and Felipe part company. He wants those who are different to him, treated differently.

      Negatively differently. He wants laws enacted to specify how other people can or cannot dress. He wants laws enacted to allow authorities to detain people for questioning on the basis of their skin colour. He is moving in the direction of little yellow stars on jackets. He might not want that, he might not mean that, but that’s the direction he wants to push. How do you describe a man who wishes to impose legislation on ethic and religious groups that are not applied to everyone? That would go against what you have been saying. It’s ironic. He once mentioned that ‘Hutus don’t run with Tutsis’. They did, once. Until a European power came along and told them they were different, and gave privileges to one group, and lay disadvantages on the other. That runs with the theme of your post, somewhat.

      Positive discrimination is an issue worthy of debate. It’s wrong. I am job hunting myself at the moment. I wouldn’t like to think someone got a job ahead of me, despite the fact that they are less suitable for the job, because they were the ‘right’ colour. At the same time, it is the lesser of two evils. The other evil being an entire section of a community being excluded because they are the ‘wrong’ colour. Do you have a better way that is practical and doesn’t rely on human nature changing for the better overnight? We do prefer what we know, after all…

      The root of the problem may be as you describe it. And I’d love to see that resolved. I wish whoever tries the greatest of luck. It’s fine identifying issues. Felipe does that. But that’s the easy part. Identifying the solution, or at the very least acceptable alternatives is the trickier part. Felipe doesn’t seem able to do that. He once mentioned that we need to stop immigration. After he accepted that the genie was out of the bottle.

      And at the end of the day, I remain unconvinced that this (the real object of Felipe and others rants and raves) isn’t all a big smokescreen, with Islam the real target, not multiculturalism. I still see no one complaining about China Towns or Little Italys.

  • When I hired into the steel mill there were still a high number of DPs working in the factory, few spoke much english and they kept to their fellow countrymen in their social lives. They had there own churches, bars, social clubs and sports teams. They were all proud to be called American.

    • The most important question – were they causing anyone any harm? No? Fantastic! Or is there a problem I’m missing here?

      One argument made in the UK is that when ‘too many Muslims’ move into a neighbourhood, the pubs all shut down. Not enough clientèle. Meh. Sometimes areas are gentrified, and all the pubs close down, replaced with snotty wine bars. Big deal. Change happens. Some roll with it. Others curl up in a corner sucking their thumb.

      We all tend to gather into groups. Localised groups, regional groups etc etc. That’s life. Why are the many Chinatown’s and Little Italys not coming under scrutiny? I wonder…

      • Well the little Italy area of Cleveland gets more than a good look but that’s because it aint just pasta they are cooking up there.
        The DPs came to NE Ohio to work and raise their families, you stayed out of their clubs and bars without an invite. I still run into some of the old timers at reunions-all well into their eighties now. Not too much love of the Germans in that group..

        • And that’s when the law should get involved. There ain’t no nationality that doesn’t have its crooked quarter!

          I really don’t know enough (anything!) of the DP community to comment. I’m assuming we’re talking about the Pennsylvania Dutch and not the electric chair or some adult movie action scene….!

  • Does that mean that the Mexican trinket business is going to curtail the manufacture and selling of the cute little ceramics of the man under the sombrero sleeping?
    I think not,
    Again the PC crowd have made a bigger deal about it than it would be if it was just ignored. Meanwhile killings are going on, but no one is allowed to profile.
    Were their comments stupid and tasteless? Probably. So if one disagrees and is aghast of the conduct, simply stop watching and supporting the sponsors.

    • I take it you are referring to the issue of institutionalised racism that exists within Mexico – if I’m wrong, the let me know. It exists, although it’s difficult to compare directly to this incident. But the point is valid. There is an element of hypocrisy here. David Lida covered it, and I did link to this (I think) in the comments of a previous post.

      There’a also hypocrisy within the Mexican system when it comes to immigration. Those entering Mexico illegally are not treated as well as those Mexicans leaving across the northern border. But that’s all a bit irrelevant, really. It’s no good excusing a wrong by pointing out someone else is just as bad, or even worse. What happened to taking the moral high ground?

      The PC crowd? Far too wide a label to use for this story. Those most offended were Mexicans themselves, and Mexicans are amongst the least politically correct people I know. They probably can’t even spell the word. It’s probably because they’re too feckless, lazy and busy farting to look it up in the dictionary. However, I could be wrong. Maybe I’ve just been taking all I’ve been told recently a little too seriously*. But anyway. One doesn’t need to be politically correct to know offence when they see it, nor to be offended. And, incidentally, this could be said to be a case of the ‘non PC crowd’ becoming terribly offended by people being terribly offended. Are they PC too, now? Where do we draw the line….?

      And of course authorities are allowed to profile. They do it all the time, in a perfectly acceptable manner. When a crime is committed, a description of the offender is publicised, and those fitting the bill have a question or two put to them.

      What isn’t, and of course shouldn’t, be acceptable is the profiling of people based on the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs or other similar attribute when a crime isn’t known to have been committed. Random stops and searches on this basis belong in the past, not in the 21st century.

      I also find it strange that the same people who are very pro-racial profiling, are very anti-airport scanners. One reason given for their opposition to the latter is that it is intelligence that prevents crime, not random searches. Which conflicts with the former. But its possible that it just confirms a suspicion I have – that some people are pro-racial profiling, so long as it isn’t them being profiled.

      As for your last sentence – absolutely. It is just that simple.

      *Please sense the sarcasm.

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