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.