This story is desperately, tragically sad on a number of levels, and also makes me pretty angry. Read the story – unless you’ve had a very sheltered life (oh, working in the public sector or the hallowed halls of academe or parts of the media) then it’s almost certain that you’ll have come across similar situations over the years. A couple of friends – one white and one from another ethnic background – engage in banter in which each takes the mickey out of the other’s background or ethnicity. I’ve certainly been there – I’ve had my religion described as a ‘lifestyle choice, not a real religion’ and been described as a ‘white bastard’ and in turn have suggested that we don’t upset one of my friends as he had a rucksack and wasn’t afraid to use it (immediately after the 7/7 bombings here in the UK).
Now, before anyone reading takes instant exception, I should point out that these comments were made in groups of people who love and respect each other, and who’ll almost certainly stay friends until the day they die. It’s called bantering, having a joke, whatever you want to name it. It’s happening between individuals who’ve known each other for years, who know exactly what the other people think of them and who also know that when the chips are down, they can call on these friends to help out.
And the bottom line is, that if it’s OK between these folks who’re directly concerned, and they’re not being a deliberate nuisance to anyone else, then it’s no other bugger’s business what X calls Y. Especially when X and Y are laughing about it and each is giving as good as they get. It’s called friendship.
It’s tragic that Mr Amor made a joke to his friend, who is black, and who took the joke in good heart, only to be reported by a work colleague. And then Mr Amor shot himself. No man should die because he told a politically incorrect joke. And to be honest, no one should be grassing people up for making a humorous comment about the situation they were in, that the people immediately involved both found amusing.
No sensible person would suggest that jokes at other people’s expense are ever amusing; jokes about race, sexuality or religion told with the deliberate intention of hurting or offending should be dealt with appropriately. Banter and chit chat between people who’re actually taking the jokes made about them in a good natured way, because they know the people telling them have good hearts, are not the thing, in any sensible world, that should be reported as an offence.
I don’t use the phrase Political Correctness very often on this blog – it’s an over-worked phrase, but today I needed to use it. Just be careful out there, folks, there are likely to be sneaks listening in to make sure that the banter you and your workmates share together, and that offends no one, is ‘OK’.
It’s not new, of course. Some years ago in one European country every workplace and block of flats had someone whose job it was to report on whether people they overheard were ‘toeing the party line’ when chatting. It was East Germany, and the people concerned were agents of the Stasi – the secret police. And prior to that were the hated ‘Blockleiters’ of Nazi Germany.
Totalitarianism starts small, with small minded people who hate the idea that someone, somewhere, might be having fun. We need to start telling these people to keep their noses out of our business.