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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Prince Harry needs to grow up and so do we!

So young Prince Harry has done it again. In a video shot 3 years ago, the endearingly gaffe-prone prince gently joshes one of his Army comrades as "our little Paki friend", and the whole anti-racist circus swings into action once again, blowing it up out of all proportion. Yes, it was a silly thing to say and just plain wrong, but to the level-headed this will register only as a youthful gaucherie, a misdemeanour, not the heinous "crime" that the anti-racist lobby is desperately trying to pump it up into.

Feigning outrage with all the theatrical zeal and artifice of Kate Winslett winning a Golden Globe, the usual attention-seekers are strutting about demanding ever more fulsome apologies, with some loony-tunes demanding a full scale mea culpa televised apology. Wankers! Prince Harry is guilty of nothing more than ethnocentric condescension, mildly reprehensible, yes, but there doesn't seem to be any malice involved and he has apologised. That should be the end of the matter. Goodness knows, we've seen him cuddling enough Aids orphans in Africa to get the message this guy is not a racist!

In any case, gay people have to put up with far worse slurs and condescension. Radio 1 disc jockeys routinely use the word "gay" for anything considered lame or crap. Via popular culture, this use of the word "gay" has crossed over into the mainstream from the same Black American subculture that augmented the homophobic lexicon with words like "gayboy", "faggot" and the even more delightful "shit-stabber" (which explains the longstanding, but largely unspoken, antipathy between large sections of the black and gay communities). Even some older people, who really ought to know better, like Jeremy Clarkson, have started to use "gay" as a byword for anything weak and useless.

These slurs against gay people are far more damning than anything Prince Harry has said, as they leave no room for interpretation. They are undeniably insulting and intended to be so. When Clarkson was censured by the BBC, for calling a particularly awful car "gay" on Top Gear, the complaint was not upheld - though, bizarrely, he was censured for calling it "a little bit ginger beer". The re-release of the Pogues record Fairy Tale of New York a couple of years ago had the word "faggot" bleeped out when it was played on Radio 1, but it was later played uncensored after listeners complained in their droves. And quite right too!

Surely, as lesbian and gay people, our shoulders are broad enough to withstand a little joshing, the occasional joke, crass comment, or even hostile criticism? Like our fellow Brits of Pakistani origin, we should be robust enough to rise above such foolishness and stop behaving like a bunch of Mary Whitehouses who have just spotted an erection at the vicarage tea party. We are not voiceless, we are not without talent, so we need not be victims. We can fight back simply by proving we are smarter, kinder, funnier and better than our detractors.

As individuals, we all need to be sensitive to the feelings of others - that is a mark of maturity - but allowances have to be made for the young, the foolish and the ignorant, for whom the internet world of FaceBook, MySpace and YouTube has blurred the boundaries of "public" and "private", as well as any notion of what is appropriate in any particular context. Rather than jumping on every unguarded remark uttered in the public sphere, we should only punish malicious intent, not immaturity, thoughtlessness, or free expression. Like Prince Harry, it's time for us all to grow up.


Andy Armitage said...

I knew a guy in the seventies called Pop (a nickname) and he was Asian, but I forget which country his parents were from (he was English, I think). One day, over the reception area of the Coventry Evening Telegraph, where I worked, I called him a wog and he shouted back that I was white trash. Our only sin, I think, was in calling it across a public area, although I don't think there were many people in there at the time. The fact was that we used the derogatory terms in a friendly way. It's a way of "owning" them, taking control of them.

I don't know why Paki as a word, in and of itself, has taken on the "derogatory" label, since it's just a shortening of Pakistani (how and in what context it's used is a different matter, of course, and, historically, that's what has made it taboo). Jap is short for Japanese, Aussie for Australian. Yanks don't flinch, we Limeys (or whingeing Poms) likewise, when nicknames are used, even if in a mildly piss-taking manner.

So well said, Diesel B! I think there are more important things for us to obsess about. Perhaps Harry is a bit of a twat for using it when he ought to know it will get him into hot water (but perhaps with approving chuckles from his granddad), but it's a venial rather than venal sin.

George Broadhead said...

After actually watching the supposed offensive clip from the video, I thought that it was very obvious from the tone of Harry's remark that it was made affectionately and in no way intended as a put-down of the Pakistani.

Diesel B said...

I think it is also instructive that Ahmed Khan, the Pakistani officer at the centre of this fabricated "race row" has taken no offence, while Ben McBean, a serving black officer who won praise from Prince Harry in Afghanistan for his bravery, says of the young royal: "he hasn't got a bigoted bone in his body". Methinks there is a distinct whiff of left-wing media bullshit in the air, generated by diehard republicans and Muslim zealots angered by Prince Harry's tour of Helmand Province fighting the racist Taliban. It's gratifying to see opinion polls showing 80% of people have seen through this bullshit.

Baal's Bum said...

I used two work with two muslim African lads one I called my Nigger and the other was my Spade they both accepted this because they knew I am not prejudiced in any way(apart from their religion)In fact the respect and love they showed me was OTT at times, especially as I would tell them how I felt about their, and all religion.In fact when a devout christian frm Nigeria joined the team (I couldn't call him my nigger as it was already taken)They would have a battle between themselves to see who could get me to slag off whichever religion the most.
In my opinion friendship, especially in a forces environment should and usually does go beyond words.
In the words of the late great Alex Harvey "It's not a dirty book it's the way that you read it.