Ignorance vs Politically Incorrect

Of late, in New Zealand there’s been a bit of a bruhaha over the resignation of Paul Henry.

A couple of Facebook posts later I find myself under fire for being one of those “Politically Correct” prudes who needs to loosen up and have a sense of humour about it. Here’s my response.

It’s fine to mock people about aspects of their life that they are able to choose and do something about. For example, if you choose to eat crap food and not exercise, you will get fat. This is as simple as cause and effect and a case of personal responsibility (or lack thereof) and therefore is is fair to mock people about this. It’s alright to mock someone if they are hypocritical as people can choose what they say in any situation and then, if their actions or later words contradict this, they should be called on it. I would expect to be called on it if I contradicted myself at any point, this is only right and in my view, a fair exchange. It’s also fine to mock things like religion as people choose their religion and people can change their religions fairly easily – strict Islamic countries aside.

Mocking someone’s religion and weight is not politically correct. What it is, is deriving humour from the conscious choices that the people in question have made.

Note that this implies that the person who is deriving the humour from the situation does so in an articulate way as simply saying “your fat” is not funny (in most cases). The joke has to have a preamble that sets it up and a punch line that delivers a laugh. For example, The Pope, despite being the right hand of god (according to Catholics), still needs to rely on bullet proof glass in the Pope mobile. What happened to the power of prayer. This in and of itself is ludicrous enough to be laughable…

On the other hand, mocking or deriving humour from people about aspects of their life that they can do nothing about, such as their ethnicity, sexual preference or physical or mental handicap is ignorant and very likely to be found offensive. In Paul Henry’s case, the racial slurs. The only exception to this that I can think of is self-depreciating humour if you happen to be part of one of these groups. For example, someone with no legs making jokes about handicapped people.

Both of the above examples can be classed as politically incorrect, the subtle difference is that in one, people are being held to account for their decisions and in the other, they are being mocked for something that they have no power over.

Or – and here is where I go trolling – to put it in language that Paul Henry supporters might understand, one requires you to think, the other doesn’t. I say this as if you browse any of the support groups for Paul Henry on Facebook, the vast majority of his supporters just so happen to be white and judging by the grammar of their status updates and comments, lacking a good education.

It’s the difference between being mean and being funny.

The best example I can give of someone who does this well is Bill Maher who has a show called Real Time. It screens on Friday night in the States on HBO and can be downloaded like any other shows you might download. Check it out…it’s class!


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