Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Twin Evils ....


A whileback I wrote a tongue in cheek piece (link below) based on the genre of ‘red-neck’ jokes that are popular in the USA :  ‘you know you are a redneck if…’   your gene pool has no deep end;  you moved house because you heard that most accidents happen at home; you stare at the orange juice container because it says ‘concentrate’ on the label.  You get the drift.

Some of the redneck jokes are very witty but I’m uncomfortable with jokes about any group of relatively powerless people like the poor whites who are being stereotyped. US author Joe Baigent wrote about the iniquity of it being socially acceptable to insult and make jokes about the white rural / small town poor, which, if the same things were said about people of colour would cause outrage.  

He’s right of course, so, no redneck jokes. But jokes about politics are a different matter so I changed the genre to ‘you know you are extremely right-wing if ….‘   I could have titled it ‘you know you have a big amygdala if ….’ because studies have shown that conservatives respond to threatening situations with more aggression than liberals and this cognitive difference is reflected in differences in brain structure.

Put simply, conservatives get angrier when they feel threatened and they have a bigger amygdala, while liberals are more open to change and have a larger anterior cingulate cortex. Quite what causes what is not known but, from a lay person’s perspective it is very amusing and supports my contention that, if the Right can have its Loony Left / PC Brigade as a political scapegoat, natural justice demands there should be its opposite - the Raving Right and its storm troopers, the Amygdala Brigade.

One of my ‘you know you are extremely right-wing if…’ jokes was about the tendency of angry right-wing people to use hyphenated phrases, especially insults, so I was tickled pinker to read Phillip Mathews’ piece in The Christchurch Press about Richard Prosser MP - who has positioned himself as a spokesman for the 'libertarian, go-getting, genuine freedom-loving' folk of NZ.

I use the term spokesman because Prosser is very proud of his masculinity and states proudly and publicly that he 'possesses gonads'. So do green-lipped musssels -  and all complex life forms for that matter - so quite why he thinks that makes him exceptional is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it's because he likes to present himself as a 'man’s man', the sort who made NZ what it is – or was, before politicians let Maori think they had rights, and allowed immigration from places other than the white bits of the world.

In keeping with Raving Right traditions, Prosser refers to namby-pamby, thumb-sucking, hand-wringing (presumably not both at the same time) fantasy-land morons, and has probably used other RR terms like feral-feminist, tree-hugger, bleeding-heart, do-gooder, loony–left, touchy-feely, wishy-washy etc.

All that is legitimate, if not very intelligent, political comment - but what sparked off a ferocious storm of recrimination from both sides of the political spectrum was Gonad-man’s call for people who look like Muslims to be banned from flying, and his references to Islam as a ‘troglodyte religion’ and to ‘Wogistan’. 

This resulted in the  - getting larger and more florid by the day - MP having to meet with leaders of the Muslim community to apologise for his remarks. I wondered if there were any women in the group of twelve community leaders and if not, given Prosser’s claim to be a champion of women’s rights, did he comment on that? Probably not - and there’s the big problem with writing that sort of tub-thumping, amygdala-stimulating stuff – you simply cannot then engage in a reasoned debate on issues like gender equality. 

Prosser also made a reference to ‘the twin evils of diversity and multiculturalism’, which he sees as being responsible for the ‘enemy’ being ‘within’. To me this was a far more worrying and sinister statement than the petulant nonsense that has been given so much media coverage.

This reference to ‘the twin evils’ reminded me of something written by Ilana Mercer, a South African, post-majority rule √©migr√© to the USA. In a blog bemoaning majority rule in South Africa, she referred to the disappearance of what she calls ‘English niceties; mannerisms that English speaking people have’ which are ‘disappearing in America ….due largely to the twin evils of multiculturalism and mass immigration.’

Given Mercer is the daughter of Jewish Russians who fled the Soviet Union to settle in South Africa, plus the historical facts that mass immigration formed American culture and there are millions of Americans for whom English was/is not their mother tongue, ‘English niceties’ seem a strange thing to be pining for.

Apropos of nothing very much other than it made me laugh - Mercer is described as a ‘paleolibertarian’ author and blogger.  On her website she publishes ‘raves and reviews’ of her writing, one of which was from one Nicki Fellenzer, who is the ‘national spokesperson’ of an organization intriguingly named Armed Females of America

The para-military connotations of the organisation aside, why not ‘armed women’? And why ‘spokesperson’? Isn’t that a bit contradictory? 

I'm quite diverted by the idea of Ilana Mercer as Richard Prosser’s political muse - and he has made reference in one of his columns to the ‘fading of the SA we knew into the twilight of civilization’ and to (white) South Africans and Rhodesians (sic) being NZ’s ‘closest cousins’. 

But, being diverted quickly led to feeling nauseous as I considered the fact that this latest example of foot-in-mouth disease joins the other internationally known examples of Kiwi Kommentator gaucheness such as Paul Holmes’ ‘cheeky darkie’, Tony Veitch’s description of Serena Williams as proof humans are descended from apes, and Paul Henry’s many and varied examples of crass bigotry.

Given Holmes’ knighthood and post-mortem veneration, Veitch’s reinvention as a radio commentator worthy of PM John Keys’ patronage, and Henry’s re-employment in Australian media, can one assume that Prosser will be rewarded eventually for ‘just saying what a lot of people think’?

What Prosser said is arguably no worse than Veitch’s or Henry’s oafish comments, or Holmes’ gaffe, given his status as a ‘leading broadcaster’, but it was judged by almost everyone to have gone too far beyond the political pale.

In fact what was so remarkable about this is not that Prosser said what he said, but that it attracted such universal opprobrium. We seldom hear such outrage from politicians across the spectrum, with conservatives vying with liberals to prove who were the most disgusted. Even the shrill voices of the Amygdala Brigade were silenced although Prosser claims equal numbers expressed approval and disapproval to him privately.

I wonder how many of the people who Prosser offended sent him emails like the ones that academic Margarat Mutu received after a Sunday Star Times article distorted her response to a survey on immigration? Did they email Prosser the ethnic equivalent of “Lol u black nigga if the white man hadn’t come, u would still be eating each other and living in huts you maori nigga c…ts “

Did Prosser find himself attacked viciously and personally on the internet by those he offended in the way that Professor Mary Beard was after she made a mild liberal comment about immigration on Question Time in the UK recently?  

Prof Beard was shocked and upset by the torrent of misogynistic abuse that spilled out on the internet - at the centre of which was a website called Don’t Get Me Started ‘owned’ by a male (I cannot bring myself to call him a ‘man’) by the name of Richard White.  DGMS was a forum where members were encouraged to say what they think on any topic and to be as abusive as possible. What its members thought about Mary Beard was largely unprintable but, before we feel too superior, the same sort of splenetic, hate-full things were written here about Helen Clark.

The males who wrote in about Beard weren’t interested in a reasoned debate over the merits of her views – they got off on competing with each other over who could post the most vicious, personalised, misogynistic and cruel comments about her appearance. But they picked on the wrong woman. She went to the media and turned the spotlight back onto the poisonous little turds.  The site’s owner was ‘outed’ and, deprived of internet anonymity, he closed the site.  Way to go Mary!

When Prosser writes about the ‘twin evils of multiculturalism and diversity’ creating an enemy within, he is using Amygdala Brigade code for people of colour. He is drawing on negative sterotypes; demonising whole sections of society and in essence, dehumanising them.  It is an old, ugly and ignoble political tactic and he needs to be ashamed of himself – the more so because he chose to keep writing this tub-thumping racist propaganda after being elected as an MP.

When Prosser refers to Islam’s oppression of women he is appealing to a political mindset that is itself steeped in misogyny. The fact that many of the men who indulge in this rancorous behaviour do so as a compensation for their own impotence and powerlessness makes their conduct no less harmful and hurtful.

But, dislike them as much as I do, I reserve most of my condemnation for the men and women with power who cynically use the impotent rage of the powerless as a weapon against other powerless people. Their's is the far greater offence.