Debate goes PC as the PM reveals his sauces
Some years ago The Melbourne Age ran an awkwardly written profile of a young lesbian vegan woman with one leg whom the newspaper reported stood unsuccessfully for the Victorian Upper House on the Australian Democrats ticket.
The piece was picked up and emailed around the country, with the droll observation that it probably wasn’t the only place she’d stood unsuccessfully.
The reason for the humourous response to the piece was not derived around cruelty - you could call it the Peter Cook defence; I have nothing against your right leg. But while there’s nothing funny about having a physical disability, there were plenty of laughs to be had at The Age’s expense, with their clunky and earnest locutions unwittingly creating a solid foundation for a terrific accidental joke.
In the current climate making fun of this piece would result in your being compelled to release a statement of regret, and agreeing to attend a series of counselling sessions to ensure that you never laughed again, at least not without considering your rights - and responsibilities - as a laugher.
Our national fondness for buggerising around with stupid stuff has been on full view this past fortnight. Courtesy of the latter-day Barry Mackenzie now resident in The Lodge, a gleeful nation is dusting off every bit of whacko-the-diddle-oh arcana to indulge in a truly bonza celebration of Australian vernacular.
At the other end of the free and colourful expression register, there’s been three stories which show that certain thoughts and sentiments can no longer be voiced without fear of sanction.
While Kev was shaking his sauce bottle on the national stage he also deployed one seemingly innocent term which drew the wrath of the blind lobby, remarking that “Blind Freddy” could tell you that there had been problems with violence in the building unions.
Rudd was taken to task by Human Rights Commissioner Graham Inness, who is himself blind and was the first blind president of the Royal Blind Society of Australia.
“I think it is a term that is an unfortunate one to use because it demeans blind people’s capacity to think, not just their capacity to see. I find it quite an insulting term and I find it personally insulting.”
Inness explained that it would be best if the PM could instead use the term “blind as a bat” because bats are at least blind. Kevin Rudd must just be relieved that that the Human Rights Commissioner isn’t called Fred Inness.
The one man in Australian politics who you’d expect to stare down any calls for sensitive language is Barnaby Joyce, the knockabout Queensland National who talks like a cane-cutter.
But even Barnaby has promised to tone it down, after he accused Kevin Rudd of having a “spac attack”.
While it’s debatable as to whether the strange word “spac” is derived from the term “spastic”, the Australian Spastic Centre
hopped into Joyce over its use.
Joyce told our website www.thepunch.com.au that he would withdraw the remark and make a point of never using it again.
“I would like to blame ‘Kylie Mole’ from the 1980’s Comedy Company but I should have understood the derivation of this word,” he said. “I generally can not stand political correctness but this definitely deserves an exception.”
While both these cases strike me as unnecessarily squeamish, and likely to prove absolutely fruitless in heightening popular awareness of blindness or spasticity, you can at least grasp why blind people or the parents of kids with Downs Syndrome or other conditions may hate these casual terms.
The top-shelf example of political correct nonsense, which is deserving of nothing other than ridicule, came via the letters pages of this newspaper, where letter writer Rob McCasker of Queensland billed Gordon Ramsay as the victim of a recognised medical disorder.
“Tracy Grimshaw has every right to be upset over the vile and unprovoked attack by Gordon Ramsay. However, she failed in her response by dismissing Ramsay as an “arrogant narcissist”. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is very real and has sufferers living a sociopathic existence destroying the lives of many people they claim to love; in short, NPD is emotional rape.”
“If Grimshaw knew Ramsay suffered from this mental turmoil, then a far more responsible use of her national prime-time TV spot would have been to recommend he (and others) seek help to manage his condition.”
Fans of the British medical writer and social issues commentator Theodore Dalyrmple will see here what the doctor refers to as “exculpatory syntax” whereby any form of aberrant, selfish, or vile behaviour can be written off as the result of some marginal or made-up condition, or unfortunate life event, suffered by the perpertrator.
Apologies to narcissists out there for belittling their condition but, hey, if you’ve got the narcissism real bad, you’d probably just be happy to see that you’re getting a run in the newspaper.
So as we carefully go back through our public utterances over the past fortnight, we are in the midst of revolutionising modern Australian English, with the judicious air-brushing of anything which may offend anybody anywhere, and a deluge of knockabout metaphor, led of all people by Kevin Rudd.
In news just to hand the Prime Minister has downplayed criticisms by US trade envoy Kurt Campbell of his plans for an Asia-Pacific community.
Speaking through a spokesman Mr Rudd said it would still be possible for Australia to pursue the creation of a new multi-lateral grouping without the input of the United States.
“Kurt Campbell can stick his head up a dead bear’s bum,” he added.
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