I mentioned earlier in the week how touring rapper Xzibit seemed to have grabbed the wrong end of the stick when accusing an Australian TV show of racism. Thinking about it brought to mind a classic moment from Australian TV in the 70s as I recount in this video:
Monthly Archives: June 2007
I have a few habits that people at work tend to notice. I’m a bit of a fidgeter. In meetings I tend to doodle (I always tell people it’s a sign I’m thinking). And when I walk along I tend to tap on surfaces to see what noises they make. In other words, I’m fucking annoying.
I normally get away with it but I had a bit of a run-in recently. The meeting rooms at work have this translucent coating on the glass walls. The coating is designed to make the rooms private without blocking out all the light. It’s also a rough surface that makes a cool noise if you scrape your fingernails across it as you walk by.
That’s what I reckon, anyway.
So I happened to be walking by one of the rooms and ran my fingernails on the surface. Cool noise. Then I walked back past the room and did it again. Still a cool noise. Then I remembered somewhere else I had to go and walked past the room again. And ran my nails across the surface again.
It turns out this was the room that HR uses to do job interviews. And there was an interview going on at the time. This was revealed to me after I scraped my nails on the wall for the fifth time in about ten minutes. The door burst open and a red-faced HR person lunged at me.
“Is that you scratching on the glass?”
As my nails were still touching the glass, I didn’t think a denial would work.
“And was it you the other ten times?”
I thought about it for a while. All she could see through translucent glass was a vague shadow. She couldn’t prove a damn thing. Besides, she was exaggerating about how many times I’d done it.
She paused, thrown for a moment by my unexpected denial. She stared hard at me. If she had lasers for eyes she would have vaporised my head. Actually, if she had lasers for eyes she’d probably be some sort of world conquering alien instead of working in HR. Either way, she knew she couldn’t nail me for all the times I’d made the noise but she had a go at me anyway.
“I’m trying to do an interview in there, do you have any idea the impression it creates to have it interrupted by that horrible noise?”
I figured that was a rhetorical question. I ran away. The odd thing is I saw the interviewee over her shoulder. He wasn’t looking in my direction but it was a guy I knew. I caught up with him later in the week and asked him what he’d been up to.
“I interviewed at your work the other day, actually.”
“Oh, cool. How did the interview go?”
“OK, but I don’t think I want to work there.”
“Why is that?” I asked innocently, ready to decry my awful cow-orkers‘ horrible noise-making habits.
“Well, the person who interviewed my was really weird. They jumped up in the middle of the interview and abused someone who was walking past for some reason. I figured if they’re that freaky during an interview, they’d be insane to work with.”
“Good call. I don’t know how I put up with those people sometimes, they have so many goddam annoying habits.”
How would you feel if you lived in a remote community in the middle of nowhere, you had no money, no prospects and felt pretty much ignored and forgotten by the rest of the country. Your life expectancy was about 2/3 the national average; unemployment, alcoholism and abuse were endemic. Then one day, completely unannounced, the army rolled up and said “The government sent us, we’re here to help.”
Me, I’d be a little freaked out as I recount in this video:
This was the situation faced by some indigenous Australians this week. You can download an MP3 of a report that includes an interview with a bemused local here. The rest of the country knew what was going on because it had been a major story in the media but the news travels more slowly in these remote areas.
What it was all about was the federal government’s plan to address a report into the rather appalling state of affairs in many remote indigenous communities. This issue has been growing in prominence over the last year, I blogged about one of the first major reports last year. The hot button issues have been alcoholism and child sexual abuse, both of which are widespread problems.
Some of the higher profile government initiatives include banning alcohol and pornography in these communities (that would tip me over the edge, if the army took away my booze and porn). Even some international media has focused on the banning of substances for a particular race. It isn’t as if white government in this country has a very good track record with the indigenous population (aborigines were only recognised as part of the population after a referendum in 1967).
The government says that it’s a complete coincidence that there’s an election later this year and they’re lagging badly in the polls. The fact that they have won previous elections by inventing dramatic issues shouldn’t make you think that’s what they’re doing here. Their opponents disagree. Go figure.
The fact that the author of the report is saying the government is taking the wrong approach is rather telling. However, it’s good to see that the people on the receiving end are keeping an open mind. I like to think that the people on the ground (police, army, welfare workers) have the best intentions and maybe their good work will rise above any political pointscoring by either side of politics.
If anyone is actually interested in the issue there are a few terms that might pop up that could require some explanation:
Children Overboard: The current federal government has had previous electoral success by whipping up paranoia about illegal immigrants/refugees. Prior to the 2001 election, the government claimed that a boatload of asylum seekers that had been intercepted by an Australian Navy ship had thrown some of their children overboard in an attempt to force the ship to pick them up.
The claim was proven to be false and it was also found that the government knew the claim was untrue before the election but never passed this bit of information along to the public. This made them look “strong” (dirty foreigners, they weren’t genuine refugees but they forced us to pick them up) and the opposition look “weak” (they’d let anyone into the country). Some people are suggesting that the government’s sudden focus on the plight of aboriginal children is similar political game-playing.
The Stolen Generation: This term refers to previous governmental policies of removing children (usually of mixed descent) from aboriginal communities and making them wards of the state. This makes some people understandably wary of government intervention regarding their children (there are already stories of families fleeing settlements at the sight of authorities). Some people say this is the past and should be forgotten. Considering this happened to people my age and younger this doesn’t seem like ancient history to me. The government has some work ahead of it to convince indigenous people that this is more than another attempt to take away their right to self-determination.
I take it as a positive sign that there has been strong debate on the topic. Not everybody is swallowing the government’s line and not everybody is rejecting it out of hand. I’ll never stop being cynical about politicians of all stripes but whether this is fuelled by politics or by genuine concern for what the Prime Minister has rightly called a “national disaster” there’s at least a chance of a positive outcome.
I’ve been thinking about something this past week since hitting my brief moment of internet stardom. This is only of relevance to my really long term readers so if this isn’t you, stop reading now.
This is a secret that I’m only letting long term readers in on. If you’re a recent reader you won’t even be affected by this secret so don’t worry about it. “Recent” would be if you only started reading in the last week but this is probably relevant if you’ve been reading for about three months or less. Stop reading now if this is you. Go read another post.
I mean it. Don’t make me fuck you up. You will only have to have read a couple of posts to know I’ll do it. So for your own sake, only keep reading if you’re a long term reader.
OK, so here’s the secret: I’m going to start recycling posts. I’ll still be writing new material (most of the time, in fact) but there is so much good stuff that I’ve written over the past 15 months that only a tiny number of people have seen, it seems a waste to let it rot. Now that my genius has been more widely appreciated, I can share some of these hidden gems.
So maybe a couple of times a week I will be republishing something that might seem vaguely familiar. I imagine in most cases there will be at least some re-writing involved so it won’t simply be carbon copies of previous material. Maybe you even have a favourite of your own from the past that you think deserves a wider audience. If that’s the case, let me know. In any case, as time goes by you may get a feeling of deja-vu when reading this blog that isn’t totally unfounded.
Or you might be crazy. It’s so hard to be sure sometimes.
I wouldn’t have even known US rapper Xzibit was touring Australia if he hadn’t caused a little stir by labelling the staff of one of the highest rated shows on Australian TV as racist. He was slated to appear on a show called “Rove Live”, a “tonight” style show named after the host Rove McManus.
The main reason I wouldn’t have know he was touring is the guy has zero profile in Australia. Only the most mainstream of US hiphop/rap acts get commercial coverage here. I know the guy hosts “Pimp my Ride” on MTV but I have no idea how his music is regarded or how much he actually sells in the US. He was pretty much guaranteed a hardcore of fans making his tour successful but the mainstream media was ignoring him as far as I could see (i.e. I saw no mention of him at all until his fracas with Rove).
Apparently the pre-arranged deal was that Xzibit would have a rap-off with king of bland, middle-of-the-road jazz guy Michael Buble. Wacky incongruous juxtaposition humour at work here. As an aside, I fucking hate Michael Buble. With Xzibit I’m neutral but that fucked-up, blanded out Sinatra wannabe Buble can burn in hell.
When it came time to do the performance it looks like Xzibit’s ego came into play. A rapper with an oversized ego – who would’ve guessed. Why can’t rappers be humble like, I dunno, bloggers. It seems Xzibit didn’t want to perform the double act (he said the “shit was wack” on his MySpace blog) and wanted a solo spot. The Rove Live staff said this wasn’t going to happen as (a) the music spot for the show was already lined up and (b) he wasn’t interesting enough to the show’s demographic.
It seems as far as the show was concerned, they were doing Xzibit a favour by giving him any time at all, not the other way around. Xzibit says a staffer phrased this along the lines of “you know we came a long way just having you on the program”. He took this as racist, as in “you’re lucky we let black people on this white person’s show,” and stormed out. I think he was off the mark taking this as racism, the truth as far as Xzibit is concerned is far worse.
So far as Australia goes, Xzibit is pretty much a nobody. That’s gotta hurt.
This practice of using the race card has, sadly, become a bit of a joke. There is no doubt that different people face prejudice every day in their lives but reflexively calling “racist” whenever a white person disagrees with a black person (for instance) helps nobody. Some people might conflate this with the situations faced by Michael “Kramer” Richards and Don Imus but they’re light years apart.
I personally think both Richards and Imus are in a bit of a grey area (are they actively racist or just stupid?) but the Xzibit/Rove issue is only remotely related. Thinking about it from Xzibit’s point of view (and pretending for a moment that he isn’t an egotistical goon) I can see where being told “You’re lucky we’re even allowing you on” could feel like a racist slur. He’s probably copped racism his whole life and faced being excluded repeatedly because of the colour of his skin. But viewing every impediment placed in your path as an example of racism doesn’t help anyone.
It’s like the old “you people” joke. I’ve seen it used in comedies dozens of times – a white person can’t use the phrase “you people” around black people or it seems like they’re making a racist reference to all black people rather than simply referring to the people in front of them whose race may or may not be an issue. Actually, the t-shirt I wear in the accompanying video might get me in trouble in ways I hadn’t considered up until now.
When every impediment placed in a minority’s path is labelled racist (or sexist or religiously intolerant) that undermines real instances of racism etc. People who aren’t racist get sick of having to walk on eggshells and people who are racist blithely say “oh, they’re just playing the race card again.”
One thing worth pointing out that white folks often gloss over is that the playing field isn’t level. The question is often put forward “Why are there exclusively black beauty pageants when you’d get crucified if your tried to run an exclusively white beauty pageant?” This question presupposes that the “open” beauty pageants don’t implicitly (at least) value standards of beauty that work against non-white contestants. The historical records of winners at least make this a dubious proposition.
Second, there can be a significant positive boost to a community’s self-esteem when they are able to celebrate the strengths of their own community by judging the best of their own rather than coming second to someone else. I think voluntary ghetto-isation is a losing proposition long term but segregated competitions can be a confidence builder and a stepping stone to truly open competition.
All of which is spoiled when a self-important rapper’s ego can’t deal with the fact that he really isn’t very popular with a given demographic. This puts me in mind of a reality TV show I’d like to see: “World’s Biggest Ego”. It could feature ego-driven rappers, spoilt teen pop queens, aging rock pigs, elite sport stars and movie stars all competing to show they had the most distorted view of their own self-worth. It would be like a truly gruesome car wreck – so horrific, you couldn’t look away.
And here’s something for the people who don’t like reading so much, my Angry News bulletin on the topic:
I’m going to teach you something about the power of suggestion now. This is basically how hypnotism works, if you’re open to suggestion a hypnotist can have a considerable influence on your behaviour. However, one doesn’t have to be a professional hypnotist to see this in action.
Have you ever noticed how if someone yawns in front of you it often makes you want to yawn as well? This is a mild form of hypnotism even if it isn’t intentional. Now, I’ve brought that example up intentionally and even thinking about yawning may be a powerful enough suggestion to make you yawn yourself.
But that isn’t evil enough for me. I’m going to unleash one of the most powerful forms of suggestion. Very few people can resist this one: have you ever noticed if someone mentions headlice you have an almost uncontrollable urge to start scratching your head? When you have kids you’re often on the lookout for headlice – if one kid at school gets them then all the kids end up with them.
No matter how many people tell you that headlice aren’t a sign of being dirty you can’t help thinking they’re gross. Oh, and as soon as someone mentions headlice, most people can’t help scratching their heads. How are you going with that? Trying to avoid that maddening itch on your scalp because you know there’s nothing there?
Of course, the reason I bring this up is someone just mentioned headlice to me and now I can’t stop scratching my fucking head. And damned if I’m suffering alone.
Life is full of little pleasures and small victories. I was very excited recently when I found a vey special product. I hadn’t been able to find this since the last time I was in the states (which was far too long ago) so when I found it in a local supermarket, I took full advantage.