Unequal Opportunity Offender
THE KILLOUGH CHRONICLES | THE INDIA FILES
by James Killough
Let me immediately state that, despite the title, there will be no borderline pornographic body parts in this post. But just the fact I have willfully boxed PFC into a corner where I have to make that caveat is relevant to this article. I think.
First, take a look at this viral video currently eliciting belly laughs across the Interweb:
It’s a fake, of course. The bride sort of gives it away, but the drunk woman herself is also too alert; her face lacks the woozy, careless expression of someone who is no longer in control of her actions. In a way — in a convoluted, forced association sort of way — the video is representative of what I’ve been doing with the content of this blog.I use the first person because both Baker and Tuttle are innocent of last week’s crimes against decency: I’ve brought the tent down, almost ruined the wedding party, and given Baker a couple of surprise bloody noses. But our content has gone viral…. Well, kinda. Comparatively viral.
Surely the reason we slave gleefully over this is so we can be read. So is being a shameless attention-grabber a bad thing if it accomplishes our purposes? (Shit. I believe I just wrote a Carrie Bradshaw-esque line from Sex And The City. Ugh. Oh, well.)
With regard to self-censorship, in a comment to a post of mine the other day, Tuttle wrote, “I love using the word “retarded” in many ways but was presented a case by one of our celebrity readers… that this was offensive to people with learning disabilities and that I was intelligent enough to find a different way of expressing myself.”
See, I disagree with the celebrity reader because I know Tuttle and when he says something is retarded, he means it is idiotic and backwards. He is not referring to people who are learning disabled, nor is he saying that the incident or the object he is applying the adjective to is comparable to them. While I do think that one’s speaking voice and one’s written voice should be related but distinct, regardless of the general short-bus cultural implications of the word, the fact is ‘retarded’ derives from the Latin “to delay,” and in its essence means “a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance.” And it is a synonym for idiotic. Would the crypto-Olympians of Hollywood then also not allow us to say “idiotic” because it relates to an idiot, which, as the dictionary defines it, is “a person of the lowest order in a former classification of mental retardation, having a mental age of less than three years old and an IQ under 25”? And what about “stupid,” “moron,” et al.?
Our litmus test for any questionable content here at PFC is “What would Chelsea Handler do?” If she would say it or do it, as long as it is cogent and pertinent, then we will, too, no matter if it’s offensive to some, because what is offensive is too often subjective, and one thing PFC is not about is being pretty and perfect. We’re just pretty.
I was deeply offended at the gym today, for instance. Well, not so much offended as I was shocked, and not very amused. And it was an entirely cross-cultural transgression, not the deliberate intention of the offender to anger me.
There is a TV channel that plays throughout Cyber City in Gurgaon, where I am currently working. By way of explanation, Gurgaon is a colossal new development outside of New Delhi being built and managed by a company called DLF, which has this Big Brother-ish presence, but it’s only Big Brother-ish in the half-hearted way India does things much of the time. This intra-DLF TV station is ubiquitous, in the lobbies, the elevators, even in Golds Gym, where I have been working out, itself a half-hearted version of a Golds Gym in the US. The station runs maybe fifteen minutes of content in a loop all day. It is colorful, goofy graphics bouncing Ripley’s Believe It Or Not sort of facts and figures, cut with travelogue and uniquely Indian content, such as quotations from the Bhagavad Gita, the supreme Hindu sacred text. Today’s Bhagavad Gita quotation was, “For a man who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death,” which is the kind of sacred nonsense that gets twisted around so that some narcissist can murder his own daughter in a “honor killing” because she ran off with the man she really loves, rather than be subjected to a life imprisoned in a marriage the narcissist father thought reflected better on him and his stature as an “honored man.”
But that wasn’t the quotation which instantly offended me as a Westerner. It was the one immediately following it, under the heading “Witty Sayings”:
“A woman inspires a man to great things, but she also prevents him from achieving them.”
I don’t know how many people will read that today, as it plays continuously on screens throughout the DLF development, but I imagine it might be well over a million. I can’t find out via Google just which moron, nay, which retard came up with this “witty saying,” so I imagine it’s some misguided, misogynist Oompa Loompa sitting there in an editing suite in Cyber City, who composed that faux aphorism thinking it an appropriate and humorous observation about women. I would refer this fool to another quotation from the Bhagavad Gita, which ran on last Friday’s incessant loop on his TV network, which I read over and over while lifting weights:
“A man’s own self is his friend. A man’s own self is his foe.”
In other words, it ain’t your woman holding you back, ya dumb bitch. It’s you.
A teacher of mine once said, “The true punch-line of every racist joke is the concentration camp.” Our Chelsea sort of crossed a line the other night when she said something like, “I like the Kardashians. They’re doing really well…” and she paused and cocked an eyebrow, “for Armenians.” This is a distinctly Los Angeles-insider quip, which probably flew over the heads of most viewers who don’t live in a city with such a large Armenian population. Still, imagine if a comedian of Turkish descent had said that, rather than a snarky bottle-blond JAP? Furor would have ignited on a scale beyond what even a professional provocateur like Rush Limbaugh could muster up. I’m not aware of the exact statistics, but I would wager that the Armenian genocide was per capita more extreme than the Holocaust, or at least on a par with it.
When they were still together, a female friend’s now-former boyfriend used to say “that’s so gay,” whenever he was talking about something that didn’t work or was inferior. It’s a very schoolboy thing to say, and I didn’t really give it much thought, but my partner at the time took great exception to it. However, it has to be said that he took great exception because overall he found the then-boyfriend to be a complete “knob-end” (British for dick-head), and bristled every time they met, which was frequently. Had this female friend’s current boyfriend said the same thing, no doubt we Gheys would have let it slide; he is charming and likable enough to even get away with lisping and flapping his wrist when imitating us, the gay equivalent of blackface.
Like beauty in the eye of the beholder, it would seem that offense is not just in the ear of the hearer, but in the mouth of the speaker.
I don’t know that I’ve ever said “nigger” in my life out loud. I don’t think I’ve ever thought it, either, and this would be the first time I’ve ever written it. If I try to remember negative encounters with black people over the years, the only one that comes to mind is when I was randomly thumped on the chest by some homeboy walking past me in Union Square in New York one night. Just like that, he thumped me hard with his whole arm and knocked the wind out of me. But the word that came to mind and mouth was something within the “asshole” range. Given that he was with a whole gang of doo-ragged no-gooders, my invective was muttered quietly as I scurried away. The closest I ever came to saying “nigger” was after I had watched all five seasons of The Wire back to back in a cave-dark marathon I subjected myself to last year during a long hiatus from work. The use of the word on that program was so relentless that I started to feel it was not just the correct way to address black people, but everyone I came across. In reality, I think I made it to “negro, please!” once or twice while admonishing myself aloud in the mirror over some tripe or other.
The most likely reason I’ve never said “nigger,” or even considered using it, is because of my sociocultural background, where prejudice of any kind (other than relentless unspoken class prejudice, of course) is considered so boorish that the speaker would instantly diminish himself to a far lower status than the person he is disparaging. When you have no reason to elevate yourself by denigrating someone else, it isn’t even within your thought process.
One also has to take into consideration that I have few black friends, albeit lots of brown ones from India, home of the caste system. But I realize I’ve almost waffled on to fifteen hundred words in this post, so we’ll have to leave that can of worms, fascinating though it is, unopened until another day.