I've avoided reading the discussion board. The ensuing discussions about the incident have left me feeling quite disappointed and somewhat sad. As I've said, let's accept that the act was not intended to be racist. A silly mistake was made, so let's learn from it. But let's avoid rationalizing the mistake unskillfully. It is not the incident that upsets me, but the subsequent defensiveness around what was a genuine, unintended mistake.christopher::: wrote:I noticed on the discussion board most seemed to be defensive of Hey Hey...
Take for example these comments by the host. Many people have made similar comments. I think they illustrate quite well what I've suggested in my previous post:
(If I may indulge in papanca for a bit...)Host Daryl Somers was similarly bemused. ''If there were any Australians who were offended, I apologise on behalf of the show … but on the whole, I think it's you guys [the media] who are going to run this for a few days and get mileage out of it. For most of Australia, I think it's a storm in a teacup.''
- So you are surprised that some Australians would be offended? It is a small matter for most of Australia? Does this Australia include the indigenous 'black' population? Maybe they might be offended?
'The Aboriginals? I don't know, don't see many of them around. The only ones I've seen are the alcoholic, druggie, homeless types. Don't most of them live in the bush or outback? Don't imagine that they watch much TV. Maybe it's not relevant to them?'
What about the Italians, the Greeks, the Vietnamese, the Indians, the Chinese, the Lebanese, the Turkish, and all the other migrant cultures who have made Australia home? Are they Australians? Do they belong to 'most of Australia'? These people are not 'black' but they may not see the humor in the act and see an issue with 'colour' instead?
'Nah, if they've settled in Australia they should have assimilated to Australian culture and understand what is Australianness.'
What is Australian culture? What makes up Australianness? Shrimp on the barbi, Foster beer, the beach, surfing? But wouldn't the people in Southern states say that it is about visiting art galleries, watching 'Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz', sipping cafe latte, tasting wine and cheese?
'Well, Australia does have its own unique flavour when it comes to entertainment. We have our own way of doing things. You can't expect us to follow other people or pander to everyone's taste in the rest of the world.'
But doesn't the fact that the representation of the 'blackface' and the Jackson Five could be called upon suggest the far ranging influence of US cultural history and entertainment industry? Hasn't Australian entertainment been influenced by the American industry and influenced them in turn? There are famous Aussie films like Muriel's Wedding, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and Crocodile Dundee. These films do have an Aussie flavour but aren't they also influenced by the musical, the cabaret, and the Western films of the lone rugged male? When Aussie stars like Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, and Toni Collette win an award overseas is it not proudly proclaimed that Australia has made the world stage? When a city in Australia gets voted 'most livable' is it not proudly proclaimed that Australia is well and truly part of the 'global village'? Where does 'Australianness' end and 'Otherness' begin?
I don't know about you, but in my personal relationships I find that when people (including myself) get overly defensive over something, it usually suggests that that something has hit a raw nerve.
Well, I suppose this incident does hit a certain raw nerve in me. Being a non-white migrant to Australia, I have encountered many times insular and complacent attitudes and behaviours that, although not necessarily racist, are not immediately evident to the (imagined) dominant white culture. But I suspect another reason is because by the end of next week, I would have graded some 200 essays (totaling some 800,000 words) for a subject I'm teaching on 'Globalisation and the Media'. I am really feeling quite raw from reading essays where students do not engage with critical arguments and instead make broad generalisations about culture and identity. (But hey, I wasn't exactly a model student when I was 19)
So maybe what I've written in this thread is born of the inspiration and frustration of teaching this subject 'Globalisation and the Media'. People might object that I'm reading too much into these comments and arguments. But even though it is true that the media often sensationalise things, it is also true that the ideas that get circulated in the media (including the comments by Daryl Somers and viewers/readers) reflect certain attitudes and behaviour, and these in turn shape the frames of references for how we think and act.
Perhaps I should end on a Buddhist note. What I've written can be interpreted with Buddhist understanding. Discourses that circulate in the media feed papanca--the flow of concepts that have a real bearing on how we think, speak and act. Moreover, Buddhism also teaches us that there is really no actor or agent behind unskillful actions. Sometimes 'I' commit unintentional mistakes. These mistakes occur not because of 'me', but because of the interplay of various conditions that 'I' am not aware of.
In a similar manner, an unintended mistake has been committed in this incident. It happened because of the interplay of various conditions. It is good that the mistake has been acknowledged. This is a great opportunity to become aware of those conditions. But sadly, I do not see much attempts at recognising these conditions. Instead, what I see in discussions in the media are unskillful attempts at defending an 'Australian Self' and how it has been misunderstood and maligned. But as Buddhism teaches us, as long as we persist in fortifying the 'Self', dukkha is sure to follow......