http://blogs.sundaymercury.net/paul-flower/

Morons & racists

By Paul Flower on Jan 14, 09 01:34 PM

On Monday I had a melancholy moment, in the middle of Zavvi.

I was among the vultures picking the rancid flesh from the corpse of their bankruptcy sale, another 20% off - or 30% on books. Perhaps my sadness was prompted by memories of a misspent youth, the many hours I spent in Virgin Megastore flicking through the racks of vinyl and latterly CD.
zavvi.JPG
Is this another representation of a bygone age? The thought that we once had to go into record stores to find out about music, back catalogue and the like - now all we have to do is move our fingers across a keyboard. We can even hear it and buy it without getting off our fat arses.

I used to love browsing in record shops, even Cyclops in Piccadilly Arcade where the owner was famously grumpy and appeared to hate customers, or maybe that was just me. The shop is even mentioned in Jonathan Coe's excellent Rotter's Club, although he avoids mentioning the owner's mood - perhaps to stay on the right side of the libel laws.

I'm not entirely sure if my mood was influenced by the devaluation of music generally, with some incredible albums on offer at less than £5. In all honesty I'm not sure why this should bother me so greatly - particularly as I didn't pay for most of mine. In a sense it should open up the greater world of music to a wider range of people, I'm not sure that it does - but at least the option is open. This said the low pricing seems to indicate the eventual collapse of recorded music retailing.
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Most record stores have already gone to the wall or no longer sell much music. My local HMV in Coventry gives much more shelf-space to DVD than it does to CDs, it's a waste of time going there for anything vaguely interesting or obscure - even if it is there it'll be too expensive. It seems like a shame, a crying shame - whatever the current options have to offer they're not quite the same. Clearly I'm getting old, or I've already got there.

It's possible that my mood was also affected by a news-stand I'd just passed. The blaring headline reported that Gordon Brown had said 'Prince Harry is a role model'. It made me angry, and depressed. Generally I try not to get caught up in other people's hysteria; we all have different opinions and have varying scales of tolerance for the comments and actions of others. This said there is always a metaphorical line which should never be crossed, a line beyond which no apology is truly valid.

I'm not remotely politically correct; I left that behind some years ago. I have heard other people use that word, I've read it in 'jokes' or whatever. I'm 44 and I grew up in council houses in predominantly working class areas of the Black Country, I've never spoken that word aloud and nor would I. My children are aged 10 and 12, they occasionally swear (for which they're admonished), but they know better than to use a word like that.

It cannot be defended and it cannot be forgiven. This is not a 'three strikes option', where first he dresses as Hitler and then uses a racially unacceptable insult but is given a let-off on both occasions because he's young, or an idiot, or the Queen's grandson or because he's served as a soldier. This is a highly privileged young man with access to the finest education, someone who'll never have to do a proper job, there is nothing he can do which will exonerate him or excuse his stupidity.

I've read a lot of the apologists. Apparently he was trying to 'fit in'. No. Other people have suggested that it's only an abbreviation, like using 'Aussies' or 'Brits' or 'jocks'. Historical context is everything here, everyone who hears the word knows that it is only ever used in an abusive manner - in many ways I consider it to be at least equal to the 'N' word, I know of no examples where it's used in an affectionate way or in rap songs or whatever. It's an insult, plain and simple.

I wouldn't be adding to this debate except that I don't see the need for debate, it's too clear cut. Harry's 'dad' might call his polo pal Sooty and that can be argued in the context of a social setting and a generational difference. If they were actually intelligent and wanted to be offensive then his 'pal' would be called Sweep. Using the 'p' word behind someone's back in a casual and mocking manner is just racism without excuse.
sweep.jpg

Other apologists say that context is everything. That it was a private conversation in a barracks-setting. This doesn't work either. If you use that kind of terminology, privately or publicly, you're a racist. It's that simple. If you allow yourself to be filmed using those words then you're an ignorant, foolish, moronic racist. No excuses.

Tone and intent are equally invalid arguments, if you don't mean to offend then don't use the words - find others. People like the great Lenny Bruce had the vision that if an offensive word enters into common usage it loses its power to shock. This may be the case, but society seems not yet ready to evolve to that stage and whilst this is the case many words have to remain firmly 'out-of-bounds'.

If Gordon Brown really thinks Harry is a role model then he's more out of touch than I'd feared, who'd have thought a dour Scot could turn into a royalist-apologist just by becoming PM. Gordon is a moron, Harry is a racist. End of. Inexcusable. Let's move on now.

Someone has similar memories of cyclops here

Here every week
Here all week

2 Comments

PF said:

I think we'll agree to disagree. I am frequently called a yam yam - but only aggressively when at football matches. My opinion is that the P word is used only aggressively and never as an abbreviation, ergo it can't be used. Maybe one day, but not this one.

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