I confess that I’m having great difficulty adapting to these new “woke” times we live in. For example, when I was growing up in England the only people who were “called out” were plumbers, electricians and occasionally general practitioners. In those days doctors used to make house calls and if you were in bed as a child and covered in spots with the measles or chicken pox the kindly GP would pay you a visit in your darkened bedroom, sign a sick note for school and speed you on towards a full recovery. It’s been many years since GPs paid house calls in the UK but it remains a comforting childhood memory. Unlike the National Health Service, plumbers and electricians generally charged a call out fee which is why they were able to afford BMW’s and Mercs long before my father could.
These days “call out” has a very different and rather more sinister meaning. It’s the Orwellian term used by the left to police our fellow citizens’ speech. For example, if I invite friends around for a braai and start a joke with the words “A Scotsman, a Welshman and an Englishman walk into a pub and the Scotsman says……” I am likely to be halted in mid speech with the irritating words “Hey dude….not cool” by anyone sufficiently woke in the assembled company. It’s not that the woke one will not want to hear the joke; it’s rather that he/she will want to indulge in some public virtue signaling and demonstrate to the assembled company that he/she is a deeply caring and superior life-form to the rest of us.
Now obviously I wouldn’t invite the sort of people who interrupt my jokes to a braai but social media is now so full of wokeness that practically everybody is being encouraged to call out anybody on anything that they find mildly offensive. At school it used to be called snitching but now being an interfering busybody is something to aspire to.
There are many jokes that I don’t find funny but my reaction is not to laugh at them. But, since the best comedy generally involves mockery of some kind I wonder whether we would really want to “call out” Rowan Atkinson for mocking differently abled people with his Mr Bean character or John Cleese for the extreme racism and anti Catalan sentiment directed at the Manuel character in Fawlty Towers.
The list of things you can call people out on is immense and includes the usual a la carte menu of racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and, more recently, white privilege.
Last week the entertainer Danny K attracted enormous attention on Twitter for acknowledging his white privilege (except that he called it white priveldge ) and urged other white people to do the same. It was a decent thing to do on his part and I applaud him for beating his breast in such a public way but I’m not too sure what is achieved by such a statement. He went on to say that he “took ownership” of his white privilege which confused me even more. Is white privilege transferred like a used car? Does it need to be licensed and who was the prior owner before Danny took ownership?
I’ve frequently been called out on my white privilege and it’s left me perplexed. It’s no use denying it because I experience the effects of it every day. Like many of my countrymen I am acutely aware that in South Africa my skin colour still affords me great advantages over many of my fellow citizens. That may simply be because it is widely assumed that if you have a white skin you will have a high paying job, live in a mansion, own several luxury cars, have at least one holiday home and carry a variety of credit cards which are never declined in up market restaurants. All of which is utter nonsense.
There are plenty of white skinned people in SA who live lives of utter misery just as there are plenty of black skinned people who live lives of unbelievable indulgence. If you don’t believe me check out Hyde Park shopping centre on any day of the week. In my experience, so- called “privileged” whites are often major contributors to the economy and would dearly love to see this country prosper. What possible motive would they have to see it fail? In addition, many of them are generous benefactors of charities and educational foundations and decent and thoughtful employers of black staff. Since you can do very little about the colour of your skin, your upbringing and what happened in the past the constant snide reference to white privilege seems rather futile; particularly as it’s not transferable and can be on no use to anyone else.
So what is this whole “white privilege” nonsense really about? Well, it’s all about having someone to blame and when that last happened in the 1930’s in Germany it didn’t have a happy outcome.
David Bullard is, well, David Bullard