Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jokes on who?

About 2 months ago VW came out with an advert that raised much controversy.  It portrayed a white Caucasian dude with a healthy Jamaican attitude and a believable enough accent, trying to infuse his co-workers with positivity.  The theme was 'come on get happy' and the suggestion was that driving a VW Beetle or even being a passenger in the car would make you happy and happiness was embodied in the Jamaican spirit. It generated a flurry of responses.  VW said that they had a consultant Jamaican, Jimmy Cliff, and they were satisfied because he was satisfied with the product.  Jimmy was after all one of our cultural ambassadors.

That didn't stop people from being polarized.  The loudest cries against came from non-Jamaicans of opposite hue.  There were cries that the advert was racist, stereo-typing the Jamaican culture. Some felt that an actual Jamaican is the only one who should attempt to speak and act Jamaican so as to avoid offending Jamaicans.  Others said that only a black person should attempt the accent and Jamaican and black were being used synonymously. There was even an article that all but accused VW of "Black Face" - a phenomenon whereby white Caucasian actors would play the negro roles instead of black people, and the character was typically a caricature/stereotype/exaggeration.

Jamaicans responded that they were not offended.  Non-black Jamaicans took to the internet to protest that they were being left off the Jamaican landscape.  They launched a FB page to save the advert. There were video responses spoofs counter-actions with
1. a white angry Jamaican with weed smoking as the cause of happiness,
2. an unhappy Jamaican depressing the whole office and
3. a happy Jamaican with a German accent and mannerisms. 

Some cried mockery, others cried mimicry.  All I know is that VW got publicity they could not pay for and the advert still aired during the Superbowl.

I watched and read all of this and wondered why I was killing time and valuable brain cells giving this nonsense a second thought.  A week later the advert was forgotten and a new cry about racism was on the American news.  It then occurred to me that the same discussion is had every month on all the news networks and talk shows.  And each time commentators inflate dirigibles from soapbox heights with their opinions.  Each time I keep thinking "well this surely will be the end of it for sure", only to see it resurface like potholes on Jamaican roads.

Then it finally dawned on me.  The oppressor cannot run the race or class joke, only the oppressed!  Why not?  Because it comes across as condescending!  Think about it.  Rich can joke about rich but once rich pokes fun at poor it's considered to be in poor taste.  The poor can ridicule the poor, the middle and the rich and take that all the way to the bank!  We tell politician jokes all the time, but if we ever hear a politician telling proletariat joke then it's gonna be a public uproar.

The higher you climb in life the fewer persons you have to laugh at in public.  The cry of racism from caucas..... WHITE (damn it) people will always be ignored because history and economics have bolstered them socially.  Just like the AB blood group they can receive (comical jabs) from everyone but can only give to themselves. The thing is, I do not believe that they realize this duality.

Ruff pon dem sah!

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