Whilst drinking a bottle of embarrassingly cheap bubbly, I have been watching last year's Dentons. It's been awesome.
The Nigerian poet was moving and cool (and indeed a prophet - he echoed my sentiments that the US's sexism was stronger than its racism).
Then I watched the amazing double act of Imran Kahn and Kevin Bloody Wilson. This was aired around October or November last year. I remember the Triple J DJs asking Andrew Denton about whether the two guests met and he said that the two had been recorded on separate occasions. Good call, I'm guessing.
For non-Australian readers, the former was one of Pakistan's greatest ever cricketers and has since become a politician and activist in Pakistan. The latter sings "bawdy ballads" of the offensive, Australian yobbo variety.
It was a magnificent contrast. Kahn spoke eloquently about the political and social consequences of large scale actions (particularly of the US) on the people of Pakistan. I didn't expect to find myself agreeing with him on every single point, but there you go. He truly understands the hearts and minds war. And he knows the US isn't just losing it, they are staging one of the greatest defeats in history, from a position of inevitable victory. Then again, he also said that cricketers would always be safe from terrorists in Pakistan. (Although I admit I share the skepticism of Pakistanis who doubt this was local terrorists - but I stop short of automatically blaming India. It actually seems too complex and intricate for an India-Pakistan stouch, but I have yet to have any inspiration as to who such an act could benefit.)
Then Kevin Bloody Wilson refused to accept that using words like "coon" and "sambo" was offensive when used in humour. He can't argue eloquently, he can't argue at all. He just repeated himself, but reading between the lines, he was assuming the same "the new wog" argument that I made about fat. He was basically saying that the Aborgines he had met found his stuff hilarious, they had embraced the derogatory terms and diffused them. KBW clearly has no clue about political ripples. He works entirely at the level of the people he is racially slurring. [ed: rereading this it sounds outrageously condescending - I meant that he is thinking at an individual level, rather than a political or population level.] Oddly, I think as offensive as most of his stuff is to me, I suspect it helps empower the people at the pointy end of his songs. They find it funny. They can take the words and remove the personal sting. 200 years of connotation can genuinely be removed if the targets refuse to hear it.
Having said that, the only example they discussed was "Living Next Door to Alan" which was about "coons" moving in next door to Alan Bond, and ultimately triumphing. I agree that words are best diffused by using them without the hatred that inspired them, but if damaging stereotypes are reinforced, we go backwards not forwards. He may or may not be racist but his descriptions of women (irrespective of whether or not he calls them Sheilas) are entirely sexist. I am not sufficiently familar with his work to know whether he does the same things racially on other occasions.
Oh yeah, and the song of his he'd choose to have played at his funeral was funny to me. Dilligaf. Do-I-Look-Like-I-Give-A-Fuck. I liked that one.
Changing the world from the top down and from the bottom up. Or parhaps from the arse end up in the latter case.