the ‘joke’

Took my dog to the dole office to see what he was entitled to. The bloke behind the counter said: ”You idiot! We dont give benefits to dogs!” So I argued: ”Why not?

He’s brown, he stinks, he’s never worked a fucking day in his life and he can’t speak a word of English!” The man replied: ”His first payment will be next Monday.”

I came across the above joke on Facebook earlier. Needless to say I didn’t find it at all funny; I told the person who made it as much, and that he as being puerile and childish. He told me that I should get a sense of humour, and that all jokes are ” all derogatory about us in some way or another-that’s why they’re jokes! If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re going to have a hard-up life, mate. Get over it.” He went on to explain that racism is an ideological belief that one race (whatever the hell that is) can be innately superior to another, and thus jokes could not by definition be racist.

I replied that he was talking crap, and that he could not hide behind so-called humour to uphold arbitrary distinctions between groups of people; it was like saying ”all men from Birmingham fuck their sisters” and then crying ”ahh but I was joking so I’m allowed to say such things”.

However, before the conversation got much further, he deleted the entire comment thread, which is a shame because I was about to explain to him why his joke was so unfunny. Many jokes have at their core some degree of truth, or expose a truth by framing it in a new, novel way. Take, for example, the old, old joke about the horse walking into a bar and the barman asking him ”why the long face?’ we laugh – at least the first few times – because barmen do ask such questions, and horses o have elongated faces, but we are surprised to hear these two truths come together. That’s why we laugh.

The problem with the joke above is that it seeks to expose truths which some presume to exist but don’t. it panders to an ideology with no basis in reality. The reason some may laugh at such things is that it reinforces ad legitimises their belief that immigrants are dirty lazy, don’t speak English and are allowed through the benefit system with great ease. Or that the benefit system panders to dirty lazy people who don’t speak English. That is, of course, total crap: there is no truth in it, and therefore it is not funny. Some want to laugh at it, though: they want to impress upon others that it is funny because they want to believe this joke has some truth at it’s basis. Like children in a room full of adults, making farting sounds and giggling hysterically, the people who make such jokes are laughing at things most other people find utterly immature.

I feel I have a fairly good sense of humour, but, as with sexist or disabledist jokes, there’s nothing funny about trying to reinforce stereotypes and social boundaries. In fact, we should all be laughing at the idiots who still adhere to such flawed notions in the first place.

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