John Black
Back to top

An Immodest Proposal

Satire, political or social pisstakery is in a sorry state, both at home and abroad in this year of our Lord, 2018.

Locally, shrill hordes have demanded via social media organized petitioning that Sir Robert Jones suffer a status reduction back to plain old ‘Bob Jones’, for the crime of taking the mick out of Maori.

Elsewhere on the planet, right-wing mischief makers have been banned from Britain for distributing pamphlets mocking Allah and a Scottish comedian has been arrested and convicted (and is soon to be sentenced) for training his girlfriend’s Pug dog to do the ‘Sieg Heil’ Nazi salute.

Humour that walks the razor’s edge of good taste and social acceptability will sometimes slip and impale itself. Usually this happens without Government or social sanction – the failure to raise a laugh is deemed punishment enough.

This may no longer be the case.

The most infamous exhibit of such close to the bone satire (and most likely Sir Robert’s model) is Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Written in 1729, it suggested the Irish poor end their poverty by selling their babies as food to the wealthy.

Many got the joke. They understood he was satirizing the Anglo-Irish gentry’s hard-hearted attitude to the poor. Others (the dimmer ones) were shocked at this advocacy for cannibalism, particularly a member of the clergy (he was Dean of St Patrick’s at the time). What didn’t happen was any serious attempt to get him demoted or fired. Nor did he face jail time (although one of his printers was later convicted of seditious libel.)

So, 1729 was a healthier time for satire than 2018.

We, or at least many of us, can no longer take a joke.

In order to "take" a joke, you first have to "get" it. What further proof of failing educational standards is needed than the inability of people to understand simple sarcasm?

Sir Robert in suggesting a 'Maori Gratitude Day' when Maori wash cars and bring non-Maori breakfast in bed to give thanks for existing was obviously far from serious. Obviously. Balls on a Rottweiler, obviously. He was making fun of the separatist attitude of some Maori activists who can’t see that they as much as their Pakeha brethren are a product of the thing they most despise – colonialism.

Such dismaying obtuseness demands drastic measures.

As a conservative, I’m wary of recommending Government action, but in this case, I feel it is warranted.

Here is my immodest proposal.

Dissolve the outdated Ministry for Women and the disastrous post of Race Relations Commissioner and replace them with a new independent office, charged with maintaining the national sense of humour. A Comedy Commissioner tasked with fostering pisstaking and general merriment, punching both up and down, anywhere absurdity is to be found in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

The commissioner would need to be appointed for life to avoid partisan political pressure.

Sir Robert would be the first appointee. Through years of sacred cow slashing, he’s earned it.

To hell with those 65,000 idiots and their petition.

Let’s not humble the man.

Let’s promote him.