I’ve lived in four countries and have at times been treated as a foreigner in each, including the one of my birth.
So take it from me: a bit of ethnic snobbery can improve the breed on both sides, the snobs and their targets.
The success of some ethnic and racial minorities, such as Indians in Britain, Vietnamese in the USA, Germans in Russia, Italians in Argentina, Jews and Chinese just about everywhere, shows how victims of ethnic hostility can, if they so choose, put it to productive use.
If, say, a Jew is taught from birth that being merely twice as good as his gentile competitor isn’t good enough, and nothing short of 10 times as good will do, he’ll be more likely to become at least twice as good.
There will, of course, be some collateral damage – rather than being made stronger, some will be deeply damaged. But that would intensify the natural selection within the group, if you’ll forgive my waxing Darwinian in such a cold-blooded fashion.
Natural selection doesn’t explain much, and certainly not everything. But it does explain something, and this is one example.
So in a way diasporic groups should welcome all those ‘kikes’, ‘chinks’, ‘wops’ and ‘dagos’, even though I know how hard it is to react with such equanimity.
This point is easy to argue, though many, especially those blessed with heightened sensitivity, will disagree. But what about the effect ethnic prejudice has on those who mete it out? The argument in favour becomes harder, but not impossible.
It’s in people’s nature to prefer the company of their own kind and be on guard against those perceived as strangers. Not all natural qualities are commendable, but this one is too human to disparage.
The Greeks despised all outlanders, so did the Romans. The Persians saw the world as concentric circles of virtue, with themselves at the centre and goodness dissipating towards the periphery. The Japanese saw the gaijin as savages.
These days the Dutch and the French crack jokes about the Belgians, the Russians about the Georgians and the Chukchi, the Americans about the Mexicans and the Poles, the English about the Irish, the Swedes about the Finns – and everyone has fun at the expense of the Jews.
This isn’t always innocent, and sometimes the seemingly good-natured quips belie real nastiness lurking underneath.
But usually such variably funny humour and indeed ethnically pejorative terms serve simply to establish, emphasise and protect the jokers’ group identity, which can be done by stressing both sameness and otherness.
However, care must be taken for word not to become deed. Haughty disdain giving way to hatred may end up as persecution, which must be nipped in the bud.
People aren’t entitled to protection against everything they find offensive, but they are entitled to all the security civilised society has to offer, along with equality before the law.
Any attempt to deprive ethnic minorities of this entitlement offends not only them personally but society at large. Hence it must be discouraged and, if need be, punished.
Yet penalising pejorative words and ethnic jokes, even when they are manifestly innocent, is a treatment that’s much worse than the disease. In fact it may well be lethal.
When the state first encourages, then promotes and then enforces totalitarian (also known as PC) Zeitgeist, it never does so out of noble intentions. Its aim is to expand and perpetuate its own power while limiting individual freedom.
It’s in this context that we ought to view the current hysteria involving the football manager Malky Mckay and his new employer, Wigan owner Dave Whelan.
Mckay made Cardiff City hugely successful but then was fired, along with recruitment head Iain Moody, for some questionable transfer deals.
As part of the investigation Moody’s house was raided and all his computers seized. So far no evidence of criminal acts has been found or at any rate reported.
What was found were all sorts of communications suggesting that Messrs Mackay and Moody don’t always express themselves in strict compliance with the culture of diversity.
They circulated a photograph entitled Black Monopoly, where every square said ‘Go to Jail’, referred to Cardiff’s Malaysian owner Tan as ‘f***ing Chink’, pointed out the Jews’ inordinate affection for money, described a colleague as ‘gay snake’, expressed a preference for recruiting white players, suggested that it would be nice to ‘bounce on [female agent’s] falsies’ – and in general gave every indication that in their private correspondence they aren’t always guided by Debrett’s Etiquette for Young Ladies.
The ensuing outcry filled the papers for a week at least, with the severity of suggested punishments increasing towards the left end of the publishing spectrum. Capital punishment wasn’t mentioned, but only because it’s not on the books.
As a minimum, the papers were united in demanding that Mackay never work in football again. He let the side down by compromising the image of footballers’ pristine purity we like to cherish in our hearts.
A footballer, you understand, is there primarily to set an example of probity and virtue for the young generation. Even if he spends his working life trying to break opponents’ legs, in the after hours he’s expected to impersonate a Franciscan abbot.
Though these tattooed chaps frustrate such expectation every time they go out on the town, it doesn’t matter – provided they stay within the confines of Zeitgeist rectitude.
Stabbing a lit cigar into someone’s eye, taunting American visitors in the aftermath of 9/11, driving drunk with a Stop sign attached to the rear bumper, bottling or nutting a nightclub doorman – all these are, well, if not exactly forgivable, at least understandable.
Boys will be boys and all that, as long as they transgress against individuals only. But God forbid they offend the prevailing ethos – no punishment can be too severe.
Nevertheless, rather than becoming a bus driver (at best), Malky Mackay has just been appointed manager of Wigan Athletic, owned by Dave Whelan, 77, himself an ex-player.
Clearly this self-made millionaire had to have an ulterior motive that went beyond simply finding a manager with a proven record of success.
An investigation was in order, and what do you know, it established gruesome facts about Mr Whelan. Apparently – are you sitting down? – he can’t see what the brouhaha is all about. Who among you, he said – out loud! – never referred to a Chinese person as a Chink?
Moreover, he opined in a Guardian interview that “Jewish people chase money more than everybody else”, although few Jews among my friends have been as persistent in that pursuit as Mr Whelan himself.
Boorish, yes; silly, of course (just consider the paper Whelan chose for airing his observation); promoting derogatory ethnic stereotypes, no doubt; offering the traditional anti-Semitic apology along the lines of ‘some of my best friends are Jewish’, definitely.
But a criminal unworthy to be part of the saintly football community? Absolutely not.
Yet this is exactly the punishment for which our press is clamouring. Both Mackay and Whelan are supposed to be drummed out of football for ever, with the latter banned from access to his own club.
This is worse than just hysterical overreaction: this orgy of political correctness is fascism by a different name.
Admittedly, Messrs Whelan and Mckay aren’t the kind of people I often see at my dining-room table. But I’d rather break bread with these uncouth chaps than with their detractors.
I don’t mind chatting about football all evening (though my wife might). But I do mind listening even for a second to the hypocritical bien pensant inanities one can confidently expect from Guardian readers – and writers.
My new book, Democracy as a Neocon Trick, is available from Amazon and the more discerning bookshops. However, my publisher would rather you ordered it from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.htmlor, in the USA, http://www.newwinebookshop.com/Books/0002752