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With bad humour comes great responsibility

 | June 23, 2015

How one should know to take the consequences of a joke.



There are a couple of rules one should know before making an offensive joke: 1) There are no rules, and 2) See first rule.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten that overused cliché out of the way – no, really, there are a couple of rules that any person looking to make an amazing zinger should know before proceeding to offend everybody else.

First of all, yes, there are no rules, PROVIDED that you know that you’re responsible for what comes next.

Deep down, everybody loves an offensive joke. (Nothing else would explain tickets to Russell Peters’ recent show selling out in Malaysia on the first day.) No matter how staid and serious most of us claim to be, we all love jokes that should make you rightfully feel like a horrible person.

They’re exactly like the harmless little jokes we make with our friends about being too stupid to read, or being too fat to walk, or being too Chinese to see with your eyes wide open.

What? I’m Chinese. I’m allowed to make that joke.

They’re the kind of jokes we enjoy in the privacy of our individual circles, if only because they reveal more about our psyches than we’re comfortable admitting. For example, the jokes you tell could reveal that you’re an incredibly racist person. Or they could say that you’re a bully, or a misogynist, or a religious bigot.

So if, for example, you’re a Muslim school teacher and you’re comfortable telling your non-Muslim students that because it’s Ramadan, they should drink their own urine in the toilet…you shouldn’t be surprised if people call you racist.

Yes, we’re talking about the recent episode where a school teacher in Kedah apparently told the school children that they could drink water only in the toilet, and then made the joke that if they forgot to bring any water, they could drink tap water, or their own urine.

The teacher didn’t mention Ramadan in his brief stand-up routine, but as it is currently Ramadan – and since Kedah Education, Transport and Housing Executive Committee chairman Tajul Urus Mat Zain did confirm that the teacher wanted to ask that non-Muslim pupils respect the Muslim pupils – it’s a pretty safe assumption that Ramadan was what he was talking about.

So don’t be surprised if their parents become outraged. Don’t be surprised if they then proceed to make a complaint with the Kedah Education Director about you setting a bad example, having no respect for non-Muslims, and harbouring racist attitudes.

And don’t be surprised if the Deputy Education Minister himself takes you to task over the matter. You made your bed. Now you can lie in it.

Because making that kind of joke invariably reveals that you’re an extremely insensitive person, who though may have had the best of intentions (in this case, probably not), is okay with letting the minority know just how much your rights trump over theirs.

And you can’t actually make the excuse that children need to be taught how to respect other people’s religions, because very few children, if any, are actually insensitive enough to intentionally take a big sip of water in front of their Muslim friends.

Children are much better people than you apparently give them credit for. If they aren’t, they’ve probably been taught that it’s okay to, and they deserve special attention elsewhere.

But if you’re alright with being the villain in the scenario, go right ahead.


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