15 January 2009

On change

Change is a topic that has been swirling around in my head for years, and I think I may have gelled it finally, but if I ramble a bit, forgive me.

Several months ago, it came out that a Saskatchewan politician had said some racist things about 10 years back. He apologised, and said he no longer felt that way. Some people scoffed, some people said "It was 10 years ago, get over it". I think that generally went along ideological lines. I have absolutely no clue about the nature of this politician, whether he's a racist, or whether he's changed from a previous nature. But it got me thinking, can people change? Can opinions really change? I think so.

The people who scoffed about it and said "people don't change" bothered me. Do those people honestly stand by every single word they uttered 10 years ago? And if they do, is it because they're too stupid to remember what they said back then? Or because their only personal growth has been in the form of hard-ons and swollen heads? I truly feel pity for someone who hasn't made mistakes and learned from them in the last 10 years.

10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, I was a different person. I said things I'm not proud of and no longer believe for a second. I said things that would truly offend me to hear now. That doesn't make me a hypocrite, it makes me human, and willing to learn from my mistakes. I told racist jokes that I thought were harmless because I wasn't telling them in earshot of people of that race - and some were harmless, I still think - I like jokes that poke fun at stereotypes. But some of those jokes were truly rude, and I would call someone out on them for sure now. Hell, that's how I learned how offensive they were. My racism was born of ignorance, not hatred. And it's a hell of a lot easier to learn than it is to give up hate. As long as you're listening.

Same with sexism. If you looked hard enough, and knew some of my other usernames, you'd find me defending sexist language use. I eventually saw the light. I dunno, someone just used the right argument, and it clicked that an insult based on sex is no better than an insult based on race. I still fail at this, btw. I still catch myself using the term 'bitch' or 'cunt' sometimes. It became habit, and I'm working on breaking it. And I *never* use it in writing. There's no excuse for that when there's a delete key so handy.

So, I don't know if that politician changed, or if he's lying to save his ass (the latter seeming more likely, if only because he's a politician, and if you want to keep a job in politics you have to lie), but I know people can change.


Patrick Ross said...

What the media overlooked is that Brad Wall's jokes at the time were emulating Lester Fester, a comedian who was popular in the prairies in the '90s for Ukrainian jokes.

Those jokes were extremely popular in Alberta and Saskatchewan. They were even popular in my family -- my mother's side of which has Ukrainian roots. Those jokes were especially popular with my aunt (mother's sister) and her daughters.

While they seem outrageous today, the jokes Wall was telling weren't all that different from the jokes Ukrainian people were telling about themselves in the 90s.

I guess the moral of the story is that Ukrainian people do, in fact, have a sense of humour.

Luna said...

Well, that was orthogonal. Oh well.

Like I said, some racist jokes are funny. My favourite one is, "How do you know that the guy who robbed your house is Japanese?" A: "Your furniture has been rearranged, your computer has been optimized, and an hour later, the bugger is still trying to back out of your driveway." I love it. It's not hurtful, it just plays on some relatively harmless stereotypes.

But that doesn't negate that it's also racially insensitive and might offend someone. And if it does, I will apologise. As I expected him to. And again, he did. That's good. Whether or not he meant it is between him and his conscience. I have no idea.