Sunday 21 January 2007

I wish Big Brother was about racism

Understanding Big Brother

I have convinced myself that I do need to wade into this Big Brother saga because I have not seen much that addresses the fundamental problem that has been blanketed by racism and in doing so absolved us from identifying what is really wrong.

It is quite interesting to note that we rarely see creative talent on television working on dramas, documentaries or education all energies are diverted to participatory television or what is known as Reality TV where some everyday thing or event is repackaged and the public assess and react to occurrences through telephony or the Internet in a form of opinion polling.

That Big Brother is a Dutch idea is instructive, in that, the concept of Dutch privacy is in minding your own business rather than concealing your activities. In other cultures, we would put up curtains, here, it would be viewed as you have something to hide and hence rouse suspicion.

So, when this trait ingrained in the Dutch psyche was repackaged for a reality television staple, it negated the concept of ignoring others whilst you do your own thing – for a while over the last few decades, Dutch norms and values have been undergoing a process of deconstruction as we shift from a Calvinist outlook to something we really cannot define anymore, such that the extreme right and extreme left have captured the political and social drift of the nation.

Stupid Brother, why bother?

Big Brother in other cultures is a different thing; the lascivious and uninhibited compete for prize by offering themselves as objects of entertainment (chimeras or caricatures) to a frenzied audience of voyeurs who in contrasting their average lives with the wretched lives of the participants make value judgments by calling a premium number that accumulates votes and swells the purses of phone companies and bumps up ratings of television companies.

The 24-hour round-the-clock observation is usually edited for transmission concentrating on the bizarre, the conflicts, and the despicable and downright nasty, the audience are almost inured to the rottenness of society as the gutter becomes the high-water mark for Machiavellian schemes that keep people in the house or get them kicked out.

I would leave the more serious academic analysis and psychology of Big Brother antics to the professionals, but the introduction is just to provide a general perspective.

A revelation of low expectations

The incidents in Big Brother UK 2007 revealed a number of serious issues about Britain and racism has all too convenient sufficed for a deeper analysis.

When Jade Goody did not try to get Shilpa Shetty’s name right, it was simply a case of her not trying hard enough, the syllables in Shilpa’s name are hardly foreign to English language one can offer a phonetic guide of “She’ll per Shirty” and that is close enough, if she tried.

The tax payers money is squandered on an educational system that eliminates competition, where resources are geared towards egalitarian sameness rather than the meritocracy of acknowledging achievement, curiosity attracts sanctions of awkwardness and the horizon of expectations is about getting by rather than making a difference.

Academics of genius quality, industrialists of innovative prowess or leaders of exemplary vision are no more the kind of role models we see, rather, it is entertainers and sports personalities that seem to focus the attention of society on how to gain publicity and probably make a fortune.

Celebrity for the sake of it

Jade Goody, who before she became the exemplification of celebrity for the sake of celebrity without substance, was a dental assistant, a job that probably just required the steady hand of keeping the suction tube in the patient’s mouth, one would be concerned if the dentist ever asked her to pass the drill.

The Big Brother genre however propelled this ignoramus into stardom and celebrity and her life has been hopping from one celebrity show to another earning her a fortune but in no way improving her poor intellect, rather it has become a consummate channel for her ignorance, the kind of ignorance that is part of many a school curricula.

Furthermore, only last year, she launched a fragrance and I have no space on my body on which to smear celebrity piss-water, it hopped off the shelves such that it became the No.3 perfume in the UK.

This means, a whole load of impressionable people had gone for the essence of Jade Goody and this can only be because many identify with her, her background, her mien, her ignorance and her lack of social graces – that is the problem, making Jade Goody a scapegoat of a more general societal malaise would not address the epidemic of ignorance that allows plain television appearances to become an aspiration or an ambitious goal.

Education is still the key

Other media outlets have addressed other matters of her plain lack of useful education, education is what would deal with racism and other rotten anti-social issues when people learn about other cultures, learn about civility, learn about how to interact and learn how to accommodate differences if highlighted.

That is where politicians and leaders of society should focus their strengths and it is the more difficult work to be done, so, as always, racism becomes the all too convenient shield against our failure to address serious educational deficiencies all around the world, but in Britain especially.

Jade Goody admitted that much, she is not racist but she could have done better to learn about other cultures too.

Papering over the cracks

In the light of all this, Warphone Carehouse (War, because it could be nasty and Care, because some are in need of psychiatric analysis) withdrew sponsorship of the disdainful programme concerned about their brand name, the shops withdrew her fragrance from the shelves, the politicians have to answer inane questions, the Mayor of London squeals with delight at her eviction from the Big Brother house.

Jade Goody herself made up with Shilpa Shetty and she would donate her fee to a charity that both of them select.

Now, we are all satisfied that some sort of retributive justice has been done as we continue to watch the spectacle of chimeras than remain in the house and the producers hoping another scene develops to swell the ratings and bring more money into their coffers.

The cracks however, are still there, the inability for us to accept what our society is becoming around us. That is the message of Big Brother and any Agony Aunt will say, stop watching, stop calling and start learning about yourself, your community and your world, doing something to make a difference and achieving worthy goals.

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