Sunday 5 January 2014

Nigeria: From Basketmouth to Basket - Rape has no place in jokes

Those jokes are no jokes
Yesterday night a tweet came upon my timeline about crude, crash, rotten jokes made by Nigerian comedians whose following had for the laughs not particularly reflected on the depth of what they had heard or read.
Jokes are supposed to be light-hearted fun but they should not be used a cloak for more sinister messages of commission, omission or indifference causing extreme offence to our common and civil humanity.
Now, I choose the comedians I listen to with the expectation of hearing wholesome and witty stuff, jokes you could go back home to tell mother without looking for some rating that would leave certain people wondering the kind of company one keeps.
Jokes can be risqué, for adults only, suffused with dark humour but that in itself should offer no artistic licence to celebrate abuse, denigration or atrocious stereotypes.
Crossing the line
In this case, we must broadly agree that jokes about paedophilia, pederasty, sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, disability, racism or the Holocaust cross the line of decency into otherworldliness.
No matter how good the joke is, we must have a filter that triggers when such jokes are played for laughs appealing to the basest elements of our humanity. That care and discernment not applied to what we entertain may mean we inadvertently acquiesce to and by unfortunate response appear to endorse the most reprehensible of views.
Rape has no place in a joke
One such occasion came about with a Nigerian comedian called Basketmouth who appeared to suggest that Caucasian girls are of easy virtue to be laid by the third date and that black girls who by the ninth date have not yielded to sexual advances should be raped.
Many excused this apparent slip and mistake, and probably it would have been excusable as a first offence but Basketmouth has form, there is a video of a joke where he more or less created the scene for the rape of a vulnerable old woman.
To date, Basketmouth and probably any other comedian that cannot appeal to wit but can do bawdry and off-colour humour to a willing and barely considerate audience has gotten away with this kind of talk and script pocketing the proceeds of their rottenness none the wiser about their conduct – a line had to be drawn.
What would our society condone?
Much as our society is still struggling to elevate the rights of the woman and the child, putting it on the agenda where abuse would not only be frowned upon but would face the full force of the law, one expects those with a platform to be at the forefront of progressive thinking rather than subscribe to a savage instinct because it is conveniently lazy to attract adulation.
With a comedian’s platform and one as popular as that of Basketmouth comes great responsibility, one that they should daily be aware of not to abuse and misuse that they do not become a channel for the bits of rotten cultural conditioning we are striving to rid ourselves of.
We cannot in this day and age appear to trivialise sexual violence against women, children, men, animals or whatever might sit well within the thresholds of depravity we can countenance.
More so, this trivialisation introduced surreptitiously in a joke is heinous at best and it must be condemned in the sternest terms.
What it says about us
Those of us who have for whatever reason been able to accommodate the depictions for laughs should again reflect and wonder if when we have acquiesced with laughter we might well have been conditioned to act the situation out if presented with such an occasion where opportunity and advantage might mean we escape sanction.
Having known abuse myself as a child and seen other children like myself abused, then by familial connection been affected by the rapes and the abuse of people known and dear, there is just none of the genes associated with humour in me to react with laughter to any jokes that celebrate low-life acts against our humanity.
We, as a society obviously have to decide if excusing barbaric behaviour in innocuous jokes is what we are as people or we have decided that every means possible be deployed to condemn, repudiate and correct such behaviour with the comedian going beyond just the apology to working with NGOs serving victims as a means of restitution and an example to others.
Comedians can source better material
I am of the opinion that Nigeria has enough talent to craft better jokes than puerile unwholesome rotten stuff. Being a Basketmouth is no excuse to have a basket brain and by that become a basket case.
It does appear Basketmouth has issued an apology, which for me is neither here nor there. He was wrong in the first instance, he should have known in these times that such jokes were unacceptable and it should never have happened.
However, we are where we are now and I hope lessons are learnt by the comedian, other comedians and the audiences that lap up this stuff.
We are not a nation of rabid Neanderthals with poor taste and the absence of cultural refinement. I hope that we respect and treat with the dignity our fellowman; woman, child or any other person regardless of race, ethnicity, intellect, age, sexuality or disability. That is the bigger message, in a joke or in serious conversation.
Postscript: I decided not to dignity Basketmouth with a link to his profile and there was no reason to give his offensive joke more oxygen of publicity. Rather a bigger point was being made here about the content and context of jokes.

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