Isn’t This Funny?

Malaysian children playing Police and Thief adhere to the following formula – Malay boys (Police) chase Chinese boys (Bandits) and put them behind imaginary bars. The Indian boys come to the rescue. They’re the lawyers.

Here goes nothing.

A Malay man, an Indian man and a Chinese man walks into a bar.

Nothing funny happens.

Seriously, what has happened to our sense of humour? I know things have been particularly difficult lately; what with the ongoing circus of some people going at each other Punch and Judy style with their ethnic sledgehammers, but is that any reason at all for Malaysians in general to walk on eggshells around each other all the live long day?

I recall a time when we could poke fun at each others eccentricities, peculiarities and neuroses without fear of reprisal. There’s this fantastic joke the guys at MACC (the non-scary one) bandy about in their routine: Malaysian children playing Police and Thief adhere to the following formula – Malay boys (Police) chase Chinese boys (Bandits) and put them behind imaginary bars. The Indian boys come to the rescue. They’re the lawyers.

See what they did there? It’s a joke about our differences and yes, the audience (multi-racial if I might add – not that it’s important) lapped it up. These are the Malaysians I want to live with, grow with, work with, compete alongside and prosper with. The current crop of thin-skinned Malaysians (telinga nipis babe) we seem to be turning into nowadays? Not so much.

The fact of the matter is this: if you haven’t been paying attention, our Ali, Muthu and Ah Chong brand of diversity consists of more than just:

  1. Traditional costumes – Keith my Iban friend would sooner die than be caught in a thong, loin cloth and faux-fur vest. I do not walk around looking like some deranged vampire from a Sammo Hung movie (Malaysian Tourism Ministry please take note) and when I decided I wanted to wear a dhoti last Chinese New Year, the only person who objected to this plan was Rishvan.
  2. Ethnic dances – I have yet to see a single person busting a move on local dance floors in a nifty display of Joget, Bharatanatyam or flutter red, feather fringed fans, have you?
  3. And what is with that alien hand-on-heart-I-bow-to-you greeting inflicted on me at events promoting our cultural diversity? (Old news I’m sure but I can’t resist having a go at that – Malaysian Tourism Ministry please take note.)

Recently, 8TV released, and quickly retracted, a series of public-service messages about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, after viewers complained they were racist.

One of the adverts showed an ethnic Chinese girl acting in a rude manner towards Muslims, followed by a message saying: “Do not be loud or obnoxious.” In another of the adverts the girl is wearing a vest-top and is told: “Do not wear tight and revealing clothes.”

That is all. Seriously.

So yes, while I didn’t find the advertisements particularly funny or inspired I‘d say it‘s a bit of a stretch to call them offensive.

Protestors preventing me and thousands others from enjoying the Beyonce Experience TWICE? That offends me.

The online mob which saw fit to lynch the TV station over the ads? That offends me.

The drivel I am forced to read in the news day in and day out about racist this and biased that, unfair this and privileged that? That offends me.

The fact that Malaysians are actively pitted against Malaysians for the political benefit of a few? That offends me.

That we seem to be playing squarely into their hands even though I know we know better? That offends me, oh that offends me greatly.

The late great Erma Bombeck once said “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

Based on events unfolding over these ill-timed PSAs, I’d say in all seriousness that we’re all in danger of going the way of the dodo unless we do some serious soul searching. Seriously, it’s about time we lightened up.

And no. This is not a snide allusion to people with darker skin tones.


LB: This is a reproduction of an article that first appeared here

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Otherwise sedentary to the point of sponge in most matters, Leroy Luar has lofty aspirations of being a writer of creative fiction. Whilst waiting for that the happen, he spends his days PR-ing clients for a PR firm he works for and his nights writing and re-writing the first line of his next sure-fire literary hit. He occasionally writes about social matters when sufficiently irritated enough to do so but usually prefers to take a back seat and read pieces by other talented and much more disciplined social commentators.

Posted on 5 August 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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