Monday, January 12, 2009

Our future raghead of state?

I've just been listening to Radio Four discuss whether or not the word Paki is racist or not. Well, duh. There were a couple of comments that sometimes it can depend on the context, which is obviously true, but then no attempt to discuss the context of the debate.

Yes, Prince Harry called a fellow army cadet his "little paki friend" on his home video (see highlights here). The army says its OK, the guy in question (Capt. Ahmed Raza Khan) wasn't offended, it was an in-joke between them and he has made no complaint.

Seeing as there's absolutely no way he could have heard what Harry said it's not entirely surprising that he didn't complain. It's reasonably difficult to make complaints about things you don't know have happened, and considering that he is a serving officer in Pakistan's armed forces it seems pretty unlikely that he'll ever make one even if he felt that way inclined - although that hasn't stopped his father speaking out.

But rather than umm and ah about whether paki can be a term of endearment wouldn't it be instructive to consider that in the same video our dear Prince describes another colleague as "looking like a raghead".

A palace statement has claimed that this was simply a reference to the Taliban and al-Qaida - which is simply not true, and shows how much they think of our intelligence if they think we'll fall for that one. It is not a term to describe enemy combatants alone, it's a term that is widely used in the forces to describe and dehumanise Arabs. Just as the use of the term "gook" fed into the arbitrary violence of the Vietnam conflict "raghead" bolsters the ability to shrug off whatever harm is inflicted upon the inhabitants of countries you're occupying at any given time.

When you send young men abroad where they may be called upon to kill people of another colour it is useful for the army to encourage a certain amount of robust language that strips those who are to be murdered or mistreated of their worth. War is a messy business and racism greases the wheels somewhat. That doesn't make the racism more acceptable - it helps show these wars for what they are and should reinforce our opposition to them.

Do I care that a toff officer employs racist language and thinks it's funny? Umm... I'm not particularly excised by it to be honest, although it can be useful to have high profile instances that demonstrate racism is not a working class prerogative. I am irritated however by the weasel words being used to justify Harry's puerile racism. Why can't these people just call a spade a spade - or then again maybe that's the problem.

2 comments:

Infantile and Disorderly said...

It's not the most exciting story of the year, is it? Army Officer Prince is a bit racist... Surprise, bloody surprise. What is frustrating, however, is how this toppled Gaza off the headlines. In fact, I had BBC news 24 on for at least a couple of hours this morning without hearing a single thing about Gaza.

HelloKnitty said...

Although I don't exactly care (there are bigger fish to fry) nor does it surprise me that soilder in his early twenties is mildly racist, it does concern me that this particular soilder is the three in line to be our head of state. This is simply in appropriate for someone in such a position and it just basically strengthens the arguement for a republic.