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Canadian pie

Evan Brown has been convicted of assault by a court in Charlottetown, Canada, and could well be jailed when he returns to court for sentencing on May 16 - even though, as assaults go, the offence wasn't really that serious.

The victim was unhurt. But nevertheless, prosecutor Valerie Moore has let it be known that she'll be seeking both a jail term and a period of probation for Brown - a 24-year-old actor, playwright and political activist.

The case has attracted a lot of attention because the victim was Jean Chretein, the Canadian Prime Minister, and because of the weapon involved in the assault. It was a cream pie, which Brown pushed into Mr. Chretein's face during the PM's visit to Prince Edward Island last August.

Ironically, before the incident, Mr. Chretein had commented in a newspaper interview that getting a pie in the face could be an occupational hazard for politicians like himself. However, at Brown's trial, Judge John Douglas rejected the defence's contention that this statement amounted to an invitation to act as Brown did, saying:
'It's more of a comment that people in public office are subject to being pied. It can't be read as an invitation to pie him at will.'

After the trial, Brown refused to apologise for his actions despite the threat of jail, saying that Chretein
'Had it coming.'

Brown can perhaps count himself a little unfortunate. It seems as though the Canadian authorities take this sort of thing more seriously than do their British counterparts. I don't remember a court case ensuing when Danbert Nobacon of the excellent anarchist pop band Chumbawamba poured a bucket of water over UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

But then again, British politicians are often annoyingly humourless. We were told this week how Conservative Party spin doctors tried unsuccessfully to prevent the publication of a photo of their leader, William Hague, with the shadow of a pair of deer's antlers appearing to emerge from his head. Do Hague and his spin doctors truly believe that people's votes will be decided by something like that? Even if that was true, don't we generally tend to like people who make us laugh?

But perhaps a politician who could laugh at himself would lack the essential streak of arrogance necessary to believe that power over others should be his.

A minor problem

Last week I offered a qualified defence of political correctness, and I'd still rather people went a little too far in trying to resist bigotry than that they didn't try at all.

But wouldn't you just know it? A week later comes a strange tale concerning a word being deemed to be offensive to minorities. The city council in San Diego, California, USA has banned this objectionable term from all the council's documents and discussions, lest members of minority groups be offended.

The word in question is 'minority'.

Some speakers at the meeting that decided on the policy spoke with real anger about the impact of the m-word. Robert Ito, who described himself as 'a fourth-generation Japanese-American',lamented;
'To have that term really made me feel inferior'.
Meanwhile, Councilman George Stevens observed that people sometimes expected less from people who were labelled as 'minorities'. The motion was passed with just one dissenting voice: that of Al Strohlein, who gravely opined:
'Each of us is born a minority of one and shall die that way.'

He must have been delighted when no-one supported his view: after all, it confirmed his theory.

I have to say that I find the word 'minority' a surprising addition to the lexicon of offensive terms; I'd have thought that all of us were members of various minorities and majorities. I, for instance, am a member of a minority group by virtue of being male, when the majority of human beings are not. I'd have thought that 'minority' was a mathematical, statistical description rather than a judgmental one.

Supporting the council's resolution, Mayor Dick Murphy commented:
'When you see all people as children of God, you then see all people as your brothers and sisters.'

Though I don't doubt that the Mayor meant well, I actually find that remark mildly objectionable. For a start, it's patently untrue to suggest that religious believers are necessarily filled with love for their fellow humans; there's many a hate-fuelled zealot out there. Also, it seems to imply that if you're not religious, then you're less likely to have fellow feeling for others. As a devout unbeliever when it comes to religion, I rather resent that inference.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, the French Connection fashion house is in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority over its ads featuring the initials of its United Kingdom branch:

which are, of course, 'fcuk'.

It's not a word! It means nothing! Any offensiveness is a product of the reader's mind! If we banned all words or sets of initials that were anagrams of profanities, then where would we be? Well, unable to use the word 'this', for a start.

My point is merely that offensiveness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I don't have a great problem with the word that is an anagram of 'fcuk', except when someone punctuates every sentence they utter with it, when I think it gets boring.

I do appreciate, however, that that may be a minority view.

Here come the brides

Congratulations to Anne-Marie Thus and Helene Faasen, who were married in Amsterdam City Hall this week.

Along with three male couples, they were the first to take advantage of a new Dutch law that gives gay and lesbian people the right to marry and enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples.

The wedding was quite an occasion, with the ceremony conducted by Amsterdam's mayor Job Cohen, Dutch cabinet ministers among the guests and live television coverage. Both brides wore traditional gowns, and two of the male couples opted for formal suits. The other pair of grooms preferred leather.

The new law made Holland the first nation to acknowledge the simple fact that people often want to make a formal declaration of commitment to the partner they love regardless of their sexual orientation. It's a brave step forward, carried out in the face of inevitable condemnation by conservative and church groups.

I'd love to think that I'll live to see Britain become similarly civilised. But as my homeland only conceded the principle of an equal age of consent for gays when not to do so would have invited legal action under European human rights statutes, I'm not holding my breath. There are many in Britain who are concerned about the increasing influence of mainland Europe on Britain. Personally, I think it's a civilising influence, and I'd like more of it as soon as possible.

The beautiful game

Well, I don't fancy Manchester United's chances of winning the Champions' League after that defeat against Bayern Munich the other night. I reckon Ipswich Town should make it into Europe for next season. Maybe they'll show us how it should be done.

But I'd better stop there, or I might be accused of trying to sneak erotica into the 'Post'. You see, according to some new research carried out in Italy, football is sexy.

A consumer survey in the land of Juventus and Inter Milan has discovered that 40 per cent of Italian couples watch football together, and that 70 per cent of those claimed to have a more satisfying sex life as a result.

Almost half the women admitted to lusting after the players, and - most bizarrely - 13 per cent said that watching football enhanced their sexual creativity. (How, one can't help wondering? Do they stop for a team talk half way through?)

This is all very intriguing, but I'm not entirely convinced. For one thing, depression does nothing for the libido - and supporting a team that's doing as well as my beloved Bradford City are at present can certainly induce a bout of the blues.

What's more, the statistics don't seem to take into account a phenomenon that's been experienced by myself and by both male and female footie fans of my acquaintance. I refer to that match day moment when, as you don your scarf and prepare to head for the game, a sulky partner complains:
'You love that team more than me.'

The worst thing is, of course, if the footie fan thinks about it and realises that the statement is in fact perfectly true.

I don't think it can be legally possible for football clubs to be named as co-respondents in divorce cases. If it were, I'm sure it would happen frequently.


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