These days, people get mightily upset over name-calling that isn't directed at them. The Squeaker was the butt of several jokes recently, and if you're in public life at all, you have to expect that. I'm not in public life, in fact I have moved as far away from public life as it's possible to get without living in a cave, but I've been called names anyway. I don't care - it causes no pain, unlike being whacked with a stick, and is easily forgotten. Unless I'm called something really imaginative in which case I'll steal it and use it myself. Not that I would ever resort to base name-calling.
Tefal-foreheaded Shiny Dave took some time out from his part-time job as a reflector for an astronomical telescope to repeat a joke made to, not about, the Squeaker. This wasn't some spiteful jibe made behind the little man's back (not that there's room for much back there) but a retort made to his face.
Mr Cameron recounted to his audience how Health Minister Simon Burns had recently backed his ministerial car into the Speaker’s official limousine in Speaker’s Court. An angry Mr Bercow descended from his state apartments, Mr Cameron said, and shouted at Mr Burns: ‘I’m not happy!’
To which Mr Burns replied: “Well, which one [of the Seven Dwarfs] are you?”.’
A car accident. A short guy. What made Mr. Burns (oh, the image this conjures!) think of that retort? It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to use this joke in its true context. Here's the original, from 2007.
So it wasn't a spiteful remark. No malice. There seems to be no evidence that the Squeaker was offended at all. If he had seen that Jethro clip, the likelihood is he would have recognised the situation and found the humour in there. It is even possible that he delivered the 'feed' line deliberately. The only interesting thing here is that while Jethro's audience, and the 'eeexcellent' Mr. Burns needed no explanation in square brackets, the Telegraph think their readers are too dim to get it without adding in a reference.
It was a coincidental replay of a fictional comic situation in real life. Who could resist that line under those circumstances? I couldn't. The line is not offensive to 'dwarves' or to 'short people', at the most it could offend the one it's aimed at. Those overhearing this, or hearing about it, would either laugh or tut, and then it would be gone. As the wise Rafiki said when Simba asked why he'd whacked him with a stick - 'It doesn't matter. It's in the past.' Not these days. We have equality laws now, anyone can be offended at anything, and get loads of lovely compo too. They don't even have to be present at the event.
Mr Burns had to apologise to dwarfism charities after being heard muttering in the Commons earlier this year that Mr Bercow was ‘a sanctimonious, stupid dwarf’.
Mr Cameron’s joke didn’t go down too well with John Connerty, co-founder of the Walking with Giants Foundation, which represents those with primordial dwarfism.
‘I would like Mr Cameron and his ministers to sit down and listen and speak to people of extreme short stature and hear what they think about these sorts of remarks,’ he said. ‘These people are in a position of influence and it’s very disappointing when they legitimise these jokes for other people.
Ministers of the crown apologising to charities? A group declaring that all short people will be offended by this remark? All? Have they not seen the late David Rappaport's work? Or Verne Troyer's? Actually, probably not, because Rappaport smoked cigars in 'Time Bandits' so it's probably been banned by now. Besides, members of That Group cannot be smokers. It stunts your growth. I don't hear that line any more. Has it gone out of fashion?
Once again, the charity forgets that it is dealing with people. Not dwarves. Not midgets. Not shortasses. People. They are not cloned into one mindset by their smallness. I have met very few such people but I have not met one who is morose and introspective and humourless. Just the opposite, in fact. When you're odd, for whatever reason, you are a target for bullies from the outset. If you're small, fighting back against a bully with his gang is a bad idea because you'll just get minced. So you get out of trouble with fast-talk and humour. That's what I learned to do, it's what most oddities learn to do and it really does work.
Then along comes a charity and declares that you're not a person any more, you are a 'case' and you have to act and think like all the other 'cases' in your group. All charities are guilty of this. Once they have you, you are not an individual. You cannot think or speak, the charity must do that for you and you must agree. Disagree and they will be shocked and disgusted. They don't see you, only your body form/sexuality/disability/whatever. They don't believe you can possibly have thoughts or opinions that are different from the ones in their handbooks.
It's everywhere. Alcohol 'charities' see people as alcoholics or as abstainers. Nothing in between. Antismoking 'charities' see us as chainsmokers or as vehement antismokers. Nothing in between.
These organisations are run and staffed by extraordinarily unimaginative people. Once they have made a pet of you, you will fit the manual's description and that is that. Someone makes a remark they deem offensive to you, and you must be offended. Note that Mr. Burns had to apologise to dwarfism charities, not to dwarves. The charities demanded the apology on behalf of those they try to control. Most of the small folk, I am willing to bet, didn't give a damn. It was the Squeaker he insulted, not them.
I have an uncle, I assume he's still alive, who is one of those who is Not Mentioned at family gatherings. You know the type. Most families have at least one. No, he's not a politician, it's not that bad, he's only a criminal. So if you refer to him as a criminal, using his ethnicity and heritage in the description, should I be offended? He is the same ethnicity and background as me. But you wouldn't be talking about me, you'd be talking about him. I am in the same 'group' but I am not the same person. In fifty years, my criminal record extends to one parking ticket. This uncle is way out of my league. Insults directed at him are not going to trouble me.
It is a strange mindset that puts people into uniform groups based on physical appearance or any other single attribute. To then extrapolate that one similarity into a gross uniformity of thought and reaction is astounding in its insanity. These charity people are in need of help.
Perhaps we should set up a charity for them. It wouldn't be hard because in this one case, like no other, they really are all the same.