Ockham’s first law of activism

As prosperity increases, the supply of injustices fails to meet demand. This results in a tendency to attempt to fight the previous generation’s battles as if they had not already been won.

We’re in a legal mood this week. Yesterday, Sailer’s First Law of Female Journalism, today we have one of our own.

When I was growing up, kids used to read weekly comic books. In England, a popular comic book for boys was “The Victor”, consisting mainly of tales of Allied Forces’ bravery between 39 and 45. It was highly persuasive to a young boy’s brain, I definitely thought the idea of fighting in WW2 was cool.

I’m sure this type of thinking probably guided a mate of mine in his life decisions right up to the moment he suffered PTSD when being evacuated from HMS Sheffield. I also wonder if other friends ever questioned whether Belfast kids chucking rocks at them whilst on patrol along the Falls Road were not quite analogous an experience as shooting at SS officers shouting “Gott in Himmel!” and “achtung Tommy!” as they’d first hoped for when signing up for duty.

Of course, some battles are truly inter-generational in duration; the battle to defeat world poverty, for example, has been with us forever and only now seems to have a possible end in sight, Kung Flu self-induced recessions notwithstanding.

If one views the world through the suggested First Law of Activism filter, the thankless task of trying to make sense of some of the insanity playing out in the media and social media becomes a little easier.

The increasing trend of ascribing to the evils of racism any disparity in outcome or perceived slight becomes far more rational when viewed in the context that these people are actually fighting the problems of their parents’ age. Without a Hitler or an Apartheid to fight, we are faced with the choice of either searching for the next worse problem to solve or we must pretend we’ve not already won.

If you’re pulling on the virtual armour to campaign to rename “Coon Cheese” because, despite it being the surname of the founder, it used to be an offensive noun for black people, you may have been a victim of Ockham’s First Law of Activism. By the way, I’ve personally not heard it used since perhaps the late 1970s, I suspect you’d have to explain the context to most people born since the 1980s.

In the meantime, there’s compelling evidence of an actual genocide taking place in the same longitude as Australia, which one can only assume bothers these people far less than the cheese. We could point to other egregious wrongs to be righted but what’s the point? If your efforts are being focused on the name of a cheese, we’ve either solved all the major human rights issues globally or you’re suffering from a problem of prioritisation.

With this context, let’s look at a current active example:

Background; in Australia, kids get fed “fairy bread” at parties. It’s basically white bread with butter and coloured candy sprinkles.
Don’t judge. It’s been a tradition for decades.

A week or so ago, a petition appeared campaigning to rename it because it’s offensive to, well, fairies, I suppose. Now, one could read that last sentence and roll your eyes whilst sighing about crazy wokistanis getting vicariously offended on behalf of other people (or “vifence” as we call it here). Alternatively, even a cursory investigation would suggest to most people with a IQ above the temperature of a baby’s bath water that this petition is a mildly amusing prank.

One clue is offered by the following post from the petition’s author, who happens to share the same name as a type of locally sold sofa:

A journalist at News.com.au didn’t bother checking though and fell for it. That’s hardly surprising, we’ve not been sending the greatest minds of our generation into that industry for quite some time.

The comments under the petition are perhaps the most illuminating. There’s clearly a huge number of people who got the joke and are playing along with it. However, there’s not an insignificant number who didn’t realise it was a spoof AND agreed with the “injustice” it described (offending fairies by naming sugary bread in their honour) enough to write a comment of support and signing in their own name.

Bill’s Opinion

Comedy is a cultural Rorsach Test.

People not realising the petition was a joke is to be accepted as normal. There are multiple conditions described in the DSM-5 which result in the sufferer being unable to comprehend and engage with humour. Paranoid personality disorder (PPD), for example, affecting up to 2.5% of the population.

Not realising it was a spoof AND agreeing with the seriousness of the “injustice” to the point where you’d sign it and add a comment of support suggests a different type of mental illness altogether.

In the meantime, have some sympathy for the mental prisons in which poor Vivienne, Janette and Roseanne are existing. If they’ve spotted the joke and are playing along, they’re not very good at humour:

One Reply to “Ockham’s first law of activism”

  1. Here in Sow Theffrica the brand name was “Hundreds and Thousands.” Mom used to give it to us at lunch for punishment. We discovered that dropped into an inkwell (yes it was that long ago) it gave your penmanship (is that word even legal) flair and character.

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