Monday, March 02, 2009

The Philosphy of Russel Peters & The Art of Total Humiliation

"Be a man, do the right thing." the dj spun endless loops of this along with some other Russel Peter's classic phrases, scratching all the way till the applause faded.

I was watching Peters' performance in NY in Red, White & Brown, what I believe to be one of his latest stand up gigs. Peters is known to be one of the proponents of racist comedy (dont know the technical word for it, so till then). This has been the third Peters' standup act I have seen, but it struck me now how important this act was. How important racist comedy actually is!

Peters, somehow has found the ultimate weapon of mass humiliation, which ends up bringing together the neo-liberal junta from all the races he publically humiliates. This is a significant moment in time for people are tolerant & have a sense of humour decent enough to keep his act going. Its not just the freedom of speech or freedom of expression, its not just wise anecdotes & observation, but deep down we must have a sense of common belonging to the same species. Races or no races, we are humans rising out of the same conditions, living in different ones but sharing the same problems of the human condition. The racial bigotry we see around which seems to have no solution, has finally found one in humour. I asked myself, if Russel Peters was a political science professor or even worse a philosophy professor talking about racial anectdotes, would he be received with the same enthusiasm & cheer? Is it possible to believe that this sort of humiliation would work in any other context other than standup comedy? Do people react to his observations because they agree with him or do they react because of the way he enacts them? What part of public humiliation of their race do these people find funny? And the last & most important question, why do people of all these races come together to watch him rip apart the things that define their racial existence?

I love Peters' comedy, its in your face nature & his total disregard for being politically correct. But is public humiliaion of each other's races a major way to release our racial identity & the awareness that people of other races are also as messed up as people of our race ? What happens in our heads when we watch him make fun of our race or make fun of someone else's race? Does the reaction invoke the same sort of synaptic response or do we go into defensive when the joke is on us & back to normal when its on someone else?

Humiliation, is yet another beautiful tool. Probably as beautiful as humour which acts as its medium. Humiliating someone takes a lot of effort, especially to get the person intimidated in the first place. If there is no insecurity within a person about himself/herself, that person cannot be intimidated, let alone lead to humiliation. The embarrassment that we exhibit when we are humiliated is yet another way to release the truth about ourself out in the open. What Peters accomplishes in his 2 hour acts is very nature of exposing the racial prejudices & mannerisms which might be extremely juvenile & embarrassing once they are assessed by a third person. Again I bump into some questions, why arent these embarrassing qualities readily apparent to us once we are part of that culture/race? If we so zealously believe in our way of life & cultural mannerisms, why arent we aware of the most fundamental tenet of this belief, that its all human?

The acts of total humiliation which he subjects his audience to, the audience lap it up withhearty laughs & claps, with no visible aggression whatsoever. Does humour release some chemical in us which pacifies our racial identities?

"Be a man, do the right thing".

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