Shattering a pompous public image

It’s best to ignore politicians and organise ourselves to protect our interests.

It’s best to ignore politicians and organise ourselves to protect our interests.

Stuart Moriarty-Patten

COLUMN

GEORGE Orwell wrote in a 1945 essay called Funny but not Vulgar, “A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution” — and as the whole world seems to now know, earlier this month during the Waitangi Day celebrations Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was hit in the face by a sex toy thrown at him by a nurse protesting the possible effect of the TPPA on health care in New Zealand.

Joyce later tweeted that someone should send the image to comedian John Oliver, who over the past couple of years has featured New Zealand quite regularly on his show Last Week Tonight. Having heard of this, Oliver predictably accepted the invite and featured the Joyce incident in a segment on his show, even going so far as designing a new flag for us emblazoned with the image of Joyce when contact between his face and the thrown object was made, and sending it here for Sir Peter Jackson to wave around.

While the image was passed rapidly around social and mainstream media, to much laughter and cheers — not everyone was amused at the time. Orwell had also written in the same essay, “Whatever destroys dignity, and brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny. And the bigger they fall, the bigger the joke. It would be better fun to throw a custard pie at a bishop than at a curate” — and perhaps concerned about his own dignity being “destroyed” sometime in the future, John Key expressed his disgust at the incident.

Do such actions have a place in a society like ours which values freedom of expression? Some might argue that the “prankster” will attract more attention than the humourless political activist who sits around glumly moaning about “the struggle”. Certainly, if social media is anything to go by, the thrower of the sex toy met with wide acclaim and support, and I guess if people are laughing with you, they are not hating you.

Possibly the most famous thrower of things at establishment figures was the Belgian anarchist Noel Godin who described his sworn enemies as “authority, depressing laws, the return of the moral order, nuclear power, and any form of political power”.

Godin gained global attention in 1998 when he and his group successfully carried out an ambush on Bill Gates in Brussels, hitting him flat in the face with a custard pie. Godin described his goal as being to hit with a custard pie all those public figures he felt were particularly self-important and lacking a sense of humour, in other words people like Gates.

A pie to shatter a pompous public image

According to Godin, a well-aimed pie can shatter the pompous public image of a celebrity in a matter of seconds and lay bare their true character. His targets were carefully selected. “Every victim has to be thoroughly justified,” he said in an interview with the UK newspaper The Observer.

Godin said custard pies were the weapons of “the weak and powerless”. Like his victims, these weapons were chosen with meticulous care. “We only use the finest patisserie ordered at the last minute from small local bakers. Quality is everything. If things go wrong, we eat them,” he claimed.

The usefulness of such acts is open to debate. The message trying to be put across can be lost in the laughter surrounding the spectacle of “our betters” getting their come-uppance; and in this day and age of paranoid security, the consequences to the individual could be severe.

Yet, one thing is certain, such acts demonstrate that people instinctively know that the correct channels appointed for us to protest are useless, and that using them may not actually get us anywhere. The powers that be like to tell us we live in a democracy and our voice is important, but the reality is that the Parliament only gives a voice to the rich, and the protection they need to enjoy their luxurious lifestyle at our expense.

Godin’s acts led to a number of copycat pie flingers around the globe, so maybe we can look forward to a flurry of flying sex toys aimed at our politicians. Admittedly, while some will take a lot of pleasure in seeing those who inflict miseries such as unemployment, poverty and cuts to social services upon us whining about being on the end of disrespect, it has to be followed with a realisation that such acts are not going to change anything.

Ultimately there will only be change when it’s realised that throwing things at politicians is as useless as voting for them in the first place. It’s best to totally ignore them and organise ourselves in our communities and work places to protect our interests.

GEORGE Orwell wrote in a 1945 essay called Funny but not Vulgar, “A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution” — and as the whole world seems to now know, earlier this month during the Waitangi Day celebrations Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was hit in the face by a sex toy thrown at him by a nurse protesting the possible effect of the TPPA on health care in New Zealand.

Joyce later tweeted that someone should send the image to comedian John Oliver, who over the past couple of years has featured New Zealand quite regularly on his show Last Week Tonight. Having heard of this, Oliver predictably accepted the invite and featured the Joyce incident in a segment on his show, even going so far as designing a new flag for us emblazoned with the image of Joyce when contact between his face and the thrown object was made, and sending it here for Sir Peter Jackson to wave around.

While the image was passed rapidly around social and mainstream media, to much laughter and cheers — not everyone was amused at the time. Orwell had also written in the same essay, “Whatever destroys dignity, and brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny. And the bigger they fall, the bigger the joke. It would be better fun to throw a custard pie at a bishop than at a curate” — and perhaps concerned about his own dignity being “destroyed” sometime in the future, John Key expressed his disgust at the incident.

Do such actions have a place in a society like ours which values freedom of expression? Some might argue that the “prankster” will attract more attention than the humourless political activist who sits around glumly moaning about “the struggle”. Certainly, if social media is anything to go by, the thrower of the sex toy met with wide acclaim and support, and I guess if people are laughing with you, they are not hating you.

Possibly the most famous thrower of things at establishment figures was the Belgian anarchist Noel Godin who described his sworn enemies as “authority, depressing laws, the return of the moral order, nuclear power, and any form of political power”.

Godin gained global attention in 1998 when he and his group successfully carried out an ambush on Bill Gates in Brussels, hitting him flat in the face with a custard pie. Godin described his goal as being to hit with a custard pie all those public figures he felt were particularly self-important and lacking a sense of humour, in other words people like Gates.

A pie to shatter a pompous public image

According to Godin, a well-aimed pie can shatter the pompous public image of a celebrity in a matter of seconds and lay bare their true character. His targets were carefully selected. “Every victim has to be thoroughly justified,” he said in an interview with the UK newspaper The Observer.

Godin said custard pies were the weapons of “the weak and powerless”. Like his victims, these weapons were chosen with meticulous care. “We only use the finest patisserie ordered at the last minute from small local bakers. Quality is everything. If things go wrong, we eat them,” he claimed.

The usefulness of such acts is open to debate. The message trying to be put across can be lost in the laughter surrounding the spectacle of “our betters” getting their come-uppance; and in this day and age of paranoid security, the consequences to the individual could be severe.

Yet, one thing is certain, such acts demonstrate that people instinctively know that the correct channels appointed for us to protest are useless, and that using them may not actually get us anywhere. The powers that be like to tell us we live in a democracy and our voice is important, but the reality is that the Parliament only gives a voice to the rich, and the protection they need to enjoy their luxurious lifestyle at our expense.

Godin’s acts led to a number of copycat pie flingers around the globe, so maybe we can look forward to a flurry of flying sex toys aimed at our politicians. Admittedly, while some will take a lot of pleasure in seeing those who inflict miseries such as unemployment, poverty and cuts to social services upon us whining about being on the end of disrespect, it has to be followed with a realisation that such acts are not going to change anything.

Ultimately there will only be change when it’s realised that throwing things at politicians is as useless as voting for them in the first place. It’s best to totally ignore them and organise ourselves in our communities and work places to protect our interests.

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