As Matt notes in today's Telegraph, Bernard Manning could be having a bit of trouble negotiating his entry through the Pearly Gates. I wonder what he was really like. Was he really a racist - or was it OK because he was offensive to everyone? Over the years, I've changed my opinion a touch on this. I hope my friends will not start falling about in laughter, but I've become a touch more politically correct about humour. And this is nothing to do with a last ditch effort to butter up the 'strong' females who are at the anti-Tory front line in Plaid's Assembly Group.
When I was a young back row forward, marauding around the rugby fields of the Midlands and the North of England, racist language was not unusual - and I didn't think of it as being racist. (Mind you, I wasn't on the end of it). There was certainly no intent to be offensive when black skinned opponents were called 'Chalkie' or 'Sooty' - just as there was no intent to offend when I, being a Welsh hill sheep farmer, was accused of being over familiar with my 'woolly friends'. But the meaning of words has changed. Today, such words are no longer harmless banter. They are unacceptable. My general approach is not to use language that offends if at all possible.
But comics like Bernard Manning were deeply unsettling for me - because they made me laugh. I wish they didn't. So without becoming too stuffy about it, I try never to listen to this sort of comedy. I recall going to a Ben Elton performance at Theatre Hafren a few years ago. He was foul - in a lavatorial jokes sense. The entire theatre was howling - except Mrs D who doesn't like this sort of humour. I almost did myself an internal injury, stifling my overwhelming desire to join in the 'howling'. It wasn't easy to go "Tut Tut" in such circumstances.
Thing about Bernard Manning is that he did challenge us to think about prejudice. He represented something that made me more aware of the need to be careful with language - which I suppose is why I try not to offend on this blog. The Telegraph printed some of Manning's jokes today. Best of them was....
'My sister went into the hairdresser's and said "Make me look like Barbara Streisland". So he hit her on the nose with a hairbrush.' I hope that's not racist or sexist or any other ist.