17 January, 2011
Denial is not a river in the West Midlands
The reaction at Secular Café reminds me of an exchange I read on another web chat forum a year or two ago. It's one of those "I wish I'd bookmarked that" moments — the virtual equivalent of the "I wish I'd had a camera" moment, though I guess these days we usually do have a camera, inexplicably built in to our mobile phones; I've never understood how that came about. In any case the discussion thread in question may well have fallen off the archive by now.
The thread was one of those interminable "immigration, good or bad?" rambles, with most of the participants being on the wide-eyed, diversity-celebrating "pro" side. One of these, keen to illustrate the benefits of immigration, was banging on about how much he liked the cuisine of a particular foreign culture. Being a reasonably competent cook, he would often visit a local specialist grocery, owned by people of the relevant ethnicity, to buy the ingredients to prepare an "ethnic" meal at home.
Warming to his theme, he went on to add that so familiar had he become to the proprietors of the shop, and on such matey terms, that while they continued to charge him a higher price than they took from customers of their own ethnic group, he nevertheless received a discount off the usual White man's price.
An asynchronous web chat forum is not the same as a spoken discussion between people in a room; the non-verbal dynamic is missing. That's why we resort to things like smileys in a largely unsuccessful attempt to fill the gap. But you can infer a certain amount from the choice of language and punctuation, from the use of emoticons, even from the timings between posts on a very active forum, and so on.
And I can only describe it thus. There was the equivalent of a stunned silence, like that which follows a loud obscenity spoken absent-mindedly in the company of a posse of maiden aunts. A sympathetic commenter asked our man if he realized what he had just said. A "mumbled" acknowledgment returned. A further awkward pause ensued, and then a "moving swiftly on" moment after which the subject was changed completely and the embarrassing post was never mentioned again.
Well, perhaps I overegg a little, but the episode was both fascinating and telling. The consensual collective delusion was accidentally pierced and the collective responded by tacitly agreeing to ignore the puncture.
Nice to see them rattled though, even if still firmly in Monty Python's Black Knight mode (" 'tis but a scratch! ").