Don’t you hate it when the perfect response comes to mind too late to be useful? I know I do. There’s even a French term to describe it: L’esprit de l’escalier (stairway wit). For me it’s less the stairway than the walk home; for some reason I always think of the right thing to say about an hour later, turning it over in my mind. I think coming up with the perfect response is something of a reactive skill you either have or you don’t; I tend to think about what I say first and maybe that’s the reason, I don’t just react. Either way, it’s a skill I don’t have.
I wish I’d had it the other day though. It was about 6pm and I’d gone down the road to pick up something for dinner. I’d just got to the end of the street when a car pulled up to turn the corner. One of the passengers leaned over, beer in hand, and said “jerk-off, get a fucking haircut”. The car took off a few seconds later.
What he said didn’t bother me, but looking back I think my reaction was strange. I know if I’d said something back I’d probably have needed stitches… but the first thing I thought was that “fucking” and “jerk-off” don’t belong in the same sentence. Seriously. I’m insulted and my first reaction is critique? I need my head examined.
As for what prompted it, nothing as far as I can tell. Probably the beer. Or sometimes you just have to wonder if the world is full of idiots.
Meanwhile APEC is supposed to be finishing today; I’ll be glad when it’s over. It’s good for Sydney to be seen hosting a high profile event like APEC, but there’s just been chaos surrounding it. Transport, protests, disruptions… and then there was the incident with The Chaser, driving a fake motorcade through the Sydney CBD and breaching APEC security.
It was supposed to be a prank but I don’t think it was appropriate. To have comedians impersonate bodyguards and a motorcade at a time when there’s such a heightened level of security in Sydney seems irresponsible. They could have been injured and that they weren’t a serious threat shouldn’t excuse their actions; in my eyes, they crossed the line.
Yet a lot of people are excusing them; some found the stunt funny, others say they are typical Aussie larrikins taking people down a peg. That’s their opinion but I just don’t buy it. I don’t find it funny and while they exposed flaws in the security system and we were lucky it was The Chaser and not some group like al-Qaeda, I still think it doesn’t represent civil disobedience as much as inappropriate behaviour. If all they wanted was to test security, why have someone dress up like Osama bin Laden? Because they knew it would create a publicity shot. We have 21 world leaders in Sydney; security needs to be taken seriously, not made a mockery of. Are we so afraid of losing our Australian nature that we’ll excuse anything to preserve it, even something made in bad taste?
I’ll be the first person to say that I think the security during APEC has been excessive. Hell, it’s been a nightmare; for the last 7 days Sydney has become a police state and the authorities have been unnecessarily alarmist. Just take Stephen Cullen, the head of the NSW Police Riot Squad. He said that violent agitators were “well-drilled and disciplined… I have absolutely no doubt that minority groups will engage in a level of violence not previously experienced in Sydney. Never in my career have I held such serious concerns for public safety.” Yet the protests were mostly peaceful. By all means, challenge the level of security in Sydney, raise questions about the powers given to the police and our liberties. But I can’t help but think there’s a better way to do it than impersonating a motorcade and Osama bin Laden; it just brings their whole message into disrepute.
To me The Chaser team got publicity from an immature prank that crossed the line. I don’t think we should be celebrating it. I wonder what you think?