Alas, the world is full of idiots

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?

10 thoughts on “Alas, the world is full of idiots

  1. Don’t you hate it when the perfect response comes to mind too late to be useful?

    i didn’t know there’s a term for it! interesting… in my case, i think that the fact i have no witty remarks or comebacks for virtually every situation means that i’m stairway witless! lol.

    CJ: I didn’t either, actually, and I used to speak French! Good ol’ Wikipedia – well, I can’t see L’esprit de l’escalier being edited anyway. πŸ˜‰

    Hm, I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I imagine the downside of saying exactly what you mean is you can’t control the impact. Sometimes it’s better to think about it first… even if you curse yourself later. πŸ™‚

  2. There’s an inclination now following the American lead for governments to become heavy handed jackbooters. When it comes to police powers take a close look at the US Patriot Act and all the ways it disempowers citizens in a supposed democracy. The future does not bode well for citizens when governments go out of their way to take stances and actions based on paranoia.

    CJ: Completely agree, TT. I’m no fan of the decisions our government has made in Aus over the last few years (let alone internationally). I’m just glad we haven’t got our own Patriot Act yet, though we’ve come close.

    Everything about APEC has just seemed like overkill to me; we’re hosting so many leaders that security is paramount, we all understand that – but even at the suspension of our liberties? How far can you go to protect yourself before you lose everything you value about being free?

    And that’s what I mean about The Chaser. It was good that they tested security and highlighted the problems; but they went too far. They made their point by passing through the checkpoints; continuing on, dressing as bin Laden, and later returning in a “cardboard motorcade” made it farcical. Something important was reduced to a typical Aussie joke. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  3. Yuck I see a spelling error πŸ™ I made above. I wish we had the 10 minute edit option on comments.

    CJ: I fixed it for you, TT. That’s the one thing I’ll edit someone’s comment for, if they notice a spelling error or a typo. I wouldn’t mind a preview or 10 minute edit myself. πŸ˜‰

  4. Don’t you hate it when the perfect response comes to mind too late to be useful?

    Wow sometimes it happens to Mond too! Or sometimes Mond has the stupidest response at exactly the right time. Like when she hit her head accidentally to a steel and she yelled “Aw! Bad pipe!”

    CJ: It probably happens to everyone at some stage. I think there was even an episode of Seinfeld about it once, so I wouldn’t feel too bad.

    You know, there’s a joke like that. A man walked into a bar… he said, “ouch”! πŸ™‚

  5. timethief: or at least the comment preview feature eh? πŸ˜‰ i made a typo in my comment above too…

    CJ: Hm, this feels like dΓ©jΓ  vu… I vote for comment preview! πŸ™‚ I had a look, sulz, I couldn’t see a typo. Am I going blind?

  6. While I appreciate your entire post, and as a citizen/resident of the US, I would not wish our Patriot Act on you, I will just comment on the first part of your post.
    Regarding the phrases your drive-by hecklers uttered, which you felt didn’t belong in the same sentence….LOL πŸ˜€ Which brings me to my next point–this sort of thing makes obvious the fact that you are a writer. Most writers I know like to marinate their thoughts, then revise them seven or more times before actually posting, publishing, or speaking them. There are exceptions, but most are not “kings of comebacks”, although can be good conversationalists. So, I hope that’s somewhat validating. And, if your picture is any indication, your hair is great–don’t listen to those guys!

    CJ: Thanks, museditions. I realised later that my reaction probably was related to my being a writer; I’m definitely one of those writers who likes to order my thoughts before I say anything… but still, I like spontaneity as well. Maybe it just shows I don’t write dialogue very well. πŸ˜‰

    My hair’s grown a bit longer than in the picture, but not much. Definitely nothing which deserves being heckled for. My friends think I look like Harry Potter gone bad, actually. Maybe next time I’ll just try and put a curse on them. πŸ™‚

  7. “the fact i have no witty remarks or comebacks for virtually every situation [means] that i’m stairway witless!”

    heh, that’s the typo. (unless typo specifically refers to mispelled words, then i’m not sure what’s the term for words left out unintentionally.) πŸ™‚

    CJ: Ah, okay, I took typo literally. You’re right, there isn’t really a word for that… I think in Aus we call it a brain freeze, so maybe that’ll do. πŸ˜‰

  8. Oh, but your initial premise is correct:

    The world IS full of idiots. It is chockablock, pregnant, burstingly full of idiots of every conceivable stripe, degree, and description. But, they ARE idiots, every one.

    Soldier on, my friend.

    No Regrets and No Remorse.


  9. You know, I think Albert Einstein said it best: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” I’ve always loved that.

    It’s when there’s no excuse for idiocy that it bothers me, when people should know better and do it anyway… oh well, sometimes you just have to laugh at the world – even if you’re the only one who gets the joke. πŸ™‚

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