‘Decency’ as an extremely powerful control mechanism

The constraints of ‘decency’ and ‘respect for authority’ on display. Middle-class, white-dominated Australian culture is choking on both.

The implications of this skit are far from humorous.

The questioning of the ‘Citizen Infringement officer’ and even the over-the-shoulder instruction to him to ‘stick (the ticket) up your arse’ from those he wrote ‘fines’ for were all contained within the bounds of this ‘decency’, this ‘respect for authority’.

What Morrow was doing was not exposed and he continued doing it.

Being challenged and asked for identification and firmly questioned (i.e. not on the basis of hurt or offence) about what he was doing would have gone beyond those bounds.

Ideologies function the same way – they have inbuilt tolerances that can cater for hurt, offence, difference and questioning within the limits of ‘decency’ and ‘respect for authority’ that are carefully monitored by ideologues and updated according to requirements or developments.

What ideologues can’t tolerate is a direct, principled challenge, a push to expose those limits and to go beyond them – thereby smoking out that it is an ideology they are defending, a system of belief limited by the interests of the dominant class they serve.

There was another similar skit (I couldn’t find a copy) done at least twice by the Chaser team in which one of them, wearing the semblance of a uniform, stood at the bottom of up/down escalators and as everyone coming down got to the bottom, he told them to go back up the other one. Every person did as they were told.

All power-plays short of overt domination are made on the back of ‘decency’ and a blind submission to authority.

Question everything


7 thoughts on “‘Decency’ as an extremely powerful control mechanism

  1. Not a fan of the Chasers, however this clip does illustrate the need to question everything very well. However in Australia, the real issue is not people don’t question everything, but when people do question everything there is not much they can really do, and this is a very big reason for many people’s suffering of depression. Decency, which is defined as things required for a reasonable standard of life, does have an important role to play in people’s life, however when the authority can excuse itself from conforming to such standards as I have often seen in Australia, decency does not have role to play any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Yi Ping Wang,
      in my view, the Chasers embody a peculiarly white Australian mix of ethics and the toxin of quick-witted, astute cynicism (distinct from healthy skepticism). I put decency in quotation marks to distinguish it from natural, humane decency, a quality entirely consonant with questioning, to indicate how true decency is exploited by the Australian capitalist class in a nation with a dominant middle-class ethic.
      Best wishes, Phil

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, this is rich — well done sir! The system tolerates whining, complaining, grumbling and a certain amount of symbolic protest. What it will not under any circumstances tolerate is sincere and genuine questioning of authority. I particularly enjoyed your spot-on phrase “the toxin of quick-witted, astute cynicism.” Many are the oh-so-witty, silver-tongued persons of power who have the masses believing they are wise. Though they may overlap — Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde come to mind — wit is not synonymous with wisdom. Note that the Wilde’s wit, powerful incisive though it was, was insufficient to protect him from the state’s definition of “decency.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robert,

      thank you for your fine comment. The Chasers would often pick a prominent Australian (usually a politician), confront and mock him. When they first began doing this (the young, mainly white, middle-class audiences loved it) some of their targets made the ‘mistake’ of biting back – they finally learnt to grin and bear it.

      I process ‘mistake’ because white convict cynicism in action has all the exits covered – for the target there’s no way out. They can only accept humiliation or dig themselves deeper in. Not only is the refusal to accept abuse (read as ‘defiance’) the incitement to a real working-over (‘Think you’re better than us, do you?’), there is this ever-ready denial ‘Maaate, it’s all just a joke, life’s a joke. You’re crap. We’re all crap. What’s the problem?’ Sick, vicious gutlessness writ large. The bourgeoisie recognise the usefulness of this poison because they encourage it – the laconic, cynical ‘man’ is an Australian cultural stereotype.

      I watched the show for the same reason I watched The Dream (sic[k]) during the 2000 Olympics (this show, also on Australian national TV replayed and mocked the slip-ups competitors experienced during the day – it had a record viewing for its late-night time slot) – to help me understand the profound and growing gap between me and Australian culture.

      What did you think of my reply regarding Hegel’s distortion of the philosophies of Plotinus and Proclus?

      Best wishes, Phil

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant! As to your Hegel-Plotinus-Proclus Theorem, you’ve triggered a bit of soul-searching. Have I subconsciously made the same leap that Hegel made? What is it that I believe about the nature of the One? Intellectually I’m with P & P, but does my inner child secretly sooth itself with a Hegelian cosmology? If you take Philosophy seriously, this is hard stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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