The Fart that Stopped a Nation….

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except it didn’t, or not all of it anyway.

Of course I’m talking about SBS’s answer to that eternal zen enigma – If a young man farts on the steps of his Mt Druitt home, does it make a sound in Willoughby?

Well yes it does. And in all the other middle-class, SBS-watching homes across the nation. You remember those people, they’re the ones tittering their way through an unceasing marathon of poo and diddles on QI.

Except that’s different. Because as we all know, there’s a gaping chasm between thinly veiled smut directed at the titillation of those who’re adept in the art of inference and innuendo, and, well, a bald-faced fart.

And therein lies the rub.

Make no mistake, poo jokes are funny, whether you’re in Mt Druitt or on the LNS (Leafy North Shore). The supercilious twits snorting their way through a round of QI are, without doubt, captivated by the enduring and immutable hilarity of bodily function. But, unlike the chap on Struggle Street, they rely on hints and allusion to speak about them. This does two things.

First, it’s simply about shared understanding. It forges camaraderie, it says; we’re the same, you and me. But there’s more to it than that.

Innuendo, suggestion and allusion, talking about something without directly talking about it, are all abstractions, abstractions that recognise the shape and form of an idea without stating it baldly. Incidentally, this is why many people assume that erudition is a sign of intelligence – it assumes that you’ve sussed out the overarching laws that govern language. Saying something without saying something demonstrates an intuitive understanding of the rules and is therefore a natural sign of intellect. Except of course, it isn’t. Or not entirely. Because language and communication are confounded by economic class and education, both of which are far more important than raw smarts. And, in the half-baked, sprawling suburban morass of Mt Druitt, harder to navigate.

And while I’m at it, let’s not forget SBS’s other audience -the rest of ‘poor’ Western Sydney – non-Anglo, first and second generation migrants. What better than an evening in, watching how Skippy does poverty?

SBS is telling them what they already know – that the ‘Struggle’ in Struggle Street is a predominantly white one, born out of labour market elasticity and dissolving family and community ties, characteristic of Skippy’s brand of late capitalism, a culture on the skids.

These are the viewers we’re not hearing from in the comments section of The Guardian –  disadvantaged and undoubtedly struggling but comforted by the still-standing institutions of family, church and community, the social connections that foster education opportunities, workplace participation, and more generally, social values that combat alienation.

For them, Struggle Street is a kind of antidote to the mainstream media images of ‘ethnic’ poverty and urban disadvantage that are almost universally oriented around stereotypical radicalism.

I’ll finish with a general, dispiriting comment, characteristic of the mainstream, left wing media….one that demonstrates the kind of vaunting self-regard that invites high-minded, but noncommittal rhetorical questions like;

What’s the world coming to when a young man can no longer liberate a sonorous fart in the relaxed company of his own national broadcaster?

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