The Pot Calling the Kettle

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There are a few societal changes afoot but where do they come from?

Pot Calling the Kettle

An interesting phrase that, the pot calling the kettle ‘black’. When my sister was first married, (1950) they lived in a house built by her husband adjacent to his family’s pig farming property. I visited his family often, a large family which included six of his siblings, they lived in a tiny house that had no electricity and no running water. They cooked over an open fire, which caused the outside of pots, pans and the kettle to become black with burnt-on soot. It was the same with all pioneering homes, although this one must have been one of the last. The only electrical item they owned was a battery radio that used a big, square battery. They only listened to it at night and they sat the battery beside the fire during the day to presumably, lengthen its life. By 1950 we had an electric range, but before that, we had a coal range, which was nearly always going, even with the dampers closed. There were three ‘elements’ on ours, which meant you could remove the top to expose the pot or kettle to the flames for quicker action. We never exposed the pots to the direct flames, because to put them into the cupboard we would need to scrub them clean first, but the kettle was black because there was always water in it and it could be boiled in an instant by taking the top off the element and exposing it to the flames or embers. 

On this morning’s walk, I caught up on an old mate of mine who I occasionally meet on my walks. He’s easy to catch up with because his hips are buggered, causing him to walk slowly and with a waddle.

‘You’re waddling along like an old bearing ewe!’ I said by way of greeting when I caught up on him. He relied by punching my arm, laughing, and telling me I was a cheeky bugger. He understood what I meant because he was a stockman and knows that a bearing ewe is a heavily pregnant sheep that’s pushed her uterus out by trying to pee without standing up.

Now you would be excused for thinking that’s a pretty disparaging thing to say to someone with crook hips, but it’s how my generation are. We’ve never been politically correct, which makes us wonder about the up and coming generations wanting to change what’s been in our vocabulary all our lives. Commonly men would refer other men by their nicknames, which would often be referring to a physical quirk. Blinky used to drive the nursery tractor, he’d be thirty years younger than me and it was his mates who coined the name, and that’s how he introduced himself to me.  Hoppy had a lame leg and was a good ten years older than me, I don’t know who coined his name but the whole district knew him by it. Curly was our boss for a while, he had tight ginger curls. Porky was rather good a stretching the truth, pork pies… lies. Piggy was our prime minister, but I’m betting nobody would be brave enough call him that to his face. I can’t say I know if any of this sort of thing ever caused harm, I was Short Arse, Shorty, Short Stuff… or Fin because one time I joking said I might hyphenate my name, but none of those names concerned me, in fact we expected to be nicknamed. I think we shared respect and exercised our own form of restraint, so we didn’t go over-the-top, although I can’t fully explain just what I mean by that.

A couple of things have happened during the past week that made me consider my jibe about the bearing ewe a bit more deeply. The first was the banning of some Dr. Seuss books and the second was that a local secondary school has ‘tweaked’ the script of the stage show Grease, because there are bits in it that are unpalatable to some. Which reminds me, there was a Bugs Bunny story that played during a children’s session on the radio when I was young. I liked it so much that I learned if off by heart. However, it was banned because ‘it used poor English for our impressionable children.’ Whoever banned it must have wanted us to speak like the British aristocracy! There was also a level of racism directed at a whole group of people without reasonable authenticity, and few seem to accept that racism, and or disparagement goes in many directions.

We hear of too many accusations of racism, and no, we can’t condone any of it, but nor should we accept the term being be used against everyone with pale skin. Doing so in its own way, is another form of racism… isn’t it? Are the terms white trash, colonialist… and others, also just a bit offensive? And by the way, do you think English is the only language that uses disparaging words for other nationalities or cultures? Would you expect the North Koreans to have disparaging names for Americans? Is Israel popular among the Arab notions? I know Jean Auel’s writings are fictional, but she wrote about the earliest Europeans calling the Neanderthals ‘flatheads’, which probably indicates that name calling and dislike probably dates back to before English was spoken.

Personally, I’ve never liked blood and guts video games, but we’re assured by phycologists that players, even young’uns, understand the difference between a game and reality. If that’s so and considering the imaging available on most phones these days, is the sensitivity about Grease really necessary? The pictures complained about in Dr. Seuss’ book shows Africans lips that are larger than Europeans and people wearing grass skirts. Why would anyone think lips are bad? I have batiks on my walls painted by Africans that show thicker lips and African carvings show them as well, local artists celebrate their lips. Kids in the schools I worked with wore grass skirts when they performed tradition plays and dances, they know their heritage and aren’t embarrassed about it, nor should they be! Anyway, how else can you draw a picture of an African so kids can understand what’s meant? The same with the Chinese people, coolie hats are still worn rurally and Chinese eyes aren’t quite the same as Europeans’, chopsticks are also common throughout Asia.

Cartoonist draw our prime minister with big teeth, well, it can’t be denied, most public figures have a physical quirk that cartoonist highlight. So are we going to rewrite classics that have the likes of Cyrano de Bergerac with his out-of-the-ordinary big nose? Is the movie Elephant Man for the chop? We are losing touch of reality, people are people, women, in their groups denigrate their men, and men in groups do the same with their women, one religion can’t agree with another, and sometimes violence ensues. In any war, names are made up for the opposition that are disparaging, because it makes it easier to kill. None of that will stop! I’m all for respect, diplomacy, and dignity but there’s not one amongst us who couldn’t be shamed for doing something in their life or saying something inappropriate. Remember the old adage? ‘When it comes to perfection, there’s just thee and me… and I’m a bit doubtful about thee!’

We need to be very aware of how we rear our children, and what goes into their consciousness. Closeting kids away from all the things that someone may believe to be offensive or harmful, opens them up to being unable to rise above the harsh words of criticism or stern direction from employers, some of which becomes interpreted as bullying. The exact same words can be a genuine term of endearment, or just as easily interpreted as unwanted abuse. I wonder if the people who call me a climate change denier or a misogynist, or those who wave banners saying ‘all men are rapists’… or the anti-vaxers and anti-fluoriders, are the same people who have banned Dr. Seuss and altered the wording of Grease?  And I wonder, when all is said and done, how often, the pot calls the kettle ‘black’.


Submitted: March 21, 2021

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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Comments

JE Falcon aka JEF

Well written and thought provoking. But I wonder. If the man you caught up with was a woman or a man you didn't know, would you have said the same? I believe offence happens when respect is lacking.
And it is also true that we take more liberties with those we know and they know us; or at least we should know the difference.

Sun, March 21st, 2021 9:28pm

Author
Reply

Ha! It depends, in all my days of farming, I don't know a woman that has fixed a bearing ewe. But that's not saying they're not capable, there will be plenty who have done it, I just don't know any that have. And you're right we do take liberties with the folk we're familiar with. I believe in manners, respect, and diplomacy and try to practice them - I hope. Thanks for commenting. Usianguke

Sun, March 21st, 2021 8:34pm

ratwood2

Excellently written and you make many very important points.

Mon, March 22nd, 2021 1:20pm

Author
Reply

Thank you ratwood. I appreciate your comment, Usianguke

Mon, March 22nd, 2021 1:03pm

LE. Berry

The notion of pots calling kettles black is perfect for all forms of expression. And some of us just can't help jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Enjoyed your piece moa.

Fri, March 26th, 2021 9:40pm

Author
Reply

I'm glad you did LE and yes the old expressions are good to use today. Thankyou. Usianguke

Fri, March 26th, 2021 6:03pm

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