Nurse, we have a problem…

by Jonathan Faull

So here’s my beef : I have this nagging suspicion about the good ole boys and girls down at Laugh it Off (LIO). I like their style – the getting-up-the-noses of Big Capital stuff, the dodgy t-shirts, the lame jokes. Good on you, it’s a part of the struggle of and for political citizenship, after all. But I don’t like the vibe: the model-C, middle-class, hodgepodge of those who can literally afford to disengage and Laugh it Off. I don’t like the faux politics, the half-baked principles, the lily-white prissy toyi-toyi outside the magistrates’ court.

I’m sorry to piss on the parade, and I’m sorry if you reject my concerns as a bit too serious, a bit too embedded in the World of the Real. I’m not quite ‘laughing along’ – so to say. Sure, buy the t-shirts, and hit the parties; I mean, Christ, Naomi Klein once said something to Justin Nurse, so it must be cool and it will probably make you feel a bit subversive and cause your heart to beat that little bit faster.

You are commodifying legitimate protest. That cotton number you’re adding to your togs is a fetish of political engagement and a parody of struggle. And please don’t think you’re the embodiment of anti-business. LIO is a brand, just like Diesel and Standard Bank and all the other big-wigs you so cunningly slag-off. Admittedly it is a small fish at sea in the oceans of capital, but it’s not quite not-for-profit, section-21 and all that – is it?

I don’t think you’re making a difference – as those crusty socialists would say – “in practice”. Your impact on the frontlines of the struggles against poverty, unemployment, globalisation, AIDS and human alienation is minimal. I sincerely doubt you’re even keeping it real for Naomi and her logo-less muesli-munching minions. I have my doubts you’re colour coding your “Standard Wank” and “White Guilt” t-shirts with gear from PEP, Ackermans and Bar Sellout in solidarity with the working and unemployed poor. I suspect that lurking in your wardrobe are a few discreet labels fresh from the sweat-shops of some far-flung armpit of humanity.

In July 2004 Jonathan Faull was approached by Laugh It Off (LIO) to contribute to their second annual publication. The specs for his contribution were that it engage the concept of democracy and democratic participation, and be 1500 words in length. On submission of the article LIO changed these criteria and the author later withdrew the piece for publication as he felt the 500 word edited article proposed by the LIO editors neglected to include the substance of his critique… Judge for yourself – Ed.

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