Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 May 2015

How Dutch courage will leave them seeing red

Hooray for Holland. It’s too liberal a country in many ways, the men are too tall, and I’m told by ootlanders who live there that there’s a widespread arrogance typical of your Teuton.

They think they’re better than us, and the fact that they are is neither here nor, arguably, there.

But we take our hats off to the flatlanders for hosting the annual festival of redheads in Breda.

Others have written eloquently of this follicle-based fiesta in past years, but it falls to me in 2012 to speak up for the ginger of bonce.

It seems passing strange to have a prejudice against redheads. It’s just a prejudice against difference.

I’ve met black or Asian people, worried about racist remarks directed their way in the street, and I tell them not to take it personally. I’ve had rude remarks and laughter directed at me for having a red countenance and a shiny hooter.

When long hair went out of fashion, and I kept mine, titters would be frequent, and you just had to thole it.

At first, I’d get angry. Then I adopted the pacifist approach of TV’s Kwang Chai Caine, who was taught by Master Po that it was good if his appearance made others happy and prompted laughter.

That doesn’t stop me getting my laughing retaliation in first. I spend three-quarters of my time pointing and tittering at baldies, cyclists, and people wearing shades.

The other quarter of my time I spend in hospital. My prejudices are rational and aesthetically sound.

Irrational prejudice, on the other hand, is odd. It is fomented by fear. It’s why racists, bigots and whatnot are so often ugly.

They have to create the “other” or “alien” to draw attention away from themselves, and will often act as Rottweilers against such others, as a means of cementing their own acceptance in mainstream society.

Basically, they want to be patted on the head and tossed a bone. Otherwise, it could be they themselves who are picked on for being ugly.

As so often in life, football provides the laboratory for changing social attitudes. Years ago, racism on the terraces was rife. Now, outwith eastern Europe, it’s nearly non-existent.

The interesting thing is that it’s not just fear of punishment that shut the racists up. Fans are genuinely against it and will react with anger towards anyone mouthing such abuse.

Not that the latter have been entirely eradicated.

I was once at a tournament where a black fellow and an eastern European player were limbering up in front of the opposing fans (including moi).

A bitter, angry man along the row, unable to shout about the black player, picked on the east European, accusing him of being a Gypsy or “Gyppo”. Can’t keep a good bigot down.

But footer fans pick on any physical trait. “Hoy, you with the slightly misaligned eyebrows, you’re rubbish!”

A slightly overweight player will be taunted about pies. In the recent past, baldies would be lambasted.

However, today, when nearly everyone is bald, only a few intellectuals like your correspondent persist in fanning the flames of prejudice against baldies.

Prejudice against redheads, on the other hand, is baffling. Think of the bonniest lasses you’ve known.

Bound to be gingers among them.

So hats off to those organising the ginger jamboree in Holland. Keep the red flag flying there.

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