By the Free Rider, Craig Richards, 21 October 2016
One of the most unfunny things I ever did was research what makes something funny. I learnt about a thing called superiority theory. It explains why we laugh when someone does something silly.
You really shouldn’t laugh at this poor Oxymoron – or that awful pun.
The laughter comes because we wouldn’t do something that stupid. So we feel good because someone else is inferior. Pretty horrible isn’t it.
The human desire to compete with each other is deeply ingrained. There’s lots of organised activities, such as racing, where we can find out who is better instantly. Other times we organise our own activity and challenge someone to prove they’re better.
Although the challenge didn’t work out so well for the super competitive Izzy Mandelbaum. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88M9-rBXubA
But often superiority isn’t proven by a contest. We’re so keen to find out who’s better we judge based on characteristics that often a person has little control over. A classic example is where you’re from.
I have the privilege of spending a fair bit of time trying to get people from around Australia to unite in a quest to transform Australia into a nation of bike riders. It’s a simple theory: with strength in numbers we’ll achieve more. But many days it’s an uphill climb, ‘We’ve got this, please go back to Melbourne.’
I’m not sure whether I’m lower in the pecking order when I’m seen as a mainlander, eastern stater or southerner? Yes it’s true, I was born and live in the State of Victoria. But other than being able to cope with the weather changing all the time, what does that prove about me?
The place of origin judgement is just as strong intrastate as interstate. Many years ago I worked in a prestigious law firm. When the big bosses found out which Melbourne suburb I lived in they said in disbelief, ‘That’s north of the Yarra isn’t it?’ I imagine the recruitment team’s eyebrows took months to grow back after the blast they got for letting me through the mahogany double doors.
The good news is place of origin judgements are not just an Australian thing. I went to New Zealand on hols recently. I naively thought the ANZAC spirit meant I’d be treated as a local. I came home with my ears ringing about Aussies stealing the pavlova from the Kiwis. Guess our great nation was built by convicts who stole a loaf of bread so we’d have no qualms about nicking a pav.
Does putting kiwi fruit on a Pavlova strengthen the New Zealanders’ claim? I’m not so sure when the kiwi fruit came from China.
When you do some deep dive desktop research (which I think means googling and not just looking at WikiPedia) into pavlova history, it all seems a little murky. It may not be an ANZAC invention: the Germans or Americans may be responsible. Anyway, I think the more interesting question is why would anyone name a messy pile of meringue, cream and fruit in honour of a Russian ballerina famous for impersonating a dying swan?
It was comforting to learn the Kiwis go just as hard at their own as they do at Aussies. There seemed great delight in calling people from Auckland Jafas.
No not the awesome warriors from another planet in Stargate or the roll down the aisle lolly (which is another thing New Zealanders say Aussies stole) but an acronym for – Just – Another – something rude beginning with F – Aucklander.
Now here comes the plea for the week: rather than ranking a person based on their place of origin, take a few minutes to find their special qualities.
Of course their special qualities may have been shaped by where they come from. But remember you could get it wrong if you assumed everyone from the same place is the same. Such as if you assumed all warriors from another planet are determined (look into those eyes), everyone from the other side of the river is uncivilised and everyone who does something silly is sillier than you.