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Opinions of Friday, 6 May 2016

Columnist: Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

And we call this satire: GH/Nigerian comedy's lack of respect for vulnerable people

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I was also one of those people who would laugh uncontrollably at certain jokes in response to how much it tickles me.

My principle was simple - if it was good enough to cause raucous laughter among the crowd then I did not find anything wrong with the comedian let alone think of analysing the joke. I noticed this trend.

In Ghana and Nigeria, almost every comedian wanted to have that particular character.

'That particular character' meaning the person in the story who comes across as someone who has difficulty pronouncing words fully due to a speech defect or the one who can not walk so well such that his legs look as though they were being controlled with strings as they do with the puppets.

This never really bothered me. It was when it became so rampant that I decided to do a bit of analysis.

Most of these people, through no fault of theirs have found themselves in such a situation which they can do very little or practically nothing about. Like I do with my write-ups, I decided to put myself in their situation.

I wanted to put myself in their shoes. My dream is to be a surgeon but what if I had an accident or a disease that paralysed both or one of my legs or hands and it caused me to move in a seemingly unusual way, would I feel comfortable in any auditorium where every single joke must have a person of that sort to trigger laughter among the audience?

Being unable to operate in a theatre for my entire life would be enough to cause me to remain in shock and your laughter would ultimately compound my problems.

In the same way if I were one who stammered or had problems with my eyesight but still wanted to get to the top of Maslow's triangle, would you encourage me to recognise my full potential or would you laugh at me to crush my dreams alongside my spirit?

The trauma of having something you don't necessarily like but do not have any control over is enough to cause distress throughout one's life.

I thought society was supposed to be our anchor when we go through situations like these or maybe worse.

Society is required to accept us and help us live with it but what do we all do? We laugh at these people and disrespect them anytime we think we want to have fun. I have confronted a number of people on this issue and the response was "Why shouldn't I laugh? Is it not funny?"

I shake my head and I hope society is shaken along with it so that we can wake up from this uncouth practice and start behaving like we want to be treated.
We - the physiologically well and those unwell - are the society and if someone does not stand up for these people, no one will.

We call this satire, yet we think using politically correct words means that we respect these people and show acceptance.