Thursday, 22 October 2009

John Safran's new show, Race Relations, which aired last night, has solved a problem I've been thinking about, on and off, for some months. 

It all started at the close of the Myall Creek commemorative ceremony this year. The ceremony is held to remember the dozens of Aboriginal (mainly) old men, women and children who were brutally murdered by a gang of settlers in 1838. As a result of the subsequent investigation, 7 men were hanged. Public outcry ensured that this was the last time for a long time violence against Aboriginals was punished under colonial law.

Since 2001, every year people come to this New England spot where a rock has been erected near to the place of the outrage. The owners of the property where the crime occurred refused persmission to build it there, but Crown land close by was selected instead. A ceremony is held and then people return to the nearby Country Womens Association hall to listen to music and see Aboriginal dancers perform.

It's a very equanimous way to remember something that was akin to genocide, or at least an undeclared war between heavily-armed white settlers and fleet-footed, black guerillas. Passions are subdued and only emerge in the form of tears of gratitude at a shared burden being lightened for the individual who cannot otherwise express themselves.

Walking back to the CWA hall, my companion - who I'd never met before, but who identifies as Aboriginal - asked why there is such a strong impetus to discover new things. He asked this because he regretted the coming of the white man and the subsequent war against his own tribes.

Safran has shown us that there's a genetic imperative to seek out new things.

In his segment, Safran asks why he has always been attracted to Eurasian women in preference to the Jewish girls his parents wished upon him from an early age. To find out, he asks for advice from an old flame who now works as a scientist. She tells him about tests that were conducted using the human sense of smell. Undergarments worn by people who are genetically distant from the group of people being tested carried an attractive smell. The opposite applied for people genetically close to the group.

To conduct his own test, Safran targeted Jewish women living near to him in Melbourne as well as a selection of Euriasian women from the region. His ruse to get close enough to steal a pair of panties is the interview. As a reporter, Safran has access to celebrities and so chose a few, including one who lives in Indonesia. Shortly after starting each interview, he interrupted the talker and asked to use the bathroom. While away, he rummaged through laundry bins looking for used panties.

His remit was to get undergarments - T-shirts and the like - and not panties. But Safran always delves for the deeper vein of comedy.

Finally, having collected a pair of panties from seven different women, he returned to his ex-lover. It's curious, but when he asked her for her own panties, the humour didn't flag. He simply needed an additional pair to complete the sample: four pairs from Jews and four pairs from Eurasians.

Then the sniffing started. The result was conclusive: Safran prefers women who are genetically distant from him.

Which answers the question of the man from country New South Wales: we seek out new territories because that's the way we're built. It may lead to unfortunate outcomes, but in the end it occurs because we can't help it. We're human.

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