On Sunday we took the apple of my eye to witness “Mowgli’s Story”a children’s play based, as is evident, on “The Jungle Book” of Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling. The adaptation has an environmentalist twist: the animals convince Mowgli to take his voice to the human village so that “his people” stop mistreating animals and respect their lives and their habitat. Despite this message of peace and love for the environment, the production uses the minutes of intermission (which are very long) to organize a harvest of polluting and noisy plastic swords. “We have to eat something,” they will say. It’s okay.
The real nonsense of the work is the one who decided that it was a good idea for King Louie, an orangutan, to speak as dictated by the racist stereotype of black characters on old television: “Ay, my black!”, the monkey shouts after of eating several s’s when speaking: “candela!”, he concludes. Isn’t it grotesque that they spread and perpetuate racial prejudice through a children’s play? With their simplistic and racist comedy they send the signal that it is funny to animalize black people. And they send it to an audience made up, to a large extent, of preschool children who still do not have the elements to problematize such a discourse. With the above I do not make a call to “cancel” the work. Nor is it a requirement for state institutions to censor this grotesque. No way!
Salman Rushdie, who suffered a serious stabbing attack on August 12 at the hands of an extremist enemy of free writing, has long maintained that no one has the right not to be offended. The idea is central: if we stopped saying everything that offends someone, we would be left without speech, or with a flattened and useless speech. «Bravo», more than one will shout, «Rushdie already gave us permission to shout puuuto! in the stadium, to say buttocks to women, a monkey to a black man, a cat to a domestic worker, naco to another that I despise, long live the Indian of India, not like those from here, equals».
That offenses are not prohibited by law does not make it right to offend and despise others. Betrayal, dishonesty, ingratitude, disloyalty are not prohibited but they are not correct conduct. And we have other forms of social punishment beyond the penalty dictated by legislated norms: we stop believing the liar, we stop giving disloyal people special treatment, we stop paying attention to the offender and withdraw our greetings.
The members of a democratic society must conduct themselves in non-public life based on a democratic ethos. That is, to act based on principles and norms that foster a space of trust and social collaboration, where conduct contrary to said “collaborative social spirit” is despised and leads to self-exile. Thus, more than prohibiting offensive and discriminatory jokes, we must point them out, condemn them, stop laughing at them. And when our young children witness racist, sexist, classist expressions, we must stop to explain to them, as far as possible, why they are wrong. The argument is not so difficult to understand: the treatment that degrades, dehumanizes, humiliates, is a lack of respect for the humanity of people. It is also up to us to alert other parents of spaces where ideas of this type are spread, so that they decide with information in hand if they want to take their children to listen to such speeches. Do my homework: “Mowgli’s Story” which is presented on Saturdays and Sundays at the Rafael Solana theater, contains racist humor. If you do go (I suggest turning your back on that kind of talk), be prepared to explain the racism and inconsistency of plastic environmentalism to your kids.
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