The unintended pun in everyday life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Seriously Punny and Don't Harass Me about It

My company requires me to take (I won't say "suffer through," because that would create a negative impression) several on-line training courses every year. They are designed to make sure that I am aware of company policy and legislative laws (not to be confused with God's common sense Laws as written in my heart and conscience), and therefore that I don't get in trouble with the company, and much more importantly, that the company get in trouble with the government.

If you guessed based on my flippant attitude that I took one of these today, you would be right. Today's was about Workplace Harassment, usually my favorite. It's my favorite, because right at the beginning I am told that I will learn not only what harassment is, but also what it isn't. In my ironic/warped way of viewing the universe, that means to me that I will be learning exactly what it is I can do that will bother/offend other people, but that will not be considered legal harassment. I find that deeply humorous, for two reasons:
  1. The designers of the course certainly do not intend to teach me how to legally harass.
  2. The designers of the course have no sense of humor.
Thus, when I came across the scenario that was meant to teach that one can harass someone of the same race, and found an Unintended Pun, I was elated. What better prize in such a course as this could there be than fodder for my blog?

October 21, 2013 In a fake work scenario, an employee said: "Hi, it's me, Valentina. Can I ask your advice about something? Julia, Sylvia, and I are all Latina. Julia always teases Sylvia and me about how dark our skin is. She says that we need to stop hitting the tanning booth so we don't get any darker. When I mentioned it to Sylvia, she laughed and told me to lighten up and stop taking everything so seriously. Maybe I am being too sensitive, but it still bothers me."

I guess it's minimally possible the course designers threw this in there to see if anybody was paying attention. But assuming not, this is a truly great pun--because of course, if Sylvia and Valentina would indeed lighten up (if their skin tone would lighten), then Julia would have nothing to tease them about. The phrasing chosen by these course designers is beautiful, though Unintended.

It's a perfect metaphor for government rules and regulations. If the bureaucrats would just lighten up and give up their desire for political correctness in the ideal world (the course was full of references to an imaginary "reasonable person" who "might" be offended by something--that is, the Ideal Person), we could just get along with our lives. If we don't like what Julia says, we can tell her to buzz off. If we don't like a joke somebody tells us, we can stop hanging around him. If we don't like somebody touching us, we can slug him or walk away. We don't have to wonder if we should tell HR, or if we should confront the person and worry about "retaliation" or other official terms. This kind of official speak just makes us all question and doubt each other, and turns us all into a bunch of snitches.

We don't need the Nanny State teaching us what true harassment is--we know it when we see it, and it's disgusting. It isn't somebody telling a bad joke that supposedly makes fun of some group--people aren't that easily offended unless they go around looking for something to offend them. True harassment involves tangible intimidation that makes an individual's life intolerable. When that happens, people of goodwill step in. We can take care of ourselves, and don't need layers of bureaucracy to "help." And most of all, we don't need another legal layer of unenforceable laws making us all spy on each other while we sit at our desks and try to get work done.