Ali G (aka Borat) – moral philosopher

Sometimes Superman sureptitiously used his powers despite being in his Clark Kent persona. In the same way sometimes Ali G’s disguise slips and Sasha Baron-Cohen – Cambridge University graduate – shows through.

In his TV show he once hosted a group of aging animal rights activists. The more ignorant he played it the more patronising and self-satisfied they became.

“So you won’t eat chicken?” “Oh no, never. Chickens are precious beings; who are we to…”, etc.

And then he revealed his hidden powers: “Ah, but would you eat a chicken if I said that if you don’t I’m going to kill another chicken?”

The camera showed Ali G’s delight at his zinger; the interviewees looked like stunned mullets. It’s amazing how many clever people aren’t very good thinkers – probably because they spend so much of their time with back-slappers.

It’s a worthwhile exercise to ponder on the deep issue Ali G raises: are we (they, you, I) also rather too in love with our cherished ‘values’, ‘beliefs’, and ‘principles’ instead of with what the values, etc. require of us, namely live worthwhile lives? I.e. how much would it take to expose our phoniness?

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6 Responses

  1. baron-cohen is a genius. the last paragraph is a bit confusing. though. do you really want to say values (and beliefs and principles) or do you want to say the practical behavior those values (and beliefs and principles) require of us?

  2. ama – Your query has made me pause and think. I want to to say that sometimes people are in love with their ‘values’, i.e. they’re actually they’re in love with the persona attached to those ‘values’: “I love the idea of being the kind of person who holds X beliefs”. I will tweak the post though – your wording (“requires of us”) is better – thanks. (I have reciprocated and added your interesting site to my blogroll- hopefully the interlinking will be fruitful!)

  3. that’s a good way of putting it — being in love with the idea of being a special kind of person. flexibility is a rare, and very high, virtue.

  4. A wonderful piece of therapy is to listen to those who we violently disagree with and try to say everything good we can of them. (There are those we may not be able to: this may be revealing about us and them.)

    This is certainly good practice in loosening our attachment to our values and (usually self-satisfied) self-image.

  5. Hello Evan – I’m enjoying this ongoing chat with you. Again, you make a good point. (One possible exception is the case of the psychopath – it is vital not to end up disbelieving him or being sucked in by him and then colluding.)

  6. […] Borat – moral philosopher […]

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