I made the acquaintance of Prince Harry during my racial awareness course. At first, I was very pleased to meet this hero of the British army, who is already a lieutenant at 24 years old, but I was a bit disappointed that he did not wear the German Afrika Korps uniform that made him famous all over the world five years ago. He told me then that he had lent it to Max Mosley, who needed it for his next costume party “Colonial hunter and native bird,” in exchange for a free VIP ticket for the Silverstone Grand Prix. Of course, I was quite surprised to see a young lad of royal blood at a racial awareness course, but when I asked Prince Harry why he was obliged to go through such a chore, he had to admit that he had no idea. He had just called one of his Paki fellow cadets a “Paki,” and seemingly there was something wrong with it, because his dad had got very upset and had sent him here to “improve his vocabulary.”
Actually, it appeared quickly that the course was above all a linguistics course. According to our teacher, a lot of English words were not destined to be uttered and we had to watch our language. As a Frenchman who has recently moved to the country, I was a bit confused to learn thus that I now had to forget numerous terms that I had had so much trouble memorizing, all the more so since the teacher used for the purposes of his demonstration lots of witty expressions that I did not know and I could have retained. Fortunately, the taboo on these words was not absolute, most of them could be employed in certain contexts. For instance, you could use the term “Sooty” in private as an affectionate nickname to call an Asian fellow member of your polo club, although you were not advised to utilize it to address India’s PM officially. The difference was quite subtle, as we can see, but Prince Harry suggested a good criterion to separate right uses from wrong: “It depends on whether journalists can record you,” and all the class was very impressed by the occult power of cameras and mikes to turn some inoffensive remarks into a public row.
After the break, the teacher gave us a literary exercise: we had to identify anti-Semitic stereotypes in a scene of The Merchant of Venice and correct them in an acceptable way. I proposed then to totally update the scene by replacing the character of Shylock with Fred Goodwin, a personage quite as ignoble as the famous Jewish moneylender, but a Caledonian bully in the class expressed loudly his opposition to my idea, saying that he would not let his fellow nationals be insulted by a stupid Froggy. Finally, after considering that the best solution to eliminate stereotypes was to eliminate types at first, we decided to replace each character of the scene by an animal, in the style of Orwell in Animal Farm, and thus Shylock became a heron, Portia a shrimp and Antonio a seahorse, to conform with the spirit of the play. Thank God, the animal species did not fall within the scope of the course!
The lunch at the cafeteria could have been a pleasant, relaxing moment together, but an unfortunate incident pitted the Muslim representative of the class against the Jewish’s, the first one refusing to be seated next to a Zionist, the second one claiming that all the terrorists were frisked before being allowed to sit down at the table. We eventually went back to a narrow conception of multiculturalism, and a different table was assigned to each ethnic and religious group, with the result that everybody ate alone, given the small size of the class. However, although French, I was invited to sit opposite to Prince Harry in memory of the Entente Cordiale, and then, while we enjoyed our bangers and mash, he regaled me with his barrack-room jokes, quite more amusing than our teacher’s moralising speeches. After all, the canteen culture also belongs to the English heritage.
The afternoon was devoted to Barack Obama. Of course, it had not escaped anybody’s attention that the United States had pushed the politically correct to the point of electing President a Black person, which was really a bit exaggerated, but the Yankees always need to stretch things to the limit. Luckily, thanks to the hereditary character of the British Crown, it was most unlikely that such a mishap would ever happen to the United Kingdom. Diplomatic blunders however should be avoided, especially dubious puns like these of the retarded Wop Berlusconi, and Prince Harry was recommended to choose his fancy dress very carefully the next time he was invited to the White House. He was strongly dissuaded from wearing in that case a Confederate general’s uniform as well as the Ku Klux Klan’s white robe, because American people sometimes were slow-witted and could not appreciate the so subtle humour of His Royal Highness. Then the teacher finished the class by giving us some PR advice; in particular, he recommended us to have our picture taken with African or Asian children and to publish the photos on our personal Web site.
At the end of the day, Prince Harry was exhausted, and he confessed to me that this racial awareness course was far trickier than learning to fly helicopters. Fortunately, a limousine had been waiting for him, and thus he could take a nap before going back to Afghanistan. This well-earned rest however was likely to be short-lived: his chiefs needed him at Kabul as soon as possible to boost the troops’ morale. Besides, Prince Harry had his own plan about the new Great Game in Asia, and before getting into the Bentley this master strategist told me: “Pardon my French, but Pashtuns, Taliban, Tajiks and whatnot, that’s all bullshit. All we need is to give these rag-heads a hell of a beating!”