DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Irreverent joking may serve the cause of liberty, a cause everyone likes to talk about but seldom serve when libertarian anarchy threatens social security, because then they secretly prefer to be ruled by dictators. Authoritarian regimes require blind obedience, whereas jokes are rebellious. Jokes on a dictator and his henchmen may constitute high treason. Hitler’s right-wing authoritarian regime actually set up joke courts to punish people for naming their dogs and horses “Adolph”.
There is a little Hitler in everyone. Nazism should be mocked and laughed at, yet we may not recognize the Nazis that we may be now that Hitler’s propaganda methods have been nearly perfected by so-called friendly fascism. Comedians need to point them out and poke fun at their totalitarian methods so we may give our fascist asses a colossal boot before it is too late.
Revolution is unnecessary when satire can destroy a charismatic man’s perceived power. Ritual curses in the form of Invective poems can have a disastrous effect on dangerous “spiritual” forces.
Since humor is often derogatory, it endangers the reputation of would-be kings. Thomas Hobbes derided humorists when he argued that humor tends to exalt the humorist, making a laughing stock out of others. Remember that Hobbes, the reputed father of the English Enlightenment who claimed that politics or the distribution of power involved a war of all against all, was a conservative by today’s standards inasmuch as kings were needed to keep order.
“All passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from a sudden conception of some eminence in ourselves by comparison with the infirmity of others or with (ourselves) ‘formerly’. Sudden glory is the passion which maketh those grimaces called laughter, and is caused by some sudden act of their own, that pleaseth them; or by the apprehension of some deformed thing in another, by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves.”
Francis Hutcheson made a mockery of Hobbes’ theory of humor.
“Mr. Hobbes. who very much owes his character of a philosopher to his assuming positive solemn airs, which he uses most when he is going to assert some palpable absurdity, or some ill-natured nonsense, assures us that (Hobbes’ theory here stated)…”
Hutcheson went on to say that Hobbes and modern philosophers of selfishness were ill-natured and plainly wrong. He refuted Hobbes, citing parody and burlesque as ways of making fun of things we really hold dear. For example, we can love Shakespeare, make fun of his style, and then go back to taking him seriously.
Yet Hutcheson’s mockery does more to affirm Hobbes’ theory than to disprove it. Hobbes’ theory still stands as the main one today among about seven-hundred and twenty- three other theories, a number that reflects inflation since 1923, when Professor J.Y.T. Grieg counted eighty-eight different theories.
Sigmund Freud, for example, said there were only two types of wit: wit directed at objects, and wit without an object. He provided no example of the latter i.e. jokes without a butt.
Plato abjured laughing, saying it was confusing, that it weakens the mind and the character. Welcome to the Republic.
Philosophy is akin to comedy since humor tends to make broad generalizations in order to transcend the dirty details. Philosophy takes itself too seriously. Pundits have said that philosophy is a big joke on us all, so much nonsense made from common sense.
Humor is healthy providing one can laugh at oneself as well. Laughter is a therapeutic way of feeling good about oneself, and that enables one to feel good about others too. Humor may heal both physical and mental illnesses by liberating the afflicted persons from their identification with their ailments. And it allows us to function in critical situations such as surgery, emergencies, wars, and so on.
Yes, laughter may express pleasure in triumph, with getting what one wants. Babies when afraid smile and gurgle when their mothers appear. Infants smile when they win, and so do adults, but wise adults give some credit to luck.
Laughing at others is not necessarily an expression of hatred but may be used to cement the fellowship of insiders while outsiders are actually liked. Racial jokes are deplorable; however, as hostility reduced to play, they are much better than pogroms. A symbolic triumph is superior to a concentration camp. We should keep in mind that our “innocent” jokes can be cruel, and that our claim to innocence is simply a denial that we are all brutes to a certain extent.
Humor may be a way of winning without having to fight: it is often better to laugh than to fight. It is a powerful weapon in our arsenal against brainwashing, political correctness, the shackles of logic, moral prudery and tyranny, and rigid thinking in general: where thought seeks to kill, laughter brings life.
We should laugh for the hell of it. That might seem absurd, but life itself can be absurd and futile, calling for some gallows humor. Anyone in their right mind might commit suicide; therefore, as long as we stick around for this madness that ends in nothing, we might as well get a kick out of it.
We should laugh because we are superior to our faults and damn proud of it. We should gladly put the worst aspects of ourselves down, and do our best to include ourselves in our jokes.
I have been making fun of birds lately, so I must confess that I was born in the Year of the Cock: fortunately, we Cocks have very few weaknesses; we prefer to back down at the last minute rather than physically hurt someone; but be careful, we are notorious for our satires, and we are too proud to apologize even though we wish we could.
We should laugh for liberty, for liberation from the pettiness of life, and not merely to put someone down just because she or he stands out from the crowd.
Nevertheless, and above all, we should always laugh at dictators who would enslave and thus degrade humanity. Irreverent joking safeguards the liberties we should prize.