Thursday, January 24, 2013

Humor, Young and Old

Humor is queer: If a stout old millionaire says, “I wonder what the poor are doing tonight?” then I feel amusement, pity. If an elected official says it I feel revulsion, contempt.

Young Humour
(This is a re-run. When I published this back in April of 2010, I had a lot on sophmoric (student) humor. Now, for "young humor," I am leaving in only one paragraph)

Perhaps as a freshman I was simply in the wrong crowd, one of mostly men. Certainly in my own Bachelor of Community Rehabilitation program, later, of mostly women, the folks were less competitive for their humor, were safe and supportive. But then again, I think the campus was pervaded by a lack of mercy, by an enjoyment of putting people down. It was always a culture shock for me to go straight from the safe-to-be-flamboyant drama student lounge to the big recreation student lounge: Put-downs galore! Perhaps, in my freshman crowd, we simply tried too hard… producing lots of wit but no humor for the human condition.
Old Humour

Now I sit here in surprise... It has just hit me—I’ve become Joseph Stalin! At my age! Or, at least, the Stalin that George Bernard Shaw (GBS) perceived. Shaw was part of a group that traveled to the U.S.S.R. and saw Stalin. Uncle Joe was silent. Shaw perceived the leader, during the visit, as being in a state of amusement. I had thought long ago, back when I was my niece’s age, back when I was going through my GBS phase, that Shaw was mistaken. I still think so, but now I wonder if he was projecting his own sensibility onto Stalin. For Shaw to become a famous playwright he must have scrutinized this world keenly, and perhaps he had to choose whether to be amused or bitter. I believe an earlier famous writer, Mark Twain, faced the same crossroads. Maybe it’s a nerd thing.

Then again, maybe Shaw’s perception of Stalin was right on. After all, if I was a leader with my people worshipping me, putting up statues and murals, buying plates and posters for their homes to portray my noble visage, naming their sweet babies after me, when all the while I was purging (killing) half the generals and ordering an artificial famine in the Ukraine that was killing millions upon millions, well, I’d be amused too. Very amused. Come to think of it, the posters of Chairman Mao, whose wife was a criminal in the Gang of Four, seem to always show him looking “benevolent”…maybe Mao was equally “amused.” You think?

And now, as I set my pen down, I have to smile: I’ve once again managed to relate an essay to my interest in democracy.

Sean Crawford
Agreeing with Churchill that
Democracy is a bad, bad bad form of government
… But it’s better than any other.


General Patton told all of his officers they weren't allowed to give any orders while smiling. If the Muslim Ayatollahs and Islamist leaders always seem fierce for the billboards and posters, well, maybe they are copying Patton. Maybe away from the public, among each other, they are amused at having such power. 

As for those nerds who know too much, or people who are cynical, who seemingly don’t respect the rest of us … well, must they always turn to “quietism” and withdraw from the world? No! Shaw, who wrote with acid in his ink, joined a political group and never stopped trying… I can still picture a fictional doctor, despairing of his world’s media/police state, who would go to a five star restaurant just to “watch the monkeys feed.” He was the teenage hero’s bachelor uncle in Robert Heinlein’s Between Planets, who, in the end, quietly risked his life for freedom

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