Laughter as a Political Act

Satire has been around for a long time. In Rome there is a statue called Pasquino that has been used for centuries as a billboard to post anonymous comments in the form of satirical poems, lampooning ruling classes and more often than not, the Pope du Jour. For more about Pasquino see the Congregation of Wits.

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From the plays of Aristophanes and the novels of Mark Twain to television’s The Simpsons and The Colbert Report, satire has been civilization’s constant bedfellow. While it usually serves to entertain, its more valuable purpose is one of social criticism. Charlie Chaplin understood the power of humour and satire when he turned his little Tramp into The Great Dictator. If you can hold a harbinger of terror up to ridicule, if you can mock those who seek to oppress, if you can laugh at the ugliest of human behaviours, conventions, beliefs and traits, you diminish their power to terrorize, control and censor.

The barbaric attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday was the work of savage, primitive, uncivilized zealots. They didn’t represent a race or religion; they represented ignorant, brutal unenlightenment. They wielded Kalashnikovs against people armed with pens and paper. They shot to silence, they shot to instill fear, they shot to destroy freedom, they shot to polarize society, they shot to stifle free speech and they shot to still laughter.  They deserve to be contemptuously laughed out of existence. Remember the boggart in Harry Potter – that nebulous monster lurking in the darkness, waiting to take on the form of your deepest, darkest fear? The only spell to defeat a boggart was one that turned it into an object of derision; something utterly laughable. Remember the spell?

Riddikulus.

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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24 Responses to Laughter as a Political Act

  1. I only wish it was that easy, Ailsa. Sadly, satire requires a minimal level of intelligence and education, which is oh so much lacking in modern society. That is why it is aggression and violence we encounter as a counter-act to any disturbing event nowadays… My humble point of view.

    • ailsapm says:

      Not all satire is done intelligently and yes, it can be and often is offensive – but nobody has the right to kill those who offend them. You’re right, Elena, aggression and violence as retaliation to something that doesn’t please us is as base as human instinct gets – our ability (and for that matter, our desire) to quell those instincts is one of the things that makes the human race believe (mistakenly or otherwise) that we have somehow evolved beyond other species in the animal kingdom. xxx

      • You should bold the first sentence.
        And people have forgotten words are just words…laugh or ignore it. The Foolish and the fools are all too common.
        Anonymous is taking up the hacking cause for right to speak free.

  2. Taking them seriously on their own terms is the worst thing we could do – it leads us into the trap of building a rigid, frightened society like the one they want to impose on the world. We need to keep building a society that welcomes everyone with the right (among others) to laugh at what needs laughter. Je suis Charlie – and also je suis Ahmed Merabat, the French policeman they murdered as he lay wounded on the sidewalk..

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  5. Applause. Great minds run in the same channels. Satire is life.

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  7. smkelly8 says:

    I agree with you, however, the problem is that the lost souls who are drawn to violence and brutality, which have a draw for pathological people, can’t see the reasoning you offer.

    Still when something so horrid happens — even to people far away from us — we need to heal and discuss. Your post allows us to.

    • ailsapm says:

      True words, Susan, the militant, radical, extremist few that are found in most religions rarely respond to reason. The greater worry is that those few could create rifts and mistrust throughout the rest of society. Did those attacks truly take place because a group of radicals were offended by cartoons? Or is it an attempt to polarize, to create a ‘them’ and ‘us’ that can be leveraged to incite war? Here’s hoping we rise above it and stand shoulder to shoulder and faith to faith, united against terrorism.

  8. Heyjude says:

    An extremely well-written post Ailsa. An utterly horrible way to start the year. Let’s hope it improves for all our sakes.

    • ailsapm says:

      The world has lived through far too many times like these before, Jude, it is devastating to see the same tragedies play out time and again. Sending you love and light. xxx

      • Heyjude says:

        I sometimes fear for the world my grandchildren are inheriting. You’d think by now we would have learned the lessons from history. Why can we not get it right? Surely we CAN live in peace and not endless conflicts with one another.

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  10. treerabold says:

    So well said!
    Such a useless, cowardly act and such a waste of great talent.

  11. I couldn’t have put it better if I tried Ailsa.

  12. pommepal says:

    These brutal terrorists have, in a terrible way, brought freedom of speech to the forefront of democracy. Hopefully the millions of people now protesting and rallying against the evil and deranged men and women that carry out these acts can help the world to stay strong and yes LAUGH at the stupidity in thinking they will be able to rule the world in the name of their terrorism.

    • ailsapm says:

      Indeed, pommepal. And now those horrific massacres in Nigeria, there’s a twisted segment of the human race hell bent on destroying civilization & returning to barbarism.

      • pommepal says:

        It has been like it down through generations, sadly they do not learn from history, but usually, sanity and law and order does return, let’s hope it is not too long before this terror finishes.

  13. asqfish says:

    I am totally anti war and anti violence in individuals, nations and the world. There are no winners in a war and violence that kills human beings.
    Your article was an interesting read. It was definitely coming from someone from a very privileged background. Perhaps reading the life history of the murderers in Paris will give you an insight of why such things are happening in France. Remember when the Irish were banished to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread?
    The Algerians who sided with DE Gaulle had to leave Algeria or be punished by the new regime as they were considered traitors. These are the Algerians that have been living in the ghettos of France paying for their alignment with France against the Algerian revolutionaries. These are the Algerians whose girls are being stripped of their modest clothes (scarf) or they will not be allowed education (very similar to the Taliban isn’t it?) Their children who are already on a lean home situation will only be given pork or they won’t get lunch in school. Algerian Muslims in France are being squeezed from all sides; their values and their heritage are both being mocked under the guise of satire. It is the law of physics if you squeeze a closed can it erupts.
    As for satire in good taste: These cartoons of someone who 1.2 billion people on earth revere and love is direct provocation and disrespect of the 1.2 billion Muslims, and their love for their Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him.
    The Muslims believe him to be the perfect man and strive to emulate him. Thus the disgusting cartoons deliberately violate the very essence of decency in the perspective of a Muslim. It is a slap in the face again and again and again (published three times).
    The murders are just symptoms of a disease both in the west and in the murderers where oppression is wielded both by the gun and by the pencil. May the thinking people speak and write against the oppression of the Algerian Muslims by the French, instead of copping out by painting these murders with the global brush of “terrorism”.
    Here is an account from Algeria:
    https://asqfsh.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/why-dont-they-love-us-the-french-cartoons-and-the-story-of-three-algerian-men/
    Peace.

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