In the early decades of the 21st Century humanity faces a pandemic of lies, jeopardising the fabric of our society and the environment on which we depend.
Dangerous Globe is featuring a series of ‘short conversations’ by Luke Andreski, looking at the weapons we need if we are to overcome our disinformation pandemic. Having looked at weapons of defence, Luke now turns his attention to weapons of attack.
“Sometimes you sound like a gurgling drain.”
“Yes. When you’re laughing… At something dreadful… At some new horror.”
Ah, yes… I see.
I can explain.
It’s a way of relieving the pain.
Laughter is a safety valve, a catharsis. It helps us deal with the bad stuff in life, the appalling hand which Fate sometimes deals us. It helps us cope with unfairness, inhumanity, cruelty, greed.
Laughter brings things down a peg – makes them seem less overwhelming.
When you laugh at an oppressor it reminds you that they’re vulnerable. It makes your oppression feel as if it might not last forever, as if it’s not set in stone.
Bullies and authoritarians hate being laughed at. They experience your laughter as a thin, sharp blade, pushing in through their bellies and up towards their sociopathic hearts.
And it’s more than just an impression of weakness that laughter reveals in the powerful. Laughter actually weakens them.
It acts like a solvent.
“Laughter dissolves stuff?”
It does. Authority and power rely on consent. Our consent may be reluctant. It may be fearful or resentful. It may simply be unthinking or complacent. But it’s consent all the same.
“What about police? What about the army?”
You can laugh at them too.
Laugh at the police, the army, the structures of law and bureaucracy, and you humanise the bastions of power. Laugh at the powerful and the wealthy and you weaken their authority. You reveal power, privilege and its enforcement as something made by us, something consented to by us, something which need not exist. You begin to dissolve the consent that holds them in place.
Laughter deliquesces power and reveals truth – and with these twin strengths it’s an essential tool in tackling the 21st Century pandemic of lies.
You see, many of the concepts and narratives broadcast by the corporate or state-controlled media rest on absurd assumptions at which we all should laugh.
‘Greed is good’?
Hahaha! If that were true why are the greedy such needy little f***ers? And why is a world in hock to greed so profoundly at risk from resource depletion and climate change? Greed good? Greed is in fact squalid to the core. The greedy are like adults in babies’ diapers, smiling while their dung’s warm, squirming miserably as it grows cold.
‘The economy’s self-balancing’?
Haha! That’s a good one! Tell me another!
The economy’s a roller-coaster of recession and depression, boom and bust. Leave the economy to itself and inequality spirals out of control while the environment is destroyed. Self-balancing? Well, only if you call a bomb site balanced.
‘People are born idle and need precarity to goad them’?
Hahaha! Do you live in the same world as me? Haven’t you noticed how busy, noisy, frantic, chaotic, productive and twitchy our culture is?
Most of us aren’t idle enough. Even when we should be idle we find innumerable ways to keep ourselves busy… ways which are often pointless or harmful or both.
Show me a truly idle person and I’ll show you a corpse.
Laughter is a powerful weapon against the concepts which sustain our unfair and unequal world. It lets us mock the bad stuff: corrupt politicians; corporations designed to ignore the harm they do; economies which encourage over-consumption and predation; a news media corrupted by wealth.
No matter how grim the topic, there’s always a way of looking at it which lets you laugh.
I call it Chaplin’s Stiletto – a weapon which attacks the overriding narratives of the corporate media and the establishment: laughter that’s sharp as a knife and never loses its edge.
It’s a weapon you can forge in irony.
“Haha – forged in iron-ee! That’s funny!”
“Ah – ok… Not a joke. I see. Forged in irony, then…”
Like this: Blair and Bush were good, decent politicians. They were Honest Joes who wanted to liberate the Middle East for its people not its oil…
“Hahaha – yes, I see. Irony.”
And greed… You know what? It really is good! Look how happy everyone is!
“You’re trying to get one over on me now. Yes, very good… ‘Greed is good’!”
And did you know how important it is for a species facing ecological breakdown to give a handful of billionaires joy rides in space? It’s a crucial step forward in saving the world…
“Yes, that is ironic. And a little sad.”
Irony can do that. Pathos, too.
Sarcasm and parody
Chaplin’s Stiletto can be forged from sarcasm – a harsher, coarser form of irony. Like this:
‘Another war? I can’t wait!’
‘Politicians award themselves a clean bill of health? Surely not!’
‘The rich say the rich shouldn’t be taxed? Are you kidding me?’
‘Failed in life? Tried blaming foreigners?’
It can be forged from parody:
- Donald Trump as a spoiled infant, raging in his cot
- Vladimir Putin as a rodent, slinking through the sewers
- Benjamin Netanyahu with a nuclear arsenal in his pocket
- Boris Johnson as a man with buttocks for a face….
The needle-sharp blade of sceptical, political humour can be forged from absurdism and the surreal:
- Politicians as Earth-sized time bombs, ticking their way toward Armageddon
- Corporate billionaires as cock-shaped spaceships with fins and legs
- So-called ‘strong leaders’ melting away like Dali’s clocks…
- The rich chewing over the bones of the poor
Extreme imagination exposes the absurdity hidden behind the propaganda. Do the concepts of neoliberalism truly deliver anything other than the absurd? They’re set to deliver an unliveable world. Is that absurd enough for you?
Do the policies of conservative nationalism actually conserve? Or do they erode freedoms we once enjoyed, putting up walls where none existed, stifling creativity and joy?
Does populism serve the populace? Or does it simply monetise outrage and fear?
Making money out of fear seems pretty surreal to me…
“You’re gurgling again.”
Sorry – I can’t help myself.
Chaplin’s Stiletto can be forged in the flames of juxtaposition – highlighting the moral repugnance of an aspiration or belief by placing it side by side with another which reveals it for what it is:
- The great white hunter in a multi-racial city street…
- Super-yacht sunbathers amidst drowning refugees…
- Politicians claiming not to be racist beside images of the Klu Klux Klan…
- ‘Green’ Exxon side by side with oil refineries belching out smoke…
- A child with a balloon beside a prison wall
And humour can be found in exposure – because the concepts of our 21st Century mind plague invariably ally themselves to the worst aspects of human nature: narcissism, selfishness, power-hunger and greed. When politicians spout well-meaning platitudes it can be amusing, even if only in the darkest of ways, to ask “This you?” – while providing quotes from their more candid expressions of self-interest and bile.
‘Then vs. Now’ comparisons can reveal the depths of false promise and hypocrisy to which the powerful and their spokespeople so regularly stoop.
And simple observations on priorities can do the same:
- There’s money for species-endangering nuclear weapons.
- There’s not enough for medicines for the poor.
- Let’s focus on a politician’s infidelities or feuds.
- Let’s ignore their policies which stifle democracy.
- Let’s talk about sport.
- Let’s ignore the fact that climate change will in all likelihood bring all sport – and perhaps everything else – to an uncomfortably hot and sticky end.
You might not think these things are really all that funny… but when you hear my gurgling laughter you may just discover that you are gurgling too.
We’ve talked in earlier discussions about how ‘the rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor’.
We’ve talked about weapons of resistance against the messaging of the rich:
– A shield of values
– A wall of truth
We’ve talked in detail about the Socrates Bomb, a weapon of attack against the socially divisive and eco-catastrophic narratives jeopardising our world.
Here’s a second weapon of attack.
A release. A catharsis. A revelation. A weapon…
…and a natural reaction when faced with overwhelming odds.
Laugh as you prepare for the onslaught of lies.
Laugh in the face of danger.
Then step forward into battle – and bring your hilarious, eviscerating, empowering, gurgling, irrepressible laughter with you.
Luke Andreski is author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).
You can connect with Luke on LinkedIn, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-ethics, on WordPress, https://lukeandreski.wordpress.com/, or via the EthicalRenewal co-op on Twitter https://twitter.com/EthicalRenewal.
With thanks for laughter image (lightly amended) to Albert Robida, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
For the previous articles in this series on combatting the neoliberal lies pandemic see:
The mind plague
Everyone needs a shield of values
The wall of truth
The Socrates Bomb