Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why We Fight

Jonathan Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution gives us a brilliant Michael Palin quote (from the commentary on The Life of Brian) that perfectly explains the reason for this blog.
PALIN: This was an interesting scene because I had this whole big crowd out there. I tell you it's very very strange to be up there. You feel superior to everybody, literally because you're up above them, but also because you're surrounded by the army, you've got the best costume, you've got the lead role. And once people start laughing, you do get—it is a brilliant form of subversion. And it's something I think modern revolutionaries should remember. If you can make fun of somebody, it's often very much better and far more effective than shooting them or making a martyr of them. And that's what works so well here. And it was really very very unsettling to play Pilate to this lot, and find them in end literally rolling over, in huge numbers of people just jeering at you. There's nothing more guaranteed to put you back in your place. And there's nothing you can do against it, really. I suppose you can kill people for laughing, but...

Nothing is more effective than mocking because it is a form of rejection that cuts straight to the heart. It is an immediate, collective decision by one's peers, a thumbs up/thumbs down, a roar of acceptance and pleasure or of rejection and scorn. Acceptance and love are what all of us seek, in all we do and in every person we meet. If we do not get this from our parents, we will continue to seek it out for the rest of our lives. It is an overwhelmingly powerful force and because it is based on shame and pain, it is usually disguised as a more acceptable force: religion, politics, ideology, even personal likes and dislikes.

We tend to divide ourselves into right and left because we understand that the left accepts people who tend to define themselves, while the right tends to let others define them. It's safe and reassuring to be given all the answers and a guidebook on exactly how to think, dress and feel. But because the right doesn't choose its own rules, or even likes and dislikes, they are never sure if they are "right." They need constant reassurance that what they are being told is correct, since they are not allowed to decide for themselves. And that makes them vulnerable to the left, since the left is open to, and therefore the source of, that which is new and trendy. After the right accepts something new the followers finally are able to accept it, but it leaves them seeming terminally unhip and eminently mockable.

Mocking is so powerful that the right is trying to get David Letterman fired for a tacky joke they embellished for effect. The right knows they are vulnerable, and dimly know they are incapable of using laughter for effect themselves. To laugh at others you have to be able to laugh at yourself, to see yourself in others and others in yourself. This empathy lets you understand and therefore forgive others and yourself. You don't fear judgement, from your fellow man or from God*, since you are able to love yourself as well as others. And what more could God ask from us?



*Still don't believe in gods, but he's a useful rhetorical device.

4 comments:

Mr. Wonderful said...

"To laugh at others you have to be able to laugh at yourself, to see yourself in others and others in yourself. This empathy lets you understand and therefore forgive others and yourself."

Isn't it pretty to think so. But what about every redneck who's laughed at a lynching, every frat jerk who's laughed at a declasse townie, every anti-Semite who's laughed at jokes about "Jews," etc., etc.? That kind of laughter serves the opposite ends from what you describe, and comes from exactly the opposite kind of interior life: one of unexamined malice, projection, ignorance, fear, etc., etc.

I know you know this.

Susan of Texas said...

Yes, you're right--but they're not laughing at humor. Right wing humor is nothing but repetition of insults. They're incapable of real humor. Some people say that humor is surprise, that is the comic sets up a pattern, gives the audience time to recognize it, then surprises the audience by breaking the pattern suddenly in an unexpected matter. That surprise elicts laughter. The right refuses to recognize patterns because that might discomfort them with unwanted information, and rejects surprise because they don't like the unknown or new.

It's a fascinating subject--I need to think about it more.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Susan--

Read this:

http://tinyurl.com/n88gpu

Susan of Texas said...

Great article--I agree with it all.