No Laughing Matter

Is anything “sacred”? Is anything “not to be laughed at”? Is anything no laughing matter? Because we live in a pluralist world does that mean “anything goes”? We all know the terror that lurks behind laughter.

Do we draw a line somewhere and if so where? Is it funny that Islamic Jihadists massacred 10 defenseless people in Charlie Hebdo going about their daily lives making fun of anything and everything? Outrage is our response. Should we find it funny? Cartoonist Steve Bell looks at it his way… 

What makes humour sick? I can take you down, but can I pull you up?

Is baby rape funny? Is perpetuating the oppression or neglect of the ‘other’ or other group such as women or blacks or paraplegics through humour funny? Are the massacres by Boko Haram funny?

Charlie.Paris.2Can “free speech” draw the line simply because it is no laughing matter. If we do not resort to violence, how does one say enough is enough, loud enough? What “images,” words and action will stop people in their tracks. If none do, what then? Can images and words be a punishable offense? And if so why? And how does one judge? And who judges? Well I do, right?

And I am just one person versus all of you. So is it OK for you to laugh at me even if I don’t see the joke or cannot laugh with you. What makes you right and me wrong? There is no end to “fighting” talk. The language of war is the same as the language of terrorism. We can only change the pattern of our lives from an “other” level than the one at which the problem occurs.

And what does your laughter mean? Fundamentally it may mean lack of respect; lack of empathy; lack of kindness.

That’s where the line is drawn. Your state of consciousness when you laugh or make fun of me. And how do I know that? Well by your reaction when I say “NO,” it’s not funny!

But why am I angry? What has affronted me? What insult is there to my being? Depends what I take my being to be. Is my identity threatened? So we are back to a state of consciousness. Why would I want to belong to a murderous cult? What has made me so, so, so, so very angry! Clearly it is not the religion you belong to, or your ethnicity or anything at all. I just co-opt anything and everything as grist for the mill, grist for my hatred because I feel so powerless and want to blow the whole world up if possible!

We must be very clear and not resort to false premises that tar everyone – perpetrators and the groups they belong to – with the same brush: All Jews, Muslims, Women, Blacks, etc. This is to resort to the same level we are trying to deal with. No, our anger and pain are camouflaged behind these smokescreens. See Jonathan Freeland.

There is no solution but resort to a higher level of “judgement.” To recognise that both you and I, as we are right now, are infinitely precious (whether Jihadist or not) and we are different. Anything less than that HURTS: It hurts you and it hurts me and it hurts us.  How to do that is a long journey. It’s called evolution – for us all. To be human is to be made of the same “stuff” – the stuff that hurts, that wants, that loves. We’re all in It to-get-Her!

Let us love an “other” for love is the highest Judge and those who know not love cannot have true judgement.

Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in the white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I who you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


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