Thursday, May 01, 2008

Extremists deplore the threat of humor

From A. Millar at the Brussels Journal:

Modern Britain: No Laughing Matter
[...] Political correctness has cowed society and politics, and trodden down common sense and humor. Unlike the defiant, bawdy Brit of the past, today he thinks before he speaks, running through the list of forbidden words, and making sure not to let one slip. And so much now is taboo. The English Democrats Party is under investigation for racism, for using the term, “tartan tax,” a student was arrested for calling a police horse “gay,” and, if you need to see the proof of such extreme “politically correct” intolerance, a Youtube video showing a young man being arrested for singing, “I’d rather wear a turban” (deemed racist by the arresting officer), can be seen here.

A common language is one of the traditional, defining marks of a nation, and the criminalization of words will have a very profound consequence for the British. Though rarely acknowledged as such, humor is another defining mark, and one that makes use of the nation’s language in particular ways that relies on the audience having a good general knowledge of culture, history, and politics. Notably, Voltaire once commented that tragedies could be translated from one tongue to another, but that comedies could not. Anyone wishing to grasp the English comedy would need to, “spend three years in London, to make yourself master of the English tongue, and to frequent the playhouse every night,” he suggested.

Political correctness has changed British politics and society, the latter of which has been famed for its ability to laugh at itself – an ability that has certainly helped to keep it free and democratic. Extremists – whether of the fascist, politically correct, or Islamic type – are united in their suspicion – even rejection – of humor. Humor shows them for what they really are. [...]

The article goes on to give more examples. The author laments that things that are solemn court cases now, would have been laughed at as material for a comedy sketch 10 years ago. It would have been inconceivable that such things would be taken seriously with the force of law. What has happened in that 10 years? I explored that question in a prior post:

Can political correctness destroy a nation?

The question is important, if only to prevent it from ever happening here. I watch with interest, and horror, as it continues to unfold there.

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