Laughter – Every joke is a Tiny Revolution

A joke about education, an educational joke

Student asks his principal, “Where is my teacher?”.
“Citywide layoffs”, replies the principal.
“My text books?” asks the student.
“State austerity plan”, says the principal.
“Student loan?” continues the student.
“Federal budget cuts”, says the principal.
Finally, exasperated, student asks, “But how am I going to get an education?”.
To which the equally exasperated principal replies, “This is your education”.

Occupy was no joke, but it was fun

Occupy was a signal for change, but was it actual change? Perhaps we can say that it was an idea, transmitted from person to person as they found themselves outdoors and surrounded by others. Let’s think about this as a meme.

Memes are part of a genetic theory of culture (Dawkins, 1975), in which they act as a unit for transmitting ideology, ideas, symbols or practices, from from person to person within a culture. Memes, like #peopleofwallmart, #bindersfullofwomen, #peppersprayingcop, spread through writing, speech, gestures, rituals and most notably in recent years through the internet. Similar to genetic material, they replicate, mutate and even respond to external pressures. Unlike genetics, they often are intentionally created.

“We need a change. Let’s do something”, says Occupy with a unified voice, but when asked about the kind of change needs to happen, a multiplicity of voices raise a vast number of options. A meme is like that. It creates a movement but not necessarily in a single direction. A meme, much like its generic counterpart must mutate in order to survive. A meme must evolve before it grows stale.

Vaccinations and immunology

The virus for the common influenza models the most successful strategy. It mutates so quickly the annual vaccines against it are just guessing games. We should take lesson from the common flu, mutate more quickly than the vaccine. Our tactics to challenge capitalism, like a virus, must be at least in part focussed on self-preservation. Perhaps too, we should invert the idea and speak about capitalism as a virus and of our struggle as the struggle of the immune system. For every mutation of capitalism we must develop a specific response. Any singular solution is stagnation, means to be defeated. When occupy stalled, the system pushed back and dismantled the camps. The struggle for self-preservation, the fight against capitalism, has to remain a process not a goal. The strategy must be a rapid evolution of ideas, of tactics. In the war of ideas the strategy against defeat is a refusal to be labeled or defined.

What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?
In capitalism, man exploits man. In socialism, it’s the other way around.

(r)Evolutionary Struggle

MEME warfare calls for creative acts of envisioning – imagination at it’s best – the possibility of co-creation, mutation and re-creation. The power of humor and creative thinking is in solving problems through an indirect approach, using reasoning that is not always obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using a traditional step-by-step logic. Creative thinking is to jump from A to D and then think, or let others think, about about steps B and C.

The joke is on you

When humans are faced with frustration of their desires, writes Freud, and are forced to subjugate themselves, they joke. the darkest, blackest humor is expressed in places where oppression, war,rape and murder are common place. Jokes are an intellectual rebellion, creating alternative realities, realities in which we are able to laugh instead of cry about the pain we feel.

Honecker and Mielke are discussing their hobbies. Honecker: “I collect (ich sammele) all the jokes about me.” Mielke: “Well we have almost the same hobby. I round up (ich sammele) all those who tell jokes about you.”

Freud identifies the tendentious joke, intentional and by its nature social, requiring joke teller, a joke hearer and a third entity who is the subject or target of the joke. These Jokes reveal the ideology of the teller through their choice of subject matter and language or in contemporary terms, the medium in which it is conveyed.

However, we can expand on the idea of the subject of the joke as well. Consider the turkish saying Kızım sana söylüyorum, gelinim sen anla. – Lit. “I’m talking to you my daughter, listen up my daughter-in-law.” In this sense we can identify jokes which have are used to instruct others about inappropriate behavior and faulty reasoning by being indirect.

Money, clothing, status – a didactic joke from the Middle East

One day at his most desperate, Nasruddin went into the garden, knelt and cried out: ‘O Allah, send me some money, for I am poor and in need’

His neighbor, a man who hated religious people, thought he would play a joke on Nasruddin. Taking a bag of hundred gold pieces he threw it down from a window.

Nasruddin stood up with dignity and took the money to his wife. ‘God has accepted my pleas,’ he told her. ‘Here is his gift to me, lets go and buy food from the market’

Hearing that Nasruddin was about to spend the money, the neighbor went to get his money back.

‘I heard you calling for it, and I played a joke on you’ said the neighbor .
‘I was given by God” says Nasruddin, “You shall never have it’.
The neighbor said that he would take Nasruddin to the court of summary jurisdiction.
‘I cannot go like this’, said Nasruddin. ‘I have no suitable clothes, not have I a horse. If we appear together the judge will be prejudiced in your favor by my mean appearance.’
The neighbor took off his own cloak and gave it to Nasruddin, then he mounted him on his own horse, and they went before the judge.
‘What is your complaint?’ the magistrate asked Nasruddin.
‘That my neighbor is insane’.
“He thinks that everything belongs to him.” replies Nasruddin.
“If you ask him about this horse i rode he will say it is his” says Nasruddin.
‘But it is mine!’ replies the neighbor.
“If you ask him about this cloak i am wearing, he will say it is his” says Nasruddin
‘Yes, it is mine!’ shouts the neighbor.
“Even this bag of gold I am holding in my hand, he claims for himself” says Nasruddin
‘Yes, it is all mine!’ roars the neighbor.
“I have heard enough, case dismissed” says the judge as he throws Nasruddin and the neighbor out of the courtroom.

When thinking about jokes such as these it is important not just to identify with Nasruddin, but also with the neighbor and even the judge. How often do we think like the neighbor, that what we have is due to us because of the work we have performed and not just a share of a collective good? And like the judge, how often do we dismiss ideas and people because we feel we have heard enough to make an accurate judgement? And lastly, like Nasruddin, who asks in all sincerity from the universe for that which he needs?

Every joke is a tiny revolution.

Jokes and funny stories do not just reveal our unconscious, our ideological base to others and at time even to ourselves, they also shape or change our attitudes about things when we listen to jokes. This is how jokes can be used to perpetuate and combat ideologies; to teach sexism, racism, selfishness or to dislodge them.

Writes Mikhail Bakhtin (1981) “Laughter demolishes fear and piety before an object, before a world, making of it an object of familiar contact and thus clearing the ground for an absolutely
free investigation of it.”

“A thing is funny when — in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening — it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution.” – George Orwell (1945)

So this then is a call to action a call to make more intentional jokes, ideological memes, which are repeated over and over again, proliferate quickly, and mutate.
This is a call a call for tiny revolutions, they need not be pragmatic, but they must be funny.

Mural which reads capitalism is over.
Mural in Clarion Alley , San Francisco, CA