Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Humor is a Love Story


"Humor lets the windows remain open, invites to contradiction, enters into discussion where everyone has something to gain by convincing or being convinced, by seducing or by being seduced. It is a love story in which the roles are interchangeable".

Or that used to be the case when French culture was at its highest in the 18th century, as stated in Malaise dans l'inculture (Grasset, 2015) by Philippe Val, chronicler and essayist, and former editor of Charlie Hebdo. And when the love on humor is declared, this blog is all ears: What signifies the writings of Voltaire and Diderot is their playfulness, Val continues. Their playing with ideas resembles a dance conducted with the grace of Mozart, their contemporary.

In conversation with the sociologists of today seriousness is the omphalos. Serious in the meaning of thinking consensually, no one differing from others in their opinions and what goes beyond is seen as being suspect. That sociologization of society is the illness disclosed in the title of the book; the very same sociologization which lead to Charlie Hebdo being isolated after 2006, targeting them and ultimately leading to their massacre.


Amine Labter
(Prime Minister) Sellal acknowledges the severity of the crisis!
- You shall no longer laugh!


Back in the century of Voltaire and Diderot life was no fun. There was no such thing as freedom of expression, men and women were tortured and executed for their freedom of the mind, Voltaire was caned, Diderot imprisoned, Condorcet condemned to death. There was hunger, epidemics and incessant warring. How was that funnier than now? Philippe Val asks polemically. Still, they were frivolous and devil-may-care contrary to us, who are serious and responsible? They risked their existence but not their fantasy, Val concludes.

They were not even published in their own day. "We have become stupid to the point of crying censorship when the law punishes the racial hatred of a (in Sweden Dan Park to mention one). In other words the dizzying decline of the struggle for freedom in which we execute the sociological self-censorship". And moral censorship never lasted long in history.

Following the massacre in January French Jews contemplated leaving or indeed left the country, but each of their leaving is a symptom of difference leaving France and each time we lose France, in the words of Philippe Val. We need an ecology of the diversity of ideas, he states with the proposition: Humor shall be taught in schools exposing the children and the young to humor all along their formative years. Val lists Molière and Shakespeare with Coluche and Wolinski with whom they shall learn to laugh, learning what is a joyous affair while being cardinal and character building to them. Humor will be a composite subject, proving its non-conformity:

"Let us call it education to democracy".


The cartoon shown is courtesy of Amine Labter and must not be reproduced without his permission.


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