For the past four days, several journalists at The Washington Post Montessori School have been doing the Twitter equivalent of hair-pulling, biting, kicking and scratching one another, which started when one of them did the Twitter equivalent of chuckling at a “problematic” joke. By way of comparison, on that same day, several of us at work were telling offensive and profane jokes about a guy we know who stands roughly three feet tall, and somehow we all got on with our lives. Forget education, income, and all those sociological markers; the real divide in the workplace is over humor.
jests japes jokes jollies
So, Elon Musk, proud new owner of the world’s largest open sewer-slash-lunatic asylum, a man who I am increasingly coming to believe is the earthly avatar of LOL, the trickster deity who loves us and wants us to be amused, tweeted out a cartoon the other day:
This was the signal for the newspaper owned by the world’s second-richest man, which has become deeply concerned over the threat to “democracy” posed by the world’s richest man owning a major communication channel, to cry “ACKSHUALLY” and let slip the dogs of fact-checking. I guess we’re not doing that “lived experience” thing anymore? How perfect. How “on-brand,” as the kids say these days, especially as a Democrat administration launches a “Disinformation Governance Board” (I assume because “Ministry of Truth” and “Committee of Public Safety” were already trademarked). Well, I guess I’m glad to see that journalists and political obsessives have finally found something to fill that Trump-sized hole in their hearts.
Imagine my horror, as I looked upon the name “Evan Selinger” and thought, “Wait a minute; I’m pretty sure I have taken issue with this dimwit before,” only to find an uncanny calendrical regularity to my issue-taking.
What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness, and say to you, “This post as you now write it and have written it, you will have to write once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence…”
Back in the 2000s New Atheists used to have a good old laugh at Christians, fighting and killing over the minutiae of doctrine. And then many of those same people evolved into social justice activists, and are now having their own tortured theological debates about the meaning of ‘woman’. In contrast to the bravery with which people attack sacred doctrine and dogma from centuries past, they find themselves powerless when it is staring them in the face.
I chortled, I did. If I may be so immodest as to quote myself:
The tragedies and dilemmas we encounter, individually and collectively, are not necessarily errors which can be fixed with more knowledge. Increased knowledge will only be used in service to the same old unenlightened desires, possibly even creating new dilemmas in the process. And even when we know how little we know, we find a way to convince ourselves that we’ve learned our lesson and become smarter for the experience.
Atheists are, it must be admitted, particularly prone to this. Despite their pretensions to rational objectivity, a disinterested observer might be forgiven for suspecting that atheists are just another group of tribesmen who slew a rival desert god and ate his brains, believing they were ingesting his powers of omniscience.
I see it was almost a decade ago that I wrote that. Despite a notable decline in my writing ability in the interval, I haven’t changed. I’m still an unbeliever; in fact, as the Official Atheists used to say before they caught the brain virus, we’re all unbelievers to some degree; I just happen to disbelieve in one more God than they do; namely the God of Social Justice, or RGHTSDFHSTRY, as the Book of Intersectionality calls him. But I digress. I didn’t call you all here to wrangle over theological disputes. No, this is a celebratory occasion! I raise my glass tonight to all my erstwhile progressive friends who used to treat my email address as a confessional booth, shamefully disclosing their heretical doubts over the revealed truth of transgenderism, even as they felt compelled to pretend in public that the real danger to the body politic came from rural theocrats in Indiana. As we watch Supreme Court nominees profess to be utterly stumped over the meaning of such abstruse legal concepts as “woman;” as we watch the various party commissars and commentators tie themselves in intellectual knots to justify this feigned ignorance while praying fervently that the gastric distress resulting from swallowing so many necessary lies doesn’t cause any thoughtcrime to squeak loose onto their permanent record like an inadvertently loud fart in public, we should remember, my friends, that these are indeed the best of times. In fact, I can’t even deny the evidence any longer. I can no longer in good conscience claim to be an unbeliever when it is abundantly clear that there is a trickster god who loves us and wants us all to be amused. I, for one, am quite amused.
In the preface to The Anatomy of Melancholy, Burton explained that he wrote the book to rid himself of his own melancholia. This it failed to do; Bishop Kennet wrote that Burton’s only relief from despondency was to lean over the foot-bridge at Oxford and listen to the bargemen swearing at each other.
— Frank Muir, The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose
I’m not melancholy or despondent, but I’m also not easily provoked to more than a smirk and a chuckle. Very few things cause me to literally LOL. One thing that does reduce me to uncontrollable giggling like a drunken fool is listening to prank calls using soundboards. They tickle my absurdist/surrealist funny bone. One of the staples of the genre is when a poor victim is called with a soundboard of their own voice, using insults recorded during previous prank calls. It’s amazing how long it takes people to recognize their own voice, or even their own choice phrases. It’s like watching a bird trying to fight with its own reflection in a window. If only Burton could be here now to spend a silly evening on YouTube!
I’ve got nothing to add, but I must say I am bitterly envious that I didn’t think of “Faucism” myself.
On a textbook, no less.
Watched the new Chappelle show.
What struck me was how the entire monologue, start to finish, was about the woke politics of this or that protected group.
There’s nothing else to talk about in contemporary cultural spaces.
— Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) October 7, 2021
Michael Brendan Dougherty had a similar impression. I suppose we’ve reached the stage of complaining that all we do is complain about wokeness, for lack of anywhere else to go, conversationally speaking. Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money was; we talk about wokeness because that’s where all the cultural energy is, sadly enough. I’ve started reading Ross Douthat’s book The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, which seems to encapsulate a lot of my own thoughts from the last several years. The ideal of progress, which has carried Western civilization so far for so long, seems to have run into the law of diminishing returns. We’re sated with affluence and jaded by our technological marvels. There are no inspiring frontiers to be found. “High” culture almost seems ashamed of its own existence, and even popular culture has devolved to endless remakes and reboots of films and music from decades ago. The parasitical ideology of wokeness has taken advantage of this weakness and paralyzed its hosts — religion, politics, and culture — allowing its young to devour them from the inside. Establishment comedy itself has become just another form of po-faced preaching from people too oblivious to realize that they have become the insufferable tartuffes they used to mock, which is pretty ironically amusing, when you think about it.
I’m not an artist or a thinker. No one will ever pay me for my insights. I’ll never get to thank you for attending my TED talk. But for whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that these complaints about our woke preoccupations miss the point. There will be no “return” to a healthy, inspiring ideal of progress and civilizational self-confidence circa — gestures vaguely at the period between the American Revolution and World War Two — whenever your chosen golden age was. All we can do is make the best of the time in which we happen to find ourselves, with whatever tools come to hand. And so, rather than lament the fact that Dave Chappelle devotes the entirety of his latest comedy special to the trendy topic of transgenderism, we can ask, well, why wouldn’t he? That shit is hilarious.
I mean, come on. It’s simply funny to watch people desperately try to pretend to be other than they are while insisting that everyone else play along with them. It’s funny to watch the cultural ruling class trip over themselves to praise absurdities for fear of being treated as uncharitably as they themselves have treated countless other people. It’s funny to see our age’s contribution to the perennial human comedy, where the actors go out of their way to avoid self-awareness and, in the process, stumble from one slapstick adventure to another. And is anything funnier than having humorless prigs stand there stamping their feet while insisting that this is not funny and you will stop laughing this instant? Self-deception, vanity, status-seeking, folly; it’s all in there. Wokeness, like it or not, is what passes for religion and politics in our day. Well, then, until the extraterrestrial barbarians come to take over, let’s treat it accordingly and have some fun with it.
So, we spent last week moving into the new warehouse. Yesterday, four of us unloaded a 40-foot shipping container in one hour in sweltering heat. The first game of the new Bundesliga season kicked off this afternoon, with the Premier League to follow tomorrow. I’m weary and distracted, is what I’m saying, but I still have enough energy to point and laugh:
Obviously, getting rich and not giving a shit anymore is the birthright of every American. But this wasn’t supposed to be in the script for Obama, whose remarkable heel turn has been obscured by the Trump years, which incidentally were at least partly his fault. The history books and the still-starstruck press will let him skate on this, but they shouldn’t.
Obama was set up to be the greatest of American heroes, but proved to be a common swindler and one of the great political liars of all time — he fooled us all.
Now, I have no serious gripes with Taibbi, who seems to be one of the few big-name journalists who has made an honest effort to retain intellectual integrity rather than allow Trump to break his brain and drive him into naked sycophancy for the Democratic party, but in the immortal words of Tonto, what do you mean “us,” paleface? Even in my younger naivete, when I considered Democrats in general the lesser of two evils, I never had any affection or expectation for Obama in particular. Anyone who seeks power ought not be trusted with it — I learned this principle sitting at the feet of the Taoist masters. Politicians may do some good, sometimes by intent, often by accident, but the idea that any of them should be thought of as heroes deserves a belly laugh, not a rebuttal. Expect nothing from them but lies, and give them nothing but invective in return. With no partisan responsibilities, I’m free to observe that the previous president was a crude reality-TV star and professional Twitter troll, the current one is a senile old buzzard, and both deserve all the insults and mockery that can be heaped upon them. Sorry for your misplaced optimism, but that’s a burden for you to bear alone, buddy.