Monday, August 1, 2011

dissecting the frog

One of the guests at a Bris asked the Moyle “do you get paid much for doing circumcisions?” The Moyle responded “not much, but I get a lot of tips”.

Pope Dementia is a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters are a gay/drag group which began in San Francisco, and has spread world wide. They make a lot of money for charity when they appear at protests.

An essential element of all humour is truth. The [very] old joke
Q. What did the bald man say when he was given a comb for his birthday?
A. I’ll never part with this.
would not be funny if it was given to a man with a lot of hair.
Because truth is essential to humour, we can try to guess what people believe from the things they do or do not find funny.

My previous post covered a range of religion-related topics. The post included a true story, clips of Dave Allen talking about his Catholic childhood, and a few comments on more serious issues. The post also included a copy of one of those “joke chain-letters” people send by email: In this case, the email was about showing tolerance if a Mosque is being built nearby.
I had liked the email for two reasons;
  • the main message was that tolerance works in two directions [true for me]; and
  • the wording of the email was clever [because it was based on true aspects of Islam].
Dina can see the email might give offence, because it promotes what is forbidden for Muslims, and does it in a way that mocks Islam.
I’ve always enjoyed mocking religion, so I hadn’t given any thought to the possibility of it being offensive, and Dina has made a good point that warrants consideration.

My own benchmark for offensive was always that a joke should not reinforce a negative stereotype. In the past, I’ve always tested for this based simply on whether I laugh or not. For example, are all Scottish people mean with money, are all Christian Brothers paedophiles, or are all Australians racists.
In each case my answer would be no, I wouldn’t find jokes based on these assumptions funny, and I wouldn’t repeat them in order to get a laugh. I can cope with Scrooge McDuck’s love of money because he is an individual character, not meant to represent a whole ethnic group. [Besides, the reasoning behind choosing a Scot to represent someone excruciatingly careful with money is more or less history, and sometimes it’s good to just let go.]

When I go back and reconsider the email I posted, I have to agree it has a rather aggressive tone. So, what is it about the email that makes it seem aggressive? Would it be reasonable to assume that everyone in the world can mock and be mocked, unless they are Muslims? That would be unfair.
Now that I’ve actually thought about it, I think the reason the email sounds aggressive is because it carries a little bit of Untruth: It assumes that all Muslims are humourless fundamentalists, and this is unfair. No matter how clever the email is, I have to admit it is mean spirited.

Looking at it in this light, the email suggests that an awful lot of people – especially in Europe from whence it made its way to me – do think of Muslims as humourless fundamentalists.

While feeling secure in my beliefs and therefore free to mock any religion, what I need to remember is that many Muslims everywhere in the west are feeling that they are under siege. The more we deny people a shared identity, the more they will feel compelled to focus on what makes them different so they will have an identity of their own. Have we already become too polarised to save ourselves?
A great deal has already been written about Anders Breivik’s terrorist attack in Norway last week, and no doubt there are many more thousands of words to come.
I’m not going to call him right wing, or a Christian fundamentalist, or anything but a terrorist or mass murderer.

Jessie, in a thread from a discussion on the ABC website, makes an interesting comment about Breivik’s motives:
“…His enemy was not Muslims but what Rose-Ann Manns [An Australian Financial Review journalist] called the ‘watermelon’ coalition government for enabling what he considered to be the Islamification of Norway and the annihilation of a unique culture…”

Does this comment zero in on the real problem westerners are having with Islam?
If we close our eyes and imagine life in France, or the USA, or Australia one hundred years from now, what do we see? What race are the people? What are they wearing? What is their religion and are they free to follow another one or none at all? What values do the country’s laws reflect one hundred years from now?

Is it as easy to see a better tomorrow as it is to see the clothing that makes us look different today?
I’d like to think one of the strengths of humour [used properly, cough cough] is its ability to show us what we have in common with each other, rather than highlight differences.

The only Muslim humour I recall seeing in Australia is Does My Head Look Big in This? by: Randa Abdel-Fattah.
What do we need to do to make more of the same possible?

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