If the world was ever slow enough to make sense of, it isn’t now. Reality is an absurdity. But, to paraphrase Woody Allen, it’s still the best place to get a good steak. It is no wonder we are in a ‘post-truth’ political world, that can only, effectively, appeal to the emotional and the irrational – to nonsense. Emotion and instinct is perhaps an easier guide in a nonsense world than being rational but does being rational even have as much value in an irrational world? The most rational amongst us want it to be so but they also presume that they are rational and, as humans, they’re not. The ‘left’ want to challenge the ‘post truth’ politics with certainty, to be absolute and persuade with reason. But the problem with being certain is it refuses the alternate perspective, a doubt, and it’s in that, ultimately, that the best jokes sit. So while the right appeals to the terror and the tickle bones of the population in the, for now, free west, the left (or at least the liberal wing of it) is trapped in an intellectual parlour game in which those that don’t know the rules are scoffed at and ignored for not being interested in how boring their parlour game is.
The philosopher Giambattista Vico proposed (around 4 Jesus’s) a cyclical view of history comprised of 3 ages. A divine age – a primitive, irrational period of gods and superstition, a heroic age – defined by control by aristocratic elites and a human age – defined by democracy and the rule of the people. This last period destroys itself and after a brief fourth period of chaos, the ricorso, the cycle begins again. No guessing where I think we are or where we’re quickly headed. Vico believed that the beginning of his cycle emerged from the fear of thunder from the heavens, the nonsense and terror of the thunder being a creative force that begins the process. But laughter is a creative force too, is also a nonsense and is a lot less scary to hear if you’re walking on the moors in a storm with an umbrella. An Egyptian creation myth has it that a nameless god created, with divine laughter, seven gods who would govern the world. And if the speed of the world, too late to stop now, hurtles us toward a new age whether we like it or not wouldn’t it be better to usher in the new aeon with a laugh at the absurdity of it rather than the pale faced terror we’re becoming accustomed to?
And that we may be entering an age characterised by the irrational or a lack of reason shouldn’t necessarily mean that things, socially and politically, need to be shit. The worst excesses of the right have positioned themselves to take advantage of the chaos that we live in but there’s no reason the left couldn’t do the same. It’s increasingly apparent that the status quo isn’t tenable and so the radical left should see this as an opportunity. In fact they are, but if the popularity of these ‘radical’ groups (Momentum, Podemos etc) are to grow there’s no point in pissing against the wind, hoping only to reasonably persuade people to come on side. But if the left feel they’re right in their progressive approach to how society should be organised then they should try making others feel the same way, as opposed to think the same way. And while that might involve scaring the bejeesus out of people at the array of potential calamities ahead, we could at least get people onside with a laugh from time to time. All while having the decency to doubt and embrace the uncertainty. If you ever had faith or have been in love then you should know that confident hope and doubt are not mutually exclusive. Unless you’re totally fucking mad of course.
So for god’s sake keep laughing. The devil has the best tunes he shouldn’t have all the best jokes too. Keep laughing, despite our clueless political class, the near incomprehensible economic minefield we and they sit on and that that minefield is now being lapped by the rising, warming oceans that will never again recede. Keep laughing if for no other reason than like Stalin’s politburo members we should be worried about what might happen if we stop. There’s a lot to wring a laugh from and from a comedian’s perspective I have to see this as a good thing. I have to. As another despot, Mao Zedong, once said, in a sentence that can easily be interpreted as a joke if you’re so inclined to see it that way, ‘There is utter chaos under heaven, the conditions are excellent.’