Bigotry comes naturally to all of us. When we can joke about others, we’re not slaughtering them in caves
Homo Sapiens is a fearful species. Possibly genocidal since we left Africa, anthropologists and archaeologists note that with every migration into a new land, an extinction of most native species occurred shortly thereafter. This may have included our human rivals. The Neanderthals and Denisovans also disappeared with the arrival of us.
We’ve uncovered countless millennia-old suspected murder victims.
Like Otzi the Iceman, who died of an arrow to the back 5,000 years ago. They got him good. He probably wouldn’t have survived even with modern immediate medical attention. Image by bastiaan from Pixabay
The oldest so far is a 430,00-year-old Homo Sapiens — that’s us, folks! — in a Spanish cave. A reconstructed ancestral skull contains two holes unlikely to have happened by accident.
There once were no fewer than nine human species in the world, up until about 10,000 years ago. Then they all disappeared around the same time, coinciding with the appearance of Guess Who. And no, not the old hippie band.
We emerged from Africa newer, smarter, and better prepared to adapt. It was a game of Ten Little Indians, starting at nine. Nine human, eight human, seven human species, six human, five human, four human species…
There’s no corresponding event to otherwise augment or explain the systematic disappearances. Not climate change, nor a pandemic (which likely wouldn’t have reached some of the more remote species), nor famine. There isn’t hard evidence for genocide theory, but if you follow the trail of victims, where Homo Sapiens moved, the Others, the animals, and the land all died off.
We may have good reason to fear each other, even if it’s a chicken-and-egg condundrum: Do we fear Others because a few prehistoric assholes started it all, or are we proactively bigoted against anyone we don’t understand?
One wonders how interspecific humanity might have fared if they had comedians back then.
Something which has never occurred since time immemorial — a young woman did not fart on her husband’s lap. — The world’s oldest recorded fart joke, by some anonymous Sumerian wit, circa 1900 BC
I explored the Left’s gelotophobia in my last article.
Humor: Why The Left Fears It So Much Other primate species share our ability to laugh and it emerges in infants in the first few months. Researchers theorize laughter emerged to create social bonding, especially after humans organized into more complex societies. If another can make you laugh, you’ll feel more kindly toward her. Laughter triggers a stress- and tension-relieving endorphin rush. It relieves pain, strengthens our immune system and encourages a sense of belonging.
Which leaves humor rather like The Force: It can be used for evil as well as good. Laughing at others with others creates bonding; laughing at them without them creates harsh division.
Key & Peele: Make fun of everything!
I guess you had to have been there.
The comedy duo Key & Peele, in a 2014 Time Magazine op-ed article, argued for the right to Make Fun Of Everything without a bunch of politically correct pretend-to-do-gooders jumping all over comedians’ asses.
<Cue Jeopardy theme>
Make Fun Of Everything — Key & Peele
They note how how rendering others ‘untouchable’ is exclusionary. It becomes, however unintentional, a form of bullying.
One wonders who’s truly uncomfortable with others who aren’t like them: The person cracking wise about them in their presence or the politically correct with their patronizing assumption that the other group is too weak-spirited to laugh at itself, or too stupid even to know it’s happening?
If you want to read it first, go ahead, I’ll wait.
It’s a quickie!
Permission to laugh
What the politically correct’s Nervous Nancys don’t understand is how humor takes fear’s power. What they think are jokes about race or other differences often poke fun not at differences but bigotry. The Canadian comedian Russell Peters endlessly jokes to highly diverse audiences about race, culture, religion, and accents, in a country where accusations of racism are more shameful than actual racism.
“I want to see white people preserved. If white people go missing, who the f**k are we gonna blame?”
Audiences know it’s okay to laugh because his targets are laughing along with him. The outsider shows us what’s funny about our tribe. Like stereotypes. We know they’re harmful, but they originate from a place of observed commonality.
Laughing at stereotypes isn’t the same as laughing at people, but the intent of the humorist makes a difference.
‘Russell Peters can make fun of white people because he’s a member of the oppressed minority,’ the Humor Not-zis inform us, referring to the comedian’s Indian roots.
Peters’s pedigree is a valid point. Humor punches up (at those in power) and sideways (at those on your own level), but when you punch down it’s cruelty pretending to be ‘just a joke’.
A white comedian can’t get away with the Spanish accent imitation or celebratory salsa steps Peters dances to illustrate someone mistaking him for a fellow Latino.
Peters jokes about addressing a Hispanic guy who doesn’t speak much English and imitates the slower mental process the other guy goes through to respond.
‘Hello,’ translate it into his head — ‘Hello — — equals — — ¡Hola! — — reply with — — ‘Hello!’
I laugh not because I think he’s making the Spanish guy look stupid, but because it’s the exact same process — and likely facial expression — I go through when someone speaks French to me.
Slow down, Jeanne-Marie! My brain ain’t Google Translate!
I feel a kinship with the Hispanic guy — a fellow human who also speaks a second language poorly. One of us! One of us!
I love Bad Translation humor sites like Engrish.com. Why are so many of them Chinese-to-English?
Chinese is the most complex language, spoken for millennia, with thousands of pictogram characters backed by an ancient culture. Greater mistranslations with far more modern English are bound to occur, especially by a translator not as fluent in the target language, or a poor machine translation.
I regret I can’t see the Chinese versions of Engrish.com making fun of English translations of Asian languages. I’ll bet they’re hilarious! What’s their own equivalent of All your base are belong to us?
Apparently they’ve got too much as it is. By Wright — Own work, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Can white people ever make fun of out-groups? Maybe targeting hypocrisy, which is like privilege: When you have it, you can’t see it, and you need others to call it out. Not everyone has privilege, but we’ve all got hypocrisy! So I think it’s possible, but I’m not sure any white comedians are doing it, at least well. Those who argue hypocrisy-busting humor is an excuse to put others down are often just embarrassed when some of their own designated ‘untouchables’ get called out. Or even worse, themselves.
If I laugh, am I racist?
The Canadian author, humorist, and First Nations playwright Drew Hayden Taylor noted Canadian whites’ need for ‘permission’ to laugh at ethnic humor. In one of his Funny, You Don’t Look Like One: Observations From A Blue-Eyed Ojibway books, he describes what happened when his Indigenous-focused comedy Bootlegger Blues played to an audience of First Nations and white people. As the play unfolded, no one laughed except for the Indigenes.
Then a few whites carefully laughed, and then a few more, and then everyone laughed, once they understood they weren’t ‘racist’.
In the months and early years after 9/11, when tensions between Americans and Muslims were bowstring-taut, Muslim comedians mocked it all — the terrorists from their own cultures, the hypocritical imams, the ignorant Americans who didn’t know a turban from a derby, who jumped out of their skin every time a brown guy belched.
Nothing quite like calling out the stupidest American foibles: Terrorist bigotry and the victims’ bigoted response.
Canadian Muslim Zarqa Nawaz responded to mid-oughts Islamophobia with her hilarious sitcom Little Mosque On The Prairie, about a small Saskatchewan community of Muslims with a mosque in the basement of a Christian church. Racism and Islamophobia looked pretty damn silly, and Muslims much less scary when, in the fine tradition of Key & Peele, they made fun of everything, including themselves. Their multicolored lampoon included a Rush Limbaugh-caricature radio host; a redneck farmer always on the lookout for terrorist activity; a retired imam with conservative extremist views; and, quite sweetly, a warm friendship between a younger imam and a Christian minister.
Babar from Little Mosque On The Prairie: Islamic extremism never looked sillier!
When we’re laughing with each other we’re not laughing at each other, which leads to fewer cave slaughters. Being a part of the tribe means protection; fundamental to survival. No human punishment is worse than ostracism.
Audience members want to be included when Mexican comedian Fluffy riffs on everybody. Fluffy describes Germans who aggressively demanded he include them in his riff on people from differing countries and what they like to drink.
His answer’s really pushing it! Starts at 5:24.
Properly and vigilantly wielded, humor unites, rather than divides. What we can laugh at makes us stronger, not weaker.
Let’s make humans funny again
The overly-humorless make me wonder: What are they trying to hide? What are they afraid people will see?
The right terrorizes with violence, but the left’s terrorism is professional and personal destruction on social media when they don’t like a joke, or even a thought.
Righteousness is the mighty fortress of the cyberbully.
Making others cower before your world-class hissy fit over an ill-considered tweet distracts from one’s own personal bigotries.
If people see you thundering against someone you’ve identified as ‘transphobic’, then you can pretend to yourself that while you’re personally okay with transfolk, you wouldn’t want your kid to marry one.
You keep them safely Over There where they can’t actually harm you. Because, you know, transgenders might try to steal your mammoth meat or your mate or something.
We live in dark times with an uncertain future, and far-left gelotophobia prevents us from blurring our differences and bonding in the camaraderie of knowing fark it, we’re hilarious!
Not everyone will find it so but what makes us laugh won’t kill us.
Or more importantly, each other.
You don’t have to be French or speak French to get the humor, but it helps! I love this. He nails us.
This first appeared on Medium in February 2021.