Corrections and Clarifications...maybe
In getting some feedback on the posting that I made on July 27, I realized that I probably should have taken a little more time to better lay out the tiff between my brain and me. Instead of trying to logically explicate my little conundrum, I rushed it and really chose poorly when offering up those two jokes as examples – they actually better speak to a peripheral issue. What can I say? In the blogosphere there really is the pressure to publish or perish. So, I will try to be succinct and clear, but will make not promises regarding my ability to be either.
- Should something be sacred or should we just say fuck it?
This is where the jokes come in and is really of only marginal interest to me. It’s more philosophical than anything else. If one has strong inclinations to think in racial/potentially racist terms in joking and non-joking contexts, whether they think they mean it or not, does this belie some underlying, unconscious stance on the world? The answer to this is likely yes, and probably more “Yes” than we like to think. The PC revolution has, in part, muted the fact that race is still very much a reality in our world and how we perceive it. Anyway, that is also not the point. This is:
Should some things be inherently unfunny? It’s the sacred cow argument. George Carlin, a person who probably had too big an influence on me at too tender an age (and I thank him for it), sought to slay the holy bovine by trying to show that he could make jokes about rape (results were mixed). What I believe (or tell myself I believe) aside, I certainly speak and act as if anything and everything is fair game and I am not apologetic about it.
This leads to my first potential crisis: if nothing is sacred then doesn’t it stand to reason that nothing is truly above the moment? And if this is the case, then don’t I, as the person who holds nothing sacred, also believe in nothing? Or rather have nothing in which I truly believe. (Note: I wouldn’t mind discussing over a bottle of wine whether or not an extension of this condition, when taken from the realm of humor and into that of social values, is the same as the problem that is alleged to plague the Democratic Party and its inability to connect with the average American in the face of the GOP’s utter incompetence and clear disdain of the Everyman.)
If I can fit that identity crisis into my schedule, what follows will be its focus. The argument reads as follows (Note: I was never a champ at logic so forgive me my transgressions against the long-venerated Western tradition of formal proof.):
i. “Sarcasm is sneering, jesting, or mocking a person, situation or thing.”
ii. Sarcasm, based on the commonly accepted definition (i), is thus antithetical to sincere and literal truthful forms of expression.
iii. Evandebacle uses sarcasm as his primary mode of communication.
iv. Further, Evandebacle is an avowed and confirmed cynic.*
v. Cynics believe “that only self-interest motivates human behavior, and who are disinclined to rely on sincerity, human virtue, or altruism.”
vi. If Evandebacle understands the world he lives in philosophically through paradigm (v.) and experiences it semiotically through mode (i.), then his world lacks sincere belief.
vii. Evandebacle exists in the same world he lives in.
viii. Ergo, Evandebacle is, by definition, lacking in belief and sincerity.
There you have it, cleared up I hope. Probably not. My fear is this: my use of sarcasm has gone through stages: a gently mocking way of talking about stuff, to a defense mechanism, on to a rewarding way of getting laughs, then forming into habit, on to a default mode of interaction, and, finally, becoming the default mode of thought. I believe I touched on the problem with this last stage in the earlier posting.
Thinking sarcastically habitually is different than acting sarcastically in the moment. The moment is, obviously, fleeting. Habit becomes a tainted way of understanding the world which inherently undermines the truth-value of everything around you. Therefore, you (or me, as the case may be) no longer believe in things sincerely, you merely believe that people “tell themselves” that the world is the way it is. Or worse, you believe that people are telling you they think that the world is a certain way, but deep down they know they are lying to themselves and others. The whole thing is rather deconstructionist in that there ends up being nothing at the core of anything anyone does or says. It’s also a bit frightening, which is why I have to fit that crisis in.
* Biographical tidbit: Virtually every teacher of Evandebacle’s from K through12 referred to him as “bright, but so cynical for his age.”