Friday, August 13, 2010

3.

People keep asking nowadays how the terrible things that keep happening are allowed to happen "in this day and age". This strikes me as extremely strange. Was there ever a day and age worse than this? Was there ever another time, another people, another generation with the same ability to swallow violence with such casual irony? Of course, we all know the answer is yes. Having lived only a couple decades or so, I can hardly speak for other times or people or generations. However, one thing I know we can proudly claim as our very own special prize as children of This Day And Age is dead baby jokes. Yes, I said it. Dead baby jokes/nuclear war jokes/apocalypse jokes, these brilliant artefacts of 2010 are most certainly ours and ours alone.

Assuming casual, dark humour isn't a trait reserved for hipsters who like to wear irony on their T-shirts (in a way that is subtle yet in your face, note the double irony of wearing irony), we are all party to the guilty appeal of laughing at the grotesque. I'm not going to condemn this; in fact, I fully support it. Parental horror aside at the crude jokes that drive home baby boomers' fears that we are indeed a depraved lot, it's only human to laugh when it's clearly futile to shed tears.

Perhaps the images we are constantly bombarded with on the ubiquitous media that it is so in vogue to criticize nowadays really have desensitized us. Actually, there's really no question about it; the media uses grief to sell products. We do distractedly note the merits of Surf Excel washing powder versus "Ordinary Brands" while we wait to hear the death toll of the most recent tragedy; we do acknowledge the refreshing taste of Limopani with the irritating ding of the timecheck before the news. Horror is a sellable commodity on the news, and it is as open to being poked fun at as anything else we buy. How can you cry at human loss when it is packaged for you with your favourite brand of tea or toilet paper?

I believe I am digressing from my support of morbid humour, but the reason I am getting at is not that shock value or depressing content desensitizes us, but that it humanizes us. Talking endlessly (casually, but endlessly) about the chaos we are spiralling towards, texting about the most recent evidence of corruption and joking about dead children is not evidence of callousness, but a desire to possess it. Who among us wouldn't want to be completely immune to fear, to not smell it's sickening stench or wonder where we will go when Things Get Worse, as we wait and plan for the time when everything is so wrong we Must Leave? It's like crying until you laugh, or laughing until you cry, until you can't tell the difference anymore.

2 comments:

zehra said...

really good point about how we constantly switch between the devastating news of the flood (or whatever else is going terribly terribly wrong) and mindless entertainment. i like that you recognize the importance of gallow's humor. but i think in places like pakistan where so many things are happening all at once its perhaps taken to an extreme. it is disconcerting how i myself switch so easily between watching coverage of the flood and then texting my friends during the commercial break about which overpriced restaurant we want to go to for dinner.

nsky said...

oh my god. i keep thinking this same thought. i used to be able to laugh at the satire on Ham Sab Umeed Say Hain but now i can't. it's not funny, it actually saddens me just about as much as watching the news.