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Post-Modern Humour

October 30, 2009 1 comment

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Yes, I know it’s a contradiction in terms.

Many more erudite writers than me have pointed out that post-modernism precludes humour, because it stems from the comforting myth of “inclusivity” — that we are all the same in a happy, sharing and cooperative world. [Cue: Sing “We Are The World”].

Humour, of course,can only exist in the interstices between people’s characters, habits and attitudes; humour is a way of looking at differences, while post-modernism seeks to eliminate those differences from human nature, in a doomed attempt to create New Serious Man.

Post-modernism, then, is life without humour, as expressed through the language of political correctness. We may think it’s funny when we hear that the singing of ‘White Christmas’ has been banned for fear of giving offence to coloured people, but our amusement only lasts as long as it takes for us to realise that they are grimly serious.

The humour in post-modernism, almost by definition, can only be unconscious.

And so we read that the UK’s Health and Safety Executive has banned children from playing the game of conkers, a charge which they deny: “This is one of the oldest chestnuts around, a truly classic myth,” said an agency spokesman — sorry, spokesperson. It is fair to assume that this individual knew subconsciously that a “conker” is in fact the same as a chestnut, and the association stuck in his mind when preparing his response.

Of course, if it were deliberate humour, the individual will long since have been reprimanded for ‘trivialising an important issue’.

But it points out that we have to be careful, when writing, to be aware of our tendency to subconsciously cling on to words. I notice in my own writing that similar adjectives, which I happen to like that day) appear in successive paragraphs much more often than they should.

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