So oft repeated, without question, yet has the cliché status of that statement hidden a pernicious effect? Perhaps some will laugh at even the notion that such is possible. Just such a reaction that helps illustrate what will be discussed and examined on this subject. The negative aspect being considered is a lack of thought as to whether or not something should be laughed at, and along with that, justifying behavior because someone, at minimum the one committing the act, happened to think it was funny at the moment.
For some, the coarseness of some comedians would be an example that comes to mind. Unfortunately, other situations can readily be found, some with horrible results, others, while perhaps not destroying a life, at the very least, demonstrating a joy in cruelty that says nothing good about that individual or those agreeing with the supposed hilarity of the matter.
The most devastating example, that also includes obvious cruelty in the action, would be the so-called adult who used the Internet to emotionally torment a teenage girl, who subsequently committed suicide. Clearly, the intent of the "adult" here was not to kill the girl. Yet, it was certainly not love, caring and nurturing support that was intended either. Revenge and the idea that this was just the Internet were no doubt major contributions. But is it inconceivable that "did it for the lulz" was also on this individual's mind? Caught up in this particular example is the idea that it's just the Internet, that all is a joke therein, or should be taken that way. So engrained is that idea, that some while expressing sorrow for what happened, then nearly blamed the victim because she took what was done to her so seriously. I wonder, does moving such actions to a digital medium with graphics make it any different from receiving the same by a telephone call? Granted, much of life consists of how we choose to respond to what is thrust upon us. But this does not, nor should it, remove or lessen the responsibility of those choosing to burden others with harmful words and actions, even if they find it funny or the context they choose to work their mischief in, happens to be one they consider a joke. If their stated intent does not automatically insulate them from all moral responsibility, why should their method of delivery do so?
There are other examples that fall rather far short of literally pushing someone over the edge and into suicide, however, the cruelty of the perpetrator is still not removed nor hidden by their laughter. What else is one to think of someone who breaks into a private online discussion group and then spreads the link around to others, anonymously? It goes far beyond breaking into a little clique; the group contained very personal discussions and information, because it was private. That privacy being compromised, the group was deleted to prevent the personal matters from being revealed to those who had no business seeing such things. Or what of the individual who made a cruel comment to someone who had been molested as a child and justified it by saying they did it for the lulz?
No doubt, the individuals acting in such a manner probably laughed quite a bit at what they were doing and the drama they created. Their facial expression was no doubt somewhat similar to a chimpanzee baring its teeth and throwing its head back in apparent mimicry of human laughter. The difference being that the monkey is actually showing aggression and should one respond in kind, even with only innocent laughter, the situation could escalate. On second thought, it really is not so different and indicates that such aggressive people have yet to really evolve much above our simian cousins.
Fortunately, many are not so cruel and they would never do such things. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't laugh or type lol, and in doing so, encourage such behavior and perhaps show that they merely lack the twisted courage to follow through with what they've implied by saying such is funny. But laughter and joking are sometimes just how one responds to being shocked, even by tragedy. This is understandable, but hopefully we remain inwardly reflective enough to know this and avoid falling prey to when laughter distorts us, rather than being the help and healing that it can be. Unfortunately, this may require that we not express our initial temptation to laugh, because the other person would take that as approval and encouragement. A possible objection may be phrased as, why should we take up an additional responsibility because someone else chooses to be less responsible? Well, isn't that what responsible, mature people actually do? If we shrink back from that by inaction, don't we only contribute to and help spread the problem?
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke)
Laughter, the ability to express the feelings of joy and happiness, is a wonderful experience; however, it also tends to not be questioned seriously that emotions and feelings should not completely overrule rational thought. And no, radical womyns literature that portrays rational thought as only a feature of the patriarchal hegemony, and therefore bad, are not serious thoughts. But with laughter, the added enjoyment makes it easier to set our rational thinking aside. How is this any different than, "if it feels good do it"? It doesn't take long to consider if this or that should feel good, or that even if it does, it should still be rejected. Of course that self-reflection takes discipline and a recognition of personal responsibility, both of which could result in additional time and effort being expended, especially at the beginning of trying to make such habitual. Unfortunately, self-discipline and accepting personal responsibility may be in dwindling supply among humanity, as they are just not very convenient. However, as much as convenience is sought after these days, many can still complain about what they perceive as shortsightedness of this or that government expenditure or policy, due to the long-term results that are expected, but that are ignored for the transitory but convenient effects claimed in the near-term. How is living only for the moment and the feel good experience of the now and not thinking about how that makes us into who we become, substantially different?
Despite all these negative possibilities, laughter truly can be the best medicine, but with any medication, care must be taken in its use. We often only think about too little being a problem, but too much and/or at the wrong time, can be also be harmful. By all means, let us continue to laugh and do so with full enjoyment, but let us also not be tempted to think that we may never be using this so improperly as to hurt not only ourselves, but also others. Some might only laugh at this suggestion, but in doing so, they may be indicating that few medicines are now able to help fix the disease that is their soul. There truly is a time for laughter; sadly, their chosen state is a time for sorrow.
Filed under: Culture
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