21 December 2007

Politics & Literal-Mindedness

Irony and satire are not unifromly appreciated. No surprise there, I suppose, even if it is a reason to despair that humor is persistently pushed out of politics. Philosopher Elizabeth Spelman has written a terrific essay called "Anger: The Diary" (an entry in a volume on the 7 deadly sins*) where she perceptively suggests that anger, appropriately directed, is intimately and subtly tied up with the quest for justice. In the process she also differentiates the effects of anger and humor in politics. The former potentially empowers the aggrieved whereas the latter threatens to deflate the powerful.

Earlier thiss month I posted on graffitti artists who had spread their work, much of it presenting ironic or satirical comment on the Israeli policies, around Bethlehem. Well, it turns out that the humor escaped not only some oh-so-p.c. commentators in the western media but also some local residents who have painted over several of the works. You can read a report on the local response in The Guardian here. It seems to me that the anger the residents express is misplaced; consequently, not only are they misdirecting their efforts (compounding injustice with censorship), but they are depriving themselves of a vauable political weapon - the ability to laugh.
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* Robert Soloman, ed. Wicked Pleasures: Meditations on the Seven Deadly Sins. Rowman & Littlefield (1999).

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