Reform proposal

“I was just joking,” says the politician not known for his sense of humour, when caught out with some appalling statement, not in the least funny. Owing to my foolish attention to politics, I have heard this many times.

Yet I appreciate, even from my most irritating enemies, some attempt at dry humour; as I was indicating in that Catholic Thing today (see here). For instance, I once smiled when a very irritating gentleman, asked if he was trying to be funny, replied: “No, I was being psychopathic.”

Keep that up, and I might begin to like him. As it turned out in the moment however, his self-deprecatory dryness did not win the day. For my even more irritating ally then humourlessly attacked him for “admitting” that he was a psycho.

Reagan, of beloved memory, could be rather good at this. He had a mind so simple, that he could perceive contradictions. Example, in answer to a journalist who asked if he was trying to start a nuclear war:

“Why would I want to start a nuclear war, when I am having so much fun oppressing the poor?”

To raise the temperature a bit, I like to bring Christ into it. According to me, Our Lord could be very dry. I cited just two examples in my Thing column, but I hold that it is worth reading through the Gospels again, to find more. If one is lazy, look in one of those Protestant red-letter editions, so that you may go directly to the quotes. But it is worth reading the set-ups, too (in the black letters), for the authors and “compilers” of our Bible could also indulge in subtleties of expression.

So did Shakespeare and Dante; even Goethe. This is among the reasons their works have also remained in print. Or here is a student assignment. Read Homer’s Odyssey, and write me an essay on the topic of “ninnies.” (Hint: the word isn’t Greek. You will have to consider translations.)

I have sometimes thought it would be fun to go out drinking with Homer. (Having recently been cancelled as a “Lit” teacher, I don’t get to ask students ridiculous questions any more.)

But returning, foolishly, to politics, I wonder if we are looking for reforms in all the wrong places. Most political policies and proposals strike me as abnormally stupid, as might appear if we thought them through. Worse, I suspect that they are cynically designed to appeal to an audience that is intellectually feeble. Things are said that might sound plausible at first, but on Housman’s “four minutes’ thought,” could be exposed as unlikely. Fortunately for the politicians, no one seems to have the time at his disposal. For, as Housman continued,  “thinking is hard, and four minutes is a long time.”

I hope that last paragraph sounded sufficiently elitist and condescending. Often I wish that all of God’s children were snobs. That, rather than becoming angry, when they realize that they have been lied to, they would from the beginning have turned up their noses.

But as a compromise, I recommend civilized discourse. Let the politician sometimes say things with a smile, and a wink. Or better yet, without. For he should not use a bludgeon, but prefer sharp witty knives. This, I believe, would change even his godforsaken policies, for the better. For he would make fewer suggestions that were merely shamefully dumb.