The importance of mockery

According to a widely-disseminated myth, mockery is not appropriate in all instances. It may be tried against all targets, and is sometimes used in an experimental blasphemy — but doesn’t work for this. And to fail at blasphemy marks one as an under-achiever. The experimentalist merely exposes himself as a jack-ass. Whether he is struck dead by lightning within the next minute will have ceased to interest an intelligent audience, for they have ceased to be entertained.

But I am speaking of real religion, and therefore of Christianity and the other religions, to the extent that they resemble Christianity (especially¬†Orthodox Judaism). It has become quite impossible to blaspheme at the present day, as several illustrious writers have pointed out. To genuinely blaspheme requires a serious intent, like murder — even when it is spontaneous or, more accurately, sudden. The blasphemer must actually believe in what he pretends to take lightly. He is not a mere “disbeliever.” His is a conscious act of self-condemnation. It is suicidal. In a sense he is the Christian equivalent of a suicide bomber, for the ambition of the perpetrator is to take others with him, to Hell (wherever he may think he is going). But he leads the way.

I don’t recommend blasphemy. It would be counter-productive to “get it right.” Even humourously damning someone to Hell can present some awkward moments.

But mockery is comparatively clean. Note that, when it is honest — and I have found satirists to be among the world’s more honest people — only the target is annihilated. This is a matter of military honour, that the innocent are not swept into the (literary or artistic) carnage. This makes it different from open warfare, when they are often slain in huge numbers. (The leading cause of this is “peace talks,” incidentally. When I hear that the warring sides have agreed to “peace talks,” I flinch.)

The trick is to make one’s opponent wish he were dead, rather than actually killing him. This, naturally, requires more subtlety than simply blowing him away. Moreover, one can leave less doubt that the mocked were “asking for it,” for mockery gives the aggressor a chance to review the “chargesheet” (as they say in India). It allows him to build a rhythmic Hyperbaton, to employ reckless Pleonasms, a wicked Paraleipsis, Litotes and Meiosis, to fire machine-gun Anadiploses, or use Anacoluthon after a long parenthesis, then Brachylogy ending with Zeugma.

In war, one will almost never see that.

“Every death a willing death” strikes me as an improvement on “every child a wanted child” in this age of casual, or recreational, abortions. At the risk of being charged with pacifism, I am generally in favour of reducing violent weapons for soldiering and police work, and increasing the use of Greek rhetorical figures.

Still, some enemies have no sense of shame or humour, and will just have to be shot.