Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Post No. 135a: Never Underestimate the Power of Laughter


In theory, if thoughts we share in our articles truly constitute Common Sense, then the approaches recommended should be able to stand the test of time, and be applicable to new fact situations as they arise.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen outbursts on the part of Rep. Joe Wilson (during a joint session of Congress while the President was speaking), and tennis stars Serena Williams and Roger Federer (on the tennis court). Additionally, some would lump in rapper Kanye West for his interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Many have spoken about the lack of civility in our society today, and the need to punish or sanction people for their "inappropriate" or "offensive" comments.

In June of 2008, we posted the following article, which we believe is also applicable to the comments of Wilson, Williams, Federer, and West.

© 2008 and 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

We are all aware of the numerous instances, during the past year, where prominent individuals were severely criticized for comments that some termed “offensive,” or “inappropriate.” One of the most widely covered was the comment by Don Imus regarding the predominantly black female basketball team which won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

Ironically, in that instance, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who typically argues that there are numerous ways to view situations, recommended one of the harshest forms of response, thus suggesting that there was only one “right thing to do.”

Many commentators suggested various responses to deal with the offending speakers, essentially saying that we as a society need to make a statement and ensure that folks do not regularly engage in such speech.

The ladies in question were the essence of grace. They had, after all, just brought home a national basketball championship to an academic institution that invests precious little in sports championships of any sort. Their composure and compassion under attack shamed Shock Jock Imus into a rarely observed heart felt apology.

Most reasonable folks would agree that there was virtually no explanation, or justification, for his statement that would have made sense to us.

Following the revelations about the comments of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Rev. John Hagee, the talkingheads had much to say about how the respective candidates should have responded.

However, no one suggested that their churches be “taken away.” It is our understanding that Wright is retired, and thus there is nothing to take away, and Hagee is far too integral to his church's existence to remove him from the church which he built.

However, following the mocking, by a Catholic priest, of candidate Clinton in Chicago recently, not only did the local Archbishop chastise the priest, but so did a representative of a group of Catholic women. She said, in essence, that the priest’s comments did not reflect the Catholic faith, did not reflect the Catholic Church, scandalized them, and that he should have his church taken away from him.

Ever since she reacted in that fashion, some of us thought of this issue in free speech, legalistic terms. Of course, our most senior Fellow, the Laughingman, brought us back to reality, and provided instant clarity to the whole situation.

“The worst conceivable way to silence one with whom we disagree is to stop him from talking. By doing so, you create a martyr to his similarly warped followers, and take him off the radar screen of the rest of the public.

"Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little Common Sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof.

"Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society.”

Yesterday, we heard a news report regarding some Minnesota high school kids who took a Confederate flag to school. The kids were banned from their graduation exercises because of their conduct.

One of them, as he sat on the back of a pick up truck, said that he was about as far away from being a racist as one could get. However, they both said that they wanted to make a statement about independence, and the freedom of one to express oneself.

Appearing on CNN yesterday morning, we're sure that they now have a following consisting of hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. It probably would have been better to simply let them attend their graduation ceremonies, assuming that no further conduct was involved which might have lead to violence or some other disruptive behavior.

We considered entitling this article, “Ignoring People – A Novel Thought,” and then we recalled that as Americans, we always have to make sure that we punish folks with whom we disagree. It, unfortunately, is built into who we are as a people.

Perhaps once we learn to ignore those making statements which we consider offensive or inappropriate, they’ll flog themselves, and we as a public will find no need to punish them.

In the immortal words of the famous Forrest Gump; “Stupid is as stupid does.”

© 2008 and 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

8 comments:

  1. There are two reasonably effective ways to deal with those who (to the majority of eyes and ears) abuse our cherished Freedom of Speech and Expression. One is to shun the offending party. This works only if the offending party feels something called "shame". That emotion seems be in shorter and shorter supply. The other way is through laughter. Put the offender up to ridicule. Think of ridicule as a modern, more humane, form of the public stocks.
    Alas, I fear that much of the world's population would see the offender as victim and rally to his (or her) cause.

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  2. Douglas wrote:

    "There are two reasonably effective ways to deal with those who (to the majority of eyes and ears) abuse our cherished Freedom of Speech and Expression. One is to shun the offending party. This works only if the offending party feels something called "shame". That emotion seems be in shorter and shorter supply. The other way is through laughter. Put the offender up to ridicule...."

    When we read the first half of your comment, we were in 100%, total agreement with you, and felt that you hit the nail on the head with your comment that there is a requirement that "shame" be felt on the part of the offending party, if he or she is shunned or ridiculed.

    We then started thinking about the definitions of "shun" and "ridicule," and whether they amounted to "affirmative acts or conduct," like laughter.

    We then thought about laughter again, and realized that one could laugh at the offender, with the offender, or privately to one's self about the offender.

    We realized that our title containing the word "laughter" may be a tad too ambiguous, since we really wanted to suggest the more private, personal form of laughter, and not the affirmative "laughing at the offender" version.

    It was our original thought to entitle this piece, "Ignoring People - A Novel Concept," and we now realize that it may have been a better title for our particular article, although not quite as entertaining or catchy.

    "Ignoring" someone is arguably a more neutral, less affirmative response to conduct, although admittedly not entirely.

    Once again, you have made us think further about issues. Thanks for that.

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  3. You cannot ignore the conduct or the behavior. Maybe that's a lesson more easily understood by those who have children. I always took issue with those who counter-demonstrated. Especially those who counter-demonstrated at KKK or American Nazi parades or whatever. The anger of the counter-demonstrators just fed the glee of the racists. My idea was to simply line the street and laugh and point at them. Treat them as the clowns they actually were.

    Ridicule can serve a purpose.

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  4. Douglas wrote: "You cannot ignore the conduct or the behavior."

    That's an interesting notion Douglas. We need to mull this one over for some time. Inappropriate or offensive conduct or behavior can not be ignored. Hmmmm.

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  5. Ignoring bad behavior is exactly why we as a society have become so uncivil, degraded and corrupt. Hollywood decided that sex sells so they put more and more explecite sex in the movies and we ignored it so now it is accepted as perfectly appropriate. It also encouraged decadent behavior by the public, especially the teens who are dealing with hormones and young adults who see Sex in the City as depicting the way the sophisticate should behave. And we ignored and eventually accepted promiscuity and "shaking up" as the norm. Studies have also been made that show a direct correlation between sex crimes and the acceptance of society of openly decadent behavior.

    Musicians decided shocking vulgar words made a "statement" in music and we ignored. Adults saw nothing wrong with acting in ways their mothers had taught them was wrong: with cutting in front of the line or being nasty to clerks in stores who could not speak back or they would lose their jobs and we watched and said nothing, lying and looking out for number one, accepting criminal behavior by our elected officials and continuing to elect them because they are bringing home the "bacon".

    Ignoring bad behavior doesn't work. Turning the other cheek as my Mom taught me to do doesn't work. The only thing that works is to get right in the offenders face and tell them they are wrong. I too did nothing and ignored the decadent movies, and TV shows and music and am now sorry for my inaction. Perhaps I could have had some influence in keeping my world more civil, decent and safe if I had spoken up by joining with the few who were trying to turn the tide. It may be late, but I am speaking up now. Some would ask who am I to decide what is right and what is wrong. My answer: any action or words that harms another human being is wrong. If I don't speak up then who will? BB

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  6. That is explicit. Wish the comments had an edit button because I never see mistakes until after I post my comment. :( BB

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  7. BrendaBowers wrote: “Ignoring bad behavior is exactly why we as a society have become so uncivil, degraded and corrupt…. Ignoring bad behavior doesn't work. Turning the other cheek as my Mom taught me to do doesn't work. The only thing that works is to get right in the offender’s face and tell them they are wrong.”

    Interesting position Brenda. We’ve been mulling this one over for quite some time now. Let’s apply your concept to the four public figures mentioned. Are you suggesting that President Obama, or someone on his behalf, should have immediately gotten in Rep. Joe Wilson’s face? Or that the line judges or officials at the U.S. Open should have immediately gotten in the faces of Serena Williams and Roger Federer? Or that Taylor Swift should have immediately confronted Kanye West? And would anger be appropriate in each one of these instances?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ignoring bad behavior is exactly why we as a society have become so uncivil, degraded and corrupt. Hollywood decided that sex sells so they put more and more explecite sex in the movies and we ignored it so now it is accepted as perfectly appropriate. It also encouraged decadent behavior by the public, especially the teens who are dealing with hormones and young adults who see Sex in the City as depicting the way the sophisticate should behave. And we ignored and eventually accepted promiscuity and "shaking up" as the norm. Studies have also been made that show a direct correlation between sex crimes and the acceptance of society of openly decadent behavior.

    Musicians decided shocking vulgar words made a "statement" in music and we ignored. Adults saw nothing wrong with acting in ways their mothers had taught them was wrong: with cutting in front of the line or being nasty to clerks in stores who could not speak back or they would lose their jobs and we watched and said nothing, lying and looking out for number one, accepting criminal behavior by our elected officials and continuing to elect them because they are bringing home the "bacon".

    Ignoring bad behavior doesn't work. Turning the other cheek as my Mom taught me to do doesn't work. The only thing that works is to get right in the offenders face and tell them they are wrong. I too did nothing and ignored the decadent movies, and TV shows and music and am now sorry for my inaction. Perhaps I could have had some influence in keeping my world more civil, decent and safe if I had spoken up by joining with the few who were trying to turn the tide. It may be late, but I am speaking up now. Some would ask who am I to decide what is right and what is wrong. My answer: any action or words that harms another human being is wrong. If I don't speak up then who will? BB

    ReplyDelete

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