Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Good piece by Jefferson Chase (via aldaily in the Boston Globe, basically arguing that humorlesness in any organisation or person is something to worry about, and that a lack of openness to humor tends to indicate the absence of openness to criticism.

Osama bin Laden shares Hitler's anti-Semitism. Moreover, if we believe John Miller's 1999 Esquire interview, neither bin Laden nor his followers have anything resembling a Western sense of humor. (Miller's description of bin Laden's incomprehension at an attempted ice-breaker - to the effect that, as an engineer, Osama should know how to build a decent driveway up to his cave - is itself high comedy.) As Germans know from historical experience, fanaticism, unease with modernity, a poor sense of humor, and ethnic hatred are intimately related.

Plus there is this

Changing trains in the main square of the eastern half of Berlin two weeks ago, with the issue of Merkur in my pocket, I was inclined to answer both questions with a ''yes.'' Some 10,000 people had gathered that cold, wet, miserable day to protest against US threats toward Iraq, and I couldn't help think of the phrase ''huddled masses'' at the sight of the shivering peace activists with their handmade signs. The general tenor was a combination of ''war is bad'' and ''this war is bad because it is being fought for oil companies and other multinational corporations,'' which didn't stop the protestors from wearing Jack Wolfskin parkas, Timberland boots, and baseball caps. One young man sat on a concrete block spouting antiglobalization slogans while warming himself with a hot Whopper. This was funny, but also a little depressing. The Left , I thought, is in trouble .

Certainly anti-globalisation protestors and radical environments have far too much earnestness about them. It is an unpleasant earnestness, generally too. If you want to actually argue against them and want to use actual economic arguments to do so, this often seems to prove that you are a member of the enemy by definition, and therefore they refuse to listen to you. When walking past these sorts of demonstrators, I feel the immediate urge to go and get a Starbucks latte to carry in one hand and a Big Mac for the other. However, I too have seen what Chase describes: the demonstrators doing it too. Usually, though, there is a complete lack of realisation of the ridiculousness of it.

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