Wednesday, 14 August 2013

"A Republican walks into a pub..." - Humour and the new Royal arrival

Should we first turn to humour in the fight against public outpourings of emotion?

Throughout the surreal build up to the birth of Prince George of Cambridge I posted a series of silly tweets imagining the new heir to the British throne’s imminent arrival as that of a hotly anticipated studio album from a popular recording artist.

How we laughed… @jockyblue82 twitter feed 19th July 2013
I was trying to be funny but also highlight how the global media’s sinister clamour for any titbit of news turned a yet to be born human being into some sort of marketable product, the way a major record company will leak information in dribs and drabs, exploiting art to the point of undermining it in the hope of maximising the ‘buzz’.

It was my way of coping with the frustration at Britain’s ongoing adoration for the institution of monarchy, so totally and completely at odds to my own ideals that I want to scream defiantly into my cup of tea. As those around me debated appropriate names for the privileged sprog, it took great resolve to prevent myself from snapping like Michael Douglas’ character in the film ‘Falling Down’.

Those tweets were a puerile way of dealing with my own anger I’ll admit but then better than the alternative. For nothing has left me more moribund this week than the cawing Republicans, as equally and effortlessly dull as the servile ‘cootchy, cootchy cooing’ Royalists.

Sometimes a point of disagreement is so fundamental that it’s hopeless debating it. Like negotiating with terrorists or arguing the finer points of immigration law with a member of the English Defence League, you simply risk adding fuel to the fire.

Thankfully, however, there is refuge from the maelstrom and it can be found in that other defining British character trait: when all else fails and the tide of public emotion seems to have unequivocally burst over the sea wall of sanity, we at least have our sense of humour to fall back on.

By way of example, The Guardian newspaper’s temporary “Republican?” setting — hiding all coverage of the Royal baby from its website — was an excellently tongue-in-cheek admission of opposition, yet perhaps this sheltering in the darkly comic was best displayed by BBC reporter Simon McCoy, whose evident frustration at being forced to report relentlessly on nothing at all manifested itself in this wonderfully self-sacrificial piece from outside the Lindo Wing of London’s St Mary’s Hospital.

As McCoy dead pans his “none of it news” quip he is at once part of, and in on, the joke, with an acceptance of absurdity that borders on the epiphanic. Yet it’s true, isn’t it, that when we laugh — and McCoy’s report was certainly very funny — our minds are far more open to new possibilities, responsive to new ideas?

I’m not suggesting this was the reporter’s attempt to douse a burning desire for regicide, thus installing a new British Republic in the process, but it did have a certain power in emanating from the ‘belly of the beast’ as it were.

Of course, there was plenty more straightforward anti-royalist rhetoric published in the run up to the birth, yet, when in the eye of the storm, I wonder if it’s productive to stand quite so affronted, quoting the total figure of babies born into poverty in a desperate attempt to arrest attention from the main event?

We need to be more cunning than that, more Machiavellian perhaps? For in Machiavelli’s most famous work we learn how, to retain power, we must carefully maintain the sociopolitical institutions to which the people are accustomed. Or at least appear to.

It’s time we naysayers used humour as a tool to challenge and subvert the dominant contemporary norms. Perhaps if you can appear to be ploughing the same furrow of popular opinion whilst occasionally sowing the odd seed of doubt, you’re far more likely to make people think twice.

Humour is adept at conveying a subtlety otherwise out of reach. It is a means to an end as well as an end in and of itself.

For Republican’s seeking to undermine the sycophancy currently surrounding them, it is important not to forget the solace to be found in a laugh. And about that I am deadly serious.

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