Sunday, August 23, 2009

Humour an act of aggression?

 Jokers(?) - left; victims - right

So claims Helga Kotthoff, a German academic at the "Frieburg (sic) University if (sic) Education" in an article in today's Telegraph.

"Humour is an act of aggression and making others laugh means you see yourself as higher up the social ladder than your audience, according to a German academic."
Well, I think I had just the physical and biological sciences in mind when starting this blog. The social sciences are something of a foreign country for this test-tube science bod .
But I like any ideas that shake all one's most basic assumptions. Nope, I'm not expressing surprise that a Teutonic lady academic could have anything useful to say on the subject of humour. ;-)
Indeed, that bit of genteel snidery could be cited as evidence of the very point that is being made - we do indeed use humour to put-down, to control. And what an effective weapon it can be, given that any attempt at a serious riposte would be interpreted as feeble and po-faced, and that few have the ability to reply instantly in kind with an equally witty rejoinder.
Examples: I recall a boss who gathered us together, and announced his intentions to inflict still more rigid routines and procedures. Before anyone had a chance to raise an objection he said "Of course, there will no doubt be one or two among you who will have thrown their toys out of the pram before the day is out". How was that for a pre-emptive strike - demonstrating the use of humour as an instrument of suppression and control?

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