We should be able to redirect our jokes from negative to positive, from subjective to objective, from biased to unbiased and from racist to non-racist.
Now we may get scared from ever telling any jokes. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the positive aspects of joke-telling in our culture.
A majority of our people tend to be happy, positive, and energetic people who love to sing, dance, laugh, and have fun. We have to appreciate anything that supports the notion of happiness in our culture, anything that makes our people resilient and strong in dealing with many complex life situations.
We may remember those winter evenings when we were tucked in the Korsi (the fireplace in the middle of the room) and stream of stories, jokes, and funny oral narratives would make us warm and happy.
Granparents would read from Ferdousi and stories of Shahnameh, or just take their time to say funny stories about their own childhood. We have a history of making jokes of hard moments of life and this is resiliency.
Sigmund Freud writes about jokes in 1905. I guess jokes have always had functions in human story. Freud in his work “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious” argues tat jokes are “judgments which produces a comic contrast” (1963).
With judgments (gezavat, pishdavari) he means of course all the things that we relate to someone or some group of people, while these are only our ideas not the reality necessary.
The contrast is about the differences between what people perceive something be like and how the event unfolds in that joke. In our Persian cultural of jokes, we make fun of someone who is being depicted as less than us, we as modern, educated, and wise people who know more than the person doing wrongful things. The contrast or the distance to what is perceived as “normal” makes the story supposedly “funny.”
Freud talks about the relation to the unconscious, the things that we are not aware of or do not know about their whereabouts. If we joke about a woman who is pictured as a sex object, would this mean that our men like that idea of a “free woman”? This is a huge discussion. I am not sure what the answer is, yet we can think about what is going on behind those walls we create in our jokes. We can question the world of “ugliness” that may exist in the collective thoughts when these jokes are being heard without any reaction.
Freud also argues that joking is playing with ideas, it is about attitudes toward the object of our jokes, and it is about a playful judgment. Jokes looks at the differences between people rather than similarities, why it is important to be objective, non-discriminatory, and non-biased when we deal with our differences.
For sure we are all different and we can celebrate those differences with funny, non-harming, and non-directive jokes.
What if we could give the funny spirit back to our our jokes? If we could say jokes about “someone” without referring to any nation, ethnical group or even any gender (male/female)?
What if we could make jokes without referring to a certain accent, or without attributing women to sex objects or else?
What if we could use our ancestor’s method of telling funny stories about things we do? This is a way of self reflecting, a way of self-criticizing and a way of showing that we have tolerance. We all need to be happy and we have to work on creating fun moments for all of us.
Hope can do it all?!
November 22, 2007