On the other hand, the late show hosts are doing us a favor. Unlike some societies that turn to revolution, we turn to the would-be comedic exposure of corruption and political cowardice. We let off steam with our laughter rather than physical attacks. Of course, there are also the terrifying scenes in which men, women, and children are shot to death, and these most often are innocent, unarmed, nonviolent people who fall in the line of fire.
And so we ask, what has happened to our world? Have we lost our civility because we lost our sense of humor? Or have we lost our sense of humor because we lost our civility? Perhaps most disturbing in this nightmarish time within which we find ourselves is the fixed attitude we have adopted and the polarization of our beliefs, values, and behaviors.
Which, if you will pardon this abrupt shift in mood, reminds me of a joke. It goes like this:
Two men are making breakfast. As one is buttering the toast, he says,
"Did you ever notice that if you drop a piece of toast, it always lands
butter side down?" The second guy says "No, I bet it just seems that
way because it's so unpleasant to clean up the mess when it lands
butter side down. I bet it lands butter side up just as often." The
first guy says, "Oh yeah? Watch this." He drops the toast to the floor
where it lands butter side up. The second guy says, "See, I told you."
The first guy says, "Oh, I see what happened. I buttered the wrong
side!" (Cathcart and Klein, p. 34)
You get the point, I am sure, and recognize this pattern of holding to a pre-conceived belief regardless of any evidence to the contrary! This fallacy in logic describes our age perfectly with plenty of rationalizations as to why evidence should not be accepted. It is "fake news," "bad science," "main-stream media," etc. It does not matter how solid the evidence may be, if one's mind is made up, and if there is a deeply set political, ideological, or religious opposition to the evidence, then the evidence will not be accepted. And, in some cases, the evidence and those who present it may be attacked and banished from the opposing group.
Where does this opposition to evidence-based decision arise? As I said, we see evidence of it in the many "isms" of our day: nationalism, racism, creationism, sexism, anti-Semitism, ageism, authoritarianism, conservatism, liberalism, etc. If you Google any one of the"isms," you will likely be led into a labyrinth of history, social conflicts, economic developments, geographical conquests, and racial divides. Quite often, however, you will trace these developments to a single individual who understood the currents of his/her age and exploited those currents in forming a mass movement -- sometimes for the betterment of followers and the world, but also sometimes for cruel ends and destruction.
And, if I may, I will illustrate this with another joke:
A man tries on a made-to-order suit and says to the tailor, "I need
the sleeve taken in. It's two inches too long!"
The tailor says, "No, just bend your elbow like this. See, it pulls
up the sleeve."
The man says, "Well, okay, but look at the collar! When I bend my
elbow, the collar goes halfway up the back of my head."
The tailor says, "So? Raise your head up and back. Perfect."
The man says, "But now the left shoulder is three inches lower than
the right one!"
The tailor says, "No problem. Bend the waist way over to the left
and it evens out."
The man leaves the store wearing the suit, his right elbow crooked
and sticking out, his head up and back, all the while leaning to the
left. The only way he can walk is with a herky-jerky, spastic gait.
Just then, two passers-by notice him.
Says the first: "Look at that poor crippled guy. My heart goes out
Says the second: "Yeah, but the tailor must be a genius! That suit
fits him perfectly!" (Cathcart and Klein, p. 70)
That tailor may not be a genius. But he is a master manipulator, a kind of a salesman who does not care for others but for himself, a cunning magician of sorts who distorts perceptions and weaves a spell of deluding perfection for his customers. If we take the tailor in this joke as a symbol for a politician, priest, or salesperson who is intoxicated with his/her power, then we see what Carl Jung called the "mana"personality.
"Mana" is a Melanesian word referring to supernatural power of individuals connected to the spirit world. Psychologically, we would say these persons are mediators of the world of archetypes. If their ego is healthy so that they can accept the fact that they are themselves not the power, but only the messenger of the power, then they may do good for others. But if they are not conscious of that reality, that is, if they are possessed by the archetypal power, then they may wreak destruction upon individuals and societies as a whole. In this case, the individual, and/or group, becomes a victim in the hands of a person whose ego is inflated with a demonic power.
This ill-fitting suit in the joke seems to symbolize the fashion of our present age. We appear to have been deluded into wearing a suit that does not become us. We know this because the laughter has left us, and with it a healthy sense of who we are as well as what our destiny really is. For as Shopenhauer boldly declared, "A sense of humor is that truly 'divine' attribute of man which alone befits him to maintain his soul in freedom."
(See Jung, CW 7, para. 240)
For references, see the following:
Cathcart,T. and D.Klein. (2007). Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar. New York: Abrams Image.
Jung, C. (1966). Collected Works, Vol. 7, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. (R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton: University Press.