Oct 06, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – There needs to be greater appreciation for the intricacies and sophistications of the fine art of satire, where the pranksters and their parodies reign supreme. This lost art has traction elsewhere, but not in Guyana. Like so much in this country, satire now is being forced into oblivion, through confrontational action.
What kings and potentates lived for, were tickled about, today brings the specter of the hangman or executioner, who comes with gag to blindfold and muzzle from seeing, saying, or writing anything that speaks to truth of what is considered politically damning. And especially when the connected are made the objects of ridicule through exposing fact-based wrongdoing.
Satire has a long history since Roman times, and it once enjoyed widespread use. The primary objective of satirists is to bring about change for the better. Though few would argue with that, in this country satire is coming under increasing attack, since people are made to feel vulnerable and they lash out through threats or movement to the courts. The intentions are obvious: get even, get some cash, and get silence under judicial umbrella.
What is happening here is no laughing matter, even if the Horatian model of satire is practiced, with its soft and feathery touch. Whereas long ago, tyrants were reduced to tears of laughter, today Guyanese powerhouses grind their teeth and figure out ways to wreak revenge on those believed to have made a mockery out of them. And whereas the hard men of before and their concubines and hangers-on were titillated to the placidity of putty, such is not the case in this Guyana of ours. When concerning social issues are tabled – prudent financial management, accountability, and governance – there is uproar. None wishes to be spotlighted or taken to task. And when sharp piercing satire (as favoured by Juvenal) is employed, glass chins are displayed, and war is declared.
Nowadays, this kind of jesting makes men lose their heads. Satire is not well-received by those who are about total control. It is believed that Stalin (and Chairman Mao and Li’l Kim – not the rapper) would not be convulsed with glee when satire is directed their way. Those illustrious names, long admired and worshipped here, furnishes the model as to how to deal with satirical upstarts. The standard is if any script infuriates, then it inundates and intimidates.
In days of yore, the offending used to have their heads removed. We are more civilized and smarter presently, so the aim is to cut off some cash, with an arm and two legs being acceptable. Cash is what compensates for hurts imagined, what helps to soothe bruised egos. Cash supposedly compensates for the contempt shown by those who attack.
Our national culture, be such political or commercial, is such that even when we pretend at wounding and crying, we are counting what is coming in cash. We are professional wake-house mourners. The aim of all the breast-beating is to influence every listener that it is malice intended to shame. Well, the first objective of satire when skillfully delivered, is to share wrongdoing in subtle language so that pressure is felt to change wicked ways, to bring about remorse.
In this era guilty people do not hang their heads in shame over their misdeeds. That is history, because today what is frivolous and should be shown the door gains listeners. This is why there is marshalling the awesome power of the learned to cure harms alleged. Believed wrongdoing takes a backseat, insult adds to injury.
This may be wasted in today’s Guyana, which is why the mundane, a sports extract is selected to enlighten: it is said that the best offense is a strong defense. The offended transform a barrel of truths into a bundle of barbwire that, it is claimed, tortures. There are set commonsense standards for measuring these things: what is in the mind of the satirist? Who can tell what someone means when his choice of language is a study in the artistry and beauty of its sophistications? Malice or the music of clowning? Remember the late great attorney Johnnie Cochran: if it don’t fit, don’t commit; and do the crime, do the time. To which we add: don’t whine.
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