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ADUKANIL Matthew, Chennai says,
By Matthew Adukanil SDB
360° VIEW
Chennai, May. 1. In primitive days nations settled their disputes only through wars. In the feudal times  gentlemen settled all their quarrels   with gun duels as if   bullets could decide the justice or otherwise of things . In all dictatorships the army and suppression   are of critical  importance for the survival of the regime.  Modern man tries to settle differences  through the more civilized  ways of  diplomacy and dialogue . In his arsenal of  non-lethal weapons  humour occupies the prime place in negotiating life`s pot holes   both in the public domain and in private lives. For the civilized man a sense of proportion of things and a razor sharp intellect replace the savage`s  fist of fury . Perhaps like our shrinking integrity in public life our   sense of humour is taking a beating  and intolerance is becoming pervasive and shooting up by the day. Like the uncommon  common sense it is becoming rare to find.

Humour is  a bulletless gun, an anger dousing foam, a tension reliever, a face saving shield  , a survival kit in the face of  grim oppression,  a social friction lubricant , a pin  to prick   bloated egos. So it is heartily  loathed   and outlawed by dictators who ban all cartoons. But  it is the refuge   of the underdogs, and the unfailing  weapon of debaters . It is the essence of the democratic spirit. Autocrats  dread and proscribe it since  they cannot silence ideas with bullets.

Great men and women possessed it  in abundance. They never attempted to cage  it or muzzle it. Wise kings of old kept court fools who had the freedom to jest about imperial follies.  We see a number of such ` wise fools` in Shakespearean  plays. Even in the circus we have clowns who ape the artistes  clumsily  arousing peals of laughter , thereby relieving  the tension of the high strung trapeze artists.  Winston Churchill, who successfully led England through two world wars was an exceptionally witty man. Once a society  lady insulted him saying that if he were her husband she would poison him. He coolly quipped  in turn that if she were his wife he would drink it. Another time the dramatist Bernard Shaw attempted the snob game with him saying. `` I invite you to the first performance of  my play and bring a friend...if you have one``. Pat came his blistering  reply, `` Impossible to be present for the first performance. Will attend the second ... if there is one.``    .  When Gandhiji was visiting  King George in London  he made no change in his spare attire, with no shirt to his back. A palace officer condescendingly dropped a hint , `` Mr. Gandhi, do you think you are sufficiently dressed for the occasion? `` On the instant  came his unfazed reply. `` His majesty has enough clothes for both of us``.

Pomposity  and petty jealousies  can be seen even in religious circles. Once a  hushed   dispute arose among the close  disciples of Jesus as to who was the greatest among them. The wise master called a child and placing it in the centre of their circle and said, `` Unless you become like this little child, you will not enter the kingdom of God. `` Their egos shrunk then to healthy dimensions. John Paul II while fighting communist oppression in Poland when he was a young bishop was forbidden by the government to hold the annual traditional  procession with the picture of the famous Black Madonna. He did not despair.  He held the procession all the same with just the  frame of the picture and the knowing  huge crowd of devotees gallantly joined in . The  bamboozled  authorities  were at their wits` end at this out of the box thinking  coming from  the  unlikely quarters of a   churchman.  

Once an emperor  was visiting prisoners in the crowded  jail and he asked each of them about their lives and crimes. All of  them protested their innocence and blamed the government  and the courts for  their plight. One man alone confessed his crime honestly and had no complaints against the authorities. The emperor ordered his immediate  release and told the rest that  the presence of such a criminal  would be undesirable among so many innocents . We can see this subtle irony in Shakespeare  in the  classic speech of Mark Antony after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Not even once did he speak disrespectfully of the chief conspirator  Brutus but he rubbed in layers of irony with his repeated epithets of `honourable` and  `noble Brutus` `.  When  wit takes the back seat then powers that be order arrests and detentions. Great statesmen like Nehru never objected to any cartoons and in fact looked forward to be amused by the great  cartoons of R.K. Laxman.

( This article first appeared in the Sunday Open Page of `The Hindu `newspaper in March 2013)


PORUTHUR Joseph India Chennai
May 15, 2013

Let your conversation be pleasing with a touch of wit. Know how to speak to everyone in the best way. - Source: The Holy Bible [Colossians 4:6] Similarly the good person draws good things from the good stored in the heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in the heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart. [Luke 6:45]

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