Laughter the Best Antidote to Bad News

Beats Crying!

We’re rolling down a Pyrenees mountain road, the green flanks of the four wheel drive skimming past matching trees and mossy stones when John says: “Feminists should know that the best way to get their message across is to say it with laughter.”

A fortnight ago this would have sent my Germaine-Greer-quoting, Gloria-Steinem-loving, proudly old-school feminist spikes springing out all over the place. It doesn’t because A) John’s cheery County Meath brogue could render news of the apocalypse light-hearted and B) these two weeks are the culmination of months where every sign and wonder has indicated, gently or otherwise, that John is stating the bleeding obvious. It is a tribute to the intensity of my solipsism that this forehead-slappingly apparent fact is just now working its way into the fibres of my brain. Maybe the spring at La Muse watered a few new dendrites; maybe somewhere in the midst of writing, reading, knocking back bottles of Minervoix, and hiking through golden forests of chestnut trees the latch finally sprang on a cobweb-laced trapdoor in my soul. Whatever the reason, I lean back and laugh.

Laughter is at the heart of self-professed “strident feminist” Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman. She is pictured on the cover in the midst of a hearty chuckle. Reading, I think of the quote attributed to Margaret Atwood: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them.” In the past my focus always leapt to the “men will kill” part but now my response is: “Hey, if men are overawed by women laughing, I should laugh more!” Like Hunter Thompson said: “Freedom is a challenge. You decide who you are by what you do.” To be a free human being (which is the starting point for being a kick-arse feminist, or a kick-arse anything) we have to be able to look the world in the eye and laugh aloud.

Sexism is no laughing matter; nor are recession, global warming, and police tear-gassing good middle-class citizens in cities across the world. But if we wait on a perfect world to allow ourselves to crack a smile we’ll die frowning and the bastards will win. Misogynists, oppressive governments and greedy oligarchs feed on the unhappiness of others. They may have the power to fuck you around a little but, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent” – and it’s impossible to be beat down when you’re laughing.

Confucius remarks that: “Only one who is humane is able to like other people and able to dislike other people.” I’d add that only a truly humane person can laugh. Life in the first world is heroically absurd, however you look at it. Thanksgiving turkeys are such genetic freaks they can’t breed naturally, people create digital versions of themselves to live in fictional worlds, an entire industry is built around taking pictures of famous ladies not wearing make-up, and Mitt Romney is a legitimate presidential hopeful. We’ve built a lunatic society and now we run around the asylum pretending to be sane. It’s too daft to be tragic so by god, it has to be funny. Enjoy it. Laugh!

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