You may have read in the news recently that Kim Jong-un wants to ban sarcasm in North Korea, as he fears that people only agree with him ironically.
First of all, I have to congratulate him on his grasp of irony. As I’ve written about before, it can be a tricky concept that people often struggle to get their heads round. So that he understands that sarcasm is a form of irony gives me some degree of satisfaction. It doesn’t make up for everything he’s done, but at least it goes to show that not everyone is completely evil.
Of course, such a proposition forces one to wonder simply how he plans to ban sarcasm. Of course he can crack down on people using popular, sarcastic, anti-government phrases in public. The problem with that being that it’s very easy to be seen to be trying very hard to suppress something, which only makes people why you’d do that, and wonder what you’re suppressing. And look it up. And talk about it. Which quite defeats the purpose.
But obviously you can’t really ban sarcasm, and I think Kim Jong-un knows that very well. Like charity, sarcasm begins at home. Sarcasm, the potentially revolutionary kind Kim’s worried about, starts with two people laughing at their benevolent leader’s latest pronouncement against the West. “I hear we’re going to launch missiles against the contiguous United States, isn’t that great?” “Yes, I’m so proud of our magnificent leader, who doesn’t look like a big baby who needs to be burped at all. More grass?” That’s where revolution begins: in the pub, or the living room, or the corner shop.
And it begins with people talking. Just using their words to share their ideas, and that’s the core of a revolution that always remains. Yes, there’s the guns and bombs, but everything else is mostly words: protest slogans, placards, speeches: we try to affect change by saying why we want change and what we want to be different. Which isn’t so different from two people talking after work about how ridiculous their leader is. All the world’s weapons are purposeless without words first expressing why they should be used, or persuading people that they should be used against certain other people. Language is the world’s greatest weapon because it’s our most direct expression of our thoughts. And that’s why so many dictatorships want to deny freedom of speech. And sarcasm is really quite potentially revolutionary. It’s so simple and direct, you can’t hide from it. It doesn’t hide it’s meaning behind lots of rhetoric. It just takes what the establishment has said and by simply changing tone, it completely changes its meaning, negates it, reduces it to nothing. So of course dictators hate it, but I wonder if any of them have been self-conscious of how it might show how scared they are, how insecure about their position they feel? Not Kim Jong-un though, he’s a really great leader!
*sarcasm detector explodes*