Sarcasm

Another random nugget- this time from here.
I have always wondered about the compatibility of religiosity and sarcasm or about guys who increase their sarcasm as they buy into a yeshivish life.

“Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, gave a speech at Yale in 2005 in which he unpacked the media values of our generation — the slow descent from our parents’ ‘dry, cocktail party wit of Johnny Carson’ to the ‘sarcasm and twisted humor’ of David Letterman, and the emergence of the bottom-feeder humor that is Beavis and Butt-head and South Park. In these shows, Vischer says, ‘we had found our voice. We were safe from the world, as long as everything was treated as a joke.’He continues: Some folks believe Vietnam was the source of America’s modern cynicism. Others point to Watergate. But for me and for many others in my generation, the real root, I think, is much closer to home and much more personal. When we were very young, our parents broke their promises. Their promises to each other, and their promises to us. And millions of American kids in a very short period of time learned that the world isn’t a safe place; that there isn’t anyone who won’t let you down; that their hearts were much too fragile to leave exposed. And sarcasm, as CS Lewis put it, ‘builds up around a man the finest armor-plating … that I know.’”
Sarcasm seems to me to be a mixed bag. It is an effective rhetorical tool in criticizing customs, habits, institutions, and authorities. It is funny. But it does create an emotional distance – a dehumanizing “armor-plating.” As Jethani argues, it distances us from our anger and our fear. As I read him, he believes we cannot break through to love without directly confronting our anger and our fear.

2 responses to “Sarcasm

  1. moshe shoshan

    i am reminded of the classic exchange from Cynthia Ozick’s “Pagan Rabbi”

    “Sheindel, for a woman so pious you’re a great skeptic.”

    “An atheist’s statement” she rejoined. “The more piety the more skepticism. A religious man comprehends this. Superfluity, excess of custom and superstition would climb like a choking vine on the Fence of the Law if skepticism did not continualy hack them away to make way for purity.”

  2. The more substantial skepticism comes from the need to be mevattel enlightenment values that surround us and contradict many religions’ ontogenies, cosmogonies and ontologies. You need much more sarcasm to get past this blockage than you will need coming from the other end, to get over some texts and a way of ethical life which are much more localized, much less a part of who we are as subjects.

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