Published On: Fri, Jan 9th, 2015

In Praise of Folly

Jacob Gelt DekkerWomen should not laugh in public in Turkey, Mr. Bülent Arınç, the Deputy Prime Minister said in his speech of July 2014, on “Moral corruption” in his country.

Last month, Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea ensued a cyber war over the film comedy, “ The Interview,” produced by SONY in Hollywood.

Hardly a month later, followers of al-Awlaki, an Al-Qaeda leader of Yemen, unleashed a bloodbath in Paris over a series of cartoons, produced by Charlie Hebdo.

These absolute and dogmatic political and religious leaders fear, humor in all its forms, since humor threatens their self-importance and their weak, untenable dogmas. Therefore, they impose solemnity on their subordinates and instill fear by beastly brutality. Pomposity, rigidity, loss of ordinary human warmth and easy, open communication characterizes their personalities and presence.

“Their opinion of themselves is so great that they behave as if they were already in heaven; they look down pityingly on other men as so many worms. A wall of imposing definitions, conclusions, corollaries, and explicit and implicit propositions protects them. They are full of big words and newly-invented nonsense,” said Erasmus in his Praise of Folly of 1509, criticizing Catholic priests.

The frivolity of arguments and absurdity of jokes are a most powerful tool. “By the immortal gods, I solemnly swear to you that the happiest men are those whom the world calls fools, simpletons and blockheads. (Erasmus)”. Humor reminds us of our collective humanity and renders even the worst decision tolerable.

Stupidity won’t win. Thousands of Turkish women laughed out loud in public protest against their Deputy Prime Minister. “The Interview” by SONY gained publicity and popularity far beyond anything such a third rate movie would ever have received. Charlie Hebdo is to publish one million copies of the otherwise only 60,000 edition, next week.

The spilled blood was not in vain. Millions rose up to defend their rights to humor. The days of dogmatic fundamentalists of any kind are numbered in the world of freedom.

“Wherefore farewell, clap your hands, live and drink lustily, my most excellent disciples of Folly!”

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