You are currently viewing Learning to Face Injustice With Humor, Rather Than Anger

Learning to Face Injustice With Humor, Rather Than Anger

I am relearning the importance of humor in confronting injustice. I am not sure how many books I have read in recent years on plant based nutrition, animal rights, and the climate crisis, but once you become more aware and passionate in areas of great injustice, advocacy has the potential to negatively impact your health, happiness, and overall well-being (as well as those around you). I have been involved on some level with activism ever since the United States’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, and as a result, I know that there are no quick fixes. So, what to do?
Humor can help. I was reminded recently by none other than the great Mel Brooks that rhetoric alone will not get us anywhere, because the powers that be are just as good at it. But those same “powers that be” don’t stand a chance when it comes to humor. Of course it helps if you are Mel Brooks and a comedy genius, but you get the idea. 
Here are a couple of his quotes that I found inspiring:  
MB: “Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.”
MB: “Feeling different, feeling alienated, feeling persecuted, feeling that the only way to deal with the world is to laugh – because if you don’t laugh you’re going to cry and never stop crying – that’s probably what’s responsible for the Jews having developed such a great sense of humor. The people who had the greatest reason to weep, learned more than anyone else how to laugh.”
And because it’s Mel Brooks, here is one more:  “I have always been a huge admirer of my own work. I’m one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know.”       
The great Norman Lear changed television with his groundbreaking show All in the Family. I tried stand up comedy many years ago, and even though I was lousy, I can tell you that it is nearly impossible to take on heavy subject matter, and make people laugh, and think, at the same time. It really is an incredible accomplishment, and All in the Family remains, arguably, the greatest TV show of all time. Whether it was racism, homophobia, the Vietnam War, sexism, rape, religion, abortion, miscarriages, breast cancer, or menopause, no subject was out of bounds or too controversial. How does anyone do that? How do you present serious topics, and educate people, while also making them laugh out loud? I am still amazed, and All in the Family is just as relevant today, as it was 50 years ago. 🙂
In Trevor Noah’s excellent book “Born a Crime” his Mom taught him to face injustice (conditions of apartheid) with humor. I don’t remember if that is a quote from the book, or more of a gist thing, but I like it, so I am stealing it. Trevor Noah’s book is another example of how to take heavy subject matter, and share it in a way that is entertaining, yet doesn’t minimize the weight of the issue(s). Again, I was outraged (even though I knew a little bit about apartheid), and laughing at the same time.  
These thoughts were all brought on by a couple of books that I have read in the last few weeks. It feels good to sound that impressive. Two books, three weeks, me. The first was a book called “In Search of Wild Tofurky”, by Seth Tibbot, and the second was titled “The Skeptical Vegan”, by Eric C. Lindstrom. Both books took on potentially boring, or intense subject matter, and ended up being enjoyable reads (I laughed out loud many times, and I would avoid the TV so that I could get back to a book). Most advocates/activists, regardless of their level of involvement, run the risk of burnout for many reasons. I am thinking of a few people, but in particular Gary Yourofsky, who is/was a powerful advocate for animal rights but had to take a much deserved break as he was, in his own words, running on “empty”. Humor can help.
Some people may not agree, but I feel as though laughter is a gift, and one that should be used as often as possible, even in the most trying times. Thank you Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, and Trevor Noah’s Mom!  🙂
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments