A frequent casualty of the Politically Correct (PC) movement is one of the most valuable and healing gifts of the human race, one which the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer called “the only divine quality in man” —namely, humor.
From the perspective of depth psychology humor engages the shadow, the part of the personality that is repressed, ignored or otherwise denied. We construct a persona (public face) for ourselves, but what is also part of ourselves yet refused expression becomes our shadow. As the term suggests, the shadow is what we keep in the dark.
The persona serves a useful function for the expression of our identity and outer role in life. However, our persona can create problems when it is rigid, constricting or distorting of our real personality. It is also problematic when we have identified with it, that is, when we act as if it is all of who we are. In such cases we speak of living out of a false self.
Fortunately for us our shadow has a remedy. It brings us back to earth by laughing at us, poking fun at us and tripping us up. It punches holes in our persona. At a collective level, it makes fun of our herd-like thinking, our arrogance, our false and subtly coercive societal and cultural personas.
The trickster is an archetypal figure, or essence, that arises from the shadow side of the personality. The trickster is what we might call the patron saint of comedy. The trickster part of our personality, and the trickster part of life, uses humor to release tension. It helps us acknowledge truths, attitudes and feelings we might otherwise ignore or deny. It helps us to see and embrace paradoxes, resolve disagreements and see things in new ways. When necessary, it humbles us by undermining and deflating our false self or stilted persona. The trickster energy in life connects people through experiences of shared laughter and humanness.
The proclivity of PC advocates (hereafter referred to as the PC Gestapo) towards judgmentalness, arrogance and interference is revealed by the way they often impose their PC ideology onto others. If you don’t like the humor of a particular comedian, for example, the mature thing to do is to simply not tune in to that comedian. Live and let live, laugh and let laugh. But the PC movement has a tendency to so embolden people with a sense of righteousness and moral superiority that they feel justified in dictating to others what is and isn’t funny, what should be a subject of humor and what shouldn’t. Comedian Colin Quinn speaks to this issue when he sarcastically observes, Bloggers tell me all the time, they say, “as a comedian, don’t you realize you’re supposed to evolve with your audience?” [that is, be politically correct] And that is true. That is actually why I got into comedy, so I could march in lockstep with society’s contemporary conventions. Quinn’s point is that humor is supposed to challenge societal norms by giving the shadow a voice.
A society that can’t laugh at itself and people who feel it is their job to make sure humor never offends anyone are doomed—and try to doom others—to a stale and humorless life. With PC as nightstick, we are cultivating a society of thin-skinned, prickly people who can’t laugh at themselves and who arrogantly wield a socially-sanctioned form of suppression. Rather than defusing conflict between social groups, excessive, knee-jerk repression of humor by the lock-in-step PC Gestapo may actually increase anger, resentment and violence.
The psyche does not lie, so when there is spontaneous, honest laughter there is also a truth. It may not be a truth for everyone, but it does reveal a truth about the person who laughs. When the shadow laughs there is a reason why. There is something we can learn in all genuine laughter. To try and tell the psyche what is funny and what is not, to regulate and dictate its responses is repressive and injurious at both the individual and societal levels. Society needs its safety valves and humor is one of them.
Many Native American tribes used trickster figures to bring levity to their sacred rituals. They knew the danger of psychological inflation and of their people, especially of their religious leaders, becoming identified with or possessed by their roles, tempting the imposition of their morality on others. How much healthier our society might be if religious groups and all idealism worshippers regularly poked fun of and laughed at themselves and their tendency to self-righteousness. It is time for the PC Gestapo to laugh at themselves and acknowledge the extremity, insensitivity and inhumanity of some of their viewpoints.
In the interest of humor welfare I list below nine signs that you, or someone you know, might be a member of the PC Gestapo:
1) You are a administrator, personnel or human resources manager.
2) You suffer from the delusion that you hold no prejudices, are never
judgmental and possess no stereotyped views of any social, racial,
religious or other group.
3) You have difficulty laughing at yourself.
4) Deep down you are still angry that you didn’t pass the tests necessary to
become a policeman or a lawyer.
5) People find you boring.
6) You have an unconscious God complex.
7) You are reluctant to take risks and lack empathy for those who do.
8) You adopt the ready-made morality of mainstream society rather than
putting in the effort and sacrifice to discover and define your own.
9) You only wear underwear that has been starched, pressed and
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
Excerpts may be used provided full and clear credit is given author with link to original article.