Humour and Offence

In the light of recent events in Paris we thought that it would be timely in this weeks podcast to address the issues of humour and offence. Which I guess begins with the idea of what is humour and what is offence? So I thought I would follow up with this blog.

This is a natural human emotion that is shared by all people in all parts of the world. Humour is often an emotional release typified by the fact that as a response to laughter our brain secretes happy hormones that will make us feel good. In many situations humour has a stress management function that allows for the release of tension. In some areas that are particularly stressful such as operating theatres, accident and emergency departments and ambulance or police response teams the humour may become very dark. If this humour is heard by people outside of the ‘group’ it may well be experienced as offensive, yet its function for those within the group is vital, it enable them to function.

Physical humour is often about laughing at other people’s physical misfortunes. The programme ‘You’ve Been Framed’ catalogues people falling off things or having accidents in ways that are seen by the viewers as funny. The fact that the incidents can be seriously damaging or life threatening is not taken into account. There is something about other people getting hurt that many of us find endlessly funny.

Social humour is the one that seems to create the most offence. This can become problematic because social humour tends to identify different groups as ‘us’ and ‘them’ but on the basis that one group is denigrated. When I was young the common joke was based around “There was an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman…” the punchline was always that the English man came out on top while the others were depicted as being stupid or as coming off worst. I don’t know if in Scotland the jokes were told with the roles reversed as in “there was a Scotsman, and Irishman and an Englishman…” but it was the Englishman who came off worst? I hope there were/are.

Self Denigrating humour is often used as form of bonding that intensifies our connectedness with the group. Older people may make a joke out of their poor memory or inability to do something which is another stress management function that others in the group can identify with.

As a child I heard a lot of Jewish humour. There were jokes told by Jews, about Jews, to other Jews, example.

Mani visits Isi who is stripping the wallpaper.
Mani asks “Isi my boy are you redecorating”
Isi looks puzzled and replies
“No I’m moving”.

Intellectual humour is clever, may be sarcastic and often rude. It involves playing with ideas in a unique way.

The once was a man from Porthcawl
Who had a Hexihedronical Ball
It’s molecular weight
Was Pi over eight
Multiplied by the root of F**k all

Offensive humour is when something is designed to put down or hurt other people. Accepting that this may happen accidentally, offensive behaviour is really when it is intended. It is important to realise that we cannot be offended without our permission. Undoubtedly if we are the minority and the majority go out of the way to poor negative humour over us on a daily basis it will wear us down and would be describes as abuse, harassment or bullying.

Learning not to be offended is something that happens with maturity. When an individual, organisation, group, or sect are immature they have thin skins are unable to take or understand the humour that may be aimed at them. As groups mature and feel more confident in who they are, and what they believe, they are able to allow the humour to flow over them or even enjoy and appreciate it.

It is important that we do not go out of our way to offend others, yet we must also ensure that we do not allow others fears or immaturity to stop the magic of free speech. Intolerance, whether it is based in religion, dogma or ideology, if not confronted, will crush the freedom that allows for the development of human evolution.

Not sure who said this but I agree with it.
“The only thing that we should be intolerant of is intolerance”

Check out the link for some more interesting quotes

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see -egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be ready to fight the enemy you can see.”
― Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

Finally, laughter is good. To be able to laugh, lovingly, at yourself and your fellow human beings is a gift. Be mindful and try not to offend others and remember that if we all look after each other we can have heaven on earth right now.

Take care and be happy

Sean x

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