February 10th, 2017 *still in Mexico
Various funny people have been asking themselves lately if satire is now a dead horse, and if it is a dead horse, is it still worth beating?
Or: Is satire dead?
Firstly – The more pain and injustice there is, the more smart people will suffer internally, and the more smart people suffer internally, the more they will make jokes as a last bid to avoid entering mental institutions.
Secondly – Let’s talk dead horses. If I actually saw a man in the street beating a dead horse, I would not primarily think, “oh, that’s pointless,” and walk on by. I would more likely think, “oh no, that man is deranged,” and “oh, that poor horse, I know it’s dead but I can’t stop the instinctual activation of my reserves of pity” and “why the hell is this injustice happening” and “egad, I’d better call the authorities.”
Unless I didn’t trust the authorities. In which case I would likely be traumatized by my feelings of powerlessness in witnessing the event, and write about it.
I don’t believe satire will die just because the government is rude and hyperbolic and absurdist. Nor do I think current circumstances kill our need for rude, hyperbolic, absurdist artwork.
Great satire is lifted up by these qualities: intelligence, a clear-eyed sense of injustice, big picture analysis, and an unflinching commitment to examining ourselves at our worst.
Real satire is more coherent than a government led by colicky toddlers. Beating a dead horse might not bring the horse back to life but it can make you think and feel – about the horse, about the man who keeps beating, about absurdity, about desperation, about the social conditions of the man and the horse.
We need great works of satire in the intimate and ambitious mediums of theater, novels, and poetry.
Anything that can laughed at should be taken seriously, and vice versa.