When I was a child I saw an old film on television. The film was made in black and white. I forgot the name of the film but I remember its central message. The film was about a film director who wanted to make a film about the injustice that the poor suffer. He decided to meet the poor people himself without telling them what his job was. He wanted to learn what it was like to be a poor person. But the poor thought him an important lesson. They already know about their struggles. They don’t need to be told about what it is like to be a poor person. A film about poverty and the poor might inform the rich but would it achieve anything positive? At the end of this film the director made a comedy. There was a scene at the end of the film when poor people are at a cinema watching this comedy and laughing out loud.
This film had an influence on me. Comedy is important in the lives of human beings. Comedy reveals the absurdities that life throws up. It makes us feel happy and feeling happy is important. It also gives us a feeling of hope. Without hope humans will give up and die. It is the feeling of hope that nations fight against the odds to defeat their oppressors. It was hope and a determination to defeat fascism that saw the allies win World War II. It is hope that social reforms will succeed that gave confidence to the campaign for the rights for women to vote in elections. Hope is a vital element in the progress of human society.
Satire is a form of comedy. In democracies satire is a harmless form of fun. Famous people might feel honoured, indifferent or offended at satire. Satire might reveal the truth of society that news can’t or wouldn’t reveal. But satire might not understand what the politicians are up to.
But try satire in a dictatorship and you will find that satire would get banned. Those people who are engaged in satire move into exile, or they are imprisoned or they are killed. The truth seems to be that dictators don’t like satire or real comedy. They prefer if people are afraid. They prefer if the people don’t laugh at the absurdity of life. Dictatorships prefer to rule over grim fearful desolate states.
Comedy isn’t mere comedy. It is the expression of the human being who seeks to bring the fearful forces down to size. It is the expression of a person who believes that the obstacles of life can and will be resolved. It is the expression of someone who is happy because they recognize that ultimately the negative in life will be defeated.