Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, "I have never confided in anyone. By being an author I have in a sense made the public my confidant. But in respect of my relation to the public I must, once again, make posterity my confidant. The same people who are there to laugh at one cannot very well be made one's confidant." Or so his Wikipedia article would have me believe. Probably, he is articulating a problem that anyone who has ever penned anything without the mildly helpful veil of anonymity faces. I wouldn't know. Ironically, Kierkegaard himself published his magnum opus under a pseudonym. Wikipedia also tells me he was fond of irony. Everyone would love to be that sought-after author of unique ideas—and many even aspire to be that paragon of snark who can make people laugh by dismantling arguments with biting satire while simultaneously disarming their opponents with charming wit. Often, though, in our attempts we end up accidentally beating people over the head with our meaning and people just laugh at us instead. Like Kierkegaard, I'm resigned to people laughing at me, but I think explaining jokes is kind of like a magician explaining a magic trick. Chomsky would have us believe we can rage against cogs instead of raging against the machine—ultimately, it seems to me, a fruitless endeavor. David Simon's work points out that institutions perpetuate themselves despite, and often at the expense of, the individuals within them. A friend of mine linked me to some Chomsky-critiquing blogger who said "might makes right," and we—who agree with everything we read on the Internet—concluded that you can't destroy the machine without becoming a part of one, and ultimately you can only ever subvert once you're inside. And even then you might end up riding the boat. Satire, then, is a dish best served with subversive subtlety. Sometimes humor must be derived from places where anything but laughter would be too depressing. Ignorance, be it feigned or otherwise, of our own human futility never ceases to amuse me. Unbeknownst to myself at the time, I realize now I was living another reference to "The Wire" (a TV show so good it all but ruined the rest of television for me—and certainly not a work of satire). Simon, the writer of the show and a former newspaper reporter himself, is quite critical of the way newspapers are complicit in institutional stasis, which his work portrays by often going after the story instead of the news. In the fifth season, the reporters of the Baltimore Sun spend months of their time covering an invented and irrelevant criminal instead of news of actual import. I'd like to thank the good folks at Bwog for re-enacting this last semester and commend the good folks at the Spect for failing to do so. "Castigat Ridendo Mores," Molière said, no doubt addressing Kierkegaard. Comedy criticizes, and hopefully corrects, customs by laughing at them. Kierkegaard was, unfortunately, too busy struggling with God for self-improvement. So where does that leave us? At the end of a badly written and exceedingly pretentious op-ed that probably no one will read and ultimately leaves us none the wiser. The author is a School of Engineering and Applied Science senior majoring in applied physics. He is a writer for SpecSucks.
Columbia Spectator Staff