Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Not So Happy Ending to Communism

I'm often reminded that Communism doesn't have to be such a serious discussion topic all of the time. One of the better aspects of such a genuinely serious ideology -- I don't care what anyone says, Engels and Bertolt Brecht just weren't funny at all -- is that it often produces wonderful humor, particularly amongst its dissidents. The Czechoslovakian dissident movement, led by Vaclav Havel and the Plastic People of the Universe, was proof alone that collectivization and suppression can easily go along with laughter.

Two noteworthy examples. The first comes from Havel's famous essay "The Power of the Powerless," which begins with the story of a greengrocer living in a Communist country, who habitually "places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: Works of the world, unite!" [Suggestion: don't read the essay. It sort of kills the joke, if you know what I mean]

Much along the same lines -- dissidents weren't immune to formulaic humor, either -- though funny nonetheless, is one from Slavoj Zizek [Beware of link: long lecture]. Back in Communist Slovenia, whenever there were "free elections" (in the Balkans, apparently, candidates would only win by 80% instead of the typical 99% in the Soviet Union), Zizek and his friends would lead their dissident newspaper with the headline, "Latest News: Surprise! Communists Poised to Remain in Power."

One of the problems of living in a non-totalitarian country which doesn't oppress its citizens all that much is that such humorous avenues are closed off. Are there any good American dissident jokes people can think of? My only rather lame and derivative idea would be something like an inverse of Havel's: An immigrant who supports herself by giving happy endings places a sign on her corner that reads, "In this, as in many other cases, you will be led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of your intention...."

7 Comments:

Blogger Robot said...

I must also at this time reference what I consider to be the height of American dissident humor, which I cite without his approval: our own Scantron's "Whopper Luther King Jr" idea.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

I enjoy the simple pleasure of being reminded of my own forgotten jokes. (Jokes?) As far as Communist jokes go, there are too many great ones. Here's a whole website full of them, translated from the russian:

http://www.geocities.com/troys_tales/jokes.html

samples:

(this one will be pertinent after seeing "lives of others")

One East German policeman asks another:

'What do you think of our regime?'

'The same as you.'

'Then it's my duty to arrest you!'

and:

A person is walking along the street in one boot.

'Have you lost a boot?' a passer-by asks.

'On the contrary - I've found one!'

and:

Lenin showed us how to govern. Stalin showed us how not to govern. Khrushchev showed us that any fool can govern. And Brezhnev showed us that not every fool can govern.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

That E. German one's a helluva lot better than the one in the movie about hanging poor old Honecker.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Sebonde said...

Well, I've come up with a quatrain that is sorta funny, but not what you are angling for:

Freedom, it is the gods' radiant spark,
We'll defend it with blood on a lark,
So let us glut ourselves with gooey gobs of
pornographic sex,
As we feed the military industrial complex.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Sebonde said...

Well, I've come up with a quatrain that is sorta funny, but not what you are angling for:

Freedom, it is the gods' radiant spark,
We'll defend it with blood on a lark,
So let us glut ourselves with gooey gobs of
pornographic sex,
As we feed the military industrial complex.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Sebonde said...

Oh, here is a dissident American joke. See if this works. What is the difference between a hooker and the American Dream? The former is much cheaper.

5:16 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

IN SOVIET RUSSIA, JOKE TELLS YOU

5:06 PM  

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