Conversations have become a contest. People will talk to each other, and quite often it seems the only thing carrying the discussion forward is the participants’ interest in being the one who will espouse the wittier sarcastic comment for the evening. Which among us will be the first to point out a fellow commenter’s inferior tastes and ridicule her/his personal interests for sport? “Pff, you actually listen to that? No, no, I’m sure it’s great. As long as you enjoy listening to mass-produced, watered down crap, I’m sure it’s just amazing. Hahaha!” We are a generation of Jesters, and sarcasm is our native tongue.
It goes further than just a humorized pissing-contest to determine who is the most nonconformist of us all in regard to pop-culture trends. Being the better joking cynic is, in and of itself, a very coveted role nowadays. Is there anyone around who doesn’t see her/himself as the silver tongued renegade, putting those around her/him to shame with one clever phrase or pun?
Thus, the role of the Jester is romanticized as the stalwart, nobly standing for truth against an authoritarian regime. (I believe the reminder most thrown around is how, in centuries past, it was only Jester who could mock the follies of the King. A nuance that I have become keen on pointing out, however, is that, no matter how clever a Jester’s words may be, they have never, and they will never, do anything to overthrow the authority of the King he mocks.)
The reason all strive to be the witty cynic, is that cynicism is at this point in time the absolute laziest form of passive resistance to whatever ills one might recognize in society. Because it’s relatively easy to tear something down, but unfathomably hard to build anything worth looking at up in its place. Yet, shouldn’t this last bit be the most important component of any legitimate social commentary? If you notice that the foundation to a house is faulty, doesn’t it do more good to roll up your sleeves and think of a way by which to replace the rotting structure? Does mocking it with your cynical wit do anything at all to point out solutions to the problem at hand? Perhaps it gives you satisfaction, and those around you a jolly laugh, but that doesn’t change the fact that the house you’re in is sinking into the ground. You claim you don’t care about the issue at all? Then why bothering giving it enough of your attention to seek out and comment on at all?
When you talk to people, are you really engaging them in a conversation? Or are you partly listening, partly waiting for a mishap on which to pounce on and demonstrate your clever wit?
What I fear is that if we become the generation that speaks in fast-paced, sarcastic soundbites, how will we communicate when the times calls for us to talk through issues which demand for us to expand our attention span past ready-made slogans, chants, and punchlines?
Jesters may be suited at pointing out problems, they are hardly fit to reason out solutions for them.