Wit and wisdom go together like … a gin and tonic? Whatever. They add fizz and flavour to the everyday, a chance to sit back, wind down and put things in perspective.
As an avid collector of volumes quoting the off-the-cuff, pithy, pertinent and cutting observations of our brightest and sharpest wits from Machiavelli to Voltaire; Mark Twain to HL Mencken; Elizabeth I to the Queen Mum and Maggie Thatcher; Churchill to Margot Asquith; Eve Arden to Joan Rivers and Bette Davis; Oscar Wilde to George Bernard Shaw and Dorothy Parker as well as being a lover of British, American and our own stand-up comedians and a raft of comic teams from the Goons, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Monty Python to the Big Bang Theory and Clarke and Daw, I wonder what legacy of laughter and targeted ridicule the first two decades of the twenty-first century will leave behind. At the current rate, the bookshelves devoted to collections of witty and wise quotes from the last 20 or so years are scant while sit-coms are straightjacketed into ‘niceness’. And who wants to be ‘nice’?
Well it seems that vapid and curdling ‘niceness’ is all the rage at the moment. It isn’t difficult being nice as it requires neither the wit required for quick independent thought (aka repartee) nor the wisdom earned through living a varied and productive life to identify the fault, vanity or weakness that deserves the put-down. The guiding rule used to be that ‘if you can’t say anything nice – make sure it’s humorous’. Now it is “You can’t say that”. Belonging to the New Niceness helps if you are NVB (not very bright), under forty years of age and have as your highest academic achievement a diploma or degree in low-level humanities/journalism/climate science/social work/alternative medicine from a community college or Australian university (aka a madrasa) plus membership of The Greens, the Labor Left and GetUp!
For help in knowing what is nice and what isn’t there is a chorus of voices on air and in print (from the pulpits of the ABC and Fairfax) who are willing to show those lacking enough critical thinking faculties re how to behave:- marching during the middle of the day when everyone else is working; placard holding; joining name-calling rallies and generally getting in the way of those keeping the country going.
You will learn ‘Niceness Speak’, as in what adverbs and adjectives to use under any context, what the key name-calling nouns are and who and what to identify with – all of which can be found on university campuses, many schools, our ABC and media such as Fairfax, BBC, the New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post and CNN to ensure you are reading from the same page of new diversity-sensitive, all-inclusive ‘niceness’.
But here’s the rub – it isn’t inclusive. In order to protect this ‘niceness’ the leaders of the movement are allowed to be rude, talk over, ignore alternative opinions and valid information during on-air interviews (such as Q&A), in print journalism, disrupt public and commercial spaces, be excoriating and anything but nice to those who don’t hold to the new oxymoronic creed of ‘inclusive niceness’ from which they are excluded.
All the witty and widely experienced curmudgeons, misanthropes, scolds, cynics, misogynists, satirists, cartoonists, critics, humourists and sceptics who play with both words and radically independent thoughts on the spur of the moment, for the fun of it, have their language to spread their wit and wisdom silenced but feminists, misanthropes, catastrophists, Islamists and socialists are allowed to proselytise their creed to the great unwashed virtually unchallenged.
It isn’t ‘Thought Police’. It is ‘Words Police’ that are the problem as people will increasingly keep their thoughts to themselves. And hell hath no fury like the members of the gender/ culture/religious diversity-sensitive, vegetarian/vegan, CO2 terrified, fossil fuel and boss-hating Niceness Brigade having their ideas scorned.
The trouble with this latter group is they are lead balloons in the humour department. Perhaps the lack of wit is a genetic defect? Let’s hope they don’t begat but who knows what happens in their rally-side tent cities. They don’t party, they are not sitting at the table that is laughing and joking, they whinge and GetUp! everyone’s nose. They are unfunny, earnest, driven and noisy.
They also take themselves very seriously and collectively read from the same text using approved vocabulary such as: ‘feelings; ‘hurt’ (refer feelings); ‘gender sensitivity’; ‘sensitivity’; diversity sensitive; environmental/wildlife warrior; cultural pluralism/interdependence; supportive/inclusive/ness; accepting, embracing, identifying, identity politics, bullying (anti-), Climate Alarmism. From this limited playlist, few wander because they don’t operate as individuals. Please, Margaret Atwood, write about this new societal discombobulation.
Many times over the past weeks the appalling lack of rigour in the learning outcomes of the millennials exiting from our schools and universities has been pointed out and is humiliating. From Baby Boomers being taught the history of Europe, world exploration via the oceans, the establishment of empires, the massive cultural and intellectual change that was the Reformation of Christianity (as Tony Abbott has pointed out Islam needs this, and now, to join this century), the Enlightenment, The Age of Reason to the rise of Socialism and the dialectic, the revolt of the Russian peasantry through to their demoralising handover to a new set of tsars, to democracy and its spread of ideas across the world to the wars that have brought countries to their knees – we are now losing our raison d’etre built from all that this past has given us and the good that it has brought to Australian society because we now have universities such as ANU deliberately designing a new anti-Australian intellectualism.
Without wisdom being taught what about wit? Witty social repartee has now departed to a distant, historical space. Sophisticated society has forgotten its rules of engagement which were to be elegant, controversial and entertaining.
Are we about to see the reintroduction of the Scolds Bridle – a metal harness that went over the head and through the mouths of women who said the wrong things to stop them talking? Will Lionel Shriver, Janet Albrechtsen, Corrine Barraclough, Bettina Arndt be paraded in them? Will that leave us the dour countenances of Angela Merkel, Michelle Guthrie, and Gillian Triggs for dinner table sparkle?
At this point, it will be definitely to reach for a grin as that is the tonic so time to bring on The LightenUpment.
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