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On the understated liberalism of ironic stupidity

March 11, 2014 1 comment

You know when you hang out with your buddies who you’ve known for years, sometimes decades, and no matter what you say, they know how to read that against the backdrop of your past actions and words? And how often you’re glad nobody else hears what you say, because they’d be bound to get the different levels of sarcasm and irony all wrong and take your utterings literally? Which is likely to result in you getting punched in the teeth or slapped upside your head with a handbag — by the very people who you feel most sympathetic for? (I would’ve expected them to at least hi-five me.)

There’s little else that feels as comfortable as being blindly understood regardless of the level of literal stupidity that comes out of your mouth. But then you meet new people (which is a good thing, mind you!) If you’re lucky, you instantly click and find you share the same kinds of views, and you find out you do so because you realize that new acquaintance is fully fluent in sarcasm and has all the right comebacks for your remarks? It’s like a match made in heaven! Sometimes, however, you meet new people and you realize whatever you say causes massive confusion in the other. That’s when you have a problem on your hands. That’s where you’d have to do the obvious thing and snap out of sarcasm mode, and instead speak in plain text. Oh the humiliation! But with the kind of near-pathological knack for understatement and sarcasm that I have, I flat-out refuse to explain myself. Au contraire, I like to use sarcasm as a kind of light meter to detect the degree of brightness in my new interlocutor. If they fail to spot even the most ridiculous of utterances on, say, the wenches, or the bloody foreigners (I’m half-immigrant myself, by the way, and some of my favourite people in the world are women), I know it’s not worth going much deeper. If they do pick up on the impossible stupidity of what I’ve just said, we have a basis for communication and, dare I say, a friendship might not be too far off. (Somebody understand me!)

I’ve often thought about ways of giving an innocent person a heads up. It’s probably not their fault if they’ve grown up in an environment where people just say exactly what they mean, with no twists and turns to it. But then I abandoned the thought to avoid going through the tedious task of teaching someone how to assess the presumable seriousness of an utterance against the real world of modern thought and latest facts available. Not to mention that what they secretly think of me plays an important role, as well. If they take me for a moron to begin with, they won’t bother trying to find the brilliance that I’ve ever so carefully and painstakingly wrapped into several layers of double-entendre and irony. (I occasionally like to flatter myself.)

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