‘Life is like a sewer – what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.’ It’s always seemed to me that this is precisely the sort of dynamic, positive thinking that we so desperately need today in these trying times of crisis and universal brouhaha.

Introduction to “We Will All Go Together When We Go” – Tom Lehrer

What wise words, particularly when we look at our own brouhaha times.  George W being accused of being a socialist? The UK media positively encouraging the country to pick an Old Etonian PR man and his wallpaper magnate sidekick to run the country? Well, now, at last, the UK has something widely available and as good as The Onion in which we can seek solace from the lunacy.  The Daily Mash is an online piss-take newspaper. Neither left nor right, just smart and fun. It makes me feel I’m not so alone in the Stepford World that the Mail would have me see around me. Today’s fave piece for me can be found here, under the heading “MORE CHOICE FOR COUPLES TO PRETEND THEY BELIEVE IN GOD”.

Satirical genius Tom Lehrer said that satire became obsolete when they awarded Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize (he also came out with an absolute beauty of encapsulated thought which I’m going to paste at the end of this posting, so as not to get distracted by it). In the UK, satire and lampooning looked as though they had been sucked up the Daily Mail’s noxious backside in the last few years. The alternative (i.e. leftie) comedians lay on their backs and died, claiming, “it’s so hard to mock New Labour”. – I’m sorry?

What kind of lazy, complacent, non-boat-rocking rubbish was that? What, did they think that if they poked fun, the whole house of cards would fall down? True enough, the mandate was never as solid as some of those in the yore-days of Thatcherdom (all the more reason to introduce proportional representation, you’d have thought; aw, shucks, John-boy: there goes another missed opportunity at not-very-radicalism).

But as any fule know, having the mickey taken out of you is a healthy thing: it makes you aware of how you appear to others; how you behave; the impact of your actions; see your flaws. And let’s face it – any politician could do with more of that. And if Brown has a great flaw –  which is more Thomas Hardy-esque (think Michael Henchard, the Mayor of Casterbridge) than Shakespearian – it is that in the early days, he surrounded himself with people too young or inexperienced or ambitious to have the guts to stand up to him. Now that he is older and wiser, he has created GOATS (Government of All the Talents), a government with people who do dare speak out, who do offer genuinely constructive criticism. But they do not stay for long.

It seems, from the outside, that Brown still cannot abide (I use the word deliberately) contradiction. For all that he is a son of the Manse (non-Brits, this is the Scottish equivalent of being the son of the vicarage), the genuine humility so oft preached by the Bible is missing. Brown is more Old Testament than New: for I am a jealous God, and all that.

Brown needs lampooning – all the New Labour Cabinet does. They need to listen, to act, to have some salt rubbed in their wounds. The Tories are finally learning the lessons taught so long and so hard by their own satire, and they will (like some fast-evolving toxic micro-organism) learn faster this time. Unless Labour genuinely shows humility, humanity and a sense of humour, they will be responsible for handing the country to the sorts of people who think that our state-run schools and hospitals should be a last resort; that the state must be 20% smaller (lower taxes, far fewer public facilities: libraries, after-school clubs; council-run play schemes); who believe that families come first (i.e. not single parents) and ideally best when the women stay at home, that being gay is – to a greater or lesser degree – wrong; that the country shouldn’t let in any more immigrants… You can see where I’m coming from. I know Labour is pissing off a lot of people: but they’ve not (apart from on detention without charge and possibly permitting so-called “rendition flights” and umpteen other civil liberties issues, but that is for another day) been out-and-out Bad.

So come on, you established and aspiring comics, writers, performers. Start lampooning. Feel free to use the comments box!

Back to that peace-inspiring and remarkable Lehrer line I wouldn’t let you see earlier. Here it is:

I find enough mystery in mathematics to satisfy my spiritual needs. I think, for example, that pi is mysterious enough (don’t get me started!) without having to worry about God. Or if pi isn’t enough, how about fractals? or quantum mechanics?

– Tom Lehrer

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