Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Humour and Brexit

The British usually pride ourselves on our sense of humour and think people should be able to take a joke. The fact that some people are having difficulty doing so about our departure from the EU is an indication of how much it the associated issues divide the country.

A story in the Telegraph in which comedians complain of audience members walking out at anti-Brexit jokes suggests that a lot of people in the provinces are still having a sense of humour failure over the sort of "joke" which presents everyone who voted Leave as a racist, an idiot, or both.

To be honest I don't find that kind of "joke" very funny either, and I voted Remain.

Indeed, I am not particularly amused at "jokes" which paint Remainers as unpatriotic, as doing Britain down, or being in the pay of the EU, either.

Most of the best humour is laughing with people from the viewpoint of someone who has at least some insight into them, not laughing at people. And particularly not when people who are seen as privileged are laughing at people who see themselves as less privileged. The pejorative meaning which often attaches to the word "provincial" demonstrates the existence of a mentality in the capital cities of Britain, and indeed many other nations, of those who sneer at the rest of the country as backward and ignorant oafs: it's not a particularly attractive mindset and does not make for the most side-splitting humour when it presents itself as a joke.

Not is it remotely surprising that when comedians from London who have strayed outside the capital make jokes which are (understandably) perceived by many residents of the areas they are on tour as insulting them for a cheap laugh, that some of the audiences walk out.

Hence I think people on both sides need to learn from this story.

Many of the divisions which the Brexit vote exposed previously existed before the referendum, but it was not until 52% of those who cast a ballot voted to end an arrangement from which millions of other Britons were doing very well, thank you, that most of the 48% realised just how alienated a huge chunk of the country is.

I say "most of" not because there were many who already realised it, but because a large minority of the 48% still don't get it - and I suspect some of the London-based comedians whose jokes were going down like a lead balloon in the provinces had this problem precisely because they still don't.

Of course, there is now anger on both sides: it is hardly surprising that those who did very well out of Britain's membership of the EU now have genuine grievances against the Brexiteers.

We need to move forward and we are not going to do so by sneering at one another. Brexit is happening. We need to work together for the best available deal, one which addresses as many as possible of the concerns of the 52% who voted Leave while minimising the risks which the 48% who voted Remain were concerned about.

Forget the lies and propaganda on both sides - I have discouraged the use of the "lie" word but without fingering individuals we all know that both Leave and Remain campaigns lied their heads off during the referendum but both sides also had valid arguments. Let's try and address them and we can start by recognising that crass insults against those who took a different view are not funny.

No comments: