Two kinds of humour

Broadly speaking, from the perspective of human rights, there are two kinds of humour or jokes: one that oppresses and one that liberates.

The first kind of humour is oppressive because the jokes are made at the expense of others, especially the weak, vulnerable, discriminated, oppressed and downtrodden. Such humour might sometimes appear harmless, but it doesn’t detract from their nature that is sexist, classist, racist, supremacist, bigoted, ableist, homophobic or misogynistic and so on. For example, I know of a megachurch pastor who has a tendency to make fun of fat people, gay people, nudists and others who are deemed not part of the mainstream society, thereby further marginalising and ostracising them who are already suffering from shame and humiliation as they live in a societal system that expects them to conform to the perceived norm in order to be accepted.

The second kind of humour is liberating because the jokes are made to put the oppressive establishments and power structures in their place and set the oppressed free. Such humour often takes the form of parables, satires and allegories. For example, the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is an incisive and humorous satire that illustrates how young children can see through the political propaganda that rulers and leaders have been using to oppress and subjugate the masses and these children would tell the truth like it is, which adults have often been blinded to see or been conditioned by fear to dare to acknowledge and expose publicly.

Can you think of other examples of these two kinds of jokes or humour that you have come across in literature or in real life?

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