Finding Truth in Opposites

I’ve been finding amusement in opposites, perhaps to cope with America’s political climate. And experimenting with the role of satire in mitigating it.

sweatpants joke

For example, while under the influence of an Italian spliff, the Italian who rolled it introduced himself to a newcomer of the circle. The young girl, in Southern twang, responded, “I’m from Georgia.” Right as she said it, I spontaneously laughed. I laughed at the dichotomy of Italy meets Georgia. They are both extremely charming accents, but have such contrasting personalities and appeal. But when she immediately said that my laugh hurt her feelings, I got so confronted that I couldn’t explain myself until the moment to do so had passed.

This past weekend at school, I also joked a lot. Many times, it had no inkling of truth to it. A favorite was when right before dinnertime, we found out that it was also a networking happy hour – after which we had to go back to class. I joked about coming back to class drunk, even though I had no intention of drinking as I hold a strong value to be as close to 100% as I can be for class. I even asked an administrator why they scheduled it that way. She said, “because having you sit in class for six hours nonstop seemed cruel.” And I jokingly responded, “So is having someone go to happy hour and then back to class drunk.”

Now, in all honesty, I love school. Whenever I mention that I’m sad that it’s about to be over or that I can’t wait to go, my Lyft drivers are so confused. “Hahaha no one loves school.” And the saddest part wouldn’t be suffering while drunk in class. It would have been not remembering or participating to my fullest extent. That would have been the suffering.

But I digress. The jokes have been a reflection of my grappling with opposites. In my mind, they’re verbal satire. But if most people assume that all jokes have an inkling of truth to them, or that they are the truth masquerading as a joke, was I just a big fat liar all weekend?

And what the hell’s so funny about opposites anyway?

Finding Truth in Jokes

Turns out there’s a phrase for this, verbal irony.

Verbal Irony is when words express something contrary to truth or someone says the opposite of what they really feel or mean. Verbal irony is often sarcastic.

I was extremely sarcastic this past weekend, and teased my classmates relentlessly. And for the first time in my life, I dished it and could take it. It felt good, and light, and I bonded even more with some folks.

While I certainly engaged in verbal irony, I still believe that there is something to verbal satire.

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

The greatest challenge with engaging in real-time satire with people you know and love (or don’t) is not being mean-spirited or hurtful. When the Georgia girl was hurt, I failed. In my defense, I was also under the influence of drugs.

Finding Truth in Justice

Which has me wonder about liability and responsibility. In class this weekend, we had one of the world’s experts on corruption lead a module. Many companies that engage in unethical practices claim that “everyone’s doing it.” Bribery is a great example, which has been held up in court.

Let’s pretend for a minute that “everyone’s doing it” is SO POWERFUL, that it excuses “bad” or “unethical” behavior.

Dr. Zimbardo has studied what happens when “everyone’s doing it.” The impacts disappear and the behavior becomes acceptable with both the engager in unethical behavior, and especially if there is a victim of it.

What about if I find my significant other in bed with another lover, a form of ultimate betrayal, and I murder them? Crimes of passion are permissible in Europe, the US, and other parts of the world. Is society (and the courts) telling me that peer pressure in corporations is as strong as scorned love? Or that my mirror neurons are so powerful in a workplace setting, that I am helpless when it comes to mimicking unethical behavior?

What if I’m drunk and hit someone with my car? In this case, I am held liable in most of the world. I should have had some inkling BEFORE I’d drank too much that I should stop. Or I should have had the foresight and wisdom to prevent it. I should have had the intrinsic moral character to not get behind the wheel when I knew I was under the influence.

I was going to put these three phenomena into a hierarchy, but it proved embarrassingly difficult. If we just looked at the sheer number of incidences or humans involved, my guess is that most frequent to least would look something like:

  1. Drunk driving deaths/accidents
  2. Corporate corruption
  3. Murder of passion

What I found impossible was ranking these in terms of global impact. What I WANT to say is the worst is corporate corruption. But the reality is, I have no idea. Do you?