Thursday, May 27, 2010

Satire as Magic

Some years ago I found, much to my surprise, that I was good at writing satires. I had no idea that talent was in me. They were almost always very short, usually one page, and I could write them in a few hours.

Since then, I sometimes think about satire. Although this is not original with me, satire is humor plus attack. It’s about correcting the flaws of humans and society. It’s about ridiculing people’s foibles.

Comedy – and this includes satire – has been described as “tragedy plus time.” That’s true. Tragedy, which is horror, is the basis of comedy. They are the Chang and Eng of life.

Comedy, which is based on human imperfections, is about accepting them. Satire is about correcting those imperfections through ridicule. As Mark Twain (no mean satirist himself) noted, laughter is the only real weapon humanity has.

Tragedy, or horror, is about evil, or chaos, attacking good, or order. Satire, then, which is about correction, is based on horror and is about correcting evil, or expelling it. All satirists, then are (rather vulgar) theologians, or in a sense, magicians.

Satirists write fantasies in which they use magic, or spells, to expel evil. And “spell” means the use of words, or stories, to change people. For that matter, “glamour” and “grammar” have the same root word, and I have read stories in which a magician “put a glamour” on someone.

Satire, being mockery and ridicule, is also about humiliating and embarrassing people into changing their personalities and behaviors. In fact, the use of words against people can be so powerful there are laws against slander and libel.

Satirists, as magicians with words, are always feared by governments, and that is why they are the first silenced by totalitarian ones. They laugh at the Devil, and as C.S. Lewis, the one thing he cannot stand is ridicule.

Satire, in a way, is clairvoyant, or prophetic: by judging the fallen against what is right, it can, in a general way, predict the future.

All satirists are imaginative and sympathetic. As Adam Smith wrote so long ago in his “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” imagination comes first, and is the basis of sympathy, or empathy. And to write good satire the writers have to be intelligent.

Satirists, then, tend to be more intelligent, imaginative, and sensitive than most people.

What I have described above, I in some ways find amazing. A good satirist, more intelligent, imaginative and sensitive that most, is a magician, a theologian, and a prophet. He understands people can be ensorcelled through the power of words.

But he is upfront about what he does, which makes him, as magicians go, a white magician, as compared to the black ones (who I call Hoodoo Men), who use cynically manipulate people through propaganda, for bad purposes.

The satirist is awake where others are asleep. He is a true conservative in that he believes in absolute standards against which he measures things. He understands the imperfections in people, yet still believes people can change for the better, making him a pessimist and an optimist at the same time.

Society, of course, will always have an ambivalent attitude toward the satirist, as it does with all magicians. In fact, many people, being half-asleep, will accept the Hoodoo man and his propaganda before they wake up through the prodding of the satirist.

No comments: