FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Insomnia and Sarcasm

by BEN TRIPP

It is important that you should know I cannot sleep on in airplanes. This is partially because I also cannot sleep under any circumstances, but may have its roots in the neurotic belief that it is only the power of my mind keeping the aircraft suspended 45,000 feet in the air. As I am often called upon to fly to places remote and exotic, I spend quite a lot of my time in exquisite, wakeful boredom on airplanes. Ears ringing with white noise, eyes fixed on that peculiar illuminated ceiling graphic that is either a red ‘X’ through a burning cigarette or a warning not to open your fountain pen above your head, I go quietly mad. It used to pass the time to bite stewardesses on the bottoms, but the new restrictions on in-cabin behavior have robbed me of even this fleeting amusement. So I am forced to read, or write.

As it happens I am writing this on an airplane, marinated in ennui, having read an entire Sunday edition of Britain’s The Guardian from front page via masthead to advertising supplements, including all box scores and cookery hints. But all was not lost; I count this entire trip a worthy expenditure of red eyeballs due to the discovery, on page six, of a magnificent example of why scientists shouldn’t be allowed to write their own grants. The headline of the piece is as follows: “Highest functions of brain produce lowest form of wit”. Naturally I was very interested to find out if by ‘lowest form of wit’ they meant kicking someone in the marbles. In fact it is sarcasm to which they referred. Sarcasm is produced and deciphered, if the article is to be believed, in the frontal lobes of the brain. According to the sarcasm-studying team leader, Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory, persons with damage to the frontal lobes through brain injury or being born in certain parts of Texas were unable to process sarcasm, irony, or metaphor, all of which require all sorts of subtle mental gymnastics to negotiate between the literal meaning of a statement and its intended, oblique meaning.

Hence, and I’m quoting from the actual study, the sarcastic example of a boss observing an employee showing up for work and proceeding to have a rest: “Joe don’t work too hard.” Apparently people with the telltale concave forehead just sat there staring at Dr. Shamay-Tsoori, whereas folks working with a full deck were able to grasp the ironic nature of the remark. The article does not mention whether they thought it was as stupid an example of sarcasm as I thought it was, or if anybody named Joe walked out of the experiment. Anyway, at the very bottom of the piece (the article, not the stewardess that just slunk past me) there’s a rather gratuitous observation that sarcasm is grasped with a lesser degree of skill on the opposite side of the Atlantic. I checked a map and they’re not talking about Australia. Dr. so-called Shamay-Tsoori cannot help but remark, “Maybe it’s a cultural difference. I think The English have a more complicated and subtle sarcasm that the Americans are not used to”. I find this sort of wild speculation to be perfectly in keeping with the rather wooly kind of scientist that would embark on a study of sarcasm in the first place, but nonetheless I felt the cut. I felt it deeply.

First of all, Ms. sarcasm-expert doctor, assuming you’re not one of those Frenchmen with a female name and really are a woman as the appellate ‘Simone’ would suggest, let’s just remember who won the war. Once we’ve got that squared away, let’s also remember that sarcasm is supposed to be the lowest form of wit, or possibly second only to a swift boot in the fork. But I must admit I am intrigued. Is it possible, the ad hominem aspect of this attack on American wit aside, that Americans just don’t get sarcasm, irony, or metaphor? I think it’s entirely possible, and it’s why we’re in so much trouble. We’ve forgotten how to laugh at ourselves. We’ve forgotten that the Bible is perfectly valid as metaphor­ it doesn’t have to be literally true. Without a sense of irony we fail to see what’s so preposterous about exporting democracy at gunpoint. Maybe it’s the water, or early exposure to Kool-Aid, but something has damaged our collective frontal lobes. Meanwhile, here I still am on this bloody airplane, halfway across the Atlantic.

Maybe I work too hard, like Joe.

BEN TRIPP is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine.
His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: http://www.lulu.com/Squareinthenuts . Swag is available as always from http://www.cafeshops/tarantulabros . And Mr. Tripp may be reached at credel@earthlink.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail