FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Time for Full-Time Town Jesters

by RALPH NADER

There’s an old saying “in humor there is truth.” Until the 18th century, British monarchs, surrounded by sycophantic entourages, retained court Jesters to tell them the truth in the garb of satire and motley costumes with donkey ears, red-flannel coxcomb and bells.

Of course, the Jester also played the fool, made famous in Shakespeare’s plays, laughing and joking with his mock scepter. Jesters often played music, clowned around, spoke in riddles and generally reduced the tensions and pomposity of the Royal Court.

According to Wikipedia, Queen Elizabeth (reigned 1558-1603) reportedly “rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her.” In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Feste the Jester is described as “wise enough to play the fool.”

Some Jesters became historical figures such as Jeffrey Hudson, Muckle John and Archibald Armstrong. James VI of Scotland signed documents lazily without reading them until his Jester, George Buchanan, got him to sign his abdication: The king got the message. No one else could have survived such a sobering trick, other than the lowly Jester.

In King Lear, Shakespeare used the Jester as a symbol “of common sense and honesty… for insight and advice on the part of the monarch taking advantage of his license to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch,” according to Wikipedia.

In various towns and guises across cultures the court Jester performed in ancient, medieval and renaissance times at many royal courts, going back to ancient Egypt and across the Atlantic to the Aztec people of Middle America until Cortes’ invasion.

Why am I writing about Jesters, given all the problems, injustices, greed, deprivations and perils facing our country? Because even though we do not have Emperors or Kings, we do have “Kingly” Presidents, imperial CEOs and a need to have town Jesters from the peaks of power down to our village squares and town meetings.

Concurring pragmatists can call it a jobs program. For you civic advocates, full-time Jesters can counter the censorship, self-censorship, and knee jerk polarization of both civic and political life in America. They can also counter the smugness, arrogance, ignorance and phoniness of our “deciders.”

Face it, how many times a year do you notice political, military, labor and corporate leaders with marbles in their mouth or, alternatively, speaking with forked tongues? Thinking twice about telling the truth or saying what’s really on their mind is an occupational prerequisite to keep their position and entertain promotions. “Mum’s the word” behavior in so-called high places is what keeps Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert getting high television ratings.

Consider a town Jester in New England towns whose populations range up to 75,000 people. A field day for humor and satire – getting truth, facts and throwing light on needed reforms awaits the town Jester. Up and down Main Street, during town meetings and referenda, parades, sports contests, schools, playgrounds with the children, City Hall, the colorful, costumed, bell ringing Jester would lessen the stresses with laughter and open the minds of his or her immediate audiences. Comedic authenticity is quite different than the canned guffaws emitting from our television screens.

Although a strong case can be made that taxpayer funded town Jesters would more than pay for themselves through the waste, chicanery and misdeeds they harpoon. Why not try to promote fundraising? Foundations? Wealthy people? One spring week in May of personal door-to-door canvassing by the Jester and their biggest fans, special performance fees, an annual Jester dinner. The possibilities are numerous.

A column by the town manager of Winsted, Connecticut (population about 11,000), Dale Martin, literally begging citizens to experience their right to directly vote on a budget referendum for themselves, sparked my imagination. Most Americans don’t get to vote directly on their governmental budget. Winsted has a last-resort direct democracy and over half the voters do not vote either to approve or disapprove of their municipal budgets. And never mind doing a little homework in addition to saying yes or no.

Time for a town Jester. Who in, near or far outside of Winsted, Connecticut wants to help find perhaps the first career town Jester in America? Resumes describing the useful skills, knowledge, personality, artistry and stamina are invited. Send them and any relevant imaginative essays to Town Jester, P.O. Box 500, Winsted, Connecticut 06098.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail