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

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail