Saturday, June 2, 2007

Satire and the Death of Irony

A friend used this quote from Dryden as the basis for his review of Fido, which can be read here (mine is in the archive). I love this quote. Dryden perfectly captures the spirit of satire.

There is still a vast difference betwixt the slovenly butchering of a man, and the fineness of a stroke that separates the head from the body, and leaves it standing in its place…. Neither is it true that this fineness of raillery is offensive. A witty man is tickled while he is hurt in this manner, and a fool feels it not.
- John Dryden, “A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire”

The death of irony is very high on a long list of post-modernity's greatest causalities. The inability to be ironic, to step back from oneself and simply enjoy the benefits of wit, sardonic or otherwise, leads to a nation of fools who feel it not. Or who feel it and take offense with it, not realizing what was truly meant. Satire removes us from the immediacy of experience; it gives us a higher ledge from which to survey our situations. A culture unable to be ironic or enjoy satire is a stunted culture unable to peer past its own nose. It screams at the slightest provocation; it bellows and grunts and snarls and never really understands another's point of view. It is solipsistic, egocentric and bereft of artistic merit.

Perhaps North America needs a healthy dose of satire and irony. Of course, that would likely only incense many people... but those are the people who need satire most of all. If everyone took a step back and looked at their lives in an ironic light, we may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly we could resolve many of our problems.

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