Why is blasphemy not considered politically incorrect

Mean by nature : A joke is never politically correct

We live in aggressive, overheated, uninhibited times, freedom of expression and freedom of art are repeatedly severely strained. Whether shitstorms in the shelter of Internet anonymity, Erdogan humiliating poems, Trump meanness, Pegida rabble or murderous attacks like the one against "Charlie Hebdo" or other Mohammed caricatures - the question of who oversubscribes whom and what satire is more political than ever. The joke as a danger zone: In dictatorships, some people risk their lives with jokes. In democracies, the most at stake is your career, or at least your job as a TV comedian.

Stupid jokes like the one by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the Stockacher Narrengericht about toilets for intersexuals are among the more harmless variants in view of the tightened tone in public discourse. AKK is unlikely to jeopardize your chances of running for chancellor. Nevertheless, her rather unsuccessful punch line, probably intended as a man's joke, about the gender moral apostles and types who do not know whether they are allowed to stand or sit while peeing - which is why they need a “toilet for the third sex” - has a renewed debate triggered over wit and morals. About political correctness and minority rights in the majority society.

The problem: the joke is never politically correct by nature. I'll say what not to say, I dare to do something: His basic gesture is breaking taboos, subversion, which is one of the reasons why he is often about sex and power and God and death. In many cases his material is prejudice, resentment, suppressed hatred, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, fantasy of violence, a social no-go. The joke, wrote Sigmund Freud in “The joke and its relationship to the unconscious”, is drive-driven. That is to say, in the punch line the process of civilization is withdrawn for a moment, Freud calls it “saved inhibition effort”. Any joke is potentially indecent, unjust, contemptuous, degrading, insulting, inconsiderate, cruel. Laughter marginalizes the ridiculed, cuts off honor, denies respect. Mockery has the same root word as spitting.

On the one hand there are boss jokes (i.e. politician, teacher, doctor, police officer or blasphemous jokes), according to the motto: if you have the say, you don't need to worry about the ridicule. What is the difference between the Bundestag and a theater? In the theater, good actors are badly paid. Boss jokes aim from the bottom up, they dissolve and disarm, function as a corrective against the presumption and abuse of power. This anarchic, rebellious moment is also in every carnival session, the carnival is based on the fool's freedom of the powerless. It is not uncommon for personal rights to be affected. Cabbage as a pear, even the rather cozy German post-war humor makes fun of physical things. What could the man do for the shape of his face? Human dignity is touched in jokes.

When it comes to victim jokes, what matters is who is telling them

On the other hand, there is the category of victim jokes, in which the mockery is aimed at the powerless, the disadvantaged and discriminated against. Jokes of sacrifice aim from top to bottom, they exclude. The often old-fashioned rubbish, as found in joke books, tear-off calendars and in canteen humor, likes to address minorities. It, too, undermines an authority: that of morality, the commandment of respect. East Frisian jokes, Polish jokes, blonde jokes, gay jokes, Jewish jokes - just writing down the terms makes the author uncomfortable. In the musician joke, the violist joke belongs to the victim category, and in the carnival that is just ending, AKK's joke, or rather, their attempt at joke. Although victim jokes are often told by the victims themselves, it is a kind of trauma work to cope with the repressed. The sacrificial joke tries to break the overwhelming power of the unmanageable. It makes a difference whether a Jew tells a Jewish joke or a Goi, a non-Jew. And the first 9/11 jokes came from America itself ("American Airlines: We'll fly you straight to the office").

"Satire shouldn't be agitation," says Tagesspiegel cartoonist Stuttmann

Now the joke is increasingly in a dilemma. Because society, which is quickly disinhibited not only in (a-) social media, is in greater and greater contradiction to the thankfully increased sensitivity in public language use. Discrimination, sexism, racism and anti-Semitism have long ceased to be considered trivial offenses. Political correctness and respect in dealing with one another are self-evident in parliament, in the media, at schools and universities. Deviations are punished. A federal German parliament, in which verbal attacks are made like in the times of Strauss (“Hetzer!”, “Schnauze, Iwan!”) Or Wehner (“evil crow” to Jürgen Wohlrabe, “testicle killer” to Jürgen Todenhöfer), is in the Berlin Republic no longer imaginable. And in discussions about Pippi Longstocking's “Negro King” dad and other “bad words” in children's books, society comes to an understanding about where the line between possibly necessary interventions in classics and exaggerated moral apostles runs.

"Satire shouldn't be agitation," said Tagesspiegel cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann in 2016 on the occasion of the termination of the criminal proceedings against Jan Böhmermann because of his abuse of Erdogan (which, by the way, addressed exactly that: the joke and its moral and legal limits). “It must not be aimed at people who are already social losers. For me there are no other limits, ”says Stuttmann. According to this rule, Kramp-Karrenbauer's toilet joke would be an impermissible moral transgression. Because intersex people don't have it easy in society, they lack recognition, by no means only when they have to choose between the men's and the women's toilet.

Laughter is not only rebellious, it also empowers the collective

The joke, the satire, the ridicule are part of the essence of democracy. As difficult as it is, one also has to defend the right to bad jokes, whether it is Böhmermann's macho "goat-fucker" taboo break or Kramp-Karrenbauer's attempt to make sure that the conservative CDUs are pat on the shoulder by asking about the minority Sensitivity of the “Latte Macchiato Group” mocked. Laughter does not only contain potential for resistance, it can also strengthen the sense of community and the atmosphere of the regulars' table. That is the unsympathetic reflex in Kramp-Karrenbauer's toilet joke: That it does not lick the sting in the context of your audience, but rather reinforces and confirms the (at least supposed) majority belief there.

But where do we get to when we are only allowed to crack jokes that we think are successful? When only the "right" ones can tell them? Which authority would we have to bow to that decides that? No need to worry: a politician makes a bad joke, many get upset, arguments are exchanged. And the public thinks out loud once more, about the changing awareness in dealing with one another, about the majority's respect for minorities, about power and morality, freedom and laws. Good thing, it's called democracy.

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