Irony can be a lot of fun. And it’s everywhere, from the most scathing sarcasm to the gentle wit of Kermit the Frog. We love to laugh at satire and parody. The “mockumentary” has become a popular film genre – a few weeks ago we greatly enjoyed the vampire satire, What We Do in the Shadows. Yet there are some contexts in which irony may be altogether inappropriate and a serious problem for democracy.
Let’s start with definitions. Irony requires us to have at least two levels of awareness. There’s what we literally see and hear (or read). Then there’s also a secondary level of meaning, more sophisticated, requiring familiarity with additional, unspoken knowledge. That’s why irony is so popular with teens and young adults – appreciating it lets them show that they’re familiar with that deeper layer of knowledge. Not only is irony fun, it’s also a metaphorical badge of mastery. Continue reading
This week, when I saw that the Nobel Peace Prize had been won by the World Food Program, I confess my first reaction was, “Huh. That’s not as interesting as when an individual wins it,” and I scrolled on to the next news story. My mistake! Last night on Facebook, I found my step-brother Steve’s post:
“This award, in effect, is honoring my dad’s work posthumously, who ran the World Food Program in Nepal for seven years and preceding that assignment was second in command in India for three years. Although he died 16 years ago, had he lived to experience this global recognition he would have found it both a surprising and spectacular acknowledgment of the United Nation’s World Food Program’s humanitarian efforts – and of humanity itself – in what is otherwise an often inhumane world. Very proud of you dad!”
Arnold Childs, my step-father, was raised with public service as his highest ideal. As a young man, he’d studied under the social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, at Continue reading