Paris: Humour is the most constructive form of criticism J T Coombes

Charlie Hebdo

I remember the Irish comedian Dave Allen in the late 60’s and early 70’s with his hugely successful comedy series The Dave Allen Show. He touched a nerve in people with his deep irreverence for political power but most famously his taunts at the Catholic Church.

No stone was left unturned as he lampooned the ritual and pomp. His frank material earned the show a risqué reputation on such occasions as when he depicted himself as the Pope and his cardinals doing a striptease to music. Other sketches again depicted the (sometimes extreme) realities of day to day church life, with priests beating their parishioners and each other, Dalek sounding priests in confessionals and the Pope with many exaggerated Italian accents, telling Allen in a Chico Marx style to “getta your bum outta Roma”.

Allen was no fool and his inner wisdom and balance meant he was able to laugh at himself as acutely as his mickey taking of others and their organisations. He lost the top of his left forefinger above the middle knuckle after catching it in a machine cog. This provided him with a vast amount of humorous material which found its way into his act.

He joked on one occasion of it being worn away by strong drink, as he regularly dunked it in the whisky glass that was a permanent feature of his act. On another occasion he told a long and convoluted ghost story that concluded with something “evil” attacking him in a dark and haunted house. Allen retaliated by grabbing and biting the attacker, only to find, when the lights came back on that he was biting his own left hand!

What his humour was able to do, as all good humour should, is to make us aware of the need to closely examine beliefs we may well have outgrown and that are no longer fulfilling the purpose they once did. With Allen he was able to demonstrate that we had evolved as a Society and as our religious beliefs were not prepared to evolve with us they were becoming less meaningful.

Throughout this period the Catholic Church never overreacted and I for one, although not a Catholic, respected them for taking it all ‘on the chin’. If only they had taken on board what was happening they may have been able to staunch the steady flow of followers from their churches since.

There is no doubt that the present shallow financial values used to measure our happiness and life are proving useless in offering strength and reassurance as we face the growing pressures of globalisation and financialisation of life on this beautiful planet. We need the spiritual part of us to receive sustenance and the myriad of religious beliefs that abound are evidence to this.

We are all different and are reassured in ways that most suit us. A Jew would not sit comfortably with Sufism, nor a Christian with Shamanism etc. We find what works for us and what we are most comfortable with. It cannot be forced upon us and no one belief is the ‘Only Right Belief’ above all others.

Globalisation is forcing these very beliefs, which have been used over the millennia to keep us apart, to now work together, with a growing recognition that they all have their part to play.

The atrocity that occurred in Paris yesterday demonstrates a blinding immaturity and lust for power that has haunted us for thousands of years. Like Dave Allen, Charlie Hebdo was pointing a humorous finger that should cause questions, not violence, demonstrating yet again how mighty the pen is over the sword!

Those who caused these young men to waste their lives uselessly lack the wisdom to realise that they will never achieve what they crave because they are alienating the people, not motivating them to rise up. Who in their right mind would want to follow and support such callous behaviour? It’s a ‘no brainer’

As the tributes flow from all races, colours, creeds and genders, united in a global repugnance of what has occurred, I sense us leaving the old behind as we venture into our new Global Village. It somehow seems apposite therefore, to sign off with the same words used by Dave Allen at the end of his shows:

“Thank you, goodnight and may your God go with you”

 

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to The 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes