The Last Laugh


Anything can be funny, said my most influential and inspiring teacher during my last year at university. He was an ex-Jesuit and his class was so unruly with loud arguments and laughter that the administration shut it down. Laughter is always explosive, unruly, and above all, human. Fascists fear it; the Nazis famously had no sense of humour at all, it was verboten. Irreverent laughter is the stock in trade of stand up comics and cartoonists, satirical writers and people just getting through a bad day, everywhere. It is a survival tactic of the human species; animals actually do not do this. In times of crisis, it keeps us honest.

And as such, it is the flame of freedom and certain extremists cannot stand it. They are so weak that any hint of laughter inflames their insecurities into violence. In the West, there is a long tradition of the Jester, who is the only one at court allowed to speak truth to the King. Everyone then knew how dangerous it is to speak the Truth. The Jester was allowed only because he coated the bitter pill with laughter. Laughter is a volatile substance that reminds people of their essential humanity, their freedom to think as they please, to have ‘forbidden thoughts’.  And that is why extremists fear and hate it so. It is a force that cannot be controlled. It is Freedom itself.

Our modern day jesters in Paris knew this. They continued to write, to poke the bear of oppression and fear. They knew it was a game in which their very life was at stake.

They were murdered for it.

This is a clarion call for all of us to be vigilant in defending our freedoms. And never forgetting that we are going to have the last laugh here. Only fascists, extremists and mental cases cannot laugh at themselves. But we, we can laugh. Let us laugh at those who did this. Let it be laughter that rings across the globe. The laughter of free people is the most beautiful sound in the world. Let us celebrate it while we mourn.

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