Friday, 7 November 2014

Beating the Puritan Drum

"LAUGHTER has something in it in common with the ancient winds of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes men forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves; something (as the common phrase goes about a joke) that they cannot resist."

~G.K. Chesterton: "The Common Man."

Parish Magazines are not as a rule strictly political, so I decided to see if there was any mileage in something decidedly apolitical for an article. I’m am also going to do a random survey as well in St Brelade. And yet it is political, in the sense that it effects ordinary people – and their dogs.

The question posed on Facebook was whether the current regulations about dogs on beaches are fine as they stand, or do people want to see them relaxed or to have dog free beaches. Currently, dogs must be on a lead on the Jersey beaches from 10.30 am to 18.00 pm between 1 May and 30 September.

It’s a human interest matter, perhaps light, and not too controversial. And I did say it was for an article. So why does Mike Dun weigh in with this criticism?

“Pity you don't devote your time to researching about the 10,500 resident working adults without housing quals and such related matters as where they might be housed now and where they might be housed in 10 years time - especially since the CM has specifically referred to adequately housing everybody...its whatever you think more important I suppose....did the CM refer to dog excrement in his speech to the States? - I must have missed it.”

I have grave doubts as to whether Mike Dun has a sense of humour, unlike Clive Dunn, who certainly did. He certainly cannot appreciate that life is not all about large issues all the time. In his book, anyone who looks at small matters, yet matters where legislation effects dog owners, and there are plenty of those, is committing some kind of misdemeanour.

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time for lightness, a time for seriousness. If you cannot deal with lighter matters just some of the time, you come across as a political grumpy old man. And lighter matters are important too, albeit not as important as housing.

I get “The Week”, which is a kind of digest of stories in all kinds of papers – the UK daily papers, foreign papers, science stories, economics stories, etc etc. And amidst all the more serious stuff is a section called “It must be true, I read it in the tabloids”. It is there precisely because the readers want a mix to read, the heavyweight stuff and the lighter stuff.

The same is true with Private Eye, which is certainly not an “establishment” magazine by any standards. Some levity is needed.It has a central area which is the "colour section" where there is satire, spoof and plain funny cartoons.

And when the TV programme, “That’s Life” was on, it was a mixture of consumer pieces, which were serious, investigative, and the more comic asides such as Cyril Fletcher’s Odes.

The attitude of Mr Dun seems wholly opposed to this. He clearly frowns on anything trivial, because it detracts from the serious. In short, whatever his religious sensibilities, he is a puritan, beating the puritan drum.

The puritan frame of mind is well described by Joseph C. Sommer

“Puritans often viewed laughter, happiness, and pleasure as suspect and undesirable. Making matters worse, they frequently tried to impose their doleful philosophy on others.”

Looking at Mike Dun’s comments on Facebook, I cannot but help think he would have been rather at home in the Puritan milieu. I’d really like to see a blog post from his nom de plume, Tom Gruchy, on politics and laughter. If he thinks the two do not go together, I suggest he reads Chesterton.

“It is much easier to convince people by saying serious things in a humorous way -than by writing them, as G.K. Chesterton did, in a style so sparkling with paradox and witty not to say comic illustration that they became dissipated in a cloud of laughter.” (Emile Canunaerts)

And Chesterton himself wrote:

"Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good TIMES leading article than a good joke in PUNCH. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity."

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