A RussiaA dictator wages war against a Ukrainian comedian. The incongruity of this European tragedy is difficult to fathom.
Several factors have thwarted Russia’s plan for a quick victory, but one of them is certainly the witty spirit of the Ukrainian people. Amid the images of Putin’s atrocities, we’ve all seen evidence of Ukrainians’ undiminished sense of humor.
Millions watched YouTube videos of Ukrainian farmers taking abandoned Russian military equipment for spray rides.
Valeria Shashenok attracted more than a million followers to her TikTok page, where she laughed at the hardships of war.
Shashenok is now a refugee in Italy. Last Thursday she reported that her brother had been killed in Ukraine.
King Lear appreciates his fool, but in real life dictators are notoriously allergic to comedy.
Soviet comrades were routinely sent to the Gulag for telling political jokes.
Even 64 years after the death of the old mass murderer in 1953, the Kremlin banned Armando Iannucci’s film The death of Stalin.
In 2013, the leader of a Serbian pro-democracy group came forward foreign policy: “Laughter and fun are no longer incidental to a movement’s strategy; They now serve as a central part of the activist arsenal, lending an aura of cool to the opposition, helping to break the culture of fear instilled by the regime, and provoking the regime into reactions that undermine its legitimacy.”
For example, in 2017 Russia banned portraying Putin as a gay clown. It takes a special kind of political fragility to believe this is a smart legislative move.
Rob Sears is the British author of a funny parody called Vladimir Putin: Life Coach. (Chapter one is called How to Win Friends and Influence Elections.)
Although George Orwell claimed “every joke is a tiny revolution,” Sears warns against exaggerating the tactical effectiveness of the joke.
“It’s hard to prove that political humor can make a difference,” he tells me, “but a world without humor would certainly be a worse place.
“It would be a little harder to break a tyrant’s self-mythologization (if only temporarily) and a little lonelier to be one of their opponents.”
Jill Twark, a professor of German at East Carolina University in the United States who studies humor and tyranny, agrees with the limited but essential value of satire.
“It boosts the morale of people suffering oppression,” she says. However, she also adds that “it doesn’t change the course of history.”
However, comedy has a special place in the hearts of Ukrainians.
Ilya Kaminsky, the award-winning poet of Deaf Republic – one of The Washington Post 10 best collections of 2019 – was born in Odessa.
He has fond memories of Humorina, the April 1st humor holiday, which is extremely popular in the city. Kaminsky, who now resides in the United States, explains that Humorina is bordering on our own April Fool’s joke, but different.
In Odessa, “it’s a good mood day,” he tells me. “Growing up, the slogan for it was ‘Humor and kindness will save the world.'”
Born just a few years before the death of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, Kaminsky recalls his parents telling each other funny stories in the old Soviet Union.
“There was a kind of resistance,” he says. “It was a step out of the norm – a language that two people spoke to each other, a joke is that little bit of space, a breath of air, a laugh.”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/in-ukraine-humour-has-become-a-weapon-of-war-41520942.html Humor has become a weapon of war in Ukraine