No More Satire · 26 June 2021

I would like to make a modest proposal. (Something like Jonathan Swift wrote in 1729.)

My modest proposal is that we get rid of satire. Seriously. We do not need satire. After all, satire just confuses people. Whether the satire is verbal or written, it comes out wrong. People misinterpret it. And more infuriating, people take satire out of context to prove their points. So we ought to just get rid of satire so people can know for sure what people are saying.

You are not alone if you are wondering what satire is in the first place. After all, there are people who do not get satire. They take everything literally. Literally. They take literally everything literally. They call these people literalists. And so we must protect these literalists from the satirists.

So what is satire? Satire is saying the opposite of what you mean in order to say what you really mean. The definition itself gives us pause. Think about it. If you are going to say something, just say it. Whether by mouth or by pen, you should say what you mean all the time. Why would you want to say the opposite of what you mean? What is the point of that?

Well, a satirist would certainly say that sometimes you say the opposite of what you mean because it comes out better that way. Or the point is clearer. Or the absurdity of the satirical premise is so absurd that the meaning is obvious. Or something like that.

Take Jonathan Swift’s essay. He proposed that the way to end famine was to eat the children. Was he proposing cannibalism as a way to feed the people? Of course not. He was especially not trying to get people to eat their own children. Which is the point. There must be some practical way to feed starving people. Having them eat their own children is ludicrous. Insane. The point is clear. Do not feed starving people their own children. After all, it did not work in the past, why would it in the present.

The literalist would say that Jonathan Swift was off his rocker. Swift would surely be considered loony by anybody’s standards. At least if his proposal was taken seriously instead of the satire it was meant to be. But that is the point of getting rid of satire. He should have just written what he meant. He should have said that there are more ways to feed the hungry than just eating children. He should have said what he meant and meant what he said.

By the way. There are people other than just literalists who take everything literally. The gullible and the slow. I ought to know. I am both. When people ask if I want to buy a bridge, I ask, “How much?” When they say my picture is in the dictionary under gullible, I look. And it takes me two to five times longer than everybody else to get even the simplest joke. You need to remind me again and again why the chicken crossed the road.

Gullible. Slow. That is me. Which is why I would be all for getting rid of satire. And while we are at it, we may as well get rid of jokes too. I do not get them anyway, so why tell them? I am sure there are others like me. Those who need an interpreter to understand even the simplest jokes. Those who sit there dumbfounded while everybody else is laughing. “I don’t get it,” is something that gets me laughs even though it is not what I am after when I say it. After all, I really do not get it. (They usually laugh harder when I say that.)

Well there you have it. My modest proposal. We need to just tell it like it is. Plain and simple. So let’s just get rid of satire. And while we are at it, let’s get rid of jokes too.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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