Odd Thoughts: the humanity of satire

Langley columnist says what distinguishes humans from animals if our ability to laugh at you.

It was once believed that the basic distinction between humans and all other animals on the planet is our ability to think.

When people started thinking about it, however, they realized that other animals think, too, to varying degrees.

So they figured the real distinction was that we’re smarter than all the other animals.

But we’re only “smarter” than all the others because we’re the ones measuring intelligence. It could be argued that other animals are smart enough not to bother. After all, if cats were doing the measuring, their yardstick would be based on cat intelligence… and they’d think we were pretty stupid because we don’t even know how to catch a mouse with our teeth.

So maybe the distinction is in the direction our thoughts take us. Some people suggest that only humans have developed religions. But those people probably never enjoyed the unfettered adoration and mindless devotion of a dog.

What does set us apart from all other species is our need to believe in our own superior intelligence.

We all seem to have this driving need to believe that we’re smarter than all other animals.

And each other: most of our humour is based on laughing at stupidity – usually someone else’s.

But some – satire, for instance – is about being able to laugh at yourself while you’re laughing at someone else.

Case in point: satire has no effect on stupid people who believe stupid things. They just don’t realize you’re making fun of them. Meanwhile, others just think you’re one of the stupid people being seriously stupid. So you just have to join in when everyone is laughing at you. And they won’t know that you’re actually laughing at them.

It sometimes makes me wonder if Donald Trump and his followers are secretly laughing all the time.

If all this has you thinking that maybe you’re smarter than I am, you’re probably wrong. No one has the intelligence to see beyond their own intellect, so there’s no real way to gauge the intelligence of anyone smarter than you are. And that may be what is creating the illusion of your own perceived intelligence.

If you think maybe I’m smarter than you are, you’re probably wrong, and I’m laughing at you.

On the other hand, if you’re laughing at me, then I’m laughing with you.

We’re all only human.

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