Recently while on Twitter I saw someone had tweeted:
“I hate posh people”
I responded to this, stating that I did not believe it was funny and was unhelpful because I saw it as unnecessarily attacking a group. On reflection, I possibly took it to much to heart as I am sometimes called posh myself, and yet:
- I’m a crazy Lefty and member of the Green Party
- I’m NHS frontline staff
- I give as much to charity each month as I feel I can
- I’ve never tried caviar; Beluga or any other variety.
I still stand by initial thought that was not funny and the reason why is because I see it as attempted and failed satire.
Satire is a joke that points at an accepted idea or action within society and labelling it as ridiculous. The best satire will make you think about something from a perspective that you had not seen before, and change your own perspective in an unalterable way. It never attacks a person, but an idea or action; these may be attached to a person but the focus is always on their idea or action.
One of the best satirical works ever was the book ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell which pointed at Communism and showed it to be ridiculous as the central ethos (equality for all) will always inevitably be undermined by greed, especially those drawn to leadership and power. He did this by depicting the leaders of a farm as pigs and the followers or proletariat at sheep. So simple, yet so utterly brilliant!
“I hate posh people” achieves nothing of the sort. Posh is an idea but it is so loose that it describes everyone and no one and in this way is only an insult and not satire. The idea of posh isn’t inherently ridiculous; the often associated idea of richness or more money than sense is, but these things are not synonymous and should not be treated as such (if only to stop me getting offended!)
For me, satire plays a vital role within society. It rightly ridicules the ridiculous and changes views. It changes views in a way that persuasive writing cannot do; the message can be given in an image and in a way that anyone can understand. Persuasive writing may make us think but satire makes us laugh, and in laughing at something that we did not realise was funny it shatters prior conceptions. Laughing not only changes our convictions but also stops the idea from ever being taken seriously again.
Good satire is a necessary medicine for society, it makes us check our idea, and it makes the world change its ways. It makes those in power realise that we are not just sheep blindly going along with what we are told, but that we engage with their ideas and actions and will hold them to account.
P.S. You may wish to follow @ on Twitter who provides excellent Satire and donated some images for this blog