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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


July 20th, 2019

This episode relies heavily on Episode 173: Wisecrack Canary


Today, we live in an environment where comedians are held to higher standards of behavior than world leaders are. Presidents seem to have a license for everything while comedians, strangely, seem to be vying for places in heaven while tempting the devil in everyone.


But it may be silly to think that anything has really changed.  The origin of the standup comedian originates, presumably, with the court jester whose job it was to make fun of the king for the amusement of all. 


But if the jester failed in this task and angered the king with his jokes, it was the king who executed the jester for going too far.


Now, there exists no king to execute the comedian when the joke fails to land well.  But the power to cancel a comedian has not evaporated, but merely moved.


Where does this king exist in the age of democracy where presidents fall short of the powers of a dictator?  The quick, assuming answer is the president, as with a country like the United States, but this immediately harks of a dictatorship and democracies are built as a direct and blatant alternative to fascism.  The power is distributed, naturally, as is the hallmark and hope of democracy, and the seat of power in this instance seems still sensitive to the job of taking out the jester when behavior is deemed…


too far.


This cleaved power, as divided between a leader like a president and the people who presumably enable the power of such a president still seems somewhat at odds with itself, as though the perspective of the distributed people and the ability for such distributed power to make sensible decisions has not yet matured.  Perhaps its even likely that it’s impossible for such a group to mature to some ideal state. For the time being it’s best we hope otherwise.


It is interesting how quickly and adeptly positions of power acclimate to missing limbs when the distributed nature of democracy lops off another ability previously reserved for a king.  The boon of laziness is that we long to schluff off responsibility to others.  Perhaps this human foible allowed for George Washington’s superhuman refusal of dictatorial powers to persist beyond the man.  How lovely would it be if laziness could account for some of the improvements in society?  No president has really ever made a meaningful attempt to wrench back powers from its distributed form.  Everyone wants the grandeur that comes along with the responsibility of power, but no one actually wants to put up with the hassle of responsibility.


What’s perhaps a surprise to ponder is that the jester is still functioning much the same way he was in the days of the court. He (or she) pokes fun at the seats of power.  But what is new is that the seat of power has ramified.  The seat(s) of power are now occupied by world leaders, business people and the population at large…. not to mention the comedian themselves given a certain threshold of success both in terms of popularity and financial horsepower. 


All of these groups are regular and valid sources of humor for the comedian.  They make fun of world leaders, they make fun of other rich people, they make fun of the common person, and then of course, comedians make fun of themselves.


Even more curious is where the power to silence a comedian has wandered off to.  A world leader of a democracy would be generally shunned for attempting such a thing.  A business leader would probably add fodder to the fire where they are the butt of the joke. 


But the masses are relatively untouchable in this regard and can cancel someone’s career with a swiftness that was hitherto reserved by the guillotine. 


And unlike comedians, business leaders, or world leaders, the masses cannot be cancelled out.  They are untouchable in this regard because the masses are by default distributed.


But there lies within this steaming, heap of mass an important caveat.  ‘The masses’ are spoken of in this respect as a singular but untraceable unit.  But this usage lacks the necessary granularity. 


Here enters The Minority Rule.  Within the masses, those who inflict and succeed with this cancel culture do not actually ever comprise a majority.  In the rare case that the masses are actually unified, then constitutional amendments occur. Otherwise, the cancelling power of the mass culture can be attributed to a much smaller, stubborn and very vocal subset.


While everyone has an opinion, few have an opinion strong enough, or a temperament attuned to the volume necessary to be a part of this subset of the masses that kicks and screams until they get their way.


If everyone in the room is silent aside from two or three people speaking, then that group has the loudest voice by default.


Power has transferred to the minority rule. And an easy way of thinking about this rule is to think about a single drop of ink being dropped into a vat of water…. it’s quite difficult to pick out any part of the vat that is not representative of the ink because it diffuses… its nearly impossible to pick out some water in the vat that isn’t influenced by the ink, unless we get down to an exceptionally granular and difficult level.


As Margaret Meade once wrote:


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


She could not be more correct, but the dark side of her realization is not apparent in her rosy, inspirational verbiage.


Thoughts can be ones of anger, and ‘thoughtful’ can have a very unexpected meaning in this sense.  A small group of angry, committed people can turn off the humor for everyone else.  And this has been the case in several circumstances. 


It’s the unfortunate tendency of the majority to tolerate the intolerance of a minority that inevitably leads to the decapitation of the majority. 


This is simultaneously why it seems so unbelievable when tiny factions come out of left field and grow to dominate, and also why it’s entirely possible.


The only sensible and practical response is something that exists between stubbornness, patience and determination.


As Tinkered Thinking has explored previously, Stubborn and Determined form an essential Rivalnym.  Patience is the unifying fuel that powers both of these positions. 


What mistakes and apologies boil down to is essentially a declaration of intention.  Honest mistakes will be made, must be made and certainly have been made. The only thing that reveals such mistakes as honest is the intention described around the event.  If that intention, combined with a thoughtful interpretation of the event’s results leads to a change in behavior, then we as a species have nothing to worry about.  This becomes more complicated as we make room for people who must learn slowly through repeated mistakes.  There incurs a point when we as a society ask how many infractions we are willing to field before the connections between intention, retrospection and behavioral change are clearly not strong enough to move forward productively.  The questions that may arise in this framework are numerous, fascinating and should be the foundation of any correctional institution, like the prison system.  But for now, the correctional facilities that make up the majority are totally blunt to these nuances.  So blunt in fact, that it mirrors the often ill-guided instant reaction of the vocal minority that inevitably imposes its will on the majority.



Our discussion must inevitably land back on laziness.  It’s the inactivity of the majority that allows for the minority rule to dominate. The problem is that the minority rule can create great damage.  This is how terrorists can achieve such success with guerrilla warfare, which epitomizes the minority rule in a physical and violent way. 


The change needed is for another minority – it need not even be the majority – to react to the unwise assumptions of the minority trying to impose their will, and to simply say, ‘no, perhaps mistakes were made, but all is still good, chill out.’


This episodes references Episode 293: Rivalnym.

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Podcast Ep. 461: Comedy Cancelled

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