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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2733

The Jokers – Carriers of the Comical Gene

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…….

Some politicians in the state of Tamil Nadu were up in arms against a remark made by much-loved Sri Lankan army commander, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, this week. Vaiko, a vociferous supporter of ‘Tamil Eeelam’, went on to say that the entire Tamil Nadu had been insulted by the use of the term, joker; however, Chief Minister Karunanidhi took a more cautious approach: he partially vented his fury while taking a swipe at his arch rival, Jayalalithaa, by saying she was not Tamil – meant Tamil enough - making a vituperate reference to her silence on the issue – potential explosive stuff when an election is just around the corner; he cannot encourage effigy burning on his doorstep, for obvious reasons – his state has to clear the mess in the end.

P. Nedumaran, on the other hand, the other implicit recipient of the alleged remark, after maintaining a levee silence, organized a protest campaign in front of Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai for the same.

Just as the political high drama was reaching the climax, Dr Subramanian Swami of Janata Party let the cat out of the bag – a bolt from the blue: most of the champions of the Tamil cause in the southern state are not Tamils after all. The prospect of being subjected to a rigorous pedigree analysis to prove otherwise, is not a joke; stakes are high for these older gentleman who wanted to appear whiter than white.

We may not look up to jokers as role models. But jokers have been around us from time immemorial. Without them, we may be forced to live in a world of boredom. Boredom breeds a chain of undesirables within the human colony: envy, in-fighting, back-stabbing, fasting-unto-death and binge drinking, to name but a few.

Some are jokers by birth. Our ancient kings realized the importance of these gentle species for the smooth functioning of the Royal Court. They employed court jesters for the entertainment: court jesters were gifted people; it would have been a Herculean task for them to make these volatile characters – kings, queens and emperors - laugh who were notoriously unpredictable, and prone to combinations of tantrums and mood-swings; a wrong gesture at the wrong time may have certainly made the poor chap qualified for a chop. In this context, court jesters may have been really funny folks. Otherwise, none would have been around to tell us the tale that they did exist.

Of course, court jesters are not employed any more by the Royals anywhere in the world. One can argue that there is no need of them, now that the liberal-minded offspring of the Royals have taken the role over themselves, with the full blessings of the tabloid press of the respective countries.

Sometimes, a joker can emerge from a crowd spontaneously, without any apparent reason. For instance, an excited gentleman - who is otherwise decent and law-abiding - among the cricketing crowd at the Lords Cricket Ground, may remove all his clothes in a split second and run towards the centre of the ground in birthday suit, when a match is in full swing, followed by two policemen performing the most difficult task ever in their careers – covering the genitals of the difficult runner with their police caps.

The gentleman in question, a grown-up, may not choose a public stadium to model the gentleman’s game of bat and ball, between his agile legs. When fun meets embarrassment in equal measure, the bubble of enjoyment reaches new comical heights.

Moreover, an ambitious feminist, not to be outclassed by a male, may emulate the very act in a game of football – and, again without any apparent reason. The poor cops need three caps to conceal the anatomical equivalents on this occasion from a very wide and disproportionately curious audience, though. Both individuals had the potential to let a vast crowd reel from a whirlwind of excitement and intrigue.

Even intellectuals at times moonlight on the fringes of joker’s territory. Some may warn us against the imminent arrival of a meteorite from a corner of the universe in a few years time, reigniting the fate of Dinosaurs. When the fateful day approaches, the very individual may say, “We just missed it by a whisker” – coded word for a couple of light years!

Some can become jokers merely by association. The reputation of modern economists, even if that of humble folks is a case in point; it takes a constant battering on daily basis due to the Credit Crunch. Ordinary folks think they are good at making comments only after things have gone wrong, not before that. Every little insight expressed by the economists, at the present climate, adds its own weight to a critical mass of self-deprecation that can trigger off the nuclear blast of the collective joke.

The officials from international agencies may appear as jokers too – by their reckless conduct in appeasing the underdogs of a conflict while playing to the gallery of liberals in the West. For instance, an organization that once famously said that nearly 40% of Sri Lankans went without a daily meal for days, only to retract later, commit the same act by saying that the North of the island looked like lawless Somalia, in the hope that the audience is either born again or has far shorter memories. When every statements is retracted blaming it on an ignorant junior, the fate of organizational joke is sealed.

The easiest way to become a joker in a thriving democracy is to form a new political party – by deserting an existing one while making a silly excuse ranging from the disagreement with the boss to irresistible advances made by a female in the party. By making everyone in the vicinity angry, the political joke can be auctioned in hastily arranged news conferences, even if the membership does not go beyond the joker’s immediate family.

Ultra-nationalists can become a bunch of jokers by elevating the sad spectre of unfortunate death of civilians by accidental fire, to genocide. Every time the word, ‘genocide’ played out on dry lips, the exaggeration approaches the proverbial phrase of crying wolf, when the facts on the ground depict exactly the opposite. General Fonseka had the courage to call a spade a spade by bringing the characters under the spot light, which is somewhat overdue.

Since most of the human population are not jokers, the presence of the lucky few may have a genetical reason for being so. Since our genetic make-up has been mapped by a great project called Human Genome, biologists may be closer than ever before in identifying the particular gene that makes jokers who they are. Those who don’t want to appear to be jokers can undergo gene therapy to get rid of the troublesome genetical culprit – in the embryonic stage, of course. It is a sheer waste of time for barking up the wrong tree!

- Asian Tribune -

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