There is nothing in human affairs that is a true subject for ridicule. Beneath comedy lies the ferment of tragedy; the farcical is but a cloak for coming catastrophe. (from Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier)
But the risk, or even the prospect of catastrophe seldom stops us plunging headlong regardless into the abyss. Especially at general election time.
So here’s a party political video from the current UK general election that caught my eye. It’s short, sweet (well, there’s a baby involved), funny, simple and effective. And not stinting with the ridicule.
So you’ll have noticed the video relates to one of the side contests of the current UK election – Northern Ireland – but none the less fiercely fought. In fact, far more so.
But I wonder if there’s a problem with the message? Is it really so effective?
For years and years and years the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party has campaigned on a slate of smashing Sinn Fein, smashing Irish republicanism, smashing the IRA, smashing this and smashing that… smashing sodomy even. (Though they seemed to have gone off on a racy salacious tangent recently.) So a fairly consistent message: Vote for us as a bulwark against scary Sinn Fein.
But that’s not the message from this latest video. All of a sudden the Sinn Feiners are being depicted as a bunch of pathetic, self-deluding residents of cloud cuckoo land. No threat at all. A bit of a joke.
So are the DUP trying to tell us it’s now safe? Safe to vote for peace and love and the non-sectarian Alliance Party? Safe to put aside sectarian considerations? Safe to not worry about being dragged, forced or seduced into an all-Ireland republic? Safe, in other words, not to vote for the DUP anymore?
That can’t be it. Ah, they must mean it’s safe-ish. Safe enough to not feel obliged to dump the DUP for a more extreme alternative, i.e. the TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice) party. And yet not quite safe enough opt for a more moderate alternative.
I suppose the message of ridicule acts as something of an alibi too. Sure, the DUP may say, we’ve been sharing power with our erstwhile deadly enemies in Sinn Fein who’ve we’ve long branded as murdering terrorists bent on overthrowing our civilisation. But it’s OK. Really. We haven’t sold out at all. Because those monstrous bogeymen aren’t really so scary after all. Still bad, naturally. But even more silly.
So who looks ridiculous now?
(On a separate note, I’m just finishing Clochemerle. Hence the quotation above. It’s good fun. A full-blooded uproarious farce in the Rabelesian tradition, according to the Times Literary Supplement. I picked it up after reading references to it in the really excellent The Discovery of France by Graham Robb – a highly recommended read for anyone interested in French life, history, geography or culture. Even – especially – if you’re French.)