“Je suis Charlie” has triggered a turning point in Europe and perhaps in the world.
Humor is an art that fosters personal and social balance. It builds a bridge to solve the conflict between idealism and realism.
By using an aesthetic communication, humor demystifies reality and establishes a conflict with the authority that embodies the values of the reality that is being idealized.
Illegitimate humor, anti-humor, is a communication that seeks the destruction of transcendent values of the environment that cannot be accepted.
It generates an unbalance of reality that produces extreme conflictive reactions.
Part 1 – Humor as a Driver of Social Evolution
“Je suis Charlie” represents the need of people to accept humor as an art that fosters evolution. The unicist ontological approach to humor gives access to its concept and allows understanding its importance.
Humor is one of the mechanisms used by human beings to solve their adaptation to reality.
On the one hand, humor seeks to solve the conflict between the ideals an individual has and the reality s/he needs to deal with, and on the other hand, it provides a mechanism to allow individuals to integrate in groups.
“People are separated by their strengths and integrated by their weaknesses.”
Humor is a mechanism that allows projecting one’s weaknesses outside and integrating all kinds of people including those who belong to different social or cultural groups.
Humor is a way to solve individual or social problems
Laughing at oneself is a way to solve one’s problems or to manage them. It fosters functional behavior.
The Functional Concept of Humor
Humor is a human behavior that poses or tries to solve authority conflicts using an aesthetic demystification of reality.
About Authority Conflicts
Humor solves the authority conflict demystifying reality. This demystification seeks to establish a superior reality in which the individual assumes the role of a judge of the environment.
This demystification generates a high level of influential power and thus humor achieves the goal of empowering the people who use it. This demystification requires building smart fallacies to make people feel superior.
The authority conflict requires also annulling the ideal proposed by the authority, which is frequently done by the use of sophisms. This annulment of an ideal, implicit in the authority conflict, does not need to be harmonic.
Finally, the authority conflict implies developing a power game against the establishment, which basically covers all aspects that deal with human relationships. In this context, humor produces paradoxical results when dealing with religious faith.
About the Aesthetics
Humor can only exist when it is perceived as “aesthetic”, which means that people want to appropriate it in order to use it. A joke really works when the individual who learned about it uses it in her/his environment.
Humor also needs to be harmonic with the environment where it works. This is the case of each of the different types of humor, such as caricatures, jokes, the use of irony, etc., which require the adequate harmony with the environment in order to be accepted.
This harmony is defined by the culture, the moment, the group or the subjects involved. Rejection is the consequence of a humor that is not harmonic with its context.
Demystification is a power game. It seeks the destruction of those elements that bother an individual and thus fosters self-esteem. This power game opens two possibilities.
On the one hand, humor demystification allows solving the problem the individual has when dealing with a specific reality and, on the other hand, it allows individuals to avoid the need of assuming responsibilities in the environment.
Demystification needs to annul the influence an ideal exerts in an environment. When an ideal requires investing a high level of energy and is dysfunctional to the needs of a group, humor allows mitigating the stress produced.
Part 2 – Structural Segments of Humor
Three functions of humor could be defined:
- The expansive humor that fosters the expansion of individuals or cultures.
- The inhibiting humor that pretends to eliminate threats. It is a typical humor in authoritarian environments.
- Anti-humor that seeks for the destruction of the transcendent values of individuals. The destructive humor needs to destroy a specific reality.
It has to be considered that there is a legitimate humor and an illegitimate humor. As humor drives an authority conflict, it is only legitimate when those who have been attacked are able to respond to the message through their actions. Therefore, humor becomes illegitimate when it attacks supernatural aspects that deal with religious faith.
Five structural segments of humor have been defined that characterize its influence in an environment. These functional segments include all the types of humor that exist. These segments are:
- Aggressive Humor
- Mordacious Humor
- Projective Humor
- Introjective Humor
- Desacralizing Humor
Segments of Inhibiting Humor
The purpose of inhibiting humor is to destroy threats. These threats might be real or be part of a parallel reality of an individual. This humor is natural in environments where people feel submitted. It relieves the pressure produced by the need to over-adapt to an environment. It generates smiles.
The Aggressive Humor
The purpose of the aggressive humor is the destruction of a specific reality that is annoying a person or group. This type of humor might be subtle or violent but, in all the cases, it aims at the destruction of some aspects of the environment.
It exposes the weaknesses of a given aspects of reality making it appear as fully dysfunctional, which provokes smiles or laughter that disqualifies the aspects that are bothering.
This type of humor is functional to sectarian groups or extremely individualistic or marginal cultures.
The Mordacious Humor
It is the humor that seeks for the destruction of someone’s self-esteem or authoritative role. It uses subtle communication, including subliminal communication, and is built upon well disguised fallacies that allow installing fallacious perceptions.
It seeks to annul authoritative roles by attacking their implicit weaknesses, which sustain their strengths, destroying their legitimacy while creating the sensation of a superior intellectuality of the one who acts this mordacity out. This humor is functional among intellectual groups and inaction driven cultures.
Segments of Expansive Humor
The purpose of expansive humor is to solve the conflict between idealism and realism in order to better adapt to the environment. It is the humor that fosters personal and social evolution and generates smiles and laughter.
The Projective Humor
This humor allows individuals to project outside the personal problems they have to avoid having the need to adapt to the environment. It is the typical humor of bestselling comedies in theatres or movies.
The spectator shares the weaknesses acted out in the comedy, which liberate the spectator, who avoids the need to face the conflicts they generate in the real life. The projective humor is the best bridge to build social relationships.
The projective humor allows individuals to share their weaknesses, which allow building transitory relationships even between people who belong to different cultures or segments. It is the humor needed to participate in social events.
The Introjective Humor
It is the humor an individual uses to laugh at her/himself. It is a humor for the few and it is something that can be taken but not given. This means that the same humor that is perceived as projective by someone is used to laugh at her/himself by others.
It is a humor that cannot be perceived by those who cannot laugh at themselves. It is a typical humor of “doers” and groups who foster awareness. It doesn’t allow building bridges with others because it separates those who can laugh at themselves and those who cannot.
It has en extreme value for personal evolution and it also has a social value in those environments where “doing” is a dominant value.
Anti-humor (Illegitimate Humor)
It is the anti-concept of humor that seeks for the destruction of the transcendent values of a culture. It uses an apparent direct aesthetics, which works only when it includes subliminal communication, to install fallacious myths to destroy transcendent values. The anti-humor generates meaningless extreme conflicts. It is the humor used by fundamentalists. It generates rational adherence.
It is the humor that aims at the destruction of transcendent values that threaten the values of the one who is creating it. It pretends to establish an authority conflict with sacred institutions or aspects that deal with the faith of people. It is the kind of humor used by all types of fundamentalists.
The category of a humorous communication can only be measured by the reaction of those who receive it. Humor, like art in general, is a pathway to equilibrate the conflicts between individuals and society, which fosters a more functional adaptive behavior.
It also works as an internal equilibrator for an individual that has significant consequences on her/his personal health. The natural type of humor a culture uses is an indicator of its archetype.
On the one hand, humor is also used to destroy dysfunctional taboos, but produces paradoxical results when these taboos sustain the survival of a group or community. But, on the other hand, humor fosters personal evolution when it is used to eliminate growth taboos.
While humor generates the solution of problems, anti-humor is a fundamentalist action that generates extreme conflicts by fostering a parallel reality.
Since humor is an art, the development of humorous messages, includes a high level of non-conscious influences. The different categories of expansive, inhibiting, or illegitimate humor can only be confirmed through the reactions of the people.
This is an excerpt of the book on the Unicist Ontology of Humor published in 2004.
NOTE: The Unicist Research Institute was the pioneer in using the unicist logical approach in complexity science research and became a private global decentralized leading research organization in the field of human adaptive systems. It has an academic arm and a business arm.