Humour

Sensory delight in paradox.

Humour clears away inhibitions about exploring taboo responses and solutions. It makes it all right to acknowledge a mistake; it supplies the detachment needed to judge one’s own work and improve its quality.

It is a necessary condition for the toleration—as distinct from enforcement—of differences in role, assets and influence within the group. It sustains conversation and underwrites the existence of a group whose members work together and listen to each other; it is a source of shared belonging and mutual recognition: it . . .

. . . remains one of the ways in which human beings enjoy each other’s company, become reconciled to their differences, and accept their common lot. Laughter helps us to overcome our isolation and fortifies us against despair. . . . When you and I laugh together, we reveal to each other that we see the world in the same light, that we understand its shortcomings and find them bearable.H37

Humour sees through the fraud, the person who makes an icon of himself and his own high moral standing. It is a test of team membership, distinguishing a team from a lonely instrumentalism whose sufferers have lost all their mirth and must put up, reluctantly, with having other people around the place.

It builds “congruence”, the property of an effective and resilient team that can think aloud. And central to congruence-building among cooperative equals is a blend of humour and play, some of which takes the form of insult. It communicates the possibility that, maybe, the person is to be trusted. An important quality when applying for a job as a mechanic in Donsco’s repair shop for high-performance cars . . .

the invitation to the back is a judgment of the young man’s character and a large measure of trust. He will get some light supervision that is likely to be disguised as a stream of sexual insults, delivered from ten feet away by someone he cannot see (only his shoes) as he lies under his car. Such insults are another index of trust. If he is able to return these outrageous comments with wit, the conversation will cascade towards real depravity; the trust is pushed further and made reciprocal. If the young man shows promise, that is, if he is judged to have some potential to plumb new depths of moral turpitude, he may get hired: here is someone around whom everyone can relax.

Matthew Crawford, The Case for Working with Your Hands, 2010.H38

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was an economist, historian and writer, based in London. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, Lean Logic and Surviving the Future. A film about his perspective and legacy - The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? - was released in 2019, directed by BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong. For more information, including on Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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