Satire is the genre I feel most at home with—it seems to come naturally to me. This might be explained by an unhappy childhood that saw me turn to Mad magazine in the 1960s (along with listening to the Mothers of Invention and watching Do Not Adjust Your Set and Monty Python’s Flying Circus) and National Lampoon in the early 1970s; in adulthood I read Private Eye. I even got into trouble at school for producing a satirical magazine of my own.
However, in recent months I’ve concluded that its negativity does not make it a good way of seeing, but simply encourages a cynicism that is all too common in the world. I am finding it difficult to reprogram my neural pathways (or whatever the biology is) to change my mindset on this, since satire, irony and sarcasm seem to run in my veins. For example, an overwhelming idea came to me to create a volume of work for a poet called Trader John Ahole—Holey Moley It’s John Ahole—a ridiculous ‘woke’ author of doggerel, an Ali G of right-on concerns inspired by his hero John Agard (‘Who got me mi C/ At GCSE’), followed by a second volume entitled Brimmin’ from mi Bathtub (‘where most of mi best poems bubble up’).
A white man self-employed as a street poet in Norwich, Trader John, who keeps a low profile ‘because of a misunderstanding with de Norfolk Constabulary’, identifies as ‘a heteroflexible pansexual solo polygamous relationship anarchist who dedicates himself to the cause of womxn of colour’ he has written such masterpieces as ‘Jordan P’, an epic poem on the bugbear of left-wingers Professor Jordan Peterson, whom Ahole advises knowledgeably on gender identification:
And offers thoughtful insights into the thinking of Peterson’s enemies:
Said, ‘Now my son
I don’t wanna be rude
But you’re a mean white dude
From a background privilege
That’s just a sacrilege
To us black folks
Tryin’ to throw off our yokes…‘
Other masterpieces include ‘Jezza Speak for de Palestinians’:
(An’ I not sayin’ he’s a Jew)
Hurt de people o’ Palestine
He call dem de Philistine
He call dem de swine
He quote fro’ de Bible
An’ make dem liable
In dis Israeli libel
But Jezza is de Goliath
Who will stop dere bias… [etc.]
This writes itself. I could go on with ‘Dem Evil English’ (‘Dey sucked up de world like a giant cup o’ tea’) and ‘C-16’, in which Ahole explains Canadian gender law somewhat in the manner of the old ‘Cricket Explained to an American’ trope, and numerous others. But I won’t: RIP Trader Jon Ahole.
Of course, no-one gives up any addiction unless they recognize that that addiction holds no advantage for them, and the very appearance in this journal of Ahole’s ‘oofer’ (as he calls it) shows part of me still adheres to satire’s deceptive perspective.
As a material acknowledgement that I am cutting off satirical thoughts at source I really need to stop my subscription to Private Eye. Satire is a form of cruelty, if not of weakness and cowardice. Suspicion and making light of other people’s misfortunes is not a way of seeing, but one of blindness. I’m sure that if you’re living the right way your clarity of sight should illuminate your path through the world’s tricksters and hypocrites.