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Jokes and Sarcasm Reveal Character and Culture

Reacting to recent sarcastic comments against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Craig explains how sarcasm hurts groups. In this spontaneous video he also explains how sarcasm reveals a person’s true character and a group’s true culture.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey good morning. I am here in Portland, Maine. I’m at the top of exchange Street, just finished up a meeting, but I want to share with you my reaction to something that I heard this morning on National Public Radio. You may have heard this too.

The Brazilian president is under attack from her adversaries. They have started impeachment proceedings and the focus of the story was some of the things that people are saying behind her back. There were some phone wiretaps that have been recently released and they reveal a culture of talking badly about women and women politicians and about her in particular.

I’ll give you an example. There was a conversation between some people about a group of men breaking into a woman’s bedroom. It was kind of like a police raid kind of a situation. And there was joking and sarcasm about how she probably liked that; the idea of five men suddenly showing up in her bedroom. Now that was a sarcastic comment and as you can imagine a lot of people are offended by the comment because it reveals a culture — an attitude towards women, not a positive attitude — among these male political leaders. Now I can imagine that these male political leaders might say something like, “Well it was just a joke. We were just being sarcastic.” This is often what the jokester says when people push back and say that they are offended at a sarcastic comment. “Well it’s just as sarcasm, you know, you should be able to take it,” or, “it was just a joke!”

But here’s the thing about jokes and sarcasm. In order to have said that thought, even if it was just sarcasm or a joke, I had to think that thought. And when I am sarcastic or tell jokes of that type I am revealing, to whoever listens to it, things about my nature, about my ability to even think thoughts like that in the first place. When there is a pattern of sarcastic comments, it reveals a group culture about how people think about such things.

Now if you look up the word sarcasm in the dictionary you’ll find that it has a dark side to it. It is often designed “to cut or give pain” and sarcasm is a very destructive thing in groups. For one thing it separates us into factions: those who laugh about the sarcasm and those who are offended at the sarcasm. It intentionally separates us in two classes of people.

So here’s my thinking about the jokes and sarcasm. If you want to change your group culture from a culture of being destructive, from a culture of haves and have-nots, from a culture of those who get it and those don’t, then keep your dark thoughts to yourself. Don’t let them escape under the veil of jokes or sarcasm, because when you do that your really just revealing your own true thoughts about such things and you are modeling that dark destructive thinking for others. That’s step one: keep those things to yourself. Step two: honestly, work to change your attitude so you don’t even have those thoughts in the first place.

Okay, thanks for letting me share some of my reactions to the sarcasm that I heard on the radio this morning and my thoughts about how sarcasm can hurt other people, can hurt your group, and it can hurt yourself.

Here’s hoping you all have a great day. Here’s hoping that you and your group make good decisions. Thanks for listening everybody. Thanks!

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