Friday, 1 August 2008
Laughter can be, should be, a joyful, heart-lifting sound - spontaneous, helpless, infectious, the expression of a heart surprised by joy. But another kind - loud, aggressive and entirely mirthless - is gaining ground. From the offensive, in-your-face guffawing of louts in the street to the corporate braying of executives and hoorays, this is laughter as chest-beating self-assertion, as territorial marking, as a kind of weapon. It has little or nothing to do with being amused, still less with being in possession of that increasingly rare commodity, a sense of humour. Rather it's another symptom of the coarsening disinhibition of public behaviour, of the aggressive edge that the most basic social negotiations seem to be acquiring, of the advance, I fear, of stupidity in all its ugly forms... Happily, though, real laughter still thrives alongside its travesty, and there are still, thank God, reasons to be cheerful.