THE WORLD OF JOKES
“Never to be born would be best for mortal man.
But hardly one man in a hundred thousand has this
Quoted by Freud
EVEN such seemingly trivial things as jokes are indispensable factors in a civilization. They flirt with people’s existential anxieties and with the ‘alien world’: they break through the protective shields of civilization but, after a moment of hilarity-terrorfreedom, they let people escape back into the safety of their everyday lives. By this exercise they renew and reinforce the normative and symbolic structures of civilization.
Jokes belong to the ephemerida of our lives. They seem to provide us with brief moments of hilarity, flashing up for an instant and then fading away without leaving a trace. I shall argue, however, that they are powerful allies in our efforts to curb and control our fears and anxieties in a world where we do not quite feel at home. And they are indispensable constituents of our civilization.
They may have, but it is not at all likely.1 Moses is portrayed in the Old Testament as an austere and forbidding man, majestic and morose, visionary, care-ridden, suffering from the enormous weight of responsibility. He was too