An American humorist raised a valid point the other day on the subject of parody: given some of the current political and business leaders in our midst, how do you parody those who have already pushed beyond a society’s unspeakable, undoable or even unthinkable?
The question doesn’t only matter when applied to parody. Pushing beyond self-imposed or socially-prescribed limits makes a work of fiction worth pursuing, if only to find out how the characters will solve (or fail to solve) the basic moral conundrum facing every social animal: when, how and why to overstep boundaries. When to be part of the crowd, when to be your own person. In both cases, how to live with the consequences of compliance and rebellion.
In some cases, the consequences are immediate:you read about an industrial lobby forcing a university to accept guns in the classroom, for instance. You visualize it, don’t you? the ensuing carnage when panic sets in and several firearms go off in shaky hands. (No fear: there will be at least one instance of a cool hand Luke the lobbyists will hold up as a national hero. Media frenzy will follow, along with a made-for-big-screen biopic).
Now add politicians indentured to industrial groups. Bayer taking on the European Union because of legislation that might limit the industry’s profits. Lobbyists financing political campaigns. The ho-hum practice of bribes, pay-backs and other means of control over legislators. Etc. Etc. The public grows sated and tunes out, or demands bigger and glitzier excess.
Voilà for this morning’s not-so profound mind blips. In real life: an accountant in the morning, an appellate court hearing in the afternoon. The first for a documentary film association the size of a runt pea, the second for young people in search of a legal status and the right to wade through the paper maze like the rest of us.
With nods to Kafka and any number of writers whose books on my shelves comfort me in the belief writers have taken on crazy reality before and wrung out some basic truths from all the lies and evasions – not to mention flat-out fabrications and hysterical frenzies.
Human-sized. As in: drop the megaphone, turn down the volume. There’s a bird singing out there. Or a pile of papers to shove aside to make room for another pile.