"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter what name it is called." ~ John Stuart Mill
Bugs to the Rescue
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The best definition of "reason" I've encountered is "the ability to make connections." I consider it part science, part art. This might be a better definition: "the art and science of making connections."
Let's use Bugs Bunny for an example. Bugs belongs to the archetype known as the Trickster. This archetype exists in nearly every culture and is thousands of years old. It is an aspect of the Holy Fool archetype, which is someone who rejects the conventional, false wisdom, believes in the ancient, true wisdom, and is considered a fool and a danger by the authorities and the "wise." In the Western world, Jesus is the best-known example of the Trickster and the Holy Fool (by the way, for those offended, these are not insults).
So . . . Jesus and Bugs Bunny are connected to each other.
It's not as odd as it sounds.
Bugs was always outsmarting, tricking and ridiculing his opponents. He didn't use violence. You could say he "persuaded" them by trickery. His opponents, on the other hand, were always violent. There was the humorless and much-too-earnest Elmer Fudd, always attempting to blast Bugs with his shotgun; the Tasmanian Devil, an insane whirlwind always wanting to eat our hero; Marvin the Martian, who though brilliant, was also a lunatic and armed with a disintegrator ray. They would have made great employees of the State, whether today or in the Roman occupation of its various conquered lands.
What we have is the eternal Natural Law of Persuasion versus Coercion, in the form of a cartoon. I see Natural Law as in some way being in the structure of the universe. Humans are conduits for it: we discover it and then project it into literature, myth, fables, fairy tales . . . and even cartoons. By watching good cartoons, we are looking at the eternal laws of the universe.
This is what Alfred North Whitehead, the British philosopher, had to say about Persuasion and Coercion, in his book Adventures of Ideas:
"The creation of the world -- said Plato -- is the victory of persuasion over force . . . Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is the disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals . . . .
"Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."
The economist Mark Skousen puts it this way: "The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society."
Anyone who watches cartoons knows that Bugs is a Trickster, but Christianity, for some reason, has tried to gloss over the fact that Jesus was a Trickster, and a very witty one. You need look no further than Elton Trueblood's slim book, The Humor of Christ.
Here's a good example, in Mark. In it, a Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. In those days, Canaanites were the traditional enemies of Jews, and were considered ritually unclean pagans and idolaters. Jesus was not supposed to talk to her, or she to him. They weren't even supposed to acknowledge each other's presence.
She says to him, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." And how does he answer? At first he ignores her. His disciples urge him to send her away. She keeps shouting after Jesus until finally he answers, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel . . . it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
On the face of it this is a shocking thing to say. The woman answers his insult thusly: "Yes, but even the dogs can eat the crumbs that fall from the table." To this Jesus answers, "If you can give me an answer like that, I will heal your daughter."
When Jesus called her a dog, he used the diminutive "little dog," meaning a puppy that begs for food at the table. What he really said to her was, 'It's not fair to take the children's food and give it to puppies that beg at the table.' And by saying that, he was giving her the answer: "Yes, but even the puppies can eat the crumbs that fall from the table."
This is an example of his trickery and wit. He tricked his disciples, and he tricked the woman into giving the right answer. He got around the ironclad customs of his time, so he could heal the woman's daughter. In essence, he was ridiculing the foolish mores of his society.
That's not the only time he tricked people. In Luke 20: 19-26 his opponents ask him, "Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
In those days, that was a very dangerous question that could cost you your life if you answered the wrong way. Jesus answers, "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"
"Caesar's," they replied.
Jesus answers, "Then give to Caesar's what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
There is more going on here than is generally known. His opponents, being pious Jews, were not supposed to have that coin on them because it was a graven image -- it bore the face of Caesar. It is clearly stated that Jesus asked for the coin. There is no evidence he gave it back to them! And they couldn't ask for its return. Again, evidence of his wit and persuasive trickery, and of ridiculing and making fools of his opponents.
One of the most important messages of the Trickster and the Holy Fool is, "Lighten up." The Trickster never seems to hate; that's usually reserved for the ambitious satans clawing their way to the top of the State. Tricksters, though, are wise enough to protect themselves. They are "as wise as serpents and harmless as doves," and are as "sheep in the midst of wolves."
The ideas of Persuasion versus Force are well known. What is apparently not as well known is that there is a "trickiness" to the best persuasion. In the long run, it's what works. This is what Bugs and Jesus teach us. Christianity is still around. The Roman Empire disappeared a long time ago. Persuasion, with a little bit of trickery and wit, will always beat Force. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.
Voltaire's most famous saying is, "Lord, please make my opponents ridiculous."
The wisdom of cartoons teaches us one of the ways to attack the wrong is by ridiculing it. By outsmarting and tricking it. Evil can't stand to be ridiculed. If the Devil really is wandering around somewhere, he doesn't scare me. I'd just laugh at him.
I pay great attention to the amount of ridicule directed at politicians and the State. I do not believe any State can survive once the ridicule of the public reaches a critical mass. I've haven't seen it yet happen to the State, but I have seen it happen to politicians.
I am a great fan of Bugs. And Jesus, too. William Wittmann had this to say about Bugs (and it applies to others, too): "He is never in a rush, he takes vacations, he always enjoys himself, and he likes everyone he meets, even those that want to destroy the planet. However, he does not confuse his liking someone with thinking they are sane. He knows that Marvin the Martian is crazy. Bugs doesn't get hurt by him, and he doesn't dislike him. Pretty wonderful trick. He is essentially, a healer. His tool is tricking people into becoming whole."
Good cartoons are wise and wonderful things. That's my motto, one that I follow faithfully every day.