If one were to tell me that I’d be receiving an impromptu holiday which may last anywhere between 10 days to the end of time (my personal time, friends) - I’d be elated, ecstatic, even. However, the very backing of the same would be resulting in deaths around the world and would be the reason for self-quarantining? Not as idealistic. While COVID-19 is no secret, and there is plenty known as well as unknown about this global pandemic, what has increasingly caught on like wildfire is the machinery related to the meme-making and the subsequent jokes that have flown in. While everyone is apprehensive about the unknown, the at-homeness has led to coping with the situation in any fashion we can. But, why humour? And what version of it is deemed appropriate?
Why is it that something that was born along one side of the world and has followed around the entirety of it has led to a strong sense of levity, at this dire time? What room do we have in our heads that makes us condone a business supposedly so corroded? And if not supposedly as corroded as it is supposed to be- what conception of this humour makes the cut?
From making fun of Trump and his infallible speeches (and more importantly, wigs) to now, suggesting how Bollywood star Ranveer Singh dresses like Coronavirus - believe you me, the latter tickled me about as much as it shocked me. The memes have hit like the plague, itself (no pun, intended) - quite unavoidable and with no cure. Just this morning, Snapchat informed me that a proficient actress was being ‘cancelled’ for making less of this pandemic. If she is at fault, aren’t we all? If Tom Hanks can tweet out that he’s lost 216 bouts of rummy with his wife due to the posited isolation of his positive-to-the-virus-self, we laugh, don’t we? It is ‘absolutely amazing’ how well he’s handling the issue at hand. However, if another individual so much as suggest that this pandemic is God’s gift to students- Ma’am, you have a #cancelled on your hands. I, a mere human, only ask for the boundary - where to build the wall, you know? (Please forgive me.)
I do what I can do best, right about now. I ask. People, Google, one and all. My friend tells me memes are the medicine to this pandemic, at least until you test positive, while a research published in Harvard Business Review explains that “laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.” It’s the manna from heaven, my friends. All that has troubled us: stress, boredom- cured. One article went ahead and suggested that humour can be and is, very well a form of self-care when experiencing burnout and compassion fatigue. Finding a humorous angle together can serve as a doorway to a deeper connection with other individuals, acting as a buffer. Could it be that a sense of belonging is what we seek, it is this that makes these jokes and memes as popular as they are - our need for affiliation! Malchiodi, one of the greatest researchers of ‘the funnies’ has vastly discussed the positive mental and physical results of laughter and/or humour. “Since the late 1980s, a number of studies support the idea that laughter stimulates the immune system and counteracts the effects of stress hormones, although results are mixed about exactly how,” she said. “In brief, there’s agreement that it’s another way to arrive at the relaxation response.” We’ve got it, people - an explanation as to why there has been a surge in the circulation of COVID-19 memes, parodies and videos aiming to get a laugh out of people. It could be that for certain people, making light of things is more of a coping mechanism than it is a chance at fame.
Oh, and what fame to give up, too. Please afford me another moment of pondering and I shall be done. In the extensive research that this phenomenon took - what became extremely apparent to me was the cultural difference. While Singapore is busy with how other countries are copying their way of work, or may I suggest, homework; the USA was busy with toilet paper memes (or, better yet, buttcoin, the new currency crowned after the infamous bitcoin.) India, out here, is confused about which issue to put higher up on the hierarchy - the failure of it as a democracy, the communal riots, the pandemic that is barely being considered as one or just the sheer amount of Whatsapp forwards that suggest you drink ‘gau mutra’ (cow urine) and get vaccinated towards Corona. Hitherto, the reigning queen, (and this I say with much bias) has to be the Corona Beer memes and the expected aversion to the same by the sages of the world. The economy is down the drain for most countries, the population - more so. But, I really do think Corona with/without lime deserves better.
Interestingly enough, and this may be of interest to one and all, the place where Rapunzel isolated herself? Corona. In more ways than one, the world is coming full circle- and while it may be really difficult to go through, it is nonetheless entertaining to watch the unfolding. Just this morning, another friend and I had a long conversation about the conspiracy theories involved with the awakening of COVID-19. Oh, and if you weren’t aware CoronaVirus Disorder- 2019 getting abbreviated has very much to do with the memes, you can ask WHO, they’d attest. While I’m no meme connoisseur, conspiracy theories really get me going but that’s for another day, another time, another beer. Done with my rambling, I warrant my answer to my aforementioned question - why humour? Why this very coping mechanism?
What do I think? It is non-violent resistance to any form of oppression. A successful one at that. It facilitates a culture of resistance, tries to bring levity, sure - but with it, interest and awareness. It’s the pink colour to cough syrups - the pretty packaging to venomous bottles.
Just as at a personal level, self-irony and joking about one’s own shortcomings are considered to have the greatest impact on self-liberation through humour, dare I suggest that may be true at the social level, irrespective of cultural and individual differences? Now, what does mere me know? While I ride back home in an airplane where no individual is without a mask or sanitizer - while I go home because my mother would rather I be sick with her than without - while there’s panic and apprehension on almost possible levels of conscious awareness, I wonder if you’d like that Corona with lime or without.
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