[December 1, 2016] Humor is a great American pastime. And so it is with many other societies that have enjoyed the benefit of Democracy, wealth, and peace. One form of humor is especially poetic and that is satire. Satire can be used to mock leaders and is an effective tool to deliver a strong yet cloaked message to those who show weakness; as such may be both entertaining and effective. Interestingly, I found out first-hand what it was like being mocked as a leader.
As a junior army officer I always thought of myself as a well-groomed and fashionable dresser. Not married at the time I had the cash to purchase the right clothes and made it a feature of my persona to be up-to-date on the latest trends that the ladies might appreciate and admire. Much to my misfortune – I considered it a misfortune at the time – those men who worked in my Infantry platoon thought of me as a bit of a sissy (perhaps effete is too strong a word but you get the picture).
It was our practice before any holiday to have a formation in civilian clothes before we released the men for several days to give them a reminder of their duties as honorable soldiers, safety, and of their requirement to return on a specific date and time to avoid being AWOL. Just before the Christmas of 1984, I arrived at the designated formation location to find that all my men had dressed in formal attire, smelling of strong aftershave, and in the rear of the formation a gaggle of finely dressed “ladies of the night.”
Message received. I changed my ways a little after that elaborate and humorous putdown; paying closer attention to my men and their thoughts on how a leader should dress and behave. Perhaps my focus was not what it should have been given that our unit would soon be on tap for combat duty. The message was far from subtle and that sometimes that is what it takes to send a message to those less receptive.
Case in point, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, recently hailed Fidel Castro as a longtime family friend, a larger than life leader, and a legendary revolutionary and orator. No mention that Castro ruled with an iron fist and firing squads, or that he appropriated all the island’s land, private businesses, and media and had his own private yacht, private island, 20 homes, and … well you get the picture. Cubans are mostly living in poverty.
The backlash in the form of mocking Trudeau was immediate. “As we mourn Emperor Caligula, let us always remember his steadfast devotion to Senate reform,” one Twitter user jibed in Trudeau-speak. “Although flawed Hitler was a vegetarian who loved animals, was a contributor to the arts & proud advocate for Germany,” another joked. “Kim Jong Il will always be remembered fondly for his leadership and contributions on climate change,” another chimed in.1
Canadians have a darn good sense of satire humor.
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