Sands in Seychelles Today
Thin Skin Burns
“Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that humor excites in those who lack it.” ~ George Saintsbury
There is a childhood adage dating back to the mid-1800s that goes, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Meant to arm kids with a tool to fend off the nastiness and name-calling pervading schoolyards and neighborhoods where children gather to play and taunt each other, it can work quite well. After all, words are just ephemeral bits of sound waves that bounce off eardrums or squiggles on a page that register in the brain as having some meaning, whereas bits of wood and rock can draw blood and literally break bones.
The tendency these days, however, is to attach all sorts of potential for injury to utterances, an attitude which can leave recipients in blubbering heaps unable to either ignore comments or to fire back with a biting retort, the lack of both a lifetime handicap. Being thin-skinned does not allow much bounce and makes people mean in their attempts to prove themselves perpetually correct and superior in everything.
Certainly no one should ever attack another person’s physical, mental, emotional, familial or whatever personal attributes another may have — that’s just rude and low, and says more about the commenter than the target of their vitriol, This, however, is far from a perfect world, so would it not be helpful if those earmarked for verbal assault were taught to deflect disparaging remarks in innocuous ways?
This is where humor comes in handy. Pointing and laughing can ricochet an insult off the thick, humor-armed hide of a victim of denigration, then slam it smack dab into the sloping forehead of a venom-spewing jerk at high velocity and packing a punch not soon forgotten. An effective quip, a barb dipped in sarcasm, a snide aside … all have the potential to disarm a tormenter and leave them a sputtering puddle of mortification without having to do any more than send a few well-chosen sound waves or squiggles in their direction.
Unfortunately, the sense of humor is not evenly spread throughout our species; some people just don’t get it, either through a genetic deficiency or having suffered a sagacity excision somewhere along the line. This is especially true when the taunting bully is shored up with self-righteous indignation they feel conveys some sort of carte blanche giving their views priority and protection against embarrassing come-backs. For reasons beyond comprehension and often contrary to the effectiveness of any original proposed point, this sort almost always lacks a funny bone, appreciation of well-placed irony and satire, so reactions to jests and jibes tend to go the way of obnoxious at best, and downright loathsome in many cases.
Due to objectives having less to do with civil discourse carrying potential for influence, but more about self-aggrandizement, this sort also vigorously and vitriolically takes part in social media and, absent humor, resorts to rudeness, threats, toddler-like verbal foot stomping (sans the humanity-leveling comedy routine that comes with “I know you are, but what am I?”, and “Neener Neener Neener!”), often ALL CAPS and, in typically cowardly fashion, under a fake profile assumed to absolve all personal responsibility.
Designed to intimidate, this does sometimes work, but many who have developed a sense of humor, honed it to a fine point and maintain its edge with practice, find it hilarious.
After all, sticks and stones …