Our world is facing enormous economical, political and demographic challenges in a near complete intelectual and philosofical void while ignoring the deep and inspiring message contained in laughter and humour.
A Philosophical waste-land:
Undoubtely history has known other times when real leadership was perverted in the hands of ignorants but, nevertheless, there was always somewhere a moral authority, be it religious or intelectual, that could be relied on to stand up to the sins of the powerfull.
Today, in this age of media created fake opinion leaders, instant internet celebrities and narcisitic billionaires as role models, the people who can still think are relegated to the fringes of society where their voice can easily be ignored.
Even the world’s great religions have all but lost their ability to influence the course of our societies having missed out, first on enlightment and then on the tecnical and scientific revolution that came as a consequence. One could argue that the case of Islam is different but I am firmly convinced that it’s apparent revival has more to do with a strong nationalistic resistance to our criminal plundering of their lands than some profound spiritual teachings. Having faced, first hand, the full extent our societie’s violence and hypocresy, they have become painfully inmuned to our twisted narrative.
As for that very distinctive class called “the intellectuals”, so influencial in oposing political abuse since the times of Voltaire, Kant or Hume, their near total demise today is a clear result of the “dumbing-down” of our society. We live in a world that has given the utmost importance to satisfying our desire of inmediate pleasure.
Thinking is seen as an activity for losers.
The place of Humor in the world:
In this bleak landscape, humor has enjoyed an apparent sanctuary, even a boom if you don’t look at reality to closely. From the rise of stand-up comedians, to the continous use of humor in publicity, it seems that humanity is in a constant fit of laughter. There are, of course exceptions, as the Charlie Hebdo tragedy so clearly demonstrated, but they come from elements outside our society and in conflict with it.
Yet things are not quite what they appear to be.
Even in the “west”, comedy is far from being as strong as it seems: Censorship exist and it is rapant.
Of course, our elites will not shoot you if you make fun of them but they have other ways to silence laughter. By dominating the media as they do, a small group of people can decide what the vast majority can hear and see, thus giving them the right to “chose” the humour that best serves their interests.
Try making jokes about major brands, for instance, on TV…
Publicity should be a legitimate target for comedians as it is ubicous and ever present in our lives. Nevertheless making fun of well known brands could get it’s author dragged into court for copyright infringement and face devasting fines. And that is just the beginning of the problem! The wrath of corporate lawyers would also fall on the employer of such an ill-advised jester and the studio would face the same penalties making it very improbable that such a dangerous artist would ever work again.
Thus, placed between making a pertinent joke and dying poor or playing safe and becoming rich, most if not all professional funny people chose the latter.
And so Humour becomes innocuos and our mercantile society gives itself the right to be shielded from laughter.
A dangerous loss for Democracy.
A New Clown Conscience:
In the ever changing world of comedy, a new character has emerged in the last decades to join the pantheon of funny people: He or she has been called the “New Clown”.
Drawing on the esthetic of traditional circus and finding inspiration in the historical figure of the court jester, a new generation of artist, has been exploring a less conventional form of laughter. Having in common with their peers in other walks of life, a growing skepticism towards the political structure and finalities of our civilization, the “New Clown” has found an audience outside mainstream comedy that demands more adventurous fun.
Over time the comunity has grown, expanding from country to country, to form nowadays, a loose-knit international association of activist-clowns challenging with humour our gloomy statu quo.
Life outside “corporate” showbusiness is not so easy economically but what is lost in financial security is more than compensated by the real sense of purpouse and meaning one shares with the people laughing at your jokes.
A change of mood.
In the last few years, having performed in numerous Clown Festivals and theaters all across Europe and South and Central America, I have felt a change in the way my fellow clowns and jesters relate to the rest of the world.
In their shows and on a personal level, the energy and the will to laugh is the same but on a broader and deeper basis, I was suprised to find quite a deal of pessimism. Gone was the innocent enthusiasm that had characterized the group since the beginning. As if reality had finally caught up and the dream of changing the world through laughter had become just that: A dream.
Something of the magic of clowns had disapeared and we were on the way to becoming just another profession.
Time to react.
I was profoundly stirred by this sudden awareness and I felt that something had to be done.
This call to action was also motivated by my own personal background. Contrary to most of my “New Clown” collegues, I did not come to clowning by my own personal choice, I am a clown by birthright.
From the many generations of circus family who preceded me, I inherited a way of life and a mission. My ancesters had given me not only an artistic tradition but also an acute sense of freedom that needed to be defended and handed on.
It is this deep calling that has pushed me to write this Manifesto and start a movement to unshacle the power of comedy.
Having felt a gut reaction against the way the system was the destroying the meaning of clowns, I decided to put my experience and energy behind the task of restoring laughter to it’s original purpouse as a ritual to celebrate life.
We had to break out of the shallow logic of comedians as producers for the entertainment market and get back to our real essence as shamans of the soul and purveyers of Hope.
Comedy had to be freed from the sinister grasp of sponsors and the media and returned to the sphere of sacredness where it rightly belongs.
To my surprise, the response of my fellow clowns and jesters has been overwhelming! From country to country and in many conversations, my collegues have been very supportive of the idea, offering me help and advice.
So strong was this feeling that I began to think seriously about what could be the first tangible action to herald this new era.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It became aparent that if laughter had lost it’s power, falling under the sway of those who dominate our world, it had a lot to do with the fact that nobody had been strong enough to stand up to these predators.
As Darwin rightly observed, life is just one continuos fight for survival and the weak will always get crushed by the ruthless.
For that reason, after the devastation of the II World War brought on by fascism, a group of enlightened politicians decided that humanity had to be shielded from the abuse of the powerfull and took on the task of creating a legal framework of rights to protect all people.
Modeled on the spirit of the “Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme” of the french revolution, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed at the United Nations in 1948, by 48 countries was a major step in getting the world to recognize that in spite of our diferences in cultures and beliefs, we do have a common set of values.
When one reads the 30 articles that comprise the Declaration, the intentions of it’s redactors are quite clear. From the right to shelter and medical attention, to the clearly stated freedom of religion and expression, the 18 distinguished members of the redacting comittee where inspired by the noble ideals of European Enlightment.
Missing from the protocol was any reference to Humour.
In fact one could say that the document was completely humourless not only in its redaction but in it’s deeper meaning, as if laughter was such an insignificant activity that it did not deserve any particular protection.
If the most authoritive legal document on human rights that binds the community of Nations to it’s rules does not mention the right to Comedy or Laughter, what hope can us Clowns have in being defended when we are atacked?
Amending Article 19
Of all the articles relating to the freedom of expresion, the nineteenth is the surely the most profound and explicit. This is where a common action by all the people who understand the importance of Comedy could have a significant impact. What I am proposing is a modification or amendment of this article to include the Right to Laugh and to Make Laugh. The precise wording should be left to an authoritive body comprising clowns and comedians on it’s board.
Once the right to make jokes is inshrined in the Universal Declaration, no government, religious entity or corporate lawyer could censor the freedom of a comedian without facing the opprobrium of the whole community of nations.
With this inmunity, the Clown, Joker, Comedian or Laughter Shaman would have only his or her conscience as a filter to fulfill the mission of making people laugh.
This extraordinary responsability would restore a great deal of lost power to comedy, giving the people who have the gift of laughter, a great moral authority.
In the more simple societies these people were called shamans
The importance of Clowns.
It’s seems a proven fact that our present day world is in a very fragile state: The economic injustices are scandalous, world resources are being burnt at an ever increasing pace and what financial reserves we have are being spent inmorally on a massive build up of inmensly dangerous weapons and armies.
Our leaders have been shown to be woefully incapable of leading effectively for lack of compassion and honesty.
Our planet desparately needs to be governed by people who can express love and hope.
After nearly 50 years of continous performance on every continent, infront of audiences of all creeds and races, my respect for my fellow Clowns and Funny People has not ceased to grow. It’s not easy to get up and make people laugh. You need to have an enormous amont of hope and believe in humanity. Yet for centuries and milleniums we have done that, we have brought people together and got them to put things into perspective and laugh.
We Clowns and Funny People have never failed our audiences, taking at time great risks to spread joy and freedom to the world.
And so I ask my collegues to leave all doubt and gloom aside:
We are important and the World needs us.
We must feel proud of what we represent and we must find the strenght to fight back against the powerfull and reclaim what is ours, in the name of all the poor, weak and unheard voices of Humanity.
We must consider ourselves as leaders in the knowledge of the Human Soul and Pathfinders in the quest of Truth.