March 1, 2014
March 1, 2014


Humor can be a cutting edge sword. It can hurt, It can heal. It can put us down or raise us up. It can make us laugh.

The November issue of The National Geographic magazine reported the horrendous terrorism continuing in Nigeria. After a bombing where a number of bystanders had their outer layers of skin stripped off so badly that it left them looking “-as they joked with each other- like beke, the Igbo word for a white man”.

They were using a form of irony to handle the trauma. Irony is the direct opposite of its usual sense which may be meant to be sarcastic or humorous. Irony in a sarcastic form may be thought to be a put down, demeaning and uncaring. It can be a combination of circumstances or a result that is opposite of what might be expected or considered appropriate; or the feigning of ignorance of a subject. (The definitions are taken from WEBSTER‘S NEW UNIVERSAL UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY.)

Getting caught with the suffering of the Nigerians, one might not be able to jest with them, but they have to laugh because it is too painful to contemplate the severity of their experience.

Therefore the perspective of the observer may get bogged down with the sorrow of it and feel guilty for laughing with them. It may generate anger that those laughing along with the Nigerians are seen as insensitive clods for not feeling the enormity of their misery.

However, it does not help the Nigerians to dampen their attempt to lighten their anguish. It is clearly a defensive mechanism to bear the unendurable. It is the recognition of this fact that allows others to accept their humor for what it is: a way to survive and heal emotionally and physically.

We admire their grace and forbearance and see it as an inspiration. We smile at their courage to live with the unliveable. The laughter allows a release valve for the Nigerians to leave some of that pain behind them that they may go forward with their lives.