When Laughing Might be Harmful


Resilience comes in several kinds of ways. There’s the steel-hard resilience frequently displayed by soldiers on the battlefield: a sort that requires critical analysis of the situation in order to survive a battle. Another is the resilience that comes through some sort of escapism: a temporary distraction of some sort to placate the nerves. When one feels stressed from the never abating struggles of life, one might choose to see a movie. The movie acts as a form of escapism that temporarily shields one from the problems of life. These instruments of resilience are necessary to the sanity, progress, and development of people.

From an economic point of view, resilience plays an important role in raising a nation from the quagmire of economic recession to a marginally stronger foothold of economic growth. It keeps the unemployed tirelessly searching for a job until he/she finds one. It keeps the entrepreneur searching for new means of resuscitating a comatose business. It keeps an embattled Government searching for solutions to macroeconomic issues through the use of monetary and fiscal policies.

When it comes to the use of these instruments of resilience, a constant struggle for some form of optimized balance exists. So one can either resolve to think through the problem in hopes of a solution or one can temporarily leave it and opt for a form of escapism or distraction. One can laugh to push away the frustration and pain or one can face it head-on. Either way, one has not given up on the problem. Essentially, different coping mechanisms that keeps one on the same paths have been applied, howbeit at different points on the track. So much like a Production Possibility Frontier with two products and limited production capability, one typically has to sacrifice some portion of one product for the other. Nigerians tend to sacrifice sober reflection for humor. And this isn’t bad, as humor provides a means of mitigating stress. However, several consequences occur when humor becomes the sole mean through which we constantly manage the constantly barraging bad news in Nigeria. The ‘Oga at the top’ incident became a major joke and has become an everyday phrase. But how many people actually took some time out to find out what the real site was? How many people did some introspection to see if they knew the website of their own organization? Do we then take any lessons out of such a scenario other than humor? Recently, the Rivers State House of Assembly fight captivated Nigeria. Before long, a humorous rendition of that violent and unsavory video came out. Once again, humor suppresses our ability to fully comprehend that we have sunk to a new low.

What happens when humor becomes the knee-jerk reaction? One begins to lose the significance of sobering up, analyzing the situation and considering a solution to the problem. One shuts out the cognitive part of the mind that engages in problem solving. Moreover, turning everything into a joke rapidly desensitizes issues. The worse things get, the less we regard them seriously because precursors to those events have been trivialized. Now remember that the single habit of a person accounts for the collective culture of a people in the long run. With such a culture, we’ll end up laughing ourselves into destruction. In this current period of corruption, plummeting educational standards, kidnapping, declining Human Development Index, laughing should be substituted for sober reflection.

Taking the route of laughter is convenient, but leads to no improvement. Sober up and try to critically analyze things. If you can’t find a solution, at least learn a lesson from it. We’ve had 50 years to sober up and learn from our cumulative failure as a nation. And yet, it has been nothing but ceremonies, festivals, parties, meetings-all yielding nothing. Collectively, we have to realize that the time for laughing at our failures should be far behind. When a nation laughs at itself, other nations laugh with it…and at it.

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  • Hmmn. Pretty much a food for thought. Sad that most times when things go bad in this country we just laugh it off. No lesson learned, no changes made. I guess even we do see the humour in any of these things, we should also see the need to sit and reflect soberly on how far gone we are as a country and also try to come up with practical steps to find the way forward. I’m really gonna ponder on this one. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Charles

    CHARLES. Yeah, by choosing to laugh, we tend to neglect any individual responsibility to a possible solution for the problem (the actor- in- the movie’s wahala), pitiable.whats more! this reminds me of Dr Bongo’s chastisement of my class in undergrad: ”Japanese students frown at anything that that cast their nation in bad light, in Nigeria we laugh at it”

  • Unfortunately this seems to be the atypical default setting of the average Nigerian when confronted with such issues.

  • Olakunle

    Insightful article. Your article seems to subtly suggest that the majority of Nigerians have turned to humor rather than sober reflection when matters like this arise
    However, we have no hard statistics to back this up. My hypothesis is that the majority engage in sober reflection. However, their voice is not as loud as that of the humor seeking minority; often times the younger folk who are much better at magnifying their voice with the aid of social media.

  • John

    Beautiful piece, insightful and thought-provoking. A nation that is bereaved of constructive and productive ideas and consciously enthroned the attitude of ‘make them do mistake make we laugh’ will definitely be the greatest investor of the humour industry. No wonder, our comedians are laughing their way to the bank at the expense of the workplace. May God help my generation.

  • Fela said it all “Suffering and Smiling”.
    This mentality we have developed is probably borne out of long years of hardship without solutions thereby leaving us with no other option but to laugh at our futility.
    It’s like a heartbroken man with no hope of repair, he tries to drink his sorrows away. And i think it’s also because of our mentality towards life, you know, won’t-live-here-forever kinda thing so why really bother.
    Not surprised we were once named HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH. .Smh.