Over the weekend, I made a pilgrimage to Combe Florey, the Somerset village and house where Evelyn, and then Auberon, Waugh, lived. As a child, I went there several times – my parents were friends of the Waughs.
Seeing the charming classical house made me think what Bron would have thought of today’s political climate. He would find a Britain utterly changed since his death 17 years ago – a Britain that’s largely lost its sense of humour.
The widespread attacks on Boris Johnson for his burka article are the tip of the humourless iceberg. Bron specialised in shocking to amuse – and Boris’s little barbs were nothing compared to Bron in full flow.
Several decades of virtue-signalling, disapproval of bad behaviour and priggish attacks on funny writers have removed the necessary elements of humour: to be contrary and outspoken; to exaggerate, play down, or to be just straightforwardly rude. MeToo is the icing on the cake, removing bawdiness from jokes – an essential element of humour since time began.
Social media expands any perceived offence; so people run scared of offending. Throw in the new fashion for advertising your own kindness – and everyone hugging each other – and you remove the brutish teasing in childhood which was a foundation of British humour.
The American influence of pumping up your own self-worth, plus the narcissism of therapy and the internet all conspire to put your own interests ahead of other people’s; and, by extension, the desire to please yourself ahead of the obligation to entertain others.
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