After reading this plea for more snark, which reads more like a plea for an intervention of some kind, I am considering giving up the sarcasm business for good. I mean:
I am happy to say that I was barraged with sarcasm during my formative years. My teachers specialized in subtle-but-withering verbal assaults. Many incidents spring to mind: After jackhammering my way through an entire page of Ulysses in a robotic monotone—how was I supposed to know that James Joyce expected the reader to insert the lilts, pauses, and commas intuitively?—my English teacher announced that he was overcome by the “sensitivity” of my reading and would need to “nip out for a fag” in order to compose himself. While the entire class roared with laughter, I flinched and cringed. But I eventually recovered. Better to be verbally humiliated than whacked upside the head, an outcome that was also on offer, and the benefits of which will doubtless be the subject of some future column.
My home life, I am happy to report, was equally sarcasm-riddled and sincerity-free. When I began to embrace the satins and velvets of glam rock, my parents began pointedly tracking the movements of any traveling circuses and keeping me posted on their whereabouts.
Pops and Mamma saved their best sarcasm for each other, often after drinking vats of homemade sloe gin. Like many dudes of his generation, my dad had a tendency to treat his kids, the fruit of his loins, like some random encumbrance that fate had been seen fit to inflict upon him. My mum was quick to nip this line of thinking in the bud with a little gin-fueled faux-gratitude: “It really was so good of you to take me in off the street, especially with these two children in tow. Have I ever thanked you formally?”
Well, that must have been a hell on earth.
I’m happy to say I was not barraged with sarcasm during my formative years. I attribute that to the fact that the lives of most of the working-class folk who comprised my world were simply too prosaic and exhausting, and afforded them neither the necessary ironic distance nor the vocabulary nor the energy to sneer properly at the hypocrisies and absurdities of their circumstances. (Which is to say, if they wanted to put someone in his place, they simply called him an idiot or an ass and left it at that.)
Plus, I think my parents, in fact most of the adults I knew, would have thought it cruel to do to kids, even if it were in them to begin with. (One teacher I remember who did have a penchant for putting students in their place with fits of sarcasm usually picked on kids who were emotionally or psychologically on the ragged edge already, and so succeeded only in reducing them to tears. He eventually uprooted his family and became a lay missionary in Africa. We were very happy. That he was far away. We pitied the Africans. Who no doubt immediately converted to Islam.)
But back to our story: What Mr. Doonan does not seem to understand (or perhaps he does and is merely having us on) is that inhabiting a world of would-be wits dripping with sarcasm, such that no lobster bib in the world could sop up the overflow, is like having everyone scream at you all day long.After a while, you go deaf to what they are saying. And do whatever is in your power to keep a safe distance away.
Which is why even I take a break from this every once in a while…
P.S. I think if you have a bent to express yourself in this way, you should strive to punch above your weight class: aim at those people or institutions in the public eye who wield real power, or whose behavior is so grotesque that to say nothing is to admit it simply doesn’t matter whom they lie to or abuse.
Which is why I hate reality shows like Cops. While the purpose of such “entertainments” is not snark but police recruitment, the targets are almost always poor and working-class, usually minorities, paraded before the cameras at their worst moments without any context for how harsh so many of their lives are. Which is not to say that they are merely victims or not responsible for their often self-destructive behavior. But why should it be fodder for entertainment? So we can feel superior to someone? So their most embarrassing moments can be frozen in amber on strangers’ DVRs in perpetuity? (What the hell ever happened to Playhouse 90?)
I would rather they stalked George Soros and Rupert Murdoch (or Silvio Berlusconi and any governor of Illinois) and record the number of laws they break in a given day…