(be forewarned – slightly different post than usual)
For this post I will probably get slammed by my younger colleagues. The good news for me is that there aren’t many of them. And there I go, doing just what I have come to realize is detrimental to our society and to our connections as human beings in community. Snark is the language of the younger generation (the word is a combination of “snide” and “remark” – biting sarcasm is the way I would also define it). The popular use of snark by the younger generation is epitomized by the numbers of said generation following and looking to Jon Stewart for their information and political analysis. He, as the host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, is the king of snark. He is VERY entertaining. Yes, even for me because snark is one of my fluently spoken languages. But snark isn’t helping our society any more than the fringe right and the fringe left voices in our political arena are.
Here’s what I have come to realize: Jon Stewart depends on people doing and saying things he finds absurd, improper, or irrational. And, when they say these things with a straight face it makes his job that much more fun and entertaining. The problem is, these snide remarks point us in the direction of constant criticism. Snark requires us to point out the faults of others and their thinking and their political positions. Snark is used to dismiss the other person while subversively proclaiming a higher moral ground for our opposing view.
I get it. I can do it. I have just come to realize how divisive it is in our culture.
So, what’s the alternative? Well, to promote our own views with rational and helpful discourse would be one. To offer a positive word for what we could be rather than a negative word about who “they” are would be another. To acknowledge a political position and to understand it’s genesis and basis within the minds of others would provide a better avenue for presenting what we believe to be a more viable solution. The problem comes when we dismiss others as the “irrational they” by using snark to dismantle their argument. So, thereby, the solution should be in looking at others as differing from me in their view, but honoring their equal footing in the sphere of humanity as a whole. I know it won’t be nearly as entertaining for some, but it could be more beneficial for our society in the long run.
You see, the problem with snark, and I know this from my own experience, is that it is hard to contain and control. It is the Pandora’s Box of attitudes – once released it is virtually impossible to corral. What ends up happening is that every discussion becomes a mission of listening for an opportunity to set off a volley of snarky zingers. It causes us to listen less for the real issues we need to work through and listen more for a faltering word or an unfortunate gaffe. When we manage to get a good zinger put out there we find that everyone who thinks like us cheers, while those who don’t must simply suffer the brunt of our more potent wit. We become proud and arrogant in our stance because we have been able to belittle the stance of others. And then we wonder why there is such a great divide among the people of our country.
Why is snark, as a means of communication, bad for us as a country? Because the only way to not be the butt of the joke is to agree with the one doing the snarking. We cannot live together in disagreement with one another because we either feel demeaned or we feel the need to demean others. And that kind of personal attack is not easily overcome. That kind of personal attack puts distance between us as people.
So, Jon Stewart, I love your wit. I am in awe of your keen powers of observation. But, you are not helping. Snark is not a helpful form of communication in our society. I encourage you to find a way to use your power for good and unity. It won’t be easy, but I think it will be worth it.
As for me, I have come to realize that I too have the power to snark. I, too, must be encouraged to use my power for good and for unity. If I am not diligent in these efforts I know how easy it will be to use such talents in ways that continue to promote division. And that would be an unfortunate consequence of the life I live and would be antithetical to my goals as a follower of Jesus.
How about you? Am I making too much of this? Is snark and sarcasm a second language for you? What are your thoughts on how it adds to or detracts from our greater goal of moving forward together? What would Jesus do?
Holy high-five to you,