It’s true that much of the world is ridiculous. I think most people would agree with that. However, in their agreement they would be wrong. This is because at the moment of utterance, the cynical speaker, in claiming the world is ridiculous, assumes the role of Barthes’ dumb critic who believes herself “to have such sureness of intelligence that acknowledging an inability to understand calls in question the clarity of the author and not of [her] own mind.”
That is, if the world is ridiculous, or in other ways abstruse, then the cynic can be forgiven their inability to make sense of it because there’s nothing to make sense of. The very ridiculousness of things is proof that she has as good a handle on them as can be got.
Paradoxically, this is the very source of ridiculousness. Absence of understanding becomes the naturalized justification for the pantomime of most daily acts, where that pantomime is itself offered as evidence of the ridiculousness on which the lack of understanding depends. And since ridiculousness, being irrational, evades the order of cause and effect, the pantomime of daily life appears to the cynic as if it were the natural order of things — perhaps even the necessary order of things — when in fact the reverse is true. The ridiculousness of the world is manufactured by and contingent upon all our silly pantomimes.
I’ll give an example. The intellectual is the only person who can assume the role of Barthes’ dumb critic, which means the idiot actually stands closer to the truth than the educated man. In as much as the unlearned assumes his lack of understanding comes not from a surfeit of intelligence but from a dearth of it, he sees the ridiculousness of the world as evidence of malice against him, however impersonal — which is to say, a result his inferiority vis a vis the world, a stance several steps closer to the truth.
cover image by Mateo Pizarro