In medieval times, the Jester was an important person within the Royal Court. While the primary role of the Jester was to entertain and amuse the royal Court, the function of their entertainment was much more than making people laugh.
The Royal Court was where people had to exercise extreme care not to criticise or be seen to criticise any action of the Court, particularly when it related to the king. The Jester was the one person for whom there were no such restraints. They could speak freely and often were not afraid of offending by speaking the truth.
The Jester of the medieval Court has given way to the Joker in today's films. However, the Joker of today does not fulfil the same role as the Jester of medieval times. The Joker of today is a criminal mastermind with psychopathic tendencies.
Type into Bing search engine, political correctness examples, and there are 742 million results. While many think the term is relatively new, it was first used in 1793 in a Supreme Court case in the United States .
Political correctness was originally strongly linked to tolerance. Tolerance for another person's viewpoint, tolerance for dissent, and respect for that difference by not offending in what was said or by actions toward those who held differing views.
Political correctness and the debate about tolerance go back to Ancient Greece . However, increasingly political correctness has been used to criticise and shut down humour, culture and history deemed offensive to groups within society. Rather than political correctness being the tolerance and respect of difference, political correctness is used as a tool to censure and close down discussion.
THE RISE OR RADICAL INDIVIDUALISM
Why has political correctness become such an issue over the past few years? One of the reasons is the rise of radical individualism.
Radical individualism is the belief that my rights take priority over the good of the collective. An example of radical individualism is the right to carry guns in the United States. The individual's right takes priority over the collective good of protecting children in school from being shot and killed.
Because my rights take priority in radical individualism and I get to write my story, what I don't like, offends me and therefore is politically incorrect.
RADICAL INDIVIDUALISM AND UNEASE IN THE WORKPLACE
One of the consequences of radical individualism is an unease in workplaces about what is acceptable. In an attempt to avoid offending anyone, humour can be frowned upon. The throw-away line that staff once made to give vent to their frustration now becomes muted. Instead of a sense of safety and unity in the workplace, there is often caution and reserve. People work out who they have to be politically correct with and who they know will give them some leeway.
In this situation, we need to revive and restore the role of the Jester, particularly in the current climate where anxiety, loneliness and social isolation are increasing because of COVID.
As indicated, the role of the Jester in the medieval Court was to entertain and to bring laughter. The court jester would know when the king was worried or anxious about the affairs of the state from his body language and would be able to bring laughter and lightness into the situation to ease the anxiety and stress.
The medieval courts and the Jester knew the importance of humour for three things. You need humour to
The Jester knew when the king was constantly dealing with matters of state, they could quickly lose perspective. Humour was and still is the way to keep a sense of perspective.
As B2B and B2C business owners, managers, and team leaders, we need humour, particularly when facing so many challenges. It is easy to lose perspective and become overwhelmed with what we are dealing with. Humour helps us maintain perspective.
The challenge with humour is that we can feel guilty or that we shouldn't be laughing because things are so serious. The medieval Court knew that the bigger the challenges you face, the more you need humour. As a business owner and leader, your mental health needs laughter and humour. Humour acts as an interrupter to anxiety and worry. You can't worry when you are laughing.
When your mental health and perspective are improved, your business leadership and management will also improve.
HUMOUR AND CREATIVITY
Humour improves our creativity. We know this intuitively. We can try to solve problems and challenges by thinking through hours, planning, doing spreadsheets and pie graphs, and getting nowhere. We go and do something else that is relaxing and enjoyable, and suddenly we have the answer. Humour, relaxation, and enjoyment enhance our creativity and our problem-solving capacity.
As business owners, we need to think creatively about how to solve the challenges we face with the ongoing impact of COVID. Perhaps a good dose of laughter would be more effective in sparking our creativity than another few cups of coffee?
HUMOUR AND UNITY
Humour builds unity and a sense of cohesion within a group. As stated above, often, there can be a prevailing sense of unease in a workplace and a fear that humour may be inappropriate or cruel.
There is humour that is unkind and cruel. Humour that isolates and victimises the target of the humour. This type of humour should not be tolerated anywhere. However, care needs to be taken; the proverbial baby of humour is thrown out with bath water.
We need to cultivate the humour that connects people and builds cohesion and unity, particularly at the moment when people's level of anxiety is increasing again, and many are isolated.
Humour is like the surgeon's knife. In the wrong hands, it can do damage; but the blade can bring healing in the hands of a skilled surgeon. We don't ban surgeons from using their knives because of a few rogue surgeons.
When people's anxiety and loneliness are increasing, when businesses are under pressure to ensure sustainability and solve complex problems, perhaps we need to re-evaluate the role of the Jester and have a few Jesters in our workplaces.
The benefits may outweigh the risks of political correctness.