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The Modern Day Prophets - The New Intelligentsia


The Modern Day Prophets - The New Intelligentsia

Joelle Renee Benoliel

You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything. 
If you’re laughing, I defy you to be afraid.
— Stephen Colbert

The world could use a laugh right now. Waves of progress for the good of humanity are matched by a rising tide of dissonance and chaos. But it would be hopeless to simply laugh in despair at terror and injustice. There’s more to laughter than holding tears at bay or offsetting bad news with a smile. Instead, comedy holds a unique position in our social construct, falling outside the rules of polite manners or etiquette, given sweeping permission to talk about impolite taboos and address injustice head-on.

This means that comedians must be astute observers, identifying the overlooked absurdities throughout life and society. They must also be among the most outspoken, not shying away from uncomfortable topics, but instead speeding head first into the rush of topics polite society has brushed under the rug. 

Comedy softens the blow of truth. Truth still hits (and sometimes hurts), but when you’re laughing you don’t notice the sting. In comedy, seeds of thought are planted in receptive mental soil, and have an opportunity to grow into real societal change.

A joke is a very serious thing.
— Charles Churchill, The Ghost (1763), book iv, line 1386

It is for this reason that we see comedians as oracles watching the winds of change — modern day prophets — the new intelligentsia.

Like the Jesters of the Middle ages, who discovered the secrets of the kingdom in dark corners and unveiled these hidden truths through entertainment and comedy, so are the current day Intelligentsia speaking the truth of our culture, not yet acknowledged or understood, delivering their audience into the future.

Change can be very difficult for most. Truth too can be difficult to take. When we find out a harsh reality about our very selves, we are faced with the decision to stay in our old ways or to evolve into a better version of ourselves. This applies to us individually and across society as a whole. In examining history, we see major cultural shifts and changes come not only through public leaders shining light on injustices, but also through creatives of all disciplines: musicians, artists, comedians. 

There are those who communicate through laughter and theater, those who tell stories through fiction and paint, those who draw us into another’s story in order to reveal “the other’s” point of view. These are the true prophets of our age. Might we look to them to understand ourselves and others in a new light. Let us discern between those who distract us from emerging and expanding and those who deliver us to liberty and truth. If there were ever a time to look for a hint of what is to come, a stable source of advice, an oracle who is reading the winds of change—that time is now.

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