“She’s so fat even a hippo would look slimmer than her.”
“I thought I was looking at a blackhole!”
“Dodos aren’t extinct. I’m looking at one.”
“Looks like the waiter went off to grow those coffee beans.”
And the quintessential Indian snark – “Arey kahan mar gaya?” (Where did you go off to?) Actually, nothing in the English language comes close to translating the anger, frustration and derision in this Hindi idiom that literally means ‘did you die or what’.
When we, at Candles Online, decided that this week would be dedicated to ‘Pour Out’, meaning thereby that we would get an opportunity to rant on anything that our hearts desired, I jumped at the opportunity of writing about Sarcasm and how we seem to confuse it with wit. Well of course, there is a fair bit of wit involved in making a sarcastic comment – you have to know the recipient, you have to select a thorny topic that irks them every time, or would irk anybody in a certain situation, and find a clever way to garb that in a jocular form so no one can call you a meanie on your face. That takes intelligence alright. No wonder sarcastic people are also liked so much because it requires ample presence of mind to make sarcasm work. So, to anybody sarcasm = intelligence. But I don’t see it that way, or don’t see it that way anymore. This article makes a case for why witty sarcasm does not make you intelligent.
All of us, at some point in our lives, have been guilty of using the highlighted statements above, or something similar to that. We may have also been at the receiving end of such statements. After all, it’s so satisfying to dole out smart and wicked barbs at others just for the pleasure of watching them cringe or suffer. Right? But when you were at the receiving end of such barbs, did you ever notice the feelings it generated in you, even if it came from a friend? Did you not feel insulted, ridiculed, angry and disgusted, even if it was only for a fraction of a second? Would you want to feel that way? I don’t think I’ve ever come across a person who likes to feel that way, forever or even just once. Then why do we like to incite such feelings in others, when we ourselves would not like to feel that way?
No, no, don’t try to defend your statements. Don’t try to tell me ‘that person deserved it’ or that ‘it was meant as a joke’.
Sarcasm is never, I repeat, NEVER, a positive thing. Even if it is deserved, or meant as a joke, there is an element of derision present in it. Which is why I said, ‘guilty’ at the start of the paragraph above because it is a guilty pleasure that is purely born out of our contempt for someone or a situation.
Being at both the making and receiving end of sarcasm has taught me just one thing – it’s never welcome. I have been one of those people who would make unwarranted sarcastic comments on people only to watch them cringe, or to look smart. I’ve done that even to friends and at the time I used to think that it was cool, that it showed how intelligent I was. Only when I lost a lot of friends owing to my sarcasm did I learn that it just wasn’t worth it. But by then it was too late. There are some of my acquaintances who I’ve met recently and who were unaware of my changed behaviour, they still dislike me because of how I used to make fun of them. And now it hurts!
But I’ve noticed that it’s become a trend these days to not only make sarcastic comments but encourage them too. While I was at school, it used to be considered cool to say ‘Excused!’ in reply to ‘Excuse me‘, or if someone is clumsy, then remark ‘he was born with a hole in his hand‘ or when you bumped into someone, ‘do you have eyes or buttons’. Even when I joined college, it was not only the same, it was happening even more. Maybe I’d always been this sensitive but it always came as a shock to me how someone could be so blatantly contemptible to others, even to their own friends. Maybe that was the reason why I became that way as well, because I saw it happening around me all the time, but I shouldn’t make excuses for the way I behaved. Watch any television show, especially comedies, and you’ll come across characters like Dr. House who makes blood-boiling sarcastic comments. Yes, we love him but that’s because we are not at the receiving end of those comments, unlike his poor co-workers.
So, we know that sarcasm is not a good thing. But how do I prove that sarcasm does not make you intelligent? I’ll give you an example from my life.
A few weeks ago, while I was dining with some friends, I heard someone in my know remark, “I think she’s gone off to Darjeeling to pluck the tea leaves”, to her boyfriend, about a waitress. This was followed by pointless tittering from both she and her boyfriend, who I could see, liked the way his girlfriend made such ‘smart’ comments (trust me, I know this person very well and she LOVES to make sarcastic comments ALL THE TIME). This incident was the reason why I started to think about why we are encouraging sarcasm so much in our society. It’s a nuisance, admittedly, but its encouraged because it gives us pleasure to inflict pain on others. That sort of behaviour is called sadism. Why are we garbing it as intelligence? Why are we encouraging behaviour that inculcates tolerance to sarcasm? Intelligence does not lie in making fun of someone, especially when that someone is in a position where they cannot answer back. Like the waitress in the above case, or a daughter or son in law, or an employee or servant. If you make a sarcastic comment on people who have the better sense to not answer back, and you know that they can’t answer back, then who is the more intelligent of the two?
Real intelligence lies in knowing when to shut up and when to just ignore a person, even when he deserves sarcasm from you.
So if your friend drops something for the thousandth time, now I think it’s better to just walk away rather than say something sarcastic and hurt our relationship. If you have never known just how much more satisfying it is to just walk away from a sarcastic person, rather than getting down to their ugly level, then I urge you, please try it. It’s difficult at first, but ultimately every bully will learn that his barbs are not working on you. But the main reason why you should not be making sarcastic comments is because it hurts someone and because you would not want to hurt that way.
I hope that I have convinced you, dear readers, that sarcasm is not a witty thing, it is the opposite of it. It may give you a moment’s pleasure, but in the long run, the real loser is you. I know all of us get tempted to succumb to that sweet pleasure, and maybe every now and then someone may deserve it too, but please don’t make it a habit. You never know when you may be at the receiving end.