(Following the reports today that the human resources of the Charlie Hebdo had to run away from her house into a safety place after she got death threats, following the reappearance of the prophet caricatures in the magazine just before the trial in Paris)
If there is one thing that we, Jews, are good at, it is anything that has to do with ourselves. We are too self absorbed, we are drowning in self pity, we are telling a guest to “make yourself at home” while meaning the complete opposite, we are welcoming self blaming with all arms, we self doubt our own self doubts, we are the world champions of being self centered, and we are a notch better in self humor.
So it is a little bit hard for us to digest when all of a sudden the Goyim are starting to make jokes about us. When an Austrian cabaret artist is making a joke about Jews it might be funny, but it will never be as funny as when a Jew is making the same exact joke. The Austrian is making a career. She might even chose these jokes because they are funny, but they are also breaking some taboos and might get her some controversy and get her some attention. I looked at the Austrian artist and her acts. She needs attention. When a Jew will tell the same joke it will be funnier because you don’t hear a joke, you are witnessing an act of cleansing. You can try as much as you want, but you will never get to feel what Jewish mom feels like. The only reason that Jews overcame so many attacks and pogroms is that whatever others accuse us of, pales in comparison to what we accuse ourselves (love you mama. Yes, I ate enough).
One of the first tough things that I encountered when I moved here was the lack of humor. Sometimes I would tell a controversial joke (do you know why Hitler killed himself? He got the gas Rechnung), and the people that I was telling the joke to looked at me puzzled. So I had to tell them that I was joking. So they laughed, but the joke was already wrapped in seriousness. So I self taught myself to announce before I was about to tell a joke. I also learned that actually, because people are taking themselves so seriously, there is no such thing in Germany as self humor or irony. Or to paraphrase E. Kishon: self humor was also burned in Auschwitz.
I don’t find Lisa Eckhart to be funny. It is a matter of taste, but I am willing to sacrifice my life for her right to express herself. In a society where I live I want Lisa Eckhart to laugh about me and about gays and trans and blacks. I take it as a compliment: When someone is making jokes about me, it means that I exist, that I am part of the society. And I don’t buy the analogy between her and Mbembe. She is an artist, he is presenting a world view.
I want to stay for a second on the issue of “if you joke about me, then I am part of the society”. Some of Eckhart supporters are claiming that she just holds a mirror to our society. This is a very old Jewish expression (it was considered to be the Jews purpose in diaspora: to hold a mirror to the society they lived in. some societies didn’t like what they saw so they started crashing the mirror). I doubt that Eckhart is willing to hold a mirror to somebody other then to herself, but let’s say that the thesis is right: don’t you miss something in this societal mirror? Like the biggest minority in Germany? Let us please talk about the biggest elephant in the room.
The organizers of the event that misplaced Eckhart claimed that she was misplaced because of threats. I tried to think: who will threat them? The right wing going to literature festival is like a man without a voice going to a song contest. The leftist are not going to sweat for the Jews. Moishe and Shlomo are going to Hamburg for a riot sounds like a beginning for a good Lenny Bruce joke. The issue is not the identity, the issue is the word threat. The organizers knew exactly why they chose this word. It always works perfect as an excuse.
The elephant in the room is that Lisa Eckhart and her likes are not making fun of Muslims. They are not making fun of Muslims either because they are too racist to include them in their society or they are too afraid of the response. It can’t be that you put a mirror to the society and you don’t see any Muslims. You see, and you think: why should I mess with them. They are not messing around. I remember Paris, and I remember Copenhagen. Let’s find another joke about the Jews. At the most they will write another column. Earlier this year I attended the stupid carnival in the city of Aalst. It was the same scene. Dozens of festival goers mocked the Jews, dressed them like insects and insisted on their birth right to joke about whatever they wanted. When I asked why I don’t see any Muslim caricatures in the carnival, at least five carnival goers admitted that this is where the red line crosses. Later I found out that in earlier carnivals the prophet was mocked and threats were made if such thing will happen again.
But it is ok to make jokes about Jews, and blacks and gays, because with them there is no fear factor involved. Lisa Eckhart can make as many jokes as she wants, but don’t shy away from her mirror: the joke is on us and the society we live in.