Wit, and why the road to democracy should be paved with laughter, and fronted by jokers

Wit is the sole of intelligence

It is the the most basic thing you slip into without really noticing how it impacts on your overall stature.

Mind the puns above.  Wit, likened to the ‘sole’ of your shoe, which you ‘slip on’ and which ‘impacts’ on your overall stature. 

I never really appreciated the impact of wit on one’s intelligence until i began to associate more with the chinese in singapore a couple of decades ago.  They are, to be honest, a pretty witless people as evident in conversations i’ve had over a few decades and their media productions - both english and chinese - that is why i stick to s.Indian and British shows...and not too much of american ones, especially contemporary ones.  Well, i never even thought about the impact of wit on one’s overall intellectual and creative potentials until I appreciated Chinese aversion to difference and contradiction, and their being largely appealed to by the obvious. 

Well, In my quest to find out the cause of such gross deficiencies - because, as a social scientist, i never believed it to be racial thing but a culturally and experientially-induced one - and look for the interrelation between this and other behavioural and attitudinal variables, i realised that the problem lies with their difficulty in appreciating ‘another way of looking at things’.  This is what i’d call a generic problem that impacts on all they they do, think, and feel.  And this generic problem is amplified by the absence of true multiculturalism in the state.  Everything is connected....which is why the most democratic states are also the most witty, i.e. the UK, India.

I’d push for wit over the fight for democracy because it is the easiest to learn and the perspectives, easiest to apply. I’d push for wit over the fight for democracy because it is the easiest to learn and the perspectives, easiest to apply.  Unlike learning philosophical concepts and perspectives, unlike appreciating the abstract value of art and music, wit is far simpler, produces laughter, makes you popular, and brings people together far quicker than any of the above.  And what’s most important about wit - both understand it and producing it - is that it hones your generic ability to ‘look at things another way’, and ‘connecting the dots’ between seemingly unrelated factors.  Once you’re able to do that, and are fed information about other things, be it personal matters, political ones, philosophical ones, work ones, etc, etc, etc.  You will immediately look at it another way, and take on board variables that are seemingly unrelated but which are essential for its resolution or analysis.  You can view being intelligently humourous as 'baby steps' for acquiring a truly intelligent mind, but whose lessons will help you hop, scotch and leap over barriers throughout your life that others might struggle over or not even notice.

For instance, it was with this ability that ed was able to introduce the first watch-sized electronic tag into singapore whilst i was in the civil service where whole committees of higher level persons for some years before kept rejecting the implementation of the electronic tag amongst juveniles because the one used amongst adult probationers was too big.  I looked at it another way, took on board what might be available in the rest of the world, and brought in a watch-sized one only a few weeks after joining the civil service.  It was with this ability that i could recognise the ‘opposition’ for the racially-biased people that they were and introduce the critique and connection of legalism-confucianism with singapore’s perspectival state of affairs.  It was with this ability that I could see the ‘war on terror‘ as a war between nationalists and transnationalists.  It was with this ability that I could come up with a dissertational thesis which my professor stated was a perspective that was never explored in any books on the subject.  Etc, etc, etc.  There is nothing great about ed.  It is only the Method which is great.  And that Method has multiculturalism and wit as it’s soles. 

You can view being intelligently humourous as 'baby steps' for acquiring a truly intelligent mind, but whose lessons will help you hop, scotch and leap over barriers throughout your life that others might struggle over or not even notice. Of course, you can get real smart by just going into particular fields.  But the problem with being an expert in particular fields is that you practice being smart within it’s confines.  With wit, it is free of such boundaries.  You can use it in any situation, amongst anyone - provided that they aren’t witless, or are willing to learn - and it is a constant reminder to yourself to look at things another way other than the literal or commonly accustomed way.  When you can practice this daily on this humorous front, all it takes is for you to venture into any arena, and you’ll see far more, and far quicker.  And then, democracy will itself materialise far quicker as the activist front is inundated with such jokers whom will be able to see over the walls of oversights built up by its humourless experts and come up with another and more effective way of bringing it about.  And intelligent jokers, being accustomed to seeing things in as more new ways as possible, will also be open to new perspectives, whomever it comes from.

Here’s a test, and an example.  It came to ed immediately.  See if you can figure out ed's response.  Take it as training for out-of-the-box and connecting-the-dots training.  Important if you are aspiring to be an egalitarian democrat.  Far more productive than playing 'angry birds'.

For more practice and appreciation, go on over to BBC News Mag at Facebook



  1. I guess rabbit can avoid its predators almost every single time? I suppose it's the mode of communication(using their scent) between the rabbits that they manage to survive well, which makes them lucky.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Well, since nobody else took the test - perhaps they wanted to maintain the illusion that they had an intelligent sense of humour..;), i'll give you the answer.

    You deserve the credit for a good attempt. Perhaps what you said might be the basis for the logic behind the following....

    The answer is quite simple and directly relevant actually. The 'Rabbit's foot' has been associated with 'good luck' in american media quite often. My socks can only be as lucky as i am, and if i'm a rabbit, it would certainly be so because it would be my lucky rabbit's foot that i'd be sticking into the socks - if i'm a rabbit that is. So that's the joke.

    We've all heard this association, amongst a host of others, in american movies, etc, but most of us do not remember it, or are too entrenched in what we are most familiar with because everyone around us focus on 'same same' stuff. That really dumbs us down as it does not give us the opportunity to practice more. It also leads to our discounting any information that is not already in our informational banks - typically confucian/singaporean Qin-ese.

    Hence, when it comes to joking around, or thinking out-of-the-box, we aren't able to access much more information and perspectives than our cultural ones. I'm talking about singaporeans here. Not the Brits. It comes naturally to me, and i'm glad that i haven't allowed the 'uniquely singaporean' confucianised experience to dull my senses. But the more interesting question is why no one else whom i've met in a few decades in singapore can do it, whilst many Brits whom i've encountered can.

    There was, however, one Malay bloke (Mr B) whom i sort of took under my wing for a couple of years more than a decade ago and trained him up in wit and perspectives, and he learnt really quick from myself and became the best i've ever encountered in singapore. However, he wanted popularity - because prior to this, he was quite the loner, very withdrawn, and lacked confidence, and therefore didn't have many friends, job opportunities, etc, - and hence, conformed and became less after that. Too bad for him. He could have done more. But that's another story.

    You should check out the link at the bottom of the above article. You'll be able to see pretty good responses there, along with my own. Helps counter the intelligence-dumbing effect of channel 8 and just about all SG media and company.


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