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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tell Joke - Go to Gulag

Apologists for the Soviet Union, and communism/extreme socialism in general, seem blissfully ignorant of the system's implications. I suppose the Gulags and purges are natural parts of the dialectic rather than the actions of madmen. Rather than promoting the liberty that Marx-Lenin claimed was not available in a capitalist system, the Soviet system clearly limited freedom and liberty of action, speech, association, movement, and, ultimately, of life. What can be more symbolic of the intolerance of the communist systems than the illegality of telling a joke?

Consider this paragraph from an interesting article by Ben Lewis at the UK magazine The Prospect concerning humor behind the Iron Curtain:
The first jokes about the Russian revolution surfaced immediately after October 1917. In one, an old woman visits Moscow zoo and sees a camel for the first time. "Look what the Bolsheviks have done to that horse!" she exclaims. As the system became harsher, a distinctive communist sense of humour emerged - pithy, dark and surreal - but so did the legal machinery for repressing it. Historian Roy Medvedev looked through the files of Stalin's political prisoners and concluded that 200,000 people were imprisoned for telling jokes, such as this: Three prisoners in the gulag get to talking about why they are there. "I am here because I always got to work five minutes late, and they charged me with sabotage," says the first. "I am here because I kept getting to work five minutes early, and they charged me with spying," says the second. "I am here because I got to work on time every day," says the third, "and they charged me with owning a western watch."

200,000 people were imprisoned for telling jokes?!?!? While it is easy for some to call President Bush a fascist or an authoritarian, to date I haven't seen any comics in jail for making fun of the administration - heck the comics are even invited to roast the administration. One knows that would never have happened in the former Soviet Union.

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