30 'The most important of all human qualities is a sense of humour'
Biologically, there is only one quality which distinguishes us from animals:
the ability to laugh. In a universe which appears to be utterly devoid of
humour, we enjoy this supreme luxury. And it is a luxury, for unlike any
other bodily process, laughter does not seem to serve a biologically useful
5 purpose. In a divided world, laughter is a unifying force. Human beings
oppose each other on a great many issues. Nations may disagree about
systems of govemment and human relations may be plagued by ideological
factions and political camps, but we all share the ability to laugh. And
laughter, in turn, depends on that most complex and subtle of all human
10 qualities: a sense of humour. Certain comic stereotypes have a universal
appeal. This can best be seen from the world-wide popularity of Charlie
Chaplin's early films. The little man at odds with society never fails to
amuse no matter which country we come from. As that great commentator
on human affairs, Dr Samuel Johnson, once remarked, 'Men have been
15 wise in very different modes; but they have always laughed in the same
A sense ofhumour may take various forms and laughter may be anything
from a refined tinkle to an earthquaking roar, but the effect is always the
same. Humour helps us to maintain a correct sense of values. It is the one
20 quality which political fanatics appear to lack. Ifwe can see the funny side,
we never make the mistake of taking ourselves too seriously. Weare always
reminded that tragedy is not really far removed from comedy, so we never
get a lop-sided view of things.
This is one of the chief functions of satire and irony. Human pain and
25 suffering are so grim; we hover so often on the brink of war; political
realities are usually enough to plunge us into total despair. In such
circumstances, cartoons and satirical accounts of sombre political events
redress the balance. They take the wind out of pompous and arrogant
politicians who have lost their sense of proportion. They enable us to see
30 that many of our most profound actions are merely comic or absurd. We
laugh when a great satirist like Swift writes about war in Gulliver's Travels.
The Lilliputians and their neighbours attack each other because they can't
agree which end to break an egg. We laugh because we are meant to laugh;
but we are meant to weep too. It is no wonder that in totalitarian regimes
35 any satire against the Establishment is wholly banned. It is too powerful a
weapon to be allowed to flourish.
The sense of humour must be singled out as man's most important
quality because it is associated with laughter. And laughter, in turn, is
associated with happiness. Courage, determination, initiative - these are
40 qualities we share with other forms of life. But the sense of humour is
uniquely human. Ifhappiness is one ofthe great goals of life, then it is the
sense of humour that provides the key.
The argument: key words
I Biologically, ability to laugh distinguishes us from animals.
2 Universe devoid of humour; laughter a luxury; no biologically useful
3 Laughter: a unifying force.
4 Divided world; nations disagree; ideological factions; political camps;
but everyone can laugh.
5 Laughter depends on sense of humour.
6 Certain comic stereotypes: universal appeal; e.g, Chaplin's films; little
man versus society.
7 Dr Johnson: men wise, different modes; laughed same way.
8 Sense of humour and laughter: various forms: refined tinkle; earthquaking
9 Effect the same: maintaining sense of values.
10 Political fanatics lack humour.
II Prevents us taking ourselves too seriously; reminds us: tragedy,
12 Function of irony and satire.
13 Much grimness in world; cartoons, erc., redress balance.
14 Deflate arrogant politicians; show absurdity of actions.
15 E.g. Swift: Gulliver's Travels: Lilliputians: egg.
16 Satire banned in totalitarian regimes.
17 Sense of humour important; associated laughter, happiness.
18 Share some qualities with other forms life: e.g. courage, etc.
19 Sense of humour uniquely human.
.20 Happiness: goal; sense of humour, key to happiness.
The counter-argument: key words
I All human qualities are important.
2 It's absurd to stress one quality at the expense of others.
3 The ability to laugh is universal, but the sense of humour differs
from country to country.
4 E.g. Cartoons, jokes of one nation not always funny to another.
5 Examples from humorous publications: Punch, New Yorker, Krokodil,
6 Satire and irony can be harsh and cruel, not at all funny.
7 Humour emphasises less serious aspects of human life, therefore not
8 Human achievements result from other qualities.
9 E.g. curiosity, ambition, imagination, intelligence, etc.
10 Humour does not solve any problems, merely blinds us to them.
I I Humour cannot alleviate suffering, etc.
12 Love, charity, compassion far more important.
"13 Humour: not the key to happiness .
.14 Happiness results from the combination of a great many qualities.
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