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Political Ideology: Humour

John Simkin

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I think this thread is getting too serious. I can’t take politics seriously any more. Time for some comic relief. Here’s a site you might look at that explains political ideologies in a way that everyone can understand:


It starts off as follows:


You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.


You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you a glass of milk.


Your cows are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs the regulations say you should need.


You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.


You share two cows with your neighbors. You and your neighbors bicker about who has the most "ability" and who has the most "need". Meanwhile, no one works, no one gets any milk, and the cows drop dead of starvation.


You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the black market.

There are numerous variations on this theme. Do a search in Google using the following keywords: political ideologies two cows

Humour is of course always political. This is of course a capitalist joke. Therefore Andy's students will learn little about politics from this joke (other than the way capitalism uses humour to deal with its enemies).

Humour is of course always political. This is of course a capitalist joke. Therefore Andy's students will learn little about politics from this joke (other than the way capitalism uses humour to deal with its enemies).

The point of the joke is surely a key feature of conservative thought - the negative view of human nature.

This leads to the conservative conclusions that

1. Selfishness is an innate feature of human nature - thus capitalism is inevitable (a best suit for selfish humans).

2. A strong state is required to protect us from our fellow man

The point of the joke is surely a key feature of conservative thought - the negative view of human nature.

This leads to the conservative conclusions that

1. Selfishness is an innate feature of human nature - thus capitalism is inevitable (a best suit for selfish humans).

2. A strong state is required to protect us from our fellow man

Rousseau would claim that in a state of nature, Man is a noble, unselfish creature, but that he is inevitably corrupted by living in society. The only system of government which could cope with this perversion of human nature was one in which enlightened philosophers managed to perceive the "general will" of the people -- what they would all truly want if they were not too blinded by their selfishness to see it. Since true freedom could only be defined as obedience to the general will, these philosopher rulers had the duty to "force men to be free" if they were foolish enough to refuse to obey.

The same sort of thing could be seen in the "vanguard of the people" role of the Communist Party in Marxist-Leninism and in such concepts as the dicatorship of the proletariat and democratic centralism.

Conservatives are not alone, therefore, in having an essentially negative view of human nature or a desire for strong government.


Your TV leads to believe you have two cows. In fact they belong to the bank. Nevertheless in order to get any thing productive out of the cows, you have full responsibility to feed and house them. After taxes you are apportioned sufficient funds to continue to care for the cows. Should the cows die and you now have no longer any cows to care for, the bank will now repossess your TV to recoup its loss. However as you are convinced that having a TV, to deliver your daily reality dose, is essential, you morgage your car, so that you can buy two more cows to care for so that you can earn money to afford to pay off a loan for the purchase a new TV.


You complain about this state of affairs. Not only are you AND your cows repossessed, records are altered to show that you never existed in the first place.

John and Andy: No, guys, you are wrong! The humorous posting I sent is NOT a capitalist joke. You did not read enough of the website that I referred to (and other links that you might have followed up via Google), otherwise you would have seen that it and other site also poke fun at capitalist political ideologies – see below. I only reproduced the first few entries that I found in order to save space. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have read the whole context (I am always telling my students to do this). Lighten up! :)

More examples from the sources to which I referred:


You don't have any cows. The bank will not lend you money to buy cows, because you don't have any cows to put up as collateral.


You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.


You have two cows. the state government takes one, the British government takes one and you owe another for taxes, and the church gets all the milk.


You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the right to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because of bad feng shui.

An afterthought regarding political humour. When I visited the GDR in 1976 I heard dozens of political jokes. These were an outlet for the frustration experienced by the people who lived in that miserable society. Since the reunification of Germany good political jokes seem to have disappeared. Here are some examples from the old GDR:

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen der DDR und der BRD?

Wir haben Marx und sie haben das Kapital.

(It loses a bit in translation, so I have left it in German.)

Q: Why do the People's Police go out on patrol in groups of three?

A: One can read, one can write, and the third is there to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

Judge Schnauz walks into the cafeteria of the Erfurt district court bent over with laughter. Other judges and lawyers ask him why he is so amused.

"Oh, comrades, I've just heard the latest political joke!"

"Tell it to us!"

"Unfortunately, I can't do that. I've just sentenced a barber to two years of prison for it!"

Erich Honecker is on a diplomatic mission in Austria. Various government ministers of the GDR and Austria are introduced. Finally, a man is introduced as the Minister of the Austrian Navy. Honecker bursts out laughing: "But you have no coastline!" The Austrians are offended. "We were very polite when the GDR's Minister of Trade was introduced!"

Q: When does a Trabi reach its top speed?

A: When it is towed away.

Q: How do you measure the acceleration of a Trabi?

A: With a diary.

Q: Why do some Trabis have heated rear windows?

A: To keep your hands warm when pushing

The leader of the GDR, Erich Honecker, wants to know what the people really think of him. So goes out among the people in disguise. He asks a man on the street: "Excuse me, but what do you think of Honecker?" The man leads him down a side street, makes sure that nobody hears him, and whispers into Erich's ear, "I support Honecker!"

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GDR_jokes

I recall lots of anti-Thatcher jokes too, e.g. Clement Freud referred to her as "Attila the Hen".

Re Andy’s comment on “frivolous” contributions to this thread:

Never assume that because something appears to be frivolous on the surface that it does not have serious intent. The satirists of the early 1960s, the “Beyond the Fringe” revue, “The Establishment” nightclub, “Private Eye” and (later) “Spitting Image” all fall into an outwardly frivolous category, but they delivered serious political criticism of the then (mainly) right-wing governments in the UK.

The tradition of GDR-Jokes has given rise to serious academic publications:

Blasius A. (2003) Der politische Sprachwitz in der DDR: eine linguistische Untersuchung. Hamburg: Verlag Dr Kovac.

Schiewe A. & Schiewe J. (2000) Witzkultur in der DDR: ein Beitrag zur Sprachkritik.

Göttingen: Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

If you trawl the Web you’ll probably find that someone has written a PhD thesis on “two cows” jokes too. Wikipedia’s entry includes this paragraph:


>Because of their freedom and universality of topics, "two cows" jokes are sometimes considered a good example of "cross-cultural humor." They can be concise examples (not necessarily scientific) of how different cultures can express different visions of the same political concept, by paradox, hyperbole, or sarcasm. In practice, most such jokes reflect the views of outsiders to the systems being satirised. In the spirit of finding international common ground, some also see them as humorous manifestations of an underlying general scheme of political science that would compare legal or political concepts, such as the rights of ownership, across cultures around the world.<

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  • 4 weeks later...

How about two political stories:

The first one is about a French MP who represented the Communists in the National Assembly. He had a lavish lifestyle, owning a Mercedes and regularly eating out in fashionable restaurants. At a party meeting he was criticised for this departure from his political principles, and replied with "Nothing is too good for a representative of the working class".

The second one is also from France. When Bernard Tapie was both an advisor to the Mitterand (Socialist) government and the owner of the Marseille football team, he asked the local National Front (neo-nazi party, very strong in Marseille) if he could come and address their congress which was being held in the city.

They were a little surprised, since they knew of him as a bitter enemy of their party, but they reasoned that since there were going to be more than a thousand of them and only one of him, they ought to be able to win the argument!

Tapie stood in front of a packed hall and began like this: "I think your party's policy is too soft on all these immigrants. You just want to deport them, but I say they should be packed into an old freighter, towed out to sea, and then the ship should be sunk by the guns of the French Navy."

There was a shocked silence, and then the whole hall erupted in cheering and clapping. Tapie waited for it to die down. Then he said, "I always knew you were a bunch of disgusting fascists, and now you've proved it to me," turned on his heel and walked out.

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