…´laughter is your best friend today´
Anthony Mukwita in Berlin
3rd May 2020
Whoever said laughter is the best medicine spoke an infallible truth, ringing truer today under the dark cloud of COVID-19 than ever before.
I say this because in a world and time when most news feeds you get are about people falling sick, dying or struggling to put food on the table, laughter is the best pill.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
If you are tech buff like most of us, hooked up to your hand gadget, your cell phone or tablet, a flash on your phone or a vibration alerts you that ´you got mail´ and means loads.
How the joke has assumed a life under the bug
Ever since the COVD-19 epidemic ravaged the world, the messages you received were either a meme, picture or video of one two joke or another about the epidemic.
You actually started smiling before opening the message it’s called comic relief.
Isolation has compelled us to look at the humorous side of life of the bug as the world is consumed by the worst virus attack in 100 years that has paralysed the economy and turned sinners into believers.
Laughter has become our best friend because if we don’t laugh, we cry.
When I was writing this essay for you, I asked myself a number of questions such as ´should I write about the misery the virus has off loaded on us again or find a different angle?´ My answer was find a positive angle.
One that lifts up people than make them sad because there is enough gloom out there.
The Positive side of things
Write about how the COVID-19 will open up the agriculture industry in Zambia that was stifled by cheap agro product imports from abroad I told myself.
Write about the tax breaks President Edgar Lungu has invoked to ensure Zambia´s economy does not completely collapse. The retirees he is paying.
Write about how Zambia is among the countries in Africa that continues to keep the virus fatalities low.
Write about how UNZA and CBU have risen from a slumber and invented a ´walk in full body sanitiser´in light of the COVID-19.
Write about how families are rediscovering themselves under lockdown. Find something positive to say or shut up.
When it comes to optimism, I am an incurable romantic.
I practically look for a happy ending to all things bad hence the reason for this laughter essay when others are consumed with doomscrolling.
Doomscrolling means you are practically going out of your way to scour the internet for bad news. Like that guy you know who has a problem for every solution.
The Atlantic (McTague, 2020) article I read helped me understand why people laugh in times of stark misery.
Why the hombres from eastern Zambia smear their tribal cousins from up north with mealie meal during funerals and LOL.
The article confirms my first premise a “mass outpouring of gags, memes, funny videos, and general silliness (since COVID outbreak). We might be scared, but we seem determined to carry on laughing.”
The author muses at the fact that as human beings across diverse divides, we can find something as scary and bloody as COVID-19 in one instance funny in another minute sad.
The humour has been immense (Atlantic, 2020) both here in my adopted city Berlin under lockdown and back home in my wonderful country Zambia.
We saw a joke about a woman complaining about lack of beer and appealing to our President Edgar Lungu to open the bars, “what are we going to drink?”
The clever guy that posted the joke nails it with a response from President Lungu prescribing “warra” LOL amenshi, the worst prescription you can give to someone in need of ales (sic).
Many jokes have been spawned in the serious face of the epidemic largely and scientifically due to mankind’s ability to find ways of coping during hard times.
Just like no country has been spared by the bug, no one has been spared of COVID jokes from unborn babies, political leaders, husbands and wives to brothers and sisters including cousins dozens and others.
A recent Vanity Fair article citing Christopher Hitchens said we joke about tragedy because we don’t want to cry, especially at powerful people because death eventually wins over and a good joke can save the day.
Prof. Robert R Provine cited in the Atlantic article on why people laugh concluded that they do it to BOND.
He said, “I concluded that laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together.” We laugh with others to give us “the pleasure of acceptance,” Provine argued—”to show that we are the same.”
The same reason we share a lot of things such as good news or bad news. We share it with those close to us as part of bonding.
Once our President Edgar Lungu was asked during an SABC interview if he would describe a certain political character as a friend to which he responded, “ a friend is a person I share a cup of tea with…”
From tea and a laugh this might seem remote but its about sharing.
Its probably the reason they say you can only be happy about success if you have people to share it with, your wife your children your family your friends.
“We laugh with others to give us “the pleasure of acceptance,” Provine argued—to show that we are the same.”
The Bemba’s say ´abalya imbulu balapalamana.´
The laughter article I read cites British laugh expert Simon Stuart saying, “laughter is rooted in the ability to connect. It is a shared social signal.”
Under the miserable COVID-19 siege, “We laugh to take back control and to connect—two things we have lost in our fight against the coronavirus.” Connection and control.
Forced to be home ´alone´
Not only are we unable to stop the tidal wave of infection washing over us, but we are forced to endure this reality alone in our own homes The Atlantic further reads.
In Germany we are working from home, Chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned against “excitement” for people seeking a return to normalcy to “caution” instead.
VW, the world’s largest car maker that churned out about 700,000 cars in 2019, or roughly 3,500 cars a day and employs some 63,000 people on site in the town of Wolfsburg at the end of April started opening up slowly cautiously to make maybe just 1000 cars per day.
Mercedes Benz in Stuttgart was having a similar discussion again cautiously and so was the Bavarian automaker BMW.
Globally, health experts were warning about the possibility of a second wave of the virus that has shut down life as we knew it.
In Zambia´s case the bug threw the entire national budget into disarray as President Lungu himself told the nation, for the first time we had double digit inflation in a decade.
The still point to the turning world
On a family level, I feel like I have known my wife Elaine and kids more today than ever before and my faith in them as a Team that will stand by me always in travesty groweth.
Little man Lushomo 7 (in masked picture) cannot really comprehend what’s happening as much as Lubinda 15 can but I believe a decades from now Lush will comprehende this story written by his Dad.
Michael Jackson would have laughed if he saw us masked today. He was hip before hip hop was hip mask wise.
When I penned this essay on 3rd May 2020, Germany had 6, 735 COV deaths with my city Berlin tallying 152 deaths while Zambia kept the numbers at single digit on President Lungu´s watch albeit the economy suffered a huge knock in the southern African country.
In March 2020, 300,000 people in Germany registered as “unemployed”, in Europe’s richest nation with Federal Employment agency boss Detlef Scheele saying:
“The coronavirus pandemic is likely to lead to the worst recession in Germany in the post war era,” Said Scheele.
But like Norman Cousins said, “optimism doesn’t wait on facts, it deals with prospects.”
Let’s start prospecting on a better Zambia after this shock because pressure makes diamonds that are much harder than stones.
Let us laugh because its healthier than crying during this trying time, even behind the veil of the masks. Family first.
How you choose to start your day is how you end it…choose happiness.
Mr ANTHONY MUKWITA is a published author, former Editor in Chief and current Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany for Zambia. He penned the book ´Against all Odds, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu´s Rough Journey to State House’ and has won a World Bank Investigative Journalism Award. This personal essay was first published on his Facebook page.
©Anthony Mukwita 2020
Coronavirus: Record 10,1 million workers in Germany put on reduced hours
´Yes, Make Coronavirus Jokes´
(Accessed 2 May 2020)
It’s a lovely Day, Bill Withers 1977