When is it appropriate to be inappropriate? Jane Barry talks about how we use humour as activists dealing with confronting realities to help us cope, build relationships with others and reconnect with hope.  


It all started with sex with ducks.


I couldn’t get it out of my head – its sheer activist brilliance and catchy tune were far too inspiring. I had to share. 


And stop singing it in front of the children.


liberalism opens the door



So I sent it to a friend, who suggested a title for a new book: “Gulags Make Me Giggle: the Healing Power of Humour.”


And we were off, as always, on the road of political in-correctness and finding the funny in human rights.


Because as we all know, you have to find something to ease the sadness of the work. Something that pulls you out of that place your mind goes to try to make sense of it all. The violence, the anger.


When sometimes you slip and shift from the abstract – from ‘will the Sri Lankan government be held to account for atrocities in the northern war zone’? – to an image of what it really means– mass graves on a skinny strip of land, waiting to be uncovered, waiting to tell the truth.


If you spend too much time connecting to that reality – sometimes, you lose your way.


I do. I find it colours my view of the world, it sucks away my ability to see a way forward. I get stuck there and sometimes I can’t get out.


We have to have places to re-balance and re-connect with our sense of hope. Our sense of fun and happiness. And connectedness.


For me, I feel that balance, that connectedness, when I’m talking and laughing and completely, utterly engaged in those great conversations with friends who share the passion – and the humour. Who get it – who get me. Who don’t think I’m strange because I always want to talk about humanity – where are we going? What are we doing to each other? What do we do about it?


Those conversations are the heart of it. Somewhere in the midst of all of it, we always get to the good stuff – the truths that get us sparking, that remind us why we do this – and open up new paths of creativity.


tank man ducks

Chinese netizens recently used the power of duck humour to highlight censorship of the Tiananmen Massacre commemorations.


Like using humour, song, and play to disarm hate. Damn that’s good.


Jane Barry is a Human Rights activist who researches and writes about security and self care, see here and here.

Do you have some thoughts on using humour to sustain and promote creativity in your activism? Or some silliness you think the world should know about? Share your ideas or links here!