When I was student, I used to think that Japanese people are too pessimistic and should lighten up a bit. However, recently I feel that it is not just Japanese people, but rather everybody who lives in a consumerist society.
All consumer societies across the world are heading towards the same dead-end
(Japanese) Bag-Small-Street 袋小路
There is a strange analogy between
- a classic dictatorship (where you have a dictator whom everybody secretly hates, but can do nothing about it) &
- the modern consumerism (where you have an all-pervading desire to buy stuff which everybody secretly hates, but can do nothing about it).
In both situations, the only way (that is left us) to deal with this situation is laughter.
A common theme of Eastern European jokes is that of making fun of human desires (could be a penchant we inherited from Aesop).
In many Romanian jokes we have this character called Bulă (for the linguistically-minded, the last character is read like the schwa in English) who appears to disregard all rules and conventions. Kind of like Chaplin’s Tramp: Breaking and entering as you can see in Modern Times.
The following joke was told by my high-school philosophy teacher; it’s about setting up the first brothel in Communist Romania.
In Communist Romania (1945-1989), the party members decide that we can finally have a brothel, which will be organised on communist principles. Mind you, this is not going to be the unregulated chaos we have in capitalist societies:
In the communist brothel
- everything will be done on class principles
- everybody will be paid equally
- there will be people in uniform handling the business.
So Bulă hears about it and he thinks
“Whore-house? Yes, yes, yes, thank you, thank you, thank you”
and he’s going to be there on the first day it opens.
He comes to this place, a huge government-run grey building, in front of which there’s a booth with a party official wearing a brand-new uniform.
Party official: Oh, comrade Bulă, welcome to our fine establishment! You’re here for…?
Bulă: I want a woman, of course.
Party official (smiling indulgently): Yes, comrade Bulă, I understand, but you know, there are women and there are women. Let’s think about it together. What kind of woman do you like? Would you like a blonde woman, a brunette, or perhaps a red-headed one? Here, in socialism, we operate on strict class-organised principles, this is not the chaos of capitalist rot.
Bulă [Slightly bewildered by the number of choices]: I guess a blond one will do.
Party official: Very well, comrade. Please go upstairs to the 2nd floor, room no. 306.
On the 2nd floor in front of room no. 306 there’s another party official standing in another booth.
Party official 2: Comrade Bulă you said “blonde”, right?
Bulă [Bursting with anticipation]: Yes, where is she?
Party official 2: Easy comrade Bulă. You know, there are blondes with small breasts, with big breasts, with breasts like pears, with breasts like apples, with breasts like melons. What kind of blonde woman do you prefer?
Bulă [Really happy]: Big like melons!
Party official 2: Very well, comrade. Please go upstairs to the 6th floor, room no. 152.
Now, these dialogues continue between various party officials and Bulă (about how long the woman’s legs should be, how big the bottom, colour of the eyes, you name it).
Finally, we get to see Bulă talking with the 18th party official and he’s starting to run out of steam, when suddenly he has a revelation.
The 18th party official is the same as the guy who greeted him at the gate!
Bulă: Hold on, what is going on here?
Party official [Slightly abashed]: Comrade Bulă, yes, the blonde woman, with big breasts like melons, with long legs, with long eyelashes, and blue eyes, and a bottom like a proper socialist lady, with strong hips to make many more proletarian kids… Comrade Bulă, we have to confess:
We don’t have any women here, even though the Party will surely solve this problem soon.
That aside, do you like the way we’re organised?