Laugh at the State!

'Tis the season to be jolly, and so I for one am not about to allow the rotten old "prowlers-that-be" to spoil it for me.

Instead, in this Christmas season or – with a few notable qualifications – at any time, we should laugh heartily at the behaviour of those who think they own us and can impose their evil schemes on our lives.

There is a time for everything of course, and it's worth bearing in mind that striking a bum note with a misplaced snort of disapproval can land even the best of fellows in hot water.

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Along that line – though I won't say where and I won't say when – I do remember only too well, many years ago, throwing caution to the wind and laughing both loudly and scornfully at a rather unsavoury policeman requiring a substantial contribution to his personal welfare fund.

Now, you may well join me in considering his offer of freedom of movement in return to be wholly inadequate, but I do recall my response being – if richly deserved – still perhaps, ill-timed. Perhaps also it would be as well here, to advise the thoughtful reader that in the presence of armed public officials, the use of any phrase including the noun "parasite" should be weighed carefully on the scales of risk versus reward.

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Indeed, it is with a heavy sigh and the kind of wry smile that goes with a lesson well learned, that I unreservedly concede a mistake. It goes without saying that the rest of the story bears me up in this.

Now certainly, in the ensuing events, it was not my thumb that was busted, my jaw that was socked, nor I that was stretched out on the pavement. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to acknowledge a profound lack of wisdom, and a deep gratitude for a merciful Heaven that got me out of a sticky situation of some magnitude – and largely unscathed.

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Granted, a doubting Thomas in a bout of gloom might still point out that I may not quite have come up smelling of roses – but, all things considered, one night in the clinker plus a private contribution to assist in the thumb's recovery, could hardly come under the heading "scathed."

Heaven does deem it appropriate on occasion to reveal its otherwise mysterious ways, which in this case – I later became aware – involved a relative of the local dictator, putting a "word in season" in the ear of the Inspector General of Police. Thankfully, words reaching such elevated ears generally filter down through the ranks.

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Yet, after reflection, my own conduct since has undoubtedly been characterised by the sure and certain knowledge that it is far preferable to render unto Caesar's aides any such sum from the outside looking in, rather than vice versa.

Nonetheless – and notwithstanding some proviso that incorporates a moderate dash of prudence – here's the nub of the issue: Laughing at them at one time or another is truly our happy and holy lot according to the Holy Scriptures – Psalms, Chapter 2 actually:

The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, [saying], “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision.

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Of course, the right-thinking element amongst us would never direct derision within a mile of anyone trying to restrain those "brigands-writ-large" with "cords," "bonds" or anything else readily to hand, from the inside. That is, like a Daniel, a Joseph, a Ron Paul even – or any decent sort trying to do the right thing in trying places where it's scarcely possible to step outside the office without bumping into a jobsworth of some kind.

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Still – nothing quite takes the wind from the sails of a pompous ass more than the growing realization that his opponents no longer weigh his proposals with grave foreboding. And, if ever there was a time to put the distasteful characters and activities of the Busybody Class right on the butt end of a joke, it's now – in the season of merriment.

So, I'm just going to list a bunch of movies, TV series, books and even games that might help you do so, and that have done the very same for my own household.

I'll also list a few that may well curl your lip into a sneer of derision as you eye the exposed monolith disparagingly from top to toe.

And I'll add one or two that soundly castigate the State while we cheer our heroic freedom lovers as they come out on top:

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Laugh at the State – not with it

There is one outstanding TV series that has such an atmosphere, and that makes my family laugh so much, we must have watched each episode a half dozen times. The overall look and production values are the very highest – almost to Technicolor standards. It is the wonderful A&E channel serialization of Rex Stout's "Nero Wolfe" mysteries.

This show gives the police a thorough drubbing whenever they behave like bullies – although it treats them civilly enough when they actually apprehend a wrongdoer (usually handed to them on a plate). Even the FBI and eventually J. Edgar Hoover himself are given a sound thrashing in my personal favourite, the movie-length episode called "The Doorbell Rang."

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Here is a typical first-class clip from an episode where the police are denied sandwiches for blocking off Wolfe's study.

Rex Stout was a good friend of P.G. Wodehouse – which leads me on to Jeeves and Wooster, that marvellous best of British TV series – with perhaps some slight influence on the tone of this article.

Wodehouse generally reflects older and better values, with the police actually regarded as servants, not lords and masters, of the public – even perhaps overly servile to their betters. But few sights stimulate good old Christmas cheer like watching a "Bobby" being clipped round the ear, such as in this spiffing clip from "Jeeves Saves The Cow Creamer."

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Wodehouse was unfairly accused of Nazi sympathies, but in both the books and the series, the Hitlerian Spode and his ridiculous authoritarian grand plans are frequently trimmed down to size. Fair is fair, so the commies get put in their place too, especially in "Comrade Bingo." Even pompous elite feudalism gets biffed on the sniffer when the nephew of a noble Lord wants to marry a waitress and Jeeves is assigned the task of softening him up.

Reading a Jeeves and Wooster story always makes a chap laugh out loud, but P.G. Wodehouse also had other highly amusing characters. I particularly recommend the "Mr. Mulliner" books of short stories – and don't miss "Mulliners Buck-U-Uppo." Also recommended is Galahad at Blandings Castle. Galahad for example, notes after a much needed restorative snifter that, "it didn't float like a butterfly or sting like bee, but did carry with it a certain air of quiet authority." On another occasion, a disapproving relative gives him "the kind of look that could open an oyster at 40 paces."

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Next, the bungling, incompetent Maxwell Smart of the original Get Smart TV series could be a good antidote to any misplaced awe of the secretive snooping bureaucracies. The recent Get Smart movie is very funny too, though with one or two not quite family-friendly moments.

Recently released on DVD, The Race To Witch Mountain is a ridiculous sci-fi action film – but is also full of laughs and makes the government look bad, so it gets a worthy mention. It is an absolutely top notch Disney family film – even adults can enjoy it.

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Lastly, if you can find a copy of Laurel and Hardy's classic "Pack Up Your Troubles" it is one of their best. Dodging the draft is all part of the fun, even when Stan bungles it. Then the true cost of war means the pals dutifully try to find an orphaned little girl's nearest relatives. After Ollie stands up to a sour social worker by asking how much he would charge to haunt a house, the boys are then hotly pursued by snooty officials trying to seize and institutionalize the child….

Holding the State in derision

A lot of healthy, family-friendly derision – at the expense of officialdom – is inevitable while watching the first and possibly best of the old Perry Mason television shows. These are quality productions, properly filmed and with scripts supervised by Earl Stanley Gardner himself to ensure clever mysteries, and always with a twist in the tale.

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"Hamilton Burger," the State prosecutor, is constantly jumping to conclusions, terrorising innocent people – and then being humiliated for it. Amazingly, he somehow still retains a cordial relationship with Mason outside the courtroom. The Perry Mason show was very popular at the time and clearly contributed toward some later reining in of prosecutorial and police abuse.

We watch very little current television. Instead, for the last year or so we have often enjoyed a "Perry" in the evening.

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Down with the State

On the off-chance that any reader has missed a freedom classic, I will briefly mention a few movies that are thoroughly enjoyable, even without full-blown hilarity.

The Bourne Trilogy almost goes without saying. The only cinema trip I have made since childhood was to see The Bourne Ultimatum. The outstanding fight with "Desh" in Morocco had me bracing for every blow and intensely gripping my seat all the way through.

Apocalypto. An amazing and unique film directed by Mel Gibson, about escape from tyranny in the old world of Central and South America.

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The Manchurian Candidate is a brilliant, complex conspiracy thriller – with close parallels to real life.

Shooter is almost in the same league as the Bournes, with an unfolding anti-war, anti-state conspiracy storyline. The film was hated by the neocons – so the kneejerk principle alone dictates you must watch it. In places there is some ugly personal abuse and one or two F-words to go with it, but it is sound overall.

Finally, everyone knows about the fabulous Gladiator, but perhaps not that there is an extended version with an extra 17 minutes film time plus numerous documentaries available.

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I'll also include the foul-mouthed Enemy of the State as an otherwise very good film. Despite the overwhelming language and some screaming matches I nevertheless liked it so much that years ago I edited a special version for the whole family to watch.

Equilibrium, Minority Report and Open Range are all fine films that either target or exclude Public Enemy No. 1.

Lastly, put on the list The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) with Jim Caviezel. The system absorbs and then assists the main bad guy in this excellent family action film.

The Ultimate State Buster?

The Lord of the Rings trilogy targets so well and in such detail, so many aspects of the lust for power – and strikes right at the heart of the State's existence. So perhaps consider watching once again the Lord of the Rings films. They will make you laugh at, sneer at or even curse the evil concept of exercising Power over others – or of being deceived into grovelling servitude.

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Shun the State.

In the moments when laughter and derision subside, give the purloiners-that-be the cold shoulder by ignoring them. We have much better things to think about – new enterprises, projects, challenges, family, friends, enjoying life and helping people.

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Some computer games do generally ignore or sideline officialdom and some have been enjoyed for years by my children:

Runescape is a free online game with optional paid upgrades. Amazingly, a middle-aged customer of mine, an engineer by trade, called me out just to fix his computer for Runescape – having picked up the habit from his young son. It's not up my street at all, but my boys particularly like this game – and it has at least some merit, teaching buying and selling, profit and loss.

Voyage Century is an excellent free online game. It is all about free trade and very educational. Sail your own ship around the globe in the 16th century to trade, buy, sell, fight pirates etc. choose to accept or (hint) reject government contracts – and all to a nice, uplifting classical sound score. Highly recommended.

All girls like "Neopets" and boys too. They can create their own pet and score points in a pet world of games and activities. All for free. Good fun for younger children (up to the teen years).

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All boys like swords, knives, guns and shooting – it is just natural. The trouble is many "shoot 'em up" games are rooted in militaristic propaganda. But there are good shooters that aren't:

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Far Cry is an older game now but still has very good graphics. The story and game-play are excellent and it is not a military campaign environment. Jack Carver gets washed ashore on an island full of murderous Blackwater type mercenaries. Some mild coarseness and attitude is evident – the strongest being "your a** is grass!" (my retort: "your nose is blown!"). But it is gripping fun – for adults too. Online it is a real laugh-out-loud game, with just a red team and a blue team.

Lord of the Rings, "The Battle for Middle Earth" and Lord of the Rings Conquest are also good action games that my boys have spent quite some time on. There are a number of other good LOTR games, including a paid online version.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is getting on now, but for young ones who have never played it, it can offer hours of educational fun. In fact, this game is a great lesson in free enterprise economics.

A "Happy Ending" Christmas

Goodwill between people is pleasantly and noticeably more evident at Christmas time, but the actual words of the angels at Bethlehem were:

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"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

The good news remembered at Christmas is that God the Son came into the world to pay our penalty so we can legally be acquitted, have peace with God, and enjoy liberty – all as a free gift – both here and hereafter. That is the goodwill that was shown toward us.

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The choice to accept that gift and stay with it – by refusing any fear or despair and choosing to "rejoice in the Lord always" – is my final and best personal recommendation to you in the holiday season and beyond:

"… be of good cheer, I have overcome the world"

The real test of good cheer and of hope is the ability to laugh when a problem or enemy comes to our attention. Let's laugh at our enemy the State like it was Wile E. Coyote. (Maybe stick "Roadrunner" on the viewing list.)

So the next time the blighters-that-be make you feel like loosing off a few blankety-blanks – don't let them get to you. Have faith and laugh in derision instead – you'll feel better almost immediately.

As long as there are those who will do that, there's hope that at the end of this hair-raising episode, and the evil bounders will be forced to say through gritted teeth, "Blast! Foiled again!"

Have a happy Christmas.

December 19, 2009