by Alton C. Thompson
― Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I
Per Wikipedia, Send in the Clowns is a song written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman‘s film Smiles of a Summer Night. It is a ballad from Act II in which the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life.”
The article goes on to note that “The ‘clowns’ in the title do not refer to circus clowns. Instead, they symbolize fools, as Sondheim explained in a 1990 interview:
I get a lot of letters over the years asking what the title means and what the song’s about; I never thought it would be in any way esoteric. I wanted to use theatrical imagery in the song, because she’s an actress, but it’s not supposed to be a circus […] [I]t’s a theater reference meaning “if the show isn’t going well, let’s send in the clowns”; in other words, “let’s do the jokes.” I always want to know, when I’m writing a song, what the end is going to be, so “Send in the Clowns” didn’t settle in until I got the notion, “Don’t bother, they’re here”, which means that “We are the fools.”
The “clown” in the Kierkegaard epigraph usually acts the part of a foolish person–i.e., acts funny–to gain laughs. Now, however, although still wearing a clown’s outfit, he is delivering a serious message, but is not understood. He has abandoned his usual role as a clown, and has become the purveyor of an important truth–that a fire just broke out.
Ominously, Kierkegaard then added: “I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.”
The Sondheimian clown, in contrast, isn’t wearing clown garb; rather, he is a clown in the sense of actually being a fool–being ignorant.
Two questions of great relevance for today are:
- Are there Kierkegaardian clowns today? If so, who are they?
- Are there Sondheimian clowns today also? If so, who are they, relative to the Kierkegaardian clowns?
Insofar as there are Kierkegaardian clowns today, they are only “clownish” in being bearers of bad news. They are people like Guy McPherson–who never adorns the garb of a clown, so far as I know! And although they are not (usually) laughed at like Kierkegaard’s clown, their message is not heeded. I mean this in a general sense of course: Although those who listen to/read Guy are of the “true believer” sort, his general message that we humans are doomed is known by few. That is, ignorance abounds regarding the threat posed by global warming to our species.
Those in the “ignorant” category might be categorized as Sondheimian “fools.” The tragedy, however, is that although they are ignorant–and think/act as if tomorrow will be much like today, their ignorance is not their fault.
The function of the mass media should be to dispense important information. However, much more attention is given to Donald Trump’s hair than to global warming!
This latter fact leads me to the following three comments:
- What’s especially surprising is that those in the media whom one would most expect to be informing us about global warming–those who report the weather–are silent on the subject. Granted that their specialty is Meteorology, not Climatology, but . . . .
- It’s likely that the reason for media silence regarding global warming is that the media are businesses that rely on advertising dollars for their continued existence, and that companies that advertise believe that their businesses would be hurt were it widely known that our species is going “down the tubes.” The short run is what matters to businesses, not human survival! A true—but pathetic—fact!
- “Runaway” may be underway now. Arctic climate scientist John Davies wrote this in 2013:
The world is probably at the start of a runaway Greenhouse Event which will end most human life on Earth before 2040. This will occur because of a massive and rapid increase in the carbon dioxide concentration in the air which has just accelerated significantly. The increasing Greenhouse Gas concentration, the gases which cause Global Warming, will very soon cause a rapid warming of the global climate and a chaotic climate.
(Note that Davies made no mention of methane release!)
Surely at least some people in the mass media have some knowledge regarding global warming, and in having that knowledge should have the integrity to report on it—regardless of the personal consequences for them. Not doing so makes them intellectual prostitutes!
Despite the fact that the media have been remiss in reporting on the fact that global warming is occurring, educated people have little excuse in being ignorant about the matter. Why is it that educated people are concerned about protecting the Panda from extinction but lacking in concern about their own species?! It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?