One of my Facebook friends, who is definitely not a supporter of Senator McCain, joined, for what reason I cannot guess, a Facebook group in favor of the McCain-Palin ticket. Perhaps it was in order to leave this comment:
This is the most pitiful group in the world…you people are being screwed…and it’s not even fun! Vote OBAMA and get a real life!
Every clause of this could bear some comment, but the one that caught my attention was the one about “not even fun.”
There is first of all the question of whether politics should be fun. Politics is, after all, the use or restraint of the state’s monopoly of force in pursuit of one’s goals or principles. The thought of someone doing this to me for fun is a bit disturbing. It’s a bit like the thought of a surgeon operating on me, or a policeman throwing me in jail, or a broker investing my money, for fun.
I have vague recollection of a time when being fun was not the ultimate test of all activities. This was the time when seriousness was not considered a vice, and “dignity” was a word that could be uttered without a smirk. That age was ending when I was still a child, and vanished into the dustbin of history sometime in my early youth. I must confess a certain nostalgia for that time.
That invaluable resource, the Oxford English Dictionary, tells us that the noun “fun” derives from the verb, “to fun,” meaning to cheat or hoax someone, later to have a joke or make fun of. This in turn derives from a now obsolete verb “to fon.” The original meaning of this word appears to have been “to lose savor, to be insipid or sickly in flavor,” only found in the past participle “fonned.” Wyclif’s Bible renders Matthew 5:13 “If the salt be fonned…” This participle–our modern word “fond”–comes to mean “foolish” or “infatuated” and only later “cherished” without an pejorative connotation. (Thus a “fond hope” is not originally one that is cherished, but one that is maintained foolishly, as in “I still keep my size 36 trousers around in the fond hope that I will lose enough weight to fit into them again.”) The later meaning of “fon” is “to be infatuated, to play the fool” or “to deceive or make a fool of someone.” This word seems to have disappeared from use in the sixteenth century, replaced by the newer form “fun.”
And so we are now in the Age of Fun. The highest good is having fun. Etymologically, that means that the highest good is cheating and hoaxing, being foolish and making fools of others. Judging by the success of Michael Moore and Al Franken and the cast of Saturday Night Live, that seems to be an accurate characterization of our age and of its politics.