The more things change, the more things stay the same. My girlfriend and I were watching the Madison Opera's rendition of Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers" yesterday afternoon, and as opera novices we were a little put off by the, well, lack of subtlety. It was an age-old problem: men in power letting their jealousy (and literally, in this case, fear of being unloved) govern their actions, inciting mobs to riot. It really seemed to be pathetic, since the opera, written long ago, could really have come out of today's headlines (but perhaps with astronauts and text messages instead of Temple Virgins). The lack of maturity in human culture is sometimes enough to make us despair.
Chris Brogan, however, points out that some of the archetypes may be there for a reason. The role of jester, for example, as someone who can sort of jolt those in power into non-linear thinking is something that is truly valuable:
The beauty of a Jester is that they can skirt diplomacy and poise. They are in the position of speaking truth to power, so to say, provided they can do it with a turn of wit. Thus, in several situations, the Jester is in a position to say something to an opposing force or even a tenuous ally that the local Royalty cannot willingly say.I suspect that companies such as 37signals and blogs such a AListApart (and people like Merlin Mann) are all jesters, of one way or another. It's not just that they have clever ideas. Their presentation of these ideas, whether through innovative software (LOVE Basecamp!) or elegant articles or witty repartee (Merlin's becoming quite the celeb; I can't wait for him to land his own show and get PAID well for it).
I think I have something of that as well. In collaborating on presentations with Heidi Miller, for example, we have noted that she tends to be very, very good at the organization of thoughts and research...and my role, generally, is to find entertaining ways to present that information. I have to give her credit for respecting that as a skill, and not simply as a trick. Any other examples of Jesters in the Modern World that come to mind?