Laughing with the wrong people: insights into ego and tricksterism

To be honest, I don’t know what “tricksterism” is. The way that I understand it is that the word represents a colonial understanding of one of the most important roles in our ancestral indigenous ways of living. But like all things, our ancestral ways of living have been tarnished with the rust of colonialism.

I’m Anishnaabe. Our old stories tell us of people like Nanaboozhoo, who was called a trickster. Out of his roundabout follies, Anishnaabek ended up being gifted with great gifts. The role of tricksters in our ancient societies were to show us how not to live, while simultaneously showing us how to live.

Tricksters also have a special role in mediating humanity’s ego with humorous reflections. It’s true that, as humans, in a time of highly individualized existences that thrive on competition and the importance of winning, our egos are out of control.

It’s no longer easy to laugh when things go wrong. We’re a traumatized people. Everything hurts. There are those who are hurt and then there are also those that continue to hurt others.  What is the role of the trickster in bringing balance back to the people in 2016? What’s really interesting to think about is that these historical figures haven’t died out. Rather, tricksters continue to exist as damaged people in damaged worlds.

No longer are we able to look at the reasons why someone is making fun of us, and no longer are we able to be kind with our teasing. The lived experience of trauma has nearly taken away our ability to laugh and our ability to heal through laughter.

But worry thee not. All has not been lost. Tricksters still exist and those whose egos need to be deflated a bit, they still exist too. Nowadays, there is all this nuance that tags along as we decolonize the ways we relate with each other.

Teasing has always been a part of who we are. But what happens when we tease the ‘wrong’ people, when we make fun of those who charge money for ceremonies, or when we poke fun at the people who kill turtles for their shells for their super sanctimonious songs. What happens when they get really mad?

Then I suggest we laugh harder because our egos are thriving. Maybe we need to laugh at ourselves too because no one is perfect. All we can do is pick up and start over. Or we can wallow in self-pity. Laughter is medicine. Out of chaos, comes order.

Unlearn and relearn.

I like the ones that laugh easily and don’t take themselves too seriously. Life is too short to pretend to be something that you aren’t. Laugh at the ones who can’t laugh at themselves. Even if they’re uptight, they’re probably the ones who need a good laugh the most. You can never laugh with the wrong person.

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