Swift’s propensity for satire really takes center stage in his essay A Modest Proposal. If interpreted literally, the essay is disgusting and degrading, but when read the way Swift indented, it expresses his disgust at the degradation of the living conditions of so many Irish people. His sarcastic proposal serves to critique the incompetence of the Irish to improve the situation of the impoverished. The use of satire as commentary on relevant issues is a timeless method. Swift’s tone of sarcasm initially reminded me of a viral post I saw on Facebook about absurdly low teachers’ salaries. ( http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/02/23/if-teachers-are-mere-babysitters-pay-them-accordingly/ )The post consists of an essay that starts out sarcastically calling teachers glorified babysitters, and suggests that they should be paid the same wages as a babysitter. As the essay continues and the author works out the math, it becomes apparent that this would actually result in HIGHER teacher salaries than the status quo, which really serves drive home the point of the post. As I reflected on the similarities of the two essays, I realized that satire is a HUGE part of every day life and culture, and has been for an extremely long time.
The nature of satire really hasn’t changed much over the ages. In fact, as far back as Ancient Greece, play writes such as Aristophanes were employing satire in comedies to jab at influential citizens and leaders of Greek city-states. Again, in Dante’s divine comedy, prominent political figures are mentioned in Hell. Even Mark Twain employs sarcasm to take jabs at members of the United States Congress, subtly comparing them to idiots. More recently, comic mock-news shows have become prominent, such as Seth Meyer’s “Weekend Update”, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” and mock publications like The Onion deliver current events from sarcastic and humorous points of view. As long as there are people in power, there will be smart-asses to mock them!