THE NINETY-SIXTH annual meeting of the Society for the Prevention of Joy opened auspiciously with a short talk by the Secretary, Mr Anton Glumm, entitled 2009: A Banner Year for Joy Prevention. In his talk, Mr. Glumm took note of some of the many areas in which joy had been successfully dampened in the year 2009, and mentioned that early figures for the first quarter of 2010 showed a promising continuation of the trend.
The threat from mildly positive economic news had been more than neutralized by the escalation of innumerable conflicts worldwide, some of them in parts of the world that had until recently been models of peace and stability; and in recent months there had been indications that the pronouncements of an economic revival had been decidedly premature, with dark clouds lowering over southern Europe that might soon spread over the rest of the continent and from there throughout the economic world. In addition, the rise in every form of religious fundamentalism, which had already done so much to eliminate joy from the lives of countless millions, might soon be matched by a rise in joyless antireligious fundamentalism, such as had not been seen since the glory days of Hitler and Stalin.
More satisfying, however (said Mr. Glumm), were the long-term accomplishments of the Society; for economic downturns and local wars could not be expected to last forever, and the Society must look to long-term cultural changes to complete the work of accomplishing the Society’s aims. In this regard, Mr. Glumm was pleased to point out that the increasing bureaucratization of everyday life was leaving less and less room for joy in most fields of endeavor. Furthermore, the steady infiltration of business-school graduates into the fields of academia and the arts was making great strides toward clamping down on what had been one of the last refuges of joy in the modern world. These were not short-term trends, Mr. Glumm said, but major cultural shifts, which were likely to have effects measured in centuries rather than decades.
In short, Mr. Glumm concluded, success was at last in sight in every part of the world and in every stratum of society; and he might confidently say, without fear of exaggeration, that he would quite probably in his own lifetime see the complete elimination of joy from every aspect of public and private life.
At this rousing conclusion, the entire audience leaped to its feet with one accord and erupted into cheering, whistling, and other spontaneous demonstrations of gladness. Almost as suddenly, a deep hush fell over the auditorium. The members gazed at one another with horror and shock for at least two minutes. At last the President herself stood and moved that the Society, having committed a most shameful breach of its own Charter, should be dissolved at once. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously, and the members left the hall in somber silence.