We mock each other even when we discuss important subjects; we mock each other especially when discussing important subjects. Why is that?
It doesn't help to say, "Because it's fun." The question is, why is it fun? I'm not saying everyone enjoys it; to the contrary, sometimes the butt of the joke finds it very unpleasant and sometimes the smart nerd with all the facts loses out to the jock who has the completely wrong answer, just because the nerd can't handle mockery. It is important to figure out: what's going on here?
Maybe you're thinking, "Hey, why are you talking about men? What about women?" Simple fact: I am a man. I don't know whether women do the same thing among themselves; but from the outside, it seems that they have their own system. Ladies: feel free to chime in!This was all a total mystery to me for about 50 years. I was kinda of a science nerd or something when I was young. I am really good at taking multiple-choice tests, and I read a lot of science fiction in which smart kids just like me saved the world and got the girl, plus the respect of the Ben Grimms of the world. Being young and stupid, I figured that this was reality; I and my kind would dominate the herd and run the world by virtue of our enormous intellects!
Man, what a surprise reality turned out to be!
It's taken about half a century, but I think I have it worked out. Male mockery is a game about figuring out who to trust. Trust is not related to intellectual prowess. When things are going well, it doesn't matter so much who you're working with but you really need to figure out who will have your back when things go to hell. The game is to probe a little bit to see if the guy folds under pressure, or takes a hit and come back harder. In a crisis, you can't use someone who collapses in a heap, even if he's the smartest guy in the room, and even if he gets 100% on multiple-choice exams.
The Test Of Mockery is about whether a guy who is mocked lets it get to him. Under pressure, does he laugh it off or, even better, mock you back? You need friends and allies who have "Grace Under Fire". Brains you can hire; a guy who laughs when he gets hit and bounces back to cover you cannot be bought.
I call this is the "Klingon Science Probe" theory of male mockery. According to the dreadful Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Klingons probe unexplained phenomenon by firing photon torpedoes at them. This is a most efficient way of determining whether it is a threat, and if occasionally you lose a starship, well Klingons don't mind: they died for science!In reality, the procedure is even better and complicated. Because There Are Lines You Don't Cross, the mockery test includes determining whether mocker and mockee have Situational Awareness of where the mocker's head is today, what's a real threat, what is harmless, and so on. It's complex stuff, and it's important to know your ally can handle complex situations.
Human males mocking each other is the same thing, but gentler because we aren't actually Klingons. Everyone wants to go to Sto-vo-kar, but no one's in a hurry.
I'm not gonna say this is a fair test. Some people have communications issues; some people just never figure out what the test is. I am suggesting that, in my experience, this is a real test, and our choices are to beat the test or to fail. I like to beat tests!
I suffered a lot of discomfort from this system in my early life, but it now works well for me. I have guy friends with radically different views of the world from me; I know corporate lawyers and Tea Party Patriots. We mock each other and we get along. When we have a problem, we help each other out, and then we mock each other more. This is not Vulcan logic, but it makes a lot of sense.
I'm not complaining, but my life would have been a lot easier if I'd learned this early in life. I hope this record of my experience helps at least one budding Starfleet science tech to live long and prosper.
And ... to have a certain amount of fun mocking and being mocked!