Humans do everything badly. The ideas start out well – full integration of Black people into the culture – which almost immediately end with knife fights and a race war in the streets. On television these days, which I only watch walking by the tv room, almost all the people in ads are black and most of the couples are mixed-race. Same with the current throwaway entertainment on the subscription networks. In Canada, 3.5% of us are black, but that’s ok, advertising is following the virtuous path, it is far past time that everyone participate in the joys of a prosperous and safe family life.Our lizard selves need to see it. It’s what that sentimental nighttime soap – This is Us – is all about. This is Us is our intangible dream.
So yesterday I found myself on Glennon Doyle’s site watching her speak to an audience of educated, middle-aged, well heeled, (and above all secure) mostly white women at UC Berkeley, about how it’s so great they are finally waking up to the fact that the lives of black women are harder. There was the usual Trump hate, but one is used to that from the tolerant and inclusive who are tolerant and inclusive of everyone but half the county, who are evil, racist and racist evil. But mostly Doyle tells them they, the prosperous, are guilty, they must feel the pain of their guilt and can only find redemption through ally-ship of the Black community. As an example, media stars on Instagram have been assiduously promoting the work of Black women artists and crafts women.
What took them so long? Let’s think. Boomers were entirely occupied by their generation’s most pressing issues, family foundation, jobs, paying for university educations, children. Those not on that path careened off the rails into self-indulgence wrapped in spiritual seeking and/or the arts. Women in that generation poured into the work force, which triggered spectacular social change. Now these women are retired, and vigorous and ready to make the world a better place.
This is how democratic capitalism works. As prosperity increases, more marginal groups are brought into the circle of light. And as women did, as they joined in, they created more prosperity. However, it was hard, filled with conflict and hard. Gay people came next, and their talents and sensibilities have enhanced our lives considerably. And now people of color are making a play. You can mock middle class family life all you want, but for 4 billion people, it is their central dream.
Prior to the 60’s, in the Anglosphere, intensive charitable work was expected, no, demanded from everyone with any pretence to adulthood. The quickest route to a job or promotion was through proving yourself in the community by building something that truly helped. That truth is not represented in any literature now being read, but it was and is the ineluctable fact of, the key to the well-lived life. Glennon Doyles’ audience and its clear need to help, makes me think that is coming back.
Last night I am watching American Idol with Jamie who is irritated because I am giggling like a five year old at Instagram Reels or TikTok while he is trying to have a lovely sentimental moment. What stops me is this ginormous black kid with the voice of an angel who starts Stand Up!, the Oscar winning song from Harriet, the biopic of Harriet Tubman, undisputed heroine of the Underground Railroad. I tried to watch the movie but the first scenes were of vicious white people being extra vicious and Lord knows I am tired of those scenes. How many have I seen? How many have been written or filmed? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? A million?
Together we are going to a brand new home
Far across the river
I hear freedom calling?
Calling me to answer
Gonna keep on keepin’ on
I can feel it in my bones
I go to prepare a place for you
“That “place” he was singing about?” I say to Jamie. “That was Canada, and specifically the land that my four times great grandfather, Oliver Phelps donated to the fugitives for their village”. Oliver and his 17 children and his cousins formed a line of shelter from the Connecticut Valley where they’d settled in 1650 through upper New York State where in 1823, Oliver started to build the fourteen locks at Lockport on the Erie Canal. He then moved to Canada to dig the Welland Canal, which opened the West to desperate hordes seeking freedom and a new life or really, just enough to eat. William Hamilton Merritt, the great projector of the Canadian future, the god/king of the region at the time, was also an Officer on the Underground Railroad. The canal tunnels were used to hide the fugitives and smuggle them across the border. Oliver’s housekeeper, a black woman, was their liaison with Harriet.
While we were at it, Oliver built schools in the Niagara and would get up in the morning to drive round the farms in a buckboard picking up little girls to go to school, paying their parents for the loss of field labor. TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
I do not begrudge American blacks their heroine and their interpretation of their story, which is tragic, which is profoundly moving, which has created some of the greatest art of our age. I do begrudge their demagoguing it into a race war. 500,000 people died to free them. Not all white people are evil sons-of-bitches. We would do well to remember that.
For the past year I’ve engaged in a process of withdrawal from violent or frightening-in-any-way-television. I haven’t been to the movies for years. The last I remember were the televised National Theatre productions beamed out to us provincials in the netherlands where non-progs and pencil-necked turkey farmers live. Last one was Kenneth Branagh playing Macbeth in a set that looked like a barn. It was not fun. And the tragedy was buried under so many dismal and depressing “production values” that it felt like I’d spent 150 minutes dodging a malignant giant with massive hands who was, luckily for me, blind.
I’m sick of being harvested like corn or farmed like chicken, and I bet you are too.
Having wrenched my mind away from “premium” tv, I wonder at the programming inflicted on us and what it means to serve. I know that the producers and executives at these outfits just want eyeballs, preferably with data they can sell, but what is the over-arching effect of this crap? Whatever it is, it’s not good.
I also know in some detail the craft of story-building, which is to say it is now such a formula that everything is predictable in the extreme. Whenever the writers don’t know what to write next, they insert a bit of clever violence or horror, no matter how preposterous. That spikes adrenalin in the viewer and keeps them watching. It is meta-formulaic. The darker the story, the more filmmakers feel “significant”, which is today, the highest good.
None of it has verisimilitude, which is the apex thing that we crave when we watch or read anything. Explain our world to us we say, decode it, give us something to rely on, a new understanding.
The first moment of manipulated suspense and foreshadowing, I turn it off. It started out ‘I won’t watch anything’ and now is ‘I can’t watch anything.”
So when I’m so tired I can’t even read a book, I watch TikTok. I love it, it’s filled with ordinary people being playful. I suspect that represents the real world, people blowing off steam by being silly. What the media projects is just massive egos clashing around trying to be significant by shocking the punters. Same goes for the news – yesterday the technical director of CNN boasted that they use the network to sell bullshit and fear. Next fear? Global warming. Not that Fox is any better, being full-on hysteria over you name it.
I fear we are creating, with our viewing, a violent, horror-filled dystopia. If you spend two hours watching an episode of Yellowstone or Tucker Carlson or any of the other carnival barkers, you are envisioning your future. This is basic metaphysics, what you focus on, you increase.
I’m sick of being harvested like corn or farmed like a chicken. I suspect you are too. A pox on all their houses.
This makes sense from the Endocrine Society
Gender [sic] is often misused as a synonym for sex—for example, when filling out forms for various activities, we are routinely asked to check a box labeled “gender,” but the only available options are boxes labeled “M” and “F.” But sex is not the same thing as gender and using these terms as equivalents obfuscates differences that are real and important in society in general and biomedical research in particular.Endocrine Society
I spent my 20’s in the theatre (and nightclubs) and it was clear that gender ran along a continuum of expressions. And very interesting it was, too. It is also clear that men born flooded with testosterone will out-play any female in any sport. Divide gender from sex, and you solve that problem. Not of course the problem of cultural hysteria from both left and right. Honestly those people just have to shut the fuck up. They are on my last nerve.
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