Strakon Lights Up, No. 47
When the other shoe is permitted to drop
Normal men and women, when left temporarily unsupervised by a Red Guard monitor, are often able to agree that each sex displays its own characteristic complex of strengths and weaknesses. Sure, they'll debate the extent, quality, and importance of the differences; and they'll disagree about the whys and wherefores; but when the whip of political correctness is absent, they'll have a good chance of keeping their balance.
On the telescreen, where the P.C. whip can almost always be heard swishing and cracking in the background, balance is a rara avis. According to Minitrue's party line, white men display a characteristic complex of weaknesses, and all women display a characteristic complex of strengths.
Nowhere is that message more obnoxiously prominent than in today's TV commercials. In carrying forward a commercial civilization largely built by white males, modern advertisers have selected, as a common theme, the belittling and ridiculing of white males. An old black sage patiently counsels an uptight, naive, goofy young Caucasian who is trying to sell Internet access from a card table. Imbecilic white males on a golf outing smugly patronize the female member of their foursome, who immediately humiliates them with a tremendous drive worthy of the PGA if not the field artillery. A smart, sassy black boss publicly derides a stupid white male employee who has chosen the wrong express company. Smart, savvy white wives jeer at their stupid white husbands, who don't understand prescription services or insurance or the advantages of cable TV over satellite TV. A smart, sassy, savvy black driver whose car is equipped with a global-positioning system mocks and refuses to help a stupid white male whose car is not so equipped. How often do we see white males justifiably scolding black males, or white males justifiably humiliating any women? (That's a rhetorical question.)
On and on and on it goes, as white children addicted to the telescreen soak up the message and the purveyors of Ritalin and metal detectors cackle with glee.
Over the past few months, several commercials for different products have featured the same specific leitmotif. It's the purported tendency of the stupid, stubborn, egomaniacal male to drive on insanely through the night, though utterly lost, while ignoring his smart, flexible, well-centered mate's reasonable pleas to stop and ask for directions. I thought there was something wrong with that picture, but I couldn't put my finger on it until a friend asked, "If they're lost, why doesn't the wife try to help by looking at the damn map?"
Excellent question. According to writers Barbara and Allan Pease, there is an excellent answer: most women can't read maps.
The Peases have written a book titled Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, and the woman who interviewed them about it on MSNBC today said it explores "the science behind our differences." Drawing on recent studies of the brain, the interviewees dealt with both sides of the perennial conflict between the male driver who won't stop to seek help and the female passenger who does nothing to make stopping unnecessary. And, remarkably enough, the first foible the Peases talked about in the interview was the foible issuing from the passenger seat: indeed, on the basis of their extensive travel and research, Mr. Pease joked that "every man in the world has handed a map to a woman and destroyed his vacation."
According to the Peases, females tend to lack the spatial-orientation abilities that evolved among males during the eons of Man the Hunter and Woman the Fire-Tender, Gatherer, and Nurturer. Males, for their part, and for the same reason, tend to want to find their own durn way through the woods. In our own automotive eon, females tend not to do well with road maps, turning them upside down if the car is headed south instead of north and, in general, wreaking all manner of navigational havoc.
That's according to the Peases in today's interview. Whether it's true or not, the female disability in map-reading was represented during the interview, by interviewer as well as interviewee, as one of those things that "everyone knows." I found that remarkable. Certainly we're not supposed to know it, are we? The department of Minitrue that writes TV commercials certainly doesn't want us to know it. The interviewer noted how un-P.C. the Peases' project was, but she refrained from telling us why. She did not exclaim, "Boy, we'll now see all those commercials in a different light, won't we?"
I admit it: that "everyone knows" business does get under my skin. It reminds me of how some dinner companions received one of my analyses of nefarious political dealings. They shrugged and advised me that "everyone knows" that all politics is corrupt and then marched out and voted in the next election! After seeing the interview with the Peases, I didn't have to stay tuned to MSNBC very long before that poor Internet salesboy was once again bleating at passersby from his card table, with the wise, grandfatherly Negro shaking his head at the goof's fumbling antics.
You know you're suffering under a Polite Totalitarian regime, rather than a regime of the obsolete Impolite variety, when you occasionally see information or opinion in the established media that flatly contradicts the System's Weltanschauung. You know it's still totalitarianism when you see the media refusing to recognize the contradiction for what it is. Context-setting, pattern-recognition, exploration of implications, induction in general insofar as they exist at all, they're reserved for the Main Message. The odd cognitively dissonant message is allowed to float away, forgotten, on the first random breeze.
Under the imperatives of modern doublethink, saying that "everyone knows" something means, first, that we needn't talk about it any longer. But, more importantly, it also means that we needn't even act as if we know it. Coping with that kind of thinking tires me out. It's almost enough to make a fellow yearn for simple old Stalinism.
May 31, 2000
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