Yesterday I was thinking, always a terrible mistake, while I did the cat boxes and scrubbed the toilets (it was that kind of day) about how part of our problem today is not only that parts of our culture don’t know each other, but that parts of our culture actively know stuff about the other parts that absolutely isn’t so.
This is a problem for various reasons, one of them being that various parts of this vast and varied nation think they need the government to protect them from “those fellows over there’ who in fact have no intention of doing anything about/to them. And this is a problem because our system is not designed to give a centralized government that much power; our nation is too varied/different/peculiar for every spot to be justly ruled from a central location (take the $15 an hour boondoggle. Btw, this is $2 less than than most medical interns make an hour, but I digress. In some places in the country this is what an adult with practice in his trade — say retail manager — can hope to make, and you absolutely can raise a family on it. In other parts of the country even $15 is poverty and destitution. Having a centralized government dictate a minimum wage for everyone regardless of local cost of living makes as much sense as making only shoes in size 8 for the left foot.)
Now it’s always been normal, and it’s part of that human tribal thing, to believe that those guys over there, across the bridge and over the mountain are REALLY weird.
My grandmother as she got very old read newspapers full of marvelous accounts of women giving birth to snakes and other such odd “news”. I almost swallowed my tongue reading Truth by Terry Pratchett because it pictured that so exactly. No woman in the village would ever give birth to snakes, but we were civilized and nice, and who knew what those people over the mountain did? If someone said they did and it was right there in the paper, surely the paper wasn’t allowed to print falsehoods, right?
This might sound like a bumpkin’s idea, but really it isn’t and there is more about this later. All humans are susceptible to this to some limited extent. And people who are quite shrewd in one or two areas can be absolutely dumb in things they don’t pay much attention to (see current election for examples.)
For instance, once when I was 15 or so, I needed to get to my high school at indecently early hours. I don’t remember why, it’s entirely possible it was to finish an art project or to do some volunteer thing. To get to the highschool I took a train from the village downtown. We weren’t a station (though the village has one now) but a very informal stop at which maybe one in ten trains stopped (and sometimes scheduled ones forgot and I had to call dad from next village over to pick me up, or if it was early walk the five or six miles back.) Anyway, the only train available before five am was full of people from the villages beyond the mountains, who came to sell at the big city fairs. These were sharp people, and small business people.
However, it’s unlikely in those days that their remote villages even had good radio reception, and newspapers would probably have been difficult to obtain. While they were in the city they were working and would absorb any gossip they heard, but not seek out newspapers and news. At any rate, likely, these people had third grade if that much, and reading might have been a chore.
I was sitting by the window, listening to them talk, and let me tell you, they sounded absolutely as smart as my parents or anyone else. Until….
A young man with a Spanish accent moved down the carriage telling a story and getting money. He was a refugee from the Spanish civil war, and all his family had been killed, and he needed money for a new start.
No, don’t tune your receivers. There was no civil war ongoing in Spain in the seventies. BUT these people hadn’t paid attention, had vague memories of hearing mom/grandma/great grand say something about a civil war in Spain. They opened their pockets and gave deep.
Rustics, you say. And yes, it was always part of high culture to make fun of rustics. Cozened literally comes from the con game in Elizabethan England where a con men would approach a new comer from the countryside, pretend to be their cousin and trick them/rob them.
But now we have something completely different. While the Rustic in Elizabethan England was a stock character in London, if a person from London traveled in the countryside, it is likely after a while they’d become aware not everyone there was simple, or gullible. They’d learn to see the countryside as it was, not as they were told it was.
The problem we have right now is that this is near impossible, and the divisions aren’t only geographic. It’s very easy to set one race against the other, one orientation against the other, even micro cultures against the other. (The number of times I’ve been informed I spend my weekends wearing Spock ears don’t bear mentioning.)
We’re back to not only the fact that we’re more pervasively immersed in entertainment than any people before, but also that our entertainment, particularly in movies, but also books, is designed to create “false memories.” We are supposed to believe that we lived this. That’s what the narrative techniques do (if they’re good.)
I’m fine with that, as I read to enjoy being someone else for a time. And it would be fine if for a while there every news channel, every sitcom, ever movie, every book hadn’t been a unified force selling the same version of reality. Reinforced experience (aka the big lie) becomes doubly real because “everybody knows.”
Examples of “everybody knows” involve for instance that everybody knows Southerners will be hostile just because you’re not “from around these parts” and also that they’re all inbred ill billies; that no gay man can step outside safely at night without being beat to death; and that everyone on the right is not only Christian, but insanely, unthinkingly Christian and takes orders from their pastors. And don’t get me started on the ‘murders of abortion doctors’ which many people think rival the numbers of Islamic terrorism, 9/11 and all.
And take the kerfufle over bathrooms and transgendered people using bathrooms. BOTH sides behave as if they lived in an imaginary and very strange country.
The “You must let transgendered people into your bathrooms” people suffer from the “If you were a dinosaur, my transgendered love” syndrome, in that the only world they really know is the faculty lounge or the privileged country club where the right people assemble. They’ll believe anything of those people out there, beyond hte hill, including that those people will stop an effeminate looking man or a butch looking woman from using the bathroom and demand they drop trou to prove their identity. Seriously, what is this actual cr*p about the transgendered being unable to use bathrooms of their assumed sex? I have friends who are butch women or effeminate men, (and most straight) and none of them ever got stopped at the door and told to prove they were male/female. So if any transgendered person is making even token efforts to pass, no one is going to question them. Because in the hinterlands, outside the enlightened faculty lounges, everyone knows people don’t match any label, and there is no defined “masculine” or “feminine”. If someone looks like they sort of belong, we assume they know what their genitals are.
And then you get into the “but what if it’s just a guy who says he feels like a woman?” Well, in saner times that would be idiotic, but nowadays it’s possible, thereby justifying a fear of the people against this. OTOH when the people who say transgendered people are more likely to get assaulted in the bathroom of their birth sex, CANNOT be referring to people whose external appearance entirely and congruently matches their birth sex.
(As for fears your kids will be assaulted, I feel for you, but you realize no one is checking genitals and there are no bathroom guards, so people can and do sneak in and assault the unsuspecting, anyway. Yes, yes, no reason encouraging it, but seriously. Making a law against people using the other bathroom would obligate you to check genitals, and you know that we’re not going there either. Ideally, as a friend suggests, we should have individual bathrooms, like the “family restrooms” available in airports. This would both equalize the male and female bathrooms — one always over the other always under supplied — and permit people like me who only have children of the other sex, to keep an eye on them when they’re frankly too young and nuts to be trusted in there alone. And for reasons unknown to me, women objected to Robert in the ladies’ room when he was little more than 3 and to Marshall at 6.)
What you have here is extreme suspicion of a vast majority (people outside the academic lounge and the entertainment industry) built by all our entertainment and news, until people decide a slightly less butch male and more butch female walking into a working class bar would get beat to a pulp for the crime of looking different. Which is insane. And which makes every little subgroup feel they need the government to protect them.
This is a dangerous road to go down, because no minority fares well under a totalitarian regime. That is, the same people who help usher in the tyrant, because they think they need protection from their co-citizens, are the ones who end up suffering the most under it, because in the hard times that accompany tyranny, minorities must be made invisible or destroyed.
Yes, there are new ways to reach the public, and I’m imploring you, if you have an ounce of talent, start running blogs, writing books, doing what you can to wake our co-citizens out of the unrealistic consensus reality that is pitching them against each other.
We must — must — stop seeing each other without the blinders of the ideas pushed on us by those who would be our masters.
Only that way can we remain free.
Because when we get to the point we need the government to tell us where to go to the bathroom, the hour later and the situation far more serious than I thought.