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Thursday, January 19, 2012


     joan mitchell, sunflowers II

Hearing a woman talk on a radio talk show, On Point, I think is what it's called. She'd written about making a world safe for girls. She had a host of interesting points. Mostly, it was in relation to boys, who are like dogs (my word, not hers), predictably out of control. The woman who was with the interviewer several times had to bring up that everybody is not just alike, that not all girls are raised in pink bedrooms. Throughout the hour, I was puzzled by this woman's one dimensional vision of life in this world. Without meaning to be, she was thinking via corporate packaging in terms of a society where everyone is just alike, has the same opportunities, etc. My mind kept finding exceptions galore. A young woman I know, 29, brilliant mind, PhD, gentle, loving, caring, beautiful human being. None of this is exaggeration. I know a guy, 29, brilliant mind, HS, rough, loving, caring, beautiful human being. He came from such a dysfunctional house, his mind couldn't focus on school, on learning. He learned well, but not with the ease and uncluttered mind of someone else, who was raised without hitting or berating.

No matter how much we try to be Barbie and GI Joe, some girls just don't have blond hair and some guys don't want to be killing people. All the time I was coming up through the 1950s, the rule was boys are supposed to be interested in sports and the glory of the Army. I didn't give a shit about any of it. It's not like there are other possibilities. It's a minority of the high school boys that play football and basketball. Most of the guys don't play sports and don't want to. But they don't even figure. In high school, I liked going to football and basketball games, but didn't want to be in them. I hated playing basketball in gym class. Liked football and baseball as things I wouldn't be doing by choice, but are ok when you have to. I had no influences coming in from outside the working class baptist world of a few people who believed they had something nobody else had. All I could see they had was poverty and egoism. By the time I emerged from high school, family and church, and started going about in the world, I had no idea what any of it was about. School doesn't teach "real world." Church doesn't either. Parents insulated themselves from it, because they didn't get it. Rock and roll was my only other influence, and it certainly didn't teach living in the world, that is, with any sort of inner balance.

Much of the woman's talk on the radio tonight had to do with protecting the girls from the boys. It tells me the boys need some reining in. The whole of American society gives the high school athlete privileges the other boys don't have. The college athletes are shamelessly privileged and exploited. They are the university's big money ticket. Tom Wolfe's novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, gives a good view of how ill prepared some young girls can be for the cut loose jocks who have no boundaries where how they treat the little girls is concerned. It is a truth that the girls need protection from the boys. But not all boys. Only certain boys. Not all parents know how to teach their girls how to live safely in a world where boys are not trained to decency. It's the warrior culture where boys are given privileges because they'll be going to war soon. In war they will learn discipline, leadership, and a lot of them will die or be physically or mentally broken for life. Like boys have to put their lives on the line at a certain age, meaning it's ok for them to ramble and throw liquor bottles out car windows. Again, it's only a certain percentage. It might be up around 30%. Less than 10% the Henry Rollins / Ice T testosterone expression. They're mostly in the military or prison.

Girls do need protection from boys. And boys do need training. Our society doesn't do well at training boys. Boys are brought up in the society's belief system about boys. The rooster syndrome makes it very difficult for one man to train another outside a military, mass, shared experience. One man tells another what to do and you can be sure that's the last thing the one told will ever do. It is so easy to see men as roosters everywhere you look. I see myself and friend I wrote about in OVER LUNCH a few weeks ago, at lunch, across the table from each other like roosters, neck feathers sticking out, necks taught, feet ready to spring with the spurs, beaks ready to bite, chickens playing the testosterone game, squaring off. I would so happily be the rooster not looking to fight, but about any rooster I know has to play the testosterone game in one way or another in varying degrees. In the working class, I can kick your ass. In the middle class, I know more than you do. In the ruling class, I have more assets than you. Hippy being a middle-class phenomenon, the hipper-than-thou game was a de-intellectualization of the I-know-more-than-you-do game. Lunch friend plays both. He helps me appreciate my friends who don't play rooster games.

I suppose what some people are looking for, the ones that believe we're one large mass of the same thing in multiples, is a solution that will calm the stormy sea of humanity. Who knows how to make social changes that would protect naive girls from predator boys? That's a tall order. I can't help but think it's one of those aspects of living in this world we have to learn how to live with. First, have to pay attention to it. Awareness is the first step to solving issues that need changing. Always something is needing change, and I can't help but see that a good thing. Keeps everything fresh. Though, at the same time, it makes a traiditonal society seem awfully refreshing where the people have believed the same thing on the same land in the same way of life for multiple thousands of years. Given that we humans have lived tribally a lot longer than we have lived in the lonely crowd, it's something like our foundation. The distribution of the world's population today is people leaving traditional societies and going to the city where they can make money and party.

When I think about waking up somebody's baby to be raised as their child sometime in the next 20 years or so, I tremble in fear. The baby of a teenage girl in Milwaukee date-raped by a guy home from the Army on leave. Everything is possible. I don't even think about it. It can make me afraid of dying again, the fear of coming back. Do I want to do this again? Hell no! I don't ever want to go through the confusion of the first half of this lifetime again. It was like a pinball on its own particular path from bumper to bumper, driven by gravity, rolling on chance. A flipper sends the ball back to the top where it bumps its way back down the playing field, another slap by a flipper back through the minefield of bumpers and lights rolling with gravity toward the hole, end of game, and a flipper sent the ball rolling back to the top to bump through the minefield of bumpers, dings and lights, and then the flipper was too late, the hole snatched the ball. Boing. A new ball in the playing field.

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