My dear nephews & nieces,
I carefully remove a shoe and tug off a sock, then fold it and lay it carefully upon the shoe. Then I jump down from the platform and dangle my foot over the Third Rail. Here goes.
Quick question before I get started: Do you know any people who are hypersexualized? The ones that interpret something sex-related from every innocent thing and creep everyone out? They see something innocent as provocative and leer and comment as though everyone will get right down to rutting if he or she goes on. Or they dress far too sexily, like they believe they’re only worthwhile if viewed as a piece of meat. It’s sad, really. How did they get this way? If you’re a pretty lady (unfortunately a magnet for such types) I’ll bet you know quite a few and I’ll bet you also vacillate between wanting to push their heads into juicers or swing a canoe paddle in a long, perfect arc into their horrid faces. Gradually everything’s become over-sexualized these days, from advertising (the practitioners of which learned long ago that it hits the reptilian centers of the brain and provokes an instantaneous WANT! response) to television to movies to novels to song lyrics to everything. How many of us have been sitting, of a Sunday afternoon, watching a perfectly straightforward sporting event, when the ad for “CSI: Schenectady” comes on and we’re thrust into a highly stylized crime scene. The victim: a stunning blonde in a carefully contrived state of undress and an orgasmic expression. The blood is neon. Everything’s wet and bright and sticky looking. The two model-pretty cops speak casually. “Raped,” one says. “In the eye.” The parents jump across the couch to cover their little ones’ eyes and ears, but too late. We now return you to second half action between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. “Mommy, what does ‘rape’ mean?”
And while we’re at it, just how does one go about Supermanning a ho? It must be a convoluted process.
Anyway, it’s everywhere and humans in cultures where it flourishes are rewarded with children reaching puberty earlier and earlier. We show our kids movies we never even dreamed of seeing at eighteen and these kids are changed somehow. The eight o’clock sitcom language is where the ten o’clock sitcom used to be. Where’s my goddamn childhood? these children may well ask. Uhhhhh…I didn’t feel like watching *your* movie, kid. Sorry.
Well, it’s gotten that way with politics, too. I remember hearing the novelist Tom McGuane (try his “92 in the Shade” or “Panama” some time) say that all literary criticism, above a certain level, is political. I thought it a strange thing to say at the time but have since come to firmly believe it, and what’s more, to see that just about everything everywhere has become this way.
Just as we sat idly by and let the culture become about tits and more-than-innuendo, we’ve also let this politicization, if that’s a word, inform everything we do. It’s all-pervading.
I saw an article in the paper this week about matchmaking. Something like 75% of singles have informed the matchmaking websites or businesses that they will not consider, under any circumstances, a prospective partner from a different political party. It’s a bigger factor, say the matchmakers, than physical unattractiveness. Think about that. And think about our grandparents’ generation, who often mixed it up as couples in their voting and party affiliations. They didn’t worry about it. They didn’t have to.
Nowadays…I don’t know. Because of the heightened politicization of people, inviting someone with a differing viewpoint into your life would be tantamount to institutionalizing irritation in the home. People snipe and bring up their political beliefs quite often now, so it’s bad enough if the person shares your views. But what if they hold views completely contrary to your own and are constantly banging a wooden spoon against a pot about it? Love becomes a battleground. (Benatar, Patricia Mae)
And it’s even worse on the internet, Twitter particularly. There’s no event, great or small, that people won’t view through political lenses. Awards shows. Sporting events. The proselytising is endless. The attempts to score off political figures you disagree with is 24/7. When readers push back, elegantly or no, there’s often a snarl: This is who I am. If you don’t like it, screw.
I don’t unfollow people for their politics because I understand that this really is who people are now. I don’t think they realize that because of this politicization, they’ve become greatly diminished. Boring, hectoring, supercilious, condescending, self-important and taken up with politics for much of the day. And YES, caring. Caring, caring, caring. We all care. I care. You care. Everybody cares. You don’t care that I care and I don’t care that you care. What’s important, everyone thinks, is that I myself care. You? You’re another story. (i.e. not as important as *my* story). My caring, like all my egotistical pursuits, takes precedence over everything else.
The politicized person turns to his tried and true news sources which are tailored to the beliefs of people just like him. He is not shown people explaining things outside his politico-theological comfort zone except for the purpose of ridiculing. It’s important that all such persons be emasculated. He is told that he is seeing everything and also to mistrust other sources and their adherents. His world-view naturally narrows. He can then be easily controlled.
Yes! you just thought, reading that. That describes the other guy to a tee!
Uh huh. The other guy.
This past week a hurricane gave a rather hard kicking to the northeast United States and it would seem that over half the tweets about it had a political bent, whether about a candidate or climate change or voting or campaigning. I realize we’re mere days away from a presidential election, but even so.
It was weather event. No man, woman, party or idea was strong enough or important enough to create it or stop it or even cause it to veer a hundred yards in another direction. Assigning credit or blame where it isn’t due is ridiculous. Yet no one said so. What humans are indisputably much better at than weather manipulation is killing other humans. The 20th century, a very political century I think you’ll admit, was one where humans did away with each other in record numbers, all for political reasons. About nine figures worth of other humans. It helped that they didn’t think of them as humans, of course. That’s Step Two, where evil lays its bear trap. Step One is being jealous of / angry with others.
It’s important, in politicization, to never see the other’s point of view as even sometimes workable. Politics is a zero-sum game, unlike most of reality. “The other person’s view can only be stupid and evil. It’s motivated by money, by a desire to enslave people, or simply by wrong thinking made manifest. The candidate from the other party is not even human, could never be human, and therefore we are allowed to say the vilest things about him and do the internet equivalent of repeatedly poking him in the eye with a sharp stick. My own candidate, on the other hand, was hand-forged on Mount Olympus from 24 carat humanness. His motives are of the purest, his intellect beyond measure, his kindness and loving personality something for us all to aspire to. His back-story is as good as any covered-wagon tale. He only wants to help people. The other fellow - and I use the word fellow in the abstract, for he is not human, after all - does/wants/thinks/is none of these noble things. He makes me angry enough to kill.”
You say and think this and your polar opposite says and thinks this and - speaking only for myself - it’s awful to be around. It’s clumsy, predictable, nasty and uncivil.
You’re voting for this guy? Yes, we know. You told us. When? Just now, and earlier, and then before that, and several times a day for the past two years. And those issues you feel so strongly about? Same thing. And how to vote? We know how to vote. And how you feel about the opposition and their candidate? Yes. Got it. I think you see where this is going.
When did sane, creative, happy, fun people willingly become this way? Telling people who you’re going to vote for in a time of the much-dreamt-of-by-our-ancestors secret ballot, telling people who to vote for, mocking people with intellectually different, but serious views. Treating people we’ve never met with bottomless contempt. This not where we should be by now. Are we doomed to play this out over and over again, with sadness building on every side?
It looks like it’s only going to get worse. Friends bust up in election years. People get crazed. It’s all or nothing, this terrible zero-sum game. Everything gets narrowed down to simplicities. “I want to help people with this plan and you disagree, therefore you want to hurt them.” It’s as simple as that, or so we tell ourselves.
You momentarily mourn these exploded friendships . Your remaining friends, who through this intensive culling process are now exactly like you, counsel that it must not have been a very good friendship. Deep down, you think it may very well have been. You push these feelings away. Progress, you tell yourself. The Cause, above all.
Get out of these hives. Some years your candidate wins. Some years the other guy’s candidate wins. Nobody’s getting thrown into concentration camps. We seem, after these few hundred years of strife, to have a consistently rising standard of living.
But if feelings keep getting hotter and harder, election cycle after election cycle, political gulags will eventually happen. Then everyone, whether jailer, policeman, prisoner or spy will be a victim of an excruciating existence.
So cool off. Yes, have your views. Have all of them. But get out of your hives and look around. We’re all human and we all have good intentions. That guy over there, the one you want to smash in the face because he challenged your assumptions? He’s a human. Yes, a human. Look at his hands and his ears. There’s no mistaking it. Ask him how he does. How’s his kid doing at school?
And this atmosphere we’re all sharing? It needs less and less politics because it has become more and more inhospitable. Be a good deal more excellent to each other.
Your affectionate uncle,
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