Wednesday, March 27, 2013

1) Collect Underwear; 2) ? 3) Make profit

One of my favorite South Park episodes is about the Underwear Gnomes.  It is also about Rob Reiner as a prototype of Mayor Bloomberg, going around trying to force people to stop smoking, and that's a funny plot, but the subplot is funnier.

(see clip here--30 second ad in front)

In going over some of the goofy revisionism going around, a part of which will be Robert Redford's new film, "The Company that You Keep, " about some of the Weathermen terrorists of the 60s, I'm reminded of how romantic all of that sounded to me in the 70s . When I was 13, it had only been a few years since the heydays of SDS, Tom Hayden,  The Weathermen, the Port Huron statement; people were still talking about it.

I had older cousins and younger uncles who quietly expressed a bit of approval for the "activists", even those engaged in planning violent retaliation toward "the man."  .  It was always couched in, "We don't agree with their methods, but....."

All of this was dated around the same time as my own political awareness budded.  And I think I absorbed a lot of it by reading things like "Steal this Book", sympathy for seeing "hippies" and liberals portrayed horrifically on shows like "Dragnet", and understanding what I could of Watergate.

Not that all of that is bad.  I"m glad America went through a ritual cleansing of the Presidential Great Man myth...although it put the blinders back on 3 administrations later.  I'm glad I was at least trying to pay attention when my classmates were playing spin-the-bottle and King of the Hill.

I met a Communist my first day of high school.  No, a real Communist.  She was what snotty conservatives would call a Red  Diaper Doper baby.  We had a similar sense of humor so I hung around her a lot.  She told me a lot of stuff that probably wasn't true about the USSR; and I had learned, kind of by accident, a bunch of Irish Republican Army songs that she made me write out.  The whole of our conversations could be headed, "These people really aren't so bad."

So unlike before, when my dad would complain about what the Russians were doing and talk about how evil  Communism was, I rolled my eyes or just left the room.  Go easy on me; I was 13 in 9th grade.  I wrestled over algebra all year exercising my brand spanking new abstraction muscle in understanding how "x" or "y" could be a number.  I had ingested a bunch of romantic notions---like when I read Kipling's "Jungle Books"--and just started fantasizing about partisans blowing away greedy capitalists while their faithful girlfriends stood close by manning the guns instead of monkeys carrying Mowgli back and forth in the trees.  So I certainly was more immature than I thought I was.

How do children, and even young adults, form their own opinions about things?  I learned a lot from my mom and dad but my mom and dad were temporaly ambiguous.  My  mom wore Indian headbands and the occasional hippy blouse,  and my dad had long hair.  Sort of long.  He rode a motorcycle to work.  They listened to the Supremes and the Rolling Stones until my dad discovered country and only listened to that.  They were pretty sure war was bad, but they felt sorry for the Vietnam veterans.  They were horrified about Kent State, but wondered if maybe those darned kids were just pushing the envelope too far and got what they deserved.   They did go to an anti-bussing rally once because my mom hated driving and didn't want to have to pick us up an hour a way if we got sick.  But they snuck quietly out as soon as they got there because the speaker was talking about "those awful blacks" but he wasn't saying "blacks".  My parents were not into that.

Just a few years later, as the economy and skirts fell, my parents got less bohemian in their dress and outlook
They were more supportive of the war, or at least more hopeful about us winning the war, and more patriotic.  So they were hard to pin down politically.

It was in college, away from home,  that I first became adamant about wanting to learn about different power structures, wars, history and whether "my country" was doing the right things or not.  My professors were happy to tell me all the right answers.   The first big leap was feminism.  In high school this just meant it was fair to have sports for girls and that girls should speak up in class and not let boys take over; and that girls should think about being engineers and business owners.

But in college it was far different.  I learned that the world was scary, even if  I hadn't known it before.  I learned that "guys are pigs"* and I couldn't trust them.  I learned that
the only way I could succeed in life was to see myself as a victim, then rely on others...the government, the sisterhood, the Sandinistas, take care of my needs and ensure that I had "true equality".  It was in feminist support groups at school that I learned the Marxist phrase, "from each according to abilities, to each according to needs"---which sounded pretty good to me then, being a victim & all (My opinion changed about that about the same time I got my first  paycheck, taxes withheld.)

My fellow students and I  would have discussions about, say, "Reagan's supply side economics."  Now,  I watched the little easel-aided talk he gave about it, explaining why if taxes were lower, people would have more money to spend, and that spent money would go to other people, and so on, and so on, so that everyone would benefit.  Which actually made sense to me.  But when our friends helpfully disected it for us:  "That won't work!  he's just saying that because of his rich campaign contributors!" "It's all a pack of lies,, and it won't work because the task of the proletariat is always to overthrow the supplies, and I am working on a paper in philosophy about how engaging the privileged class as a means of survival is a desparate attempt to fill my bong, and my boyfriend once met Che Guevara."  or something like that.

It sort of sounded smart, though it made no sense, and confident, and that last statement would have been from someone who liked me and I liked her and she got me a gig working backstage at the play she was starring in, "Sandino's Daughters".Such stuff would make me want to run into a cave and say, "Joanna sent me.  I need to get fitted with a gas mask and be trained with an AK 47", and then hide in a jungle with a troop full of insurgents waiting to have Uncle Sam come at us in black helicopters.

I WANTED the liberal outlook to make sense.  And people like Joann and my professors sounded so sure and confident about the stuff they told me, why I should vote for this, or that, that I was embarrassed Ididn't understand why and couldn't figure out what questions to ask.

This is wherer the South Park gnome episode comes in.  The gnomes' business plan was:

1) collect underwear

2) ?

3) make profit.

My decisions about politics were made like this:

1) I don't have the slightest idea what this means.
2) Joanne says x.
3) x is complicated, and I don't understand it, either.
4) Joanne is smarter than I am, because she understands what this means, so I'll just go with what she says.


1) complicated-sounding, goofy leftist idea
3) I guess I'll vote a straight Democrat ticket.  


*The "guys are pigs" thing turned out to be amorphous over time.  In college I would read interviews of our Women's Studies professors talking about rape or domestic violence.  Their unending chorus was, "No means no," "Don't blame the victim", "women don't make these things up" etc.  A funny thing happened  on the way to the 3rd millenium, however.   In the 90s  a Congressman named Bob Packard was accused of sexual harrassment.  Suddenly, on all the networks leading feminists were saying, "She made it up!  She's a slut!  It's her fault!"

Why the turnaround?   It could be that Mr. Packard frequently sponsored things feminists wanted passed, and may have been involved with feminist PACs in a very financial kind of way.  

In her book, "The New Thought Police",  Tammy Bruce talks of her experience as NOW chairman in Los Angeles during the OJ trial, and attempts to organize a candlelight vigil for Nicole Brown after her death, which were met with a steel door.  In that case, apparently, radical women didn't want to hurt their connection with radical blacks, so sympathy for the victim of domestic violence was shelved to spare a political alliance.  When  the  dozen or so women who accused Bill Clinton of rape got shot down by the same likely suspects ("She's trash!"  " She's making it up!"  "Every woman should be on her knees right now ready to give Bill Clinton a blow job for keeping abortion safe"), I wasn't surprised anymore.  I was a recovering feminist. 

No comments :