Thursday, 25 February 2016

A lack of negative publicity

The Wikipedia twitter account has started posting awesome niche articles, almost like they know I'm watching. I can't resist a quick post about one from today.

Behold: Crush, Texas.

This glorious Wes Anderson movie event took place in the middle of nowhere in 1896. The details are too perfect:

A railway baron who was literally called Crush decided to hold a jolly, educational display in which he would crash two trains into each other as fast as possible. In response to this promise of true art, 40,000 people trekked into the desert to bear witness. The trains were smashed together, and the resulting blast killed a number of onlookers and injured several more.

A parable of humanity. A manifestation of pure irony. A fascinating historical insight. Today we have Michael Bay, but in the old days they had to pay - in blood, dammit - for their big pointless explosions.

But as ever, it's not the story itself that's my favourite part. It's the Wikipedia article. For starters, the opening is a masterclass in understated, Game-of-Thrones-style lulling into a false sense of security. The small detail of the gory denouement is relegated to one short sentence in the introduction (prefaced by the wonderfully deadpan "unexpectedly..."), and another even shorter one lost in the body of the article. The rest of the content entirely relates to details other than the fact that people died after willingly attending a literal train wreck.

We learn, for example, that the stunt was so well attended that the site was considered a temporary "city" with the second greatest population in the state. We learn the colours and makes of the trains involved, and that their crews had to be on board at the start to get them going, before leaping from the moving engines. We learn how high the enormous chunks of cast iron debris were forced into the air by the explosion ("hundreds of feet"). We learn which episode of the History Channel covered this breathtaking chapter in the history of human folly. We learn quite a lot about Scott Joplin's composition that commemorated the event.

We even learn this magnificent tidbit, which I think shines a light on today's american politics:
Crush was immediately fired from the Katy railroad. In light of a lack of negative publicity, however, he was rehired the next day
But at no point does the article dwell on the thought processes or chain of decisions that lead to, and apologies if I'm repeating myself here, a huge number of people thinking it would be a good idea to crash two pressurised steam engines together at high speed in close proximity to spectators.

And no one lost their job.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Totally worth it

After much soul searching, I'm finally ready to write something on the topic of the democratic primary - one of the most fascinating and important culture struggles of our day.

Here's the first thing I want to say: it depends a lot on how you think we can achieve gender equality. Everyone wants this, but there are different views on how to get it. For example, here is a fairly mainstream view:

  • The government and major cultural institutions should make a big effort to throw off gendered norms and preconceptions of the past and thus work towards a world in which women are treated as people and no different from men.

Here is my view:

  • Men should be banned from running for President.
  • Men should be banned from being CEOs and directing movies. 
  • Men should be forced to say the words "I'm so so sorry for the patriarchy" once per hour.
  • In fact, for the next generation or so, men should be forced to live alone in glass cages with nothing but a daily supply of bread and water, wearing collars that give them an electric shock if they fail to intone the ritual apology at the appropriate time.

You think I'm joking. You think these ideas are extreme. You're wrong - these ideas are MILD. You have to consider the context. Women have been brutally oppressed for a hundred thousand years. All I'm asking for is that men sacrifice one generation - a mere speck in comparison! Plus they get to live, albeit naked and writhing in the apology torture cells, safe in the knowledge that although their lives are forfeit, at least their children will get to grow up in a world free from inequality. That's a luxury no woman has EVER had.

So...that's my view on how to achieve justice. But I'm a pragmatist. I realise that while my views are reasonable and restrained, others view them as fringe. No presidential candidate is going to run on a platform of dystopian patriarchy reparations, so I'm going to have to compromise.

What are my alternatives? I have Bernie Sanders, who is the first successful politician of recent decades to actually suggest some good ways to run the country a man, and I have Hilary Clinton, who is an extraordinary example of female strength in a system where everything is stacked against her a woman.

Other teensy factors in my decision:

  • Bernie is more radical and has better ideas for making a positive difference although...
  • The powers of the President are super limited.
  • Bernie is a man.
  • Bernie is more likely to lose to a Prince of Darkness Republican. And his presidency would ensure the Spawn of the Netherworld Republicans keep Congress for another 8 years.
  • The idea of another old white man winning enrages me so much that I want to pull my corneas off.
  • Everything about the response to Hilary's success, the loathing of her out of all proportion to her faults, confirms the fact that the system needs to change and change big.
  • Bernie is a man.

Perhaps these points make you think that I like Hilary simply for being a woman. I am happy to confirm this is the case. I am FLABBERGASTED that it wouldn't be the case for everyone.

Is it super stupid and patronising and arguably counter-productive to vote for someone because of their gender? YES.

But this is the person I am: a person so rabid that I would do anything to have a female President. It's the person that a lifetime of living in a horrendously unequal world has made me. The kind of person that I believe is the only reasonable response to the aforementioned hundred thousand years of mind-boggling oppression of half the goddam species.

I would commit the cliche of comparing it to the Third Reich, except for the fact that the patriarchy utterly DWARFS the Third Reich.

I read a really great piece recently that argued that many older feminists feel that Hilary is "entitled" to the Presidency because they've waited so long for it. It said that Bernie's young feminist supporters don't owe Hilary or the old feminists anything.

But for me, Hilary is entitled to the Presidency not because she's worked for it all her life - having to play the horrible game and be way better at it in order to get anywhere - but because she happens to be the only woman running. HUMANITY is entitled to a female president, not just Hilary or older feminists. Humanity is CRAZY ENTITLED. And it's lucky that Hilary is there to fulfil that entitlement.

The left currently adores Bernie for being radical. But Bernie thinks small. Here's the radical scale:

Seriously. Unless I'm wrong, and I am never wrong, they are headed dead into the fire swamp gender equality is THE biggest issue of our times. It ties into every important cultural shift that we need to achieve if we're going to have an awesome society in the future. Having a female President can do so much more good than any well-intentioned candidate ever could. And conversely, NOT having ever had a female President - in 2020 for christ's sake! - is just incredibly harmful towards overall progress.

Joy will be the second greatest emotion I feel when Hilary becomes President. Relief will be the greatest.