social commentary

Arrested Development

Below this beginning is what I’d written last week. Before I got around to posting it I had my own experience that blatantly shows how screwed up the system still is . . . that’s what is stuck at the top of this post.

Bass Reeves is an example from the history of the USA that I did not hear about until I was in my 50s. The fact is that he was a heroic figure that really existed in the wild west of the US – the first Black Deputy Marshall west of the Mississippi, at a time when Blacks still faced a legal system and society heavily biased against them he roamed and lived in the most lawless places and still lived to the ripe old age of 72.

Most people my age, I’m 66, who grew up with John Wayne, Horse Opera and Cowboy movies never heard of him. That is an example of how the history has been retold in ways that eliminate Black heroes (and hide White atrocities against Blacks – see Tulsa Race Massacre)

The reason I include this is because we rented this movie that tells part of his origin story, how he got to be a deputy marshal, and after we’d watched it I noticed something. As I was putting the disc back into the sleeve I glanced at the art on the surface and was gobsmacked by what I saw.

Why is the Black guy not front and centre?

The movie is about his character not the villain. The white actor being given centre stage in the picture may be more well known than the black actor but that black actor has 50 film credits so he is not unknown.

WTF were they thinking doing this?

I do not know who was responsible for the art arranged on the disc but for this movie, in these times, this is a MASSIVE FAIL and an example of someone who is exhibiting MASSIVE CULTURAL IGNORANCE.

When I went to to find out more about the black actor I found another example of implicit racism being explicitly displayed for my view. The actor who plays Bass Reeves is David Gyasi . . . his name doesn’t come first in the cast list. Or second. Or third . . it’s fifth. I’m not sure what goes into the algorithm that makes the pages at imdb but it’s perpetuating racial stereotypes and attitudes the way it works right now.

This is the link (hopefully they fix the list)

It would appear that some in Hollywood are still stuck in the 1950s. That’s where their cultural development got arrested.

I have, in the past, thought about the idea that cultures, national cultures, grow and evolve and go through changes and are multifaceted just like human beings are in their psychology.

Human beings have different parts of them that are involved in doing things – like there’s a part of you that has to do the work-a-day life to earn a living to pay the bills etc etc but there’s another part of you that has maybe a romantic side or another part of you that’s into recreation and then when you look at politics there’s a whole other set of value systems that come into play in your judgments of how things work and how you feel about things. 

When you look at cultures, the culture of nations, you see a similar set of things. There’s lots of facets that represent different parts of what the nation, and that peoples’ national identity, are and what they do.

There’s the economy, there’s the arts, there’s health, there’s politics, social considerations, and of course there’s entertainment and recreation.

Something occurred to me, watching a news piece about the UK having to deal with, still today, having to deal with racism. People holding protests. Black Lives Matter. And they’re talking about systemic racism within the UK and the system of government and policing . . . and at that point I just had this thought.

Both the UK and the United States, the nation where a lot of these protests began, both of them had slavery at one point within their history as nations. And then they stopped having it.

Step back and look at that.

They just ended slavery. But the parts of their culture which deal with the interrelationship between people of different colors and racial backgrounds and their relationship to other people and other groups within the national identity of different colors and how those individual groups relate to the government of the nation – that should have actually been allowed to evolve and mature. But it was not.

The UK ended slavery before America did. 

They already had a class system in place even for the whites of the society. When they ended slavery I’m pretty sure that most of the people in white society looked at the people of darker color who had previously been considered possibly property, slaves, as being still not equivalent in class stature or status to themselves.

Because really all they did was say NO, they’re not going to be slaves, but they really hadn’t gone into a whole re-education of the system. Back then we didn’t even talk about that, I’m sure. They didn’t really allow that to change that much.

And the in States the same sort of thing – they ended slavery and they had a big civil war and what happened?

Well they didn’t really resolve the differences between the races and in the south, where they wanted to hold on to a whole bunch of things ‘slavery’, definitely people there – even though they were legally no longer allowed to own others, black people were no longer going to be slaves  – it’s very very clear from the history that the attitudes of the white people didn’t really change much. They definitely regarded the people of color as lower, far lower, than them in the power structure in the world. And over time enacted laws (Jim Crow laws) to keep it that way.

So what I’m getting at here with all this background is there’s a phenomenon we have with human psychology called Arrested Development.

When we think of that we tend to think of adults, and usually adult males (at least in our western culture), who exhibit the behaviors of teenagers. We say that part of them is still stuck at fifteen. It’s arrested development, Like something happened in their life and that part of their personality did not mature, it didn’t grow, it kind of got stuck at some age between 13 and 19. 

So they still act like teenagers when it comes to whatever it is: entertainment, sex, partying, recreation, being daredevils or engaging in risky behavior or whatever.

So if Cultures are in many ways just like human psychologies and human psyches, then you could say that both the UK and the United States suffer from arrested development, And that’s why today all of these protests have to happen because they never resolved this whole issue.

Even though it’s said legally that people of color have the same rights as people who are white, it is really said with one side of our culture’s face. The people in power, whites, didn’t really let them have them. And in many places the white people in power went out of their way to enact things to make sure the people of color, who were at the bottom and trying to get a leg up, were stuck there.

That’s arrested development if I’ve ever heard of it. And that’s why people today are facing all these protests and because it never got fixed back then. 

They’ll fix it sooner or later.

Arrested Development

An aspect of cultural evolution and growth and maturity or cultural immaturity. 

The questions they should have asked way back then are

Why don’t black lives matter enough to us?
What’s wrong with us as a society, and as a people, that we can look at them that way. Maybe there’s something wrong with that.

It’s not their fault, the people of color. That’s a fucked-up problem with our own, white, psychology. The non-blacks Or the people who look upon it that way.

It’s not that this is any revelation or new discovery – I’m not so full of myself to think that. But things like this need to be brought out into the light of day so they can be dealt with so 10 generations on society isn’t having to deal with unresolved issues. So 10 more generations of people of color don’t have to face the same nasty world the previous generations have had to.

And with that I think I’ll stop around here before I begin making a fool of myself.

social commentary

History Herstory Makes Monetary Misery

Nothing kills a joke like having to explain it. And if the joke has anything off-colour about it that can see it called into question at some later date in a completely non-comedic context then that joke becomes a sin and anyone who has retold it becomes a sinner.

Welcome to the Future.

Anything of any cultural significance with an age older than 30 years ago is suspect. Anyone who performed any time before 30 years ago is a potential risk for public institutions to be associated with.

Case in point: Kate Smith, “The First Lady of Radio”, “The Songbird of the South”

In the first year of her career as a radio performer she sang a top 20 song which came from a theatrical production which was a satire on racism.

A satire. Defined as the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

The song’s name is all that is needed to call Ms. Smith’s suitability for public association into question: “That’s Why Darkies Were Born”

Is the problem only the name of the song?
Is the problem that a serious subject like racism was attacked by using humour as the weapon?
Or Is the problem that our current society can brook NO connection to racism of any kind unless it is a clear, unambiguous attack on racism?

Popular cultural content reflects the culture of the time. Culture evolves over time. Eventually some of what was generally accepted becomes unacceptable.

And that leaves us with a problem: What to do with all the popular cultural content we come to have a problem with?

It appears that the most risk averse entities in our world (those who can be directly affected by negative public opinion) choose to simply remove it from their world leaving the rest of us with gaping holes in the history of pop culture. But hey it’s all about the Benjamins (money) ain’t it? Threaten the cash flow and watch the icons go (away).

I liked the popular radio program Prairie Home Companion. It ran for decades (1974 to 2016) and was much loved and well respected. All it took to push all that back catalogue out of public access was one or two suggestions of a touch on the back or hurt feelings by women that happened in the middle of the societal recriminations flowing from the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The accusations weren’t criminal. No sexual encounters of unbalanced power dynamic took place or even were alluded to. But a risk averse Minnesota Public Radio decided that not only was Garrison Keillor a problem but no one should be allowed to access ANY of the thousands of Home Companion programs is had in its catalogue of content. This situation existed from November 2017 to April 2018.

That it happened at all is a shame. That it took legal action to restore the back catalogue to public access is a shame.

Let’s return to the current case, Kate Smith.

She didn’t write the song. It was even performed at one point by a person of colour. It’s Satire. But apparently we have to pander to the Lowest Possible Common Dummy rule. IF anyone could possibly construe / misconstrue the lyrics as being a serious derogatory attack on people of colour then nobody should be allowed to associate [us] with that. Fill in the [us] with whichever entity you want like Baseball teams for instance.

It’s a shame that those who set themselves up as the protectors of public virtue can only see the public as small minded, immature, ignorant masses that have to be protected from bad things like humour they don’t get. Leaving the rest of us questioning the rationality of those in charge and worrying if we’ve ever said something that will come back to haunt us at some point.

Almost makes one want to become a public Asshole just so no one can later get any traction from accusing us of being one. Kind of like President Trump has apparently done.

But this yen to rewrite our history by excising things we don’t want to be exposed to, this urge to engage in revisionism, hurts us in the long run. There’s the ‘those who forget history are doomed to repeat it’ warning.

Understanding how we got to where and what we are as a nation or culture becomes much harder when you grow up not even knowing all the bits that collectively brought your world to where it is.

If you weren’t made aware of past cultural treasures that helped form the culture your live in because they were officially forgotten then how can you understand your culture? You don’t know what you never knew and no one informed you about. It might as well have not existed or happened . . . except that it did. You just don’t know about it.

Then there are terms that have been part of the lexicon like Call A Spade A Spade or Tarbaby.

If you use those terms in something you are publishing nowadays you open yourself to accusations of racism even though the origins had no racist connotations at all. The spade referred to is an entrenching tool – a shovel. The tarbaby is a thing that burns and sticks to you if you touch it. And for a whole generation of adults those meanings have been completely supplanted by racist redefinitions. And that means that for many that is the only definition they have or have ever had. Which means that any published article, book, song, movie, play – anything that used them can be subject to the same treatment that Kate Smith is going through now.

Sad isn’t it? That You have to live in a dummed down, white washed, world because Fear of the Stupid and Ignorant made it so. Ironic isn’t it that the term ‘white washed’ which we use to describe the actions of this purging of offensive content will sooner or later suffer the same fate.

I’ll leave this off at this point because I’m pretty sure I’ve laid enough ammunition for somebody to excoriate me with at some later date. Think I’ll get working on my next project ‘Getting In Touch With Your Inner Asshole’.