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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Inherent evil, or just the way we are wired?

I am prejudiced.

There. I said it. My heart feels cleansed.

I do not like football. I do not attend games. I do not paint my face in My Team's Colors. Unless there are alternative reasons to hang out with them (members of my church, business contacts, like that) I do not hob-nob with football fans. It is not an interest of mine...I find it boring.

The evil part is that they do not hob-nob with me, either. All the enlightenment they could receive about Cold War Era science fiction, anime, the Printing of Shirts, my Political Views...well if they can't be bothered to better themselves...Aardvark's Burden.

An anecdote regarding the Way We May Be Wired:

During the filming of Planet of the Apes in 1967, Charlton Heston noted “an instinctive segregation on the set. Not only would the apes eat together, but the chimpanzees ate with the chimpanzees, the gorillas ate with the gorillas, the orangutans ate with the orangutans, and the humans would eat off by themselves. It was quite spooky.”
James Franciscus noticed the same thing filming Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1969. “During lunch I looked up and realized, ‘My God, here is the universe,’ because at one table were all the orangutans eating, at another table were the apes, and at another table were the humans. The orangutan characters would not eat or mix with the ape characters, and the humans wouldn’t sit down and eat with any one of them.
“I remember saying, ‘Look around — do you realize what’s happening here? This is a little isolated microcosm of probably what’s bugging the whole world. Call it prejudice or whatever you want to call it. Whatever’s different is to be shunned or it’s frightening or so forth.’ Nobody was intermingling, even though they were all humans underneath the masks. The masks were enough to bring out our own little genetic natures of fear and prejudice. It was startling.”
(From Joe Russo and Larry Landsman, Planet of the Apes Revisited, 2001.)

I believe that Franciscus is overstating the issue, echoing his own prejudice. What he saw was not based upon fear or bigotry (which term more accurately portrays his distaste for what he observed, I think) What he saw was not shunning, it was grouping. The chimps were not hooting and throwing... tapioca pudding at the orangutans, nor did the gorillas throw commissary furniture at the humans. The human tendency, prosthetic makeup or no, is to hang out with those most like themselves. This is visceral. Families, clans, tribes, countries, ethnicities...when the Omicronians arrive to enlighten us, well, they will likely sit to themselves. Hairless apes go against the grain for them, and well, those creepy mouth tentacles are off-putting to us. Or me. The animated vermicelli thing is not conducive to my good appetite.

After awhile, it will become a badge of honor for an Omicronian to say "Humans?" Why, yes, some of my best friends...."


Michael W said...

I've never been a sports fan, and I've been considerably less so ever since (for reasons I currently cannot recall) I spent several months in the past listening to sportscaster talk shows (you'll never get me to describe a sportscaster as a “journalist”. Show me a sportscaster and I'll show you someone who never outgrew high school PE class). On these listenings (which, according to my tyrannical spell-checker, isn't even a word) the 'casters seemed to spend half their time discussing the latest arrest of this or that professional athlete. The other half of their time was spent in giggling over the idea that “boys will be boys”.

I bring this up because Donald Sterling is getting banned from the NBA for impolite remarks. Meanwhile, Ray Rice (a running back for the Baltimore Ravens) is in the midst of a rather sweet plea bargain deal after apologizing for assaulting his girlfriend in Atlantic City (“allegedly” . . . always an important word when discussing pro athletes . . . punching her out and then dragging her unconscious body into an elevator).

But this is the way the world runs. Decades ago Bill Cosby put the situation into proper perspective when he commented on how a man steals a loaf of bread he faces five years in prison, but he breaks a guy's neck on a football field it's “fifteen yards for unsportsmanlike conduct”. The sports world, and especially in this country, is over-rotten with thugs, criminals and people who, in a different context, would be facing severe prison time (or police bullets). But because such a person can run with some sort of ball in some sort of sports venue there is a tendency to look the other way; to even accept criminal behavior as fashionable.

Michael W said...

(Continuing from previous remarks.)

(I've been trying to locate an illustration by J.C. Leyendecker. For those of you who aren't familiar with the man's work, Leyendecker was to Norman Rockwell what Willis O'Brien was to Ray Harryhausen. Leyendecker was best known for the ad artwork he created for Arrow Shirts. But the piece I've been trying to find showed two men . . . both similar in appearance and quite muscular . . . glaring at each other. One of the men was wearing Pilgrim garb and the other was wearing a football uniform of the pre-NFL, perhaps even pre-World War II, variety. The point to Leyendecker's illustration was that, in America, the football field had replaced the meeting house as the proving ground for the American male. This at a time when most football players were involved in the game while working towards some sort of college degree.)

(Wait! I found the illustration. Interested parties go to http://leohartshorn.blogspot.com/2011/05/j-c-leyendecker-early-20th-century.html )

Anyway . . . why am I waffling on about this? Well, it's sort of an attempt at answer to the question of Inherent Evil, or just the way we are wired? The sports news I delivered above is, to my way of thinking, a microcosm of the overall Big Problem. We make large noises about punishing wrongdoing, and then we turn around and excuse wrongdoing if and when the perpetrator enjoys some sort of exalted celebrity status. Sterling's crime wasn't so much that he was a moral lowlife . . . he wasn't punished because he committed a particular crime, he was punished for Speaking Rudely In Public (questions concerning the rights or wrongs of recording conversations being left for another time). Sterling's other mistake was that, even though he was the owner of a NBA team, he wasn't actually able to sink a hook shot or dribble his way through the other team's defense. Had he been able to do so then everyone would've looked the other way (as the fans of Ray Rice are currently trying to do. The tragedy is that they'll probably succeed, and Rice's crime will be written off as “boyish enthusiasm”).

And it is not simply sports. We are excusing bullying, rape and much much worse with a frighteningly casual air, and leaping over all sorts of imaginative hurdles in order to find excuses.

Well perhaps it's time to bite the bullet. Perhaps Michael Shaara said it all in “The Killer Angels” when one of his characters, commenting on Lincoln's remark on “the better angels of our nature”, said that if there is such an angel in our nature then he must be a killer angel.

Kevin Conway's dialogue in “Gettysburg”, the 1993 adaptation of Shaara's book, is worth repeating here: “But I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters, Colonel... Is justice. Which is why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain... And I damn all gentlemen. There is only one aristocracy... And that is right here (pointing to his head).”

So perhaps we should bite the bullet and finally admit that, for all our fine talk about Justice and Civilization, it's all just a brittle veneer easily scraped aside. Perhaps we should finally face the truth and confess that we hold these opinions to be self-evident, that we (and especially myself) are tons better than anyone who is not us, that our Creator is a personal Scud missile which we can throw at anyone we don't agree with, that all Rights belong to us, and that includes hammering everyone who is not us. To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the ability to run a football play or dribble a basketball, and that whenever any Form of Government fumbles just shy of the goal, or doesn't make it into the Playoffs, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and search for a new Coach.

Perhaps harsh. Doubtless irreverent. But maybe if we finally embrace this truth we'll sleep easier at nights.

The Aardvark said...

Umm...Michael, that needs to be Published. As in Other than in a bush-league blog. Polish it up, and make it a Column. Become the Most Hated Reviewer. (Wait...is Rex Reed dead?)

"Polish". Is that Raciss?

Michael W said...

@Aardvark: "Michael, that needs to be Published. As in Other than in a bush-league blog."

Not that I wouldn't mind being despised by sports fans (actually sort of used to it by now), but it'd take a considerable amount of polish to get it beyond the Rambling Commentary stage.

I do thank you, though.