In the film, “The Razor’s Edge,” when Piedmont dies in a muddy trench after saving Larry Darrel’s life, Larry gives him a battlefield eulogy in the spirit of Piedmont’s contrarian personality. He speaks of Piedmont’s “thrill of offending people and making them uncomfortable.”
I’m feeling a bit like Piedmont this morning in anticipation of offending someone with the opinions that follow, but I’m trying to be more like Larry in the hope that these uncomfortable ideas will serve as a spice and not the main course.
We’ll begin with a new character, “Gort,” for the purposes of this discussion. Gort was the robot in the 1951 science fiction film, “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” In the somnolence of those dark days, Gort was referred to as a “he,” but as we all know, robots are genderless, and we need a genderless character for this conversation, so Gort will suffice.
We continue with a story told by a friend who shared with me his own struggle for (or with) enlightenment, which I will take the liberty of paraphrasing here. Sitting at a dinner table with a gathering of people, my friend thought he overheard someone say that Gort missed the potatoes when they were passed around. Looking toward the other end of the table, his vision obscured by the thick scales of patriarchy and cisgender confusion, his casual glance revealed what he assumed to be an attractive young lady. With potatoes in hand and in an attempt to be polite, he turned to his dinner companion and said, “Did she want some more potatoes?”
An immediate and uncomfortable silence permeated the room as all eyes turned toward my unfortunate friend. Awkward moments passed during which he actually felt the steaming bowl of potatoes begin to cool, and then someone cleared their throat and said, “Gort prefers gender neutral pronouns.”
I have another friend we’ll call “Chuck Wayne” who is as unambiguously male as any guy would be who was forged from an alloy of Chuck Norris and John Wayne. He’s not at all concerned about his pronouns. So many of us are not properly concerned that the masters of the pixel universe have decided to reprogram us in the spirit of diversity and inclusion. The other day when Chuck updated his profile picture on Facebook, Facebook announced, “Chuck Wayne has updated ‘their’ profile picture.”
A quick glance at the stone tablets I used when I learned English reveals “their” to be the possessive form of “them,” the objective form of “they,” which refers to a group of people, animals or things not clearly described, or in other words, more than one of any or all of the above. Of course the online dictionaries have been updated to include the more inclusive definitions.
Facebook knows that Chuck is a he, and I’m confident that an algorithm which can generate advertisements based on a scan of the words you type and websites you visit surely remembers whether you listed yourself as male or female or chose the “custom” gender option in your profile. “We,” as Queen Victoria might say, were not amused, but we got over it.
There is a lot to be said for the virtual world. The pixel universe gives us a place where ideas can achieve their full flower, grow and grapple with and bump up against other ideas to prevail, or diminish, or merge into something new, and all without having any real skin in the game. But this cannot happen when the gatekeepers of this universe keep their virtual thumbs on the virtual scales.
In Pixeland and in the rarefied but inclusive world of academia, where any associate professor at every junior college can serve as an expert commentator for CNN if they have the proper opinions, it is vitally important to ask someone about their “preferred pronouns.” In the real world, approximately point four-two percent of Americans identify as someone who might prefer something not on the his-and-hers menu.
“But shouldn’t we, in the spirit of equitable outcomes, elevate those who have been excluded? After all, only a small percentage of Americans are persons with disabilities, but every public building has wheelchair ramps and accessible parking.”
True, and does that mean that you consider zie, sie, ey, ve and tey to be somehow disabled and in need of a Facebook-designed wheelchair ramp? I’m sorry but I just don’t see it that way. Any Y-chromosome individual willing to endure surgery, or any X-chromosome person who wants to knock heads with the guys on the gridiron, or anyone willing to confront a societal norm and hold their ground to preserve the freedom to chart their own course – these are not fragile people, even though they may seek the benefits and privileges of fragility.
“A-ha – so you mention privilege, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to eliminate in our efforts to form a more diverse and inclusive society!”
Well, the problem with “equitable outcomes” is that when government and the gatekeepers of information attempt to coerce those outcomes, you end up with unintended consequences. Let’s say that seventy two percent of Americans prefer their potatoes with salt. Twelve point eight percent prefer pepper. Point nine percent like them plain. Five point seven percent prefer curry or Chinese five spice. Five percent are like Lucy Ricardo at a restaurant and can’t decide what they want, and about three point four percent like to mix it up.
To accommodate everyone’s taste, the host adds a spice rack to the table next to the salt and pepper shakers, then tey discovers that 18.4 percent of vis diners grew up eating salsa, so tey adds a condiment stand to the table. The table is getting a little crowded now and the food is getting cold, but everyone can pretty much get the potatoes they prefer – until someone in the 18.4 percent group objects when a 72 percenter reaches for the salsa, because that would be “appropriating my culture.”
Meanwhile, the caterer, who has been doing quite well selling salt and pepper and spices and condiments, discovers that it would be a lot more profitable to deliver potatoes ready made, so ve begins advertising instant potatoes and making fun of anyone who prefers to cook their own. Salt and pepper disappear from the table and the instant mash is pre-seasoned with equal parts salt, pepper, curry, Chinese 5 spice and salsa. I think I’ll pass on the potatoes tonight my friend. How about you, Gort?
I’m confident there are some Piedmonts out there among you who have watched the sausage being made, and you see what the crafty caterer is up to. Keep in mind that we are a classic oligarchy now, and the corporate/governing class doesn’t really care about equitable outcomes. No, they do not. The woke commercials, slogans, website banners and public donations to woke causes are money in the bank when they divert the attention of social justice worriers and outrage addicts. Corporate just want to sell as many potatoes as possible at a minimum cost, and when no one is looking, or looking carefully, business will continue as usual.
“Equal representation matters! Everyone is entitled to an equal serving of potatoes, and we won’t rest until everyone is served!” On the surface, diversity and inclusion sounds almost as good as “new and improved.” Scratch the surface and you can detect a needful longing for a society of drones buzzing in the blissful blue-pill ignorance of the illusion of choice, while they think what they are told to think, speak in the officially sanctioned language – and buy what they are told to buy.
I don’t know whether I should be worried or hopeful that everyone at the table but my friend cared enough about Gort to remember Gort’s pronoun preference. And while there are people like you and me in every generation who need only know your name and the quality of your character, some of our youngers are obsessed with pronouns and the meaning of certain words. If they consider us at all, they need boundaries to prevent damage to their triggered emotions. I am concerned that the real world outside the pixel universe and the gatherings of like-minded mostly peaceful protests, will eat them alive. This is a world where the laws of physics and biology prevail.
Whatever else they are destined to become, the younger generations care deeply and passionately. When they inherit what we leave behind they will create the kind of society they want, with or without our approval. If this culture stays on its current trajectory, few will ever stop to consider how or why they came to think the way they do and feel the way they feel. Fewer still will escape the officially sanctioned inclusion of the consumer drone, and don’t be surprised when the next item on the menu is Soylent Green.