Category Archives: Culture
I never had to read Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” in high school but chances are if it had been assigned I wouldn’t probably wouldn’t have finished reading it. The novel is a too-long absurdist, occasionally funny, often sickening accurate and poignant, novel set during the Second World War, of a bunch of men screaming louder and louder because no one is listening them, while sexually assaulting most of Italy.
Weaving throughout the narrative exploration of a myriad of damaged soldiers is the emotional and psychological cost of toxic masculinity, on those wallowing in it as well as to everyone they come in contact with.
The greatest expression here of this cultural malignancy is the bureaucracy of war; whereas war is wage to provide a hierarchy for men to exploit one another, and that bureaucracy is then maintained to continue to wage a futile and pointless war that creates victims as much in those who are bombed as those who are bombing. Perhaps those who order the bombings can be said to be immune to the effects of this culture and the war it wages in reality, but they most certainly have a form letter explaining to “Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs. —” that it is they who are the real victims in all of this.
But I also have to wonder how the new Hulu adaption of the book will address the cultural and sexual shortcomings of the book in today’s Me Too and Time’s Up movements. Or will that charming and wistful reminiscing of the good old days when a fraternity gang raped two underage girls be excised entirely from the retelling?
It’s certainly a difficult book to read, and one difficult to say was enjoyed, despite the humorous moments. But for its stark, absurd illustration of the power of communication, miscommunication and misdirection to corrupt and damn, and the effects of war, of unchecked and unrestrained aggression it is an important story to experience. And one that, despite being dated in some aspects, is just as relevant today in the lessons that still need to be learned and the warnings to be gleaned.
Attack of the Killer Ants, and Other Adventures in Paradise
competitive exclusion /
(n) 1. a situation in which one species competes another into extinction.
2. the inevitable elimination from a habitat of one of two different species with identical needs for resources.
While I didn’t love the book itself, despite enjoying Chuck Wendig’s writing style and Xe Sands’ narration, there were certain elements of the story I found fascinating. One prominent idea in the novel was the concept of competitive exclusion, and regardless of what was happening in the book with genetically modified killer ants, it was a concept that grabbed my attention for its implications beyond the themes of futurism and doomsday/survivalist prepping. Eliminate the characters, the ants, the hi-tech monster story and the shell game of human monsters pulling strings throughout, and you still have this concept.
We live in a world of finite resources. But we have also been poisoned to believe that finite means limited, and that in order for you to have enough, I must not. We have been indoctrinated by survival of the fittest, despite us all having the potential to be fit enough to thrive.
Read the definition again. Rethink the concept. Competitive exclusion is not what our initial assumption assumes it to be. It is “a situation in which—”
It is a situation. It is a situation in which two organisms are made to compete against one another. And much like in Wendig’s novel, it is a situation created and constantly influenced by those in power, those with wrath, those with unlimited resources all at the expense of those with no knowledge, no shelter, no protection beyond what might be scraped together during the panicked stampede of an isolated island’s population.
So while we may not be trying to escape face-eating genetically modified ants, it might be useful to look around at rush for resources we see everyday in the ‘fight for $15’, in teachers union strikes across the country, in food deserts in every community in the wealthiest nation in the world, in lawmakers threatening to take away school lunch funding to schools that fail to hit standardized test standards, in billion dollar companies run by millionaires eliminating jobs and closing factories to maximize profits, and the elected officials that earned tens of thousands of dollars voting against needs of thousands for the benefit of a few. All of this is an engineered situation that depends on anhysterical and uninformed reaction by those with little power so that the few can hoard resources and stockpile assets beyond what could be conceivably utilized.
Now that I think about it, we might have a better shot against the ants.
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
― Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood was born November 18, and is a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher and environmental activist. Among the seventeen books of poetry, sixteen novels, ten books of non-fiction, eight collections of short fiction, eight children’s books, and one graphic novel, Atwood is perhaps best known at the moment for her novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale” and it’s adaptation as a tv series with Hulu.
There are a number of reasons why the quote at the top is relevant today, and tomorrow there will be even more examples. Whether that means another shooting at a yoga studio, or a rapist gets off because of his victim’s clothing, or a rapist who let his victim die while he played video games gets off because he had no prior record, or, or, or, or…..
While its become one of the more popular and visible Atwood quotes, I thought to share it since it was fresh in my mind because of a podcast I’ve been listening to, ‘Happy Face’.
It’s produced by the daughter of the Happy Face Killer, Keith Jesperson, who raped and murdered eight women, and only turned himself in because two other people had been convicted of his crimes. He wanted the credit. While in prison Jesperson did interviews and spoke calmly and thoroughly about his victims, about how he raped and murdered each woman, and how he disposed of their bodies. And he spoke about how it was ultimately their fault he killed them. If only she hadn’t spoken that way about men, if only she hadn’t provoked him, if only she hadn’t made him do it.
If only she hadn’t laughed.