by Philip Glenister, Daniel Mays, Catherine Tate, Owen Teale
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894, Author died at Age of 44)
Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” is a curious piece of literature that resonates with 21st century calumny. Humans are not perfect. There is a bit of Stevenson’s “Long John Silver” in everyone.
For those unfamiliar with Stevenson’s tale, “Long John Silver” is a pirate who hoodwinks a young boy, a crew of sailors, a doctor, a professional ship’s Captain, and a few others on a voyage to recapture a treasure. Silver has the “gift of gab”; salted with a lifetime of experience in getting what he wants.
What strikes one about Silver’s character is his ability to see things as they are and change his behavior to suit the circumstance. If a lie suits his purpose, he lies. If the truth suits his purpose, he tells the truth. What he lacks is morality.
Silver is a narcissist. He has an egoistic admiration of himself that includes self-flattery, arrogance, and a sharp tongue that cuts like a blade. When confronted with one whom Silver disagrees, he cajoles, belittles, or verbally (sometimes physically) attacks his opposition.
If disagreeing, belittling, and cajoling fail, a narcissist changes the focus of attention with a manufactured distraction.
Putting aside Silver’s narcissistic amorality, he understands a truth about human beings. Silver represents belief that money, power, and prestige rule the high seas and land. With the skill of a practiced politician, Silver manipulates events to conform to plan.
The curious piece of Stevenson’s story is Silver’s prediction that Ben Gunn, a stranded buccaneer on Treasure Island, would be cheated out of a share of the treasure even though he played a major part in the treasure hunters’ success.
Gunn is an anti-hero who has lost his mind because of his isolation on the island. Gunn is like a modern-day homeless man abandoned by society.
Silver’s plan is to capture the wealth of a buried
treasure. Though not entirely
successful, he captures a share of the booty by co-opting Jim Hawkins, a cabin
boy with a yearning for the sea. In the
end, Silver escapes the clutches of British authorities who would have convicted
him for mutiny, and possibly, attempted murder.
What Silver points out is that the doctor, ship’s
captain, and other survivors of “Treasure Island”, will cheat Gunn of his fair
share. Gunn is given 1000 Sovereigns (English
pounds) and the rest (hundreds of thousands per person) is distributed to the
surviving voyagers. Silver infers all
human beings are pirates.
Some pirates wear suits, speak the King’s English, and live in the city; a Pogo version of “We have met the enemy-of-the-people and he is us.”
Reich explains how the concept of the origin of homo sapiens has evolved since the discovery of “Lucy” in East Africa in 1974.
Few scientists disagree about humankind’s place of origin. It may have been somewhere other than East Africa, but human origin is genetically linked to the African continent.
However, Reich notes that geneticists no longer believe African origin is an adequate interpretation of the wide differentiation of human beings. The evolution of homo sapiens is not like the branches of a tree but more a tapestry of interwoven threads.
Listening to “Who We Are and How We Got Here” reminds one of the Dragnet’s 1950s-character Joe Friday saying, “just the facts ma’m”. Aside from Officer Friday’s hint of sexism, it is never just the facts.
Genetic evolution is always interpretation of facts. Interpretation is David Reich’s “Achilles heel” for exploring and expanding DNA research to determine “Who We Are and How We Got Here”.
Humans interbred to create a fabric of intermingled genetic characteristics that came together, separated, re-combined and changed over thousands of years.
Genetic discoveries of Neanderthal and Denisovan genetic markers show there is no direct line of descent from the “Lucy” origin of homo sapiens. Genetic studies show that DNA changed as the human species grew. Some genes survived and evolved while others disappeared. Current theory discounts the principle of an “immortal gene” in the sense that the origin genes changed into something entirely different.
The great controversy that Reich explores is factional resistance to genetic research because of fear of misuse of the data. There is ample evidence to substantiate that fear.
James Watson (American molecular biologist, Nobel prize winner and co-author of the double helix structure of DNA)
In 2007, Dr. Watson told a British journalist that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really.”
Reich adds to the “Watson story” by saying he met Watson and was appalled by his comments about Jews being intrinsically smarter than the general population.
Somewhat disingenuously, Reich notes that a disproportionate number of Ashkenazi Jews have received Nobel prizes. Is that fact relevant to genetic research? Does it apply to all Jews or just Ashkenazi Jews. Reich is an Ashkenazi Jew. Is this a reflection of the same concern over misuse of genetic information?
Genetic facts have been used by prominent scientists, like Watson, and ignorant political leaders, like Adolph Hitler, to falsely interpret genetic evidence. Genetic information opens a door to racist arguments for racial superiority.
Information banks created by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are weapons of privacy destruction. In modern times, the only possible defense is “a right to be forgotten”.
One comes away from Reich’s book only semi-convinced of his search for truth through genetics. Reich insists that the benefits of genetic research far outweigh the potential harm the research may cause.
His point is that there are genetic studies that prove some genetic markers make people more susceptible to disease like anemia for blacks and Tay-Sachs disease for Ashkenazi Jews. With exposure through genetic research, these medical maladies may be cured. Without knowledge of genetic predisposition, there is less focus on what might cure certain diseases.
The problem always comes back to interpretation of facts; not the facts themselves. Reich certainly has a point in insisting on continuing genetic research but how does one protect themselves from misinterpretation of facts.
Dr. Watson is a Nobel prize recipient. Look at what his interpretation of genetic facts became.
Six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany’s belief in a master race of genetically “pure” Germans. Reich’s work suggests there are no “pure” races. There are only similar genetic traits among a few isolated populations.
Do potential medical benefits from genetic research outweigh a racist use of genetic facts? “Who We Are and How We Got Here” seems much less important than “Here We Are and What Can We Do About It”. Particularly considering today’s pandemic.
MARCUS AURELIEUS (121 AD-180 AD, EMPEROR OF ROME FROM 161-180)
Marcus Aurelius has been called the last of the five good emperors of Rome. Edward Gibbon, the historian, went so far as to suggest that this is one of the best times in history for people to live. (Maybe, but Gibbon might be a little biased based on being male and white.)
PLATO, ATHENIAN PHILOSOPHER ( 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) Marcus Aurelius embodies the concept of the Philosopher King. Philosopher Kings are first described by Plato as the only totalitarian leader capable of ruling society. They would rule capably because of their wisdom and knowledge of the Good. “Meditations” suggests that Aurelius was the real deal.
In the modern world, Aurelius provides a bible for the leisure-class. However, one is not sure what the leisure class is in this era of doing rather than being.
Aurelius recognizes the ephemeral nature of life’s pleasures and chooses to write about and use Plato’s ideal forms to guide his rule.
The ideal forms are Plato’s essences of life, measures of the Good that in most people’s minds are only shadows in a cave.
Aurelius benefited from wealth and leisure by being in the lap of luxury while denying its seductive pleasures, His private education allowed him to study and understand the source of Plato’s shadows in the cave.
In the post industrial world the likelihood of a 21st century Philosopher King is inconceivable but “Meditations” does offer a guide to today’s leisure class. With time, education, and inclination, a human being can adopt Aurelius’ rules to live a life of joy and contentment.
A life of joy and contentment runs contrary human nature’s proclivities, the pursuit of money, power, and prestige, but the leisure class may have enough of each to stop climbing life’s ladder to despair.
Aurelius lives in the post Christian era (121-180 AD) and writes with some confusion about belief in gods or God but seems to believe in pre-ordination and humankind’s necessary acceptance of a lot in life.
Aurelius forsakes despair and honors acceptance of doing the best one can do in a short human life. Aurelius does not seek money, power, or prestige but accepts responsibility and lets actions define his life. He believes every person has a social responsibility and that to remove oneself from social interaction is a betrayal of living a good life.
There is wisdom in Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”. If a listener is at a position in his or her life that allows meditation, this is a good place to start.
Dostoevsky said, “There are things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.”
However, H. W. Bush seems unafraid in his interviews with Jon Meacham. Meacham’s biography refers often to H. W. Bush’s diary. H. W.’s diary appears written by a decent man who knows himself and chooses to divulge all he knows.
“Destiny and Power” is about H. W. Bush’s journey to the American Presidency and power in the executive branch of government. It begins with a brief history of the Bush/Walker families that reaches back to the beginnings of America. Both sides of H. W. Bush’s ancestors achieve the American dream through hard work, determination, and initiative. The success of the Bush/Walker families sets the stage for H. W. Bush’s public service; his Yale education, his relationship to the wealthy, his service to his country, and his tenure as President of the United States.
“Destiny and Power” reveals a candid picture of the 41st President of the United States. It is a story of family love, respect, and duty. It explores a family lineage blessed with wealth, good education, and expectation. H. W. Bush is a decent man who acknowledges his limitations in pursuit of good works.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH MILITARY SERVICE WWII Meacham notes that H. W. Bush seems a go-along to get-along kind of guy; i.e. a non-confrontational person who is well liked by his associates and subordinates. After Pearl Harbor, H. W. enters the service at the age of 18 to become a pilot. When completing a bombing run, H. W. and his crew are downed at sea. As a downed bomber pilot, H. W mourns his fellow crewmen and wonders if there was anything he could have done differently to save their lives.
This life experience marks H. W. It illustrates H. W.’s sense of responsibility and how he cares for others. It reminds him of the horrors of war and the hurt felt by those left behind. It is a mark that guides his decision to begin the first Gulf war and insert American troops in Kuwait.
Meacham reveals how H. W. solicits friendship with everyone he meets. This facility for friendship is a key to his success in becoming a Texas oil man. His early success in the oil business appears based on who he knows and how well he cultivates wealthy associates’ interest in risking investment in land-lease oil exploration in Texas. H. W.’s friendliness leads him to politics. Meacham notes that friendliness did not immediately vault H. W. to political success but it paves his way to public service.T
H. W. is driven to succeed. In a widening circle of contacts, H. W. is welcomed into the Republican Party and becomes Chairman of the Party for Harris County, Texas. He runs for the Senate and is defeated by Texas Democrat Ralph Yarborough.
Later, in 1966, H. W. is elected to the House of Representatives and becomes acquainted with Richard Nixon.
President Nixon appoints H. W. to the United Nations as Ambassador for the United States. His social skill suited the United Nations Ambassador position perfectly.
As the Watergate scandal overtakes the Nixon Administration, H. W. supports Nixon up to the point of undeniable truth of Nixon’s cover-up. As the Republican National Committee Chairman, H. W. asks Nixon to resign.
When Gerald Ford became President, H. W. is asked to be America’s envoy to China.
After serving for one year, Ford asks Bush to take the position of CIA Director.
One year later, Ford is defeated by President Carter and H. W. returns to the private sector with plans to run for President.
Bush’s cultivated Republican Party friendships compel Reagan to ask Bush to be his Vice President.
RONALD REAGAN (40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES) Meacham notes that running for President is something H. W. has prepared for through the course of his life but 1980 is the era of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s public speaking skill clearly surpasses the oratorical skill of H. W. Bush. However, Bush’s appeal to a more liberal part of the Republican Party makes him an ideal running mate for the highly conservative Reagan. Reagan is reluctant to make the offer because of H. W.’s “Voodoo Economics” comment during their primary contest but Bush’s affable personality eventually endears Reagan to his running mate.
By the end of Meacham’s biography one sees Bush as a decent man who wishes to do the right thing. One might conclude that H. W. Bush is unduly influenced by the desire to be liked. This desire makes H. W. avoid confrontation, a characteristic of which Meacham offers many examples; e. g. Bush’s reluctance to confront the public with his decision to raise taxes; his ambivalence about using the bully pulpit to attack political opponents. H. W. Bush’s inner compass seems to wobble in the face of his desire for comity. However, when one puts H. W. in the context of history, Bush’s inner compass seems as true north as any of America’s Presidents.
On the one hand, comity may be what is missing in the extremes of the political climate of the 21st century; on the other hand, “read my lips” has little political efficacy.
On the one hand, comity may be what is missing in the extremes of the political climate of the 21st century; on the other hand, a wobbling inner compass leads to intellectually untested certainty. One may argue H. W. Bush’s avoidance of confrontation leads to decisions not tested by debate. All that is left is experience burnished by one person’s judgment. Avoidance of personal confrontation may lessen perspective but comity is an underrated commodity in today’s political climate.
A surprising note by Meacham is H. W.’s second guessing on Saddam Hussein. H. W. did not confront Saddam Hussein to demand unconditional surrender after his forced ejection from Kuwait. In retrospect, a demand for unconditional surrender seems superfluous. Arguably, H. W.’s courageous decision to inject the American military into Kuwait changed the course of history. One inclines to believe H. W. will go down in history as the antithesis of Nazi appeasers in WWII.
GEORGE W. BUSH (43RD PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. The most titillating part of Meacham’s biography of H. W. is a father’s judgment of his son’s Presidency. One tends to believe H. W. views George W. more as a beloved son than as President of the United States. George W., like all human beings, makes his own mistakes.
H. W. argues that his son is poorly served by his Vice President and Secretary of Defense. H. W. suggests Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are the principal reason for the mistake of Iraq. (One must ask oneself, who hired Cheney and Rumsfeld? In a translation of Plato’s “Republic”, there is a phrase about leadership that suggests “Birds of a feather flock together”.)
George W. is his own man. He differs from his father in numerous ways. One may remember George W. standing on an aircraft carrier and saying “Mission Accomplished!” after the defeat of the Republican Guard in Iraq. Meacham’s biography suggests that kind of hubris-tic comment would never be made by H. W. Bush. History will show defeat of the Republican Guard accomplished very little. Defeat of the Republican Guard is only the beginning of many American mistakes in Iraq.
H. W. Bush may not go down in history as one of the greatest Presidents of the United States but he is among the most decent.
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
By: D. T. Max
Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
Having read “Infinite Jest” several years ago, this reviewer has been mystified by praise given it by many writers, bibliophiles, and book-review’ publications; however, D. T. Max provides some clues to “Infinite Jest’s” seminal value as a new genre of fiction. “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story” explains the tragedy of David Foster Wallace’s life; i.e. his character, ambition, literary evolution, and 2008 death. This is a fascinating biography. Along with details of Wallace’s life, one is re-introduced to “Infinite Jest” and becomes more informed about why it is, and should be, highly regarded.
As reported in the New York Times: “…David Foster Wallace committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46…” Jonathan Franzen said, Wallace ‘…was a Lifelong prisoner on the island of himself’.1
Max shows Wallace to be a narcissist, particularly in his manic “feeling good” periods of life, but in Max’s review of Wallace’s family history, one is inclined to forgive the narcissism and appreciate the vulnerability of a young artist trying to find himself. (There is a suspicion that one is being seduced by a narcissist’s grand exit to make one feel Wallace’s fiction is greater than it really is but only time will be an adequate judge.)
The biographer of Wallace’s life, D. T. Max, works as a staff writer for “The New Yorker”. Dave Eggers, Tom Bissell, and Evan Wright (authors in their own right) say that Max delivers a history of Wallace that is ‘well researched’, ‘hugely disquieting’, and ‘indispensable’ in knowing Wallace and why he will be missed.2 One is inclined to agree with all of the former but may question the last. One wonders if Wallace’s writing will be missed?
If one did not know anything about Wallace before, after listening to “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story”, the uninformed become well-informed. Wallace is a smart, well-educated, heterosexual that drives for literary success with a manic-depressive intensity that is played out in his writing and ended in his suicide.
Wallace’s life is celebrated by academic success, and marked by drugs, unhealthy human relationships, rehabilitation, and recidivism. At the very least, one is compelled by Max’s biography to give “Infinite Jest” another chance to impress; maybe the fault is more in the reader than the writer. (Just place computer mouse and press enter over “Infinite Jest” for review.)
1Quote noted in goodreads from Franzen about Wallace.
2Comments summarized from blog entry by dtmax.com.
Narration by: Jenna Lamia, Dylan Baker, Robert Petkoff
Jonathan Franzen’s new book, “Purity”, mixes feminine mystique and male egoism with a wooden spoon. Franzen interestingly uses the image of a wooden spoon stirring people’s minds and motives. Like the 19th century custom of awarding losers of a competition a wooden spoon, either feminine mystique or male egoism will receive the award at the end of Franzen’s book.
Purity, Franzen’s main character, is a personification of the feminine mystique. She is in her early twenties, graduates from college with a $130,000 debt, and struggles to find a job that allows her to live a decent independent life. Purity loves her mother deeply but is smothered by her attention. Purity rents a room in a house with a struggling married couple, two tenants, and an adopted boy. Purity works for a telemarketing company for an unlivable wage. She struggles to make ends meet. She flirts with her employer who is married and uses her sexuality as a tool to get ahead; not to the point of infidelity, but near the edge. The size of debt compels Purity to ask her mother about her father for financial help. She does not know who her father is and her mother refuses to tell her.
A man, who looks like a Greek god, and has a satyr’s libido, develops a company with Mephistophelan power. This man is a personification of male egoism. He rises to fame and fortune in East Germany, after the fall of the iron curtain. Franzen’s god is named Andreas Wolf. Franzen chooses a name that reminds one of “Little Red Riding Hood” with a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are many ewes in Franzen’s story.
Women are sheep to Wolf. His flock is full with a doting and selfish mother who has a penchant for promiscuity, many sixteen year olds seduced in Wolf’s early twenties, and a harem of beautiful twenty year olds when he is in his forties. Wolf owns and manages a cultish investigative service that exposes government and private industry corruption. He attracts one more lamb to his lair, a twenty-three year old female–a lost lamb named “Purity”.
Wolf creates his business soon after the fall of the Berlin wall. However before fall of the wall, Wolf murders an East German secret service agent. The agent is abusing his step daughter, a fifteen year old girl who becomes a future acolyte of Wolf’s company. This young girl tells Wolf of the stepfather’s immoral and unconscionable way of continuing her sexual abuse. Wolf suggests murder of the stepfather as the only sure way of ending the agent’s vile misconduct. The agent is lured by the stepdaughter to a country house and bludgeoned to death by Wolf with a shovel. The body is buried at the summer home of Wolf’s parents. Wolf is quietly investigated by the secret service. Soon after the murder, the Berlin Wall falls and records of the investigation of the agent’s disappearance are buried in East Germany’s government archives. Wolf appears to have escaped prosecution for the agent’s mysterious disappearance.
Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Wolf explains circumstances of the murder to a visiting American acquaintance. This acquaintance starts an American non-profit newswire service later in life. As Wolf’s organization grows and gains fame, the acquaintance implies a threat to Wolf’s company with revelations about the murder. Wolf has earned a reputation for good works with his cult-like organization. He fears exposure of the murder.
Franzen’s story is tied together when one of the two tenants, in the house that Purity lives in, is the German girl who was abused by her stepfather and now works for Wolf’s organization. The German girl is Purity’s age and is aware of Purity’s debt problem. She suggests Purity contact Wolf’s company about an internship that could make her debt payments, help her find who her father is, and give her a break from her deeply loving but smothering mother. Purity takes the internship. Wolf is surreptitiously behind the recruitment of Purity.
Another level of male and female relationship is opened. Wolf has an ulterior motive in hiring Purity. Many levels of conflict between feminine mystique and male egoism are exposed in Franzen’s story. Purity’s father is abandoned by Purity’s mother. Her name is Annabel. Annabel reminds one of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems, Annabel Lee. Purity’s mother’s and father’s relationship exposes another view of the feminine/masculine’ dynamic and its penchant for winners and losers.
The wooden spoon is awarded to the loser of a competition. Franzen infers there is an inherent competition between men and women and each sex among themselves. Every young person, every father, every mother, every adult will have an opinion about who should be awarded the wooden spoon after completing “Purity”.
Narrated by: Anthony Rey Perez, Marisol Ramirez, Jim Cooper, Adam Lazarre-White, James Chen
Ryan Gattis’s novel, “All Involved”, tells of the Los Angeles riots in 1992. It illustrates a cause for broken trust between minorities and the police. It is the story of public safety departments struggling with criminality, poverty, addiction, and discrimination.
Four Los Angeles Police officers inflict a beat-down on Rodney King while arresting him after a high-speed chase. Sergeant Stacey Koon, the commanding officer at the scene is said to have tazed King twice. Koon argues the tazing is effective but suggests King is “dusted”; i.e. meaning hyped by PCP. The four involved officers are white. Rodney King is black. King is handcuffed and dragged to the side of the road to wait for an ambulance. There is no clearer example of how difficult it is–to be Black in America.
All four officers are indicted for “excessive force”. After acquittal by the State, six days of rioting begin. It is April 29, 1992. In the end, four police officers, Stacey Koon, and Officer Laurence Powell are convicted by a Federal court. Each serves two years in prison. Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind, the other accused, are acquitted. Gattis does not dwell on the King’ beat down but infers it is the primer for society’s explosion in South Central Los Angeles.
The murder introduces a cast of characters that will scare most reader/listeners. Sadly, Gattis’s book will also energize gun-toting vigilantes, reinforce socioeconomic prejudices, and encourage right-wing pundits to argue socialism is ruining America. Fundamentally, Gattis’s novel exhibits the appalling consequence of America’s neglect of the poor.
Every riot is justified and vilified in measures equal to the power and prestige of prevailing interests. Victims of riots range from rule-of-law enforcement agencies to all socioeconomic levels of American society. However, the powerless, disrespected, and poor are recycled as perennial victims in every riot.
Those who protect the general public suffer at the time of riot but, as peace is restored, the poor return to a life of quiet desperation and crime that is largely contained and hidden from public view.
Human self-interest is at the heart of what is good and bad in societies based on rule of law. The rich and middle class are served by rule of law while the poor are often left to fend for themselves. What Gattis shows in his story is that citizen’ self-interest in poor communities is the same as the general public’ but it takes a different form.
Money, power, and prestige are important to all human beings. However, the ways of making money in poor communities are often illegal because, like Willie Sutton said about banks–robbing, murder for hire, extortion, prostitution, and drug trafficking are where the money is. Gangs proliferate in poor communities. They have their own rule of law because the general public’s rule of law does not equally protect the poor.
If the poor cannot find a job, they sell their bodies or their loyalty. Turning tricks for money buys food, clothing, and housing–the necessities of life. Being a gang member or leader becomes the primary ladder for success of the poor.
The stress of being poor is a cycle of illegal selling and buying. With the use of one’s body or drugs, the poor escape the mind-numbing reality of being poor in America; i.e. at least until they run out of money, are murdered, or die from the pestilences of life. American police and fire departments treat the poor less equally because the problems of the poor are increasingly unmanageable.
Gattis’s novel posits a solution. He suggests an American gang of corrections officers to threaten poor community gang leaders with murder and mayhem if they choose to persist in their murderous control of poor communities. One has to ask oneself–how can vigilantism cure the problem? The victims of this mentality are decent police and fire department operations that have sworn to protect life and property in the jurisdictions of all citizens of the United States.
Police and fire departments are caught in the middle of a war that cannot be won. It is the same war that defeated America in Vietnam. As Pogo observed, “We have seen the enemy and it is us”.
The solution for America does not lie in public safety departments being drawn down to the level of gangs but to raise gangs to the level of good citizens by genuinely educating and providing equal opportunity for all.
The map for poverty’s elimination is a destination at the end of a long road. The road to a police state, a gang-like sanction of government enforcers, is a short cut to Democratic’ Armageddon. Gattis tells a story that exposes poverty’s sharp edges and democracy’s vulnerabilities.
By writing–women are human beings first–, Betty Friedan speaks truth to power. Friedan’s theme in The Feminine Mystique attempts to enlighten thick-headed males and doubting women about the equality of human beings. It is sad to realize that such a banal and obvious statement as “women are human beings first” so perfectly exposes the ignorance of prejudice.
Every rational human being has a brain that neurologically functions in the same way; i.e. through chemical and neural interconnection. This is not to suggest that brains are exactly alike; that interconnection is exactly the same, or that genetics do not matter. It is not to suggest that environment does not matter. What Friedan shows is that sexuality, color of one’s skin, and culture are influences that create prejudice while the brain is an infinitely malleable organ that carries the potential for genius as well as stupidity.
Friedan suggests the Oedipus complex and penis envy are male delusions about female sexuality, perpetrated by Sigmund Freud and endorsed by most intellectuals and academicians in the early 20th century. The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, acknowledges Freud’s great insight to the psychology of human beings but derides diagnosis of female hysteria as a valid mental disorder.
Female hysteria disappears from professional psychology schools in the mid-20th century. Friedan suggests female hysteria has little to do with sexuality, women’s menstruation, or change-of-life diagnosis. Her argument is that conversion disorder; hypochondria-sis, depression and anxiety in women are more likely caused by The Feminine Mystique, a false notion of a woman’s “role” in society; i.e. the idea that a woman can only be a spinster, wife, or mother.
Those roles limit the productive capability of half the human race. If a spinster chooses not to have a husband, there is more time to make productive contribution to the world. If a single woman chooses to be a wife, sharing the costs and burdens of domesticity, it leaves ample opportunity for other life interests; the same applies to motherhood. Being denied constructive opportunity drives women to the neuroses of the modern age.
A woman can be a spinster, wife, or mother but she can also be a scientist, a President, a business mogul, or a bum. The Feminine Mystique exposes the false premise that women are primarily breeders and caregivers rather than equals in humanities’ race for money, power, and prestige. What Friedan reveals in The Feminine Mystique is that women can bear children and be equally interested in and capable of excelling in the world of money, power, and prestige. However, women are frustrated by inequality of opportunity caused by The Feminine Mystique which identifies women in a role that should be shared by all members of the human race.
Birthing children is unique to women just as sperm production is unique to men. Beyond these unique capabilities, a world of opportunity is open to both men and women, but men have a culturally and historically defined advantage. Friedan defines men’s advantages by noting false barriers produced by psychologists like Freud that fail to understand they are discounting productive potential of half the human race.
Worse than the existence of barriers to equal opportunity for women, Friedan explains the unconscious conspiracy that pervades American culture. Freidan acknowledges it is not a cabal of men but that it is a pervasive misunderstanding of what a human being is.
The tragedy is that this misunderstanding becomes self-perpetuating. Advertising trades on sexual innuendo that perpetuates objectification of women; studies like the Kinsey report falsely infer natural sexuality is inhibited in women that have higher education; blame is placed on women for children that become delinquents because they are not always present as homemakers and caregivers.
Rationally, most people realize women are not sex objects. Advertising based on sexual innuendo is unlikely to change. The more ominous concerns raised by Friedan are false correlations suggesting higher education diminishes natural sexuality and that women (mothers) are primarily responsible for what children become as adults. Higher education is the primary hope for breaking the cycle of unequal treatment of women. Children become adults as a result of many things—not only from parenting but from genetics, health, and environment. Mothers are no more to blame than fathers who fail to share the responsibilities of home making and parenting.
Freidan’s concern is that women are not treated as equals even though women are approximately equal-in-number to men. Things have changed since 1963 but equality remains a work-in-process. Of the fortune 500 companies in the United States, only 25 have female CEOs. Women doing the same job as men in 2010 receive $.81 for every $1 paid to men, a 19% difference. Though house work is shared more now than in the 1960s, women work 18 hours a week homemaking while men work 10 hours a week (according to a PEW Research Study in 2011); i.e. the greatest burden remains with women. Without meaning to argue that the glass is half empty rather than half full, the revolution exemplified by Friedan’s book is incomplete. Many people continue to fight for equality of all human beings but many men and women continue to resist; to the detriment of society.
The Feminine Mystique should be required reading in high schools. It is as relevant today as it was in 1963.
Narrated by Jesse Boggs Narrated by Scott Brick & Others
Michael Lewis details the collapse of the real estate industry and Harry Markopolos dissects Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Both authors reveal mankind’s inherent incompetence and greed. This is the 21st century but we still live in Thomas Hobbes’ 17th century world.
“The Big Short” and “No One Would Listen” reveal the nuts and bolts of how smart and stupid a free society can be. There is plenty of blame for every person involved; both perpetrator and victim. Human nature is an equal opportunity victimizer. Freedom of opportunity beckons good and bad behavior in man.
Money lenders like Countrywide and Washington Mutual fed bogus “no doc” mortgages to investment house mathematicians (known as “Quants”) that worked for companies like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch to create derivative (real estate backed) securities. Inept management by Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac offered mortgage insurance for grossly overleveraged mortgages. Companies like AIG removed investor risk by insuring banks against bad investments. All of these foolish actions coalesced to bankrupt companies and families around the world. Individual lies, bungles, and missteps in the real estate industry created the worst recession since the 1929 stock market crash.
While this real estate debacle was developing, Bernie Madoff built a 50 to 70 billion dollar empire by making fools of the U.S. Government, European royalty, world wide charities, and working families. Madoff lied, cheated and stole billions of dollars from wealthy investors, charities, and mom and pop businesses with offers of bogus investment returns based on buying from Peter to pay Paul. He paid dividends to earlier investors by taking money from newer investors. As long as people believed in Madoff, or deluded themselves, his wheel of fortune continued to roll. As the real estate market collapsed, old investor money was recalled and new money became unavailable. Madoff’s failure was inevitable.
How could these things happen in a 21st century, democratically elected and governed society? Hobbes would say “how could these things not happen”?
Michael Lewis identifies seers that recognized “Quants” were packaging doomed mortgages into re-saleable financial instruments called derivatives. Victims care little about who the seer heroes were but they were ringing warning bells long before the real estate collapse occurred. Seers by chance and foresight created “The Big Short”; betting on the coming real estate collapse. Seers became rich as the “too clever”, uninformed, or greedy victims became poor.
Madoff’s investment lies were exposed in Markopolos’ written “red flag” report to the Security Exchange Commission in the year 2000. The title of the book “No One Would Listen” tells the story. “No One Would Listen” is an indictment of democratic government in free society. His story exposes an inept and failed SEC, an agency created by government to protect investors. The irony is that Madoff did not get caught, he confessed in 2009 because his Ponzi scheme fell apart. along with the collapse of the real estate industry.
Regulation is not a perfect solution for control of bad actors in a free society. However, no regulation is worse. The forensic reports of Michael Lewis and Harry Markopolos show what happens when efforts to regulate human nature are abandoned. Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” lives to wreck havoc on society.
The narrators of these two books, Jesse Boggs and Scott Brick, are easy to listen to and the author’s forensic stories are valuable to hear.