Shit Flows Downhill
. . . and payday’s Friday, the plumber’s knowledge base, as we boys mansplain it to each other. (Wow. Word had no comment for that word! Did Microsoft buy the Urban Dictionary?) Of course, I’m not here to discuss plumbing, which is a good thing: I suck at it. This for the metaphor.
You know, the king wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and dumps on the court, the cabinet all growl at their staff and slash the budgets of their least favourite departments and ultimately the people don’t get their bread.
Abuse flows downhill, is what I’m trying to say, along the lines of authority.
The family version is, Dad lords it over Mom, Mom gets a little more disciplinary with number one son, this firstborn noogies his younger sibling more than usual and the lastborn kid winds up taking it out on the dog, who then puts the run on the cat, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Plus of course, Dad is upset because of something his boss did or said, who is simply passing on directives from above . . . not ad infinitum, technically though. In theory, the buck stops at the king or ‘the shareholders.’ I don’t think in this conversation that we need to credit Dad’s or the king’s claim that he represents and works for God; I’m not weighing in on God’s existence or not here, just saying I have yet to meet the man or the king who might be on God’s mailing list. Our default position for such claims must of course be skeptical, even if we think it’s possible. Certainly most such claims are false.
Abuse follows lines of authority, it bears repeating. Just as hierarchical structures of authority make so many large cooperative efforts possible for humans, it’s this same structure makes punishment and abuse possible. Without authority, punishment is simply abuse – but without authority, abuse would simply be an unconnected bunch of fights. Winners win, losers lose, but that’s just violence. Abuse is an abuse of authority, and authority means something like ‘legitimate power,’ so abuse is violence in a more specific, organized context. Interestingly, disorganized violence we can view as natural and amoral, like what the bears do and we don’t judge harshly for it. Abuse is different.
Abuse is a crime within some sort of social order. Along with all the new things human resource pooling has brought into the world like agriculture, industry, and community care of the sick and elderly comes things like oppression, war, and abuse - new crimes for new situations.
Of course, shit flows downhill in a racial sense too.
If, God forbid, Barkley was right as well as honest when he told us that whooping their kids is what black people do (paraphrase), meaning if there is any racial difference in America as to the use or amount of use of corporal punishment, then maybe this is why, because that’s how the stuff of plumbers’ efforts flows. Because life is a pyramid and bad stuff falls down from above like a champagne fountain where people are the glasses; the ones at the upper levels hold what they can and all the rest falls to the ones below, all the bad stuff winding up at the bottom. Do I have to say who is at the bottom of our society? The poor, obviously, among which group black and brown people are over-represented here in North America.
So maybe Charles was right, maybe the stereotype, the cliché has some truth, maybe the under-classes really are rougher on their kids. I am not a racist, no “buts.” If that stereotype has any truth, and if it is in any way due to the fact that gravity operates on our waste, then that is on us, the folks at the top.
I love all things in and around social issues, I love socially-directed comedy, and I really enjoy black comics preaching about racism (Chris Rock: a black man has to fly to get to where a white man can walk!). I do worry about my own racism, because that pleasure is very specific, almost fetishist if you consider that I live in the most black-deficient place in North America. But Chris Rock, Pryor, I love those guys. Know who I can’t stand? George Lopez. I don’t suppose it’s his whole act, but unfortunately for me and George, the only few times I’ve seen him, he was going on about how his parents whooped him, how it was good for him, and how if we don’t whoop our kids they’re all going to turn out badly. All I can see in it is a brown guy, a member of an oppressed group, talking about how the answer for people is more oppression, more roughness.
I pity a person for that, knowing that their pain is too great to face – but these comics, Lopez is not the only one, many comics do that material, Eddie Murphy did - these comics are marketing their denial, and marketing corporal punishment. That is not helpful – plus it is easy to see it as a form of collaboration with the folks at the top.
Shit flows downhill, but that sort of comedy is like installing a pump in the line too, really un-called for.
Now for some really wild conjecture – in a discussion of racism! What could possibly go wrong? – regarding race, class, and corporal punishment: life is tough for the under-classes, and if the poorest folks really are rougher on their kids it isn’t from any sort of bad intention. We all think discipline is a good thing. Poorer kids are at higher risk levels for everything except being spoiled and feeling entitled, so maybe poor parents make a logical choice to be stricter, to do more of what they hope will keep their kids on the straight and narrow.
As for why it’s not working, if that’s what’s happening, I will refer you to the rest of my blogs, but suffice it to say it isn’t champagne that is flowing down on the poor from above and it isn’t champagne that poor folks have too much of and have to pass down to their children.
July 12, 2015