Lucy and Todd

Posts Tagged ‘men’

God Save Texas — Lawrence Wright

In Reviews by Lucy and Todd on July 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm

It’s Lawrence Wright’s contention that we must regard Texas as the very symptom, the future of the upcoming world we will all live in: ‘Because Texas is a part of almost everything in modern America—the South, the West, the plains, Hispanic and immigrant communities, the border, the divide between the rural areas and the cities—what happens here tends to disproportionately affect the rest of the nation.’

Well, yee-haw. At this very moment the Texas economy is overtaking that of California, and it’s not just about oil. These two monstrosities of the western US are opposed in every way. California is a complex, neurotic, highly regulated society, historically open to outsiders, whereas Texans have a horror of furriners and, at the same time, of messicans and redskins. They resist any kind of law-making that restricts the making of money. The costs of that, social and environmental, as detailed in God Save Texas, are staggering.

Just to read the chapter on Houston is mind-bending, in terms of the dirty potential of these ever-spreading cities – in their demands on electric power and infrastructure alone. Houston is only a little smaller than the entire state of Massachusetts – soon it will be the largest urban area in the US. And begging your pardon, ma’am, but it just don’t seem to have no limits.

Fracking, which Texas believes in as sure as barbecue, means that the United States is once again replete with black gold (Texas tea!). That makes it a colossal threat to us all. This is a pretty depressing side to this must-read book, but Wright handles it well, balancing Armageddon with tales of things that are good about Texas. A few things. There’s Willie Nelson for one, some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the world, a shedload of dinosaur bones, and all kinds of stuff to eat. There are also Alamo belt buckles and a whole heap of lingering Confederate racism.

The state animal of Texas could well be the grudge. Texans are super-defensive about their ‘image’. In 1952 the distinguished writer Edna Ferber published a novel about Texas: Giant. In it a Texas rancher marries a girl from Maryland. She takes an interest in her Mexican servants and gets the whites-only doctor to save an Indian baby. Over the years the rancher’s heart softens, as much as a cattleman’s can.

This novel drove Texans mad. They resented the perfectly accurate perception that they mistreated their minorities, found women invisible, birthed their laws in rooms full of cigar smoke, and hated Mexico so much that more than once in Texas history was mooted the idea of a Trumpish wall. Giant was published sixty-six years ago and they continue to fume about it, and as Lawrence Wright points out, they’re still acting that way, too.

The emptiness and aridity of Texas can be sobering. The Last Picture Show may have given you an idea, but it’s nothing compared to this: there’s a guy in this book who grew up in a tiny Texas town; his parents ran the dry-cleaning shop. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go for hundreds of miles from this place. So when the kids got really, maniacally bored, the parents gave them the keys to the shop, and they’d spend the afternoon trying on everybody’s clothes. That’s what you call rural entertainment.

Wright acknowledges that the womenfolk ain’t had much influence on the culture or politics of Texas, despite the fact that some of the most dynamic women in US history came from there: Barbara Jordan, the first black female member of the US House of Representatives from the South; Ann Richards, a shoot-from-the-hip-and-ask-questions-later feminist and the forty-fifth Governor of the state; the crusading reporters Molly Ivins and Linda Ellerbee.

To begin fixing the problems that face Texas, and therefore all of us, how about some kind of free-wheeling gender reversal? The women could make laws and deals (in Texas they’re kind of the same thing), open the borders, improve education (Texas is the worst state for this) and even introduce compassion. The men? There’s no need to understand ’em. Just ride ’n rope ’n brand ’em.

The author of The Looming Tower, a history of Al-Qaeda and 9/11 which won the Pulitzer Prize, Wright seems a political mixed bag. As a journalist he has to spend time with some very right-wing folks. He often eats breakfast with Karl Rove. He acquired a gun permit so he could enter the state capitol more easily. (Yes ma’am, you heard correct.)

The gun laws are nuts. Don’t-go-there nuts. They’re so nuts that you wonder why anybody in Texas bothers to get up in the morning. As a professional writer on terrorism, Wright professes a belief in ‘strong borders’, but he freely admits that the exigencies of the 21st century aren’t being addressed by Texas dialectic.

Now, y’all listen to this: Mr Wright is a resident of Austin, Texas, the state capital and a city with a reputation for a certain intellectuality and tolerance. He is disturbed by the commercialization and homogenization of his town: ‘One can already sniff the artifice and inauthenticity that transforms these charming environments into amusement parks for conventioneers. The very places that made Austin so hip are being demolished for the hotels and office spaces needed to accommodate the flood of tourists who have come to enjoy what no longer exists.’ Edinburgh, the eyes of Texas are upon you.

 

TMcE

 

(This review appeared in the Herald on April 28, 2018)

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ARE MEN OBSOLETE? (debate)

In The Gloves Are Off : Thoughts on Literature on March 31, 2015 at 8:42 am

ARE MEN OBSOLETE? (Ebury Press, £6.99)

A response to a published version of the Munk debate held in Toronto on Dec. 15, 2013, with Hanna Rosin and Maureen Dowd speaking for, and Camille Paglia and Caitlin Moran against, the motion that men are ‘obsolete’.

Caitlin Moran can be amusing, but her general attitude to the world is abysmally optimistic. She’s so thrilled with the ‘kaleidoscopic, dizzying wonder of everything’, and so devoted to the feminism-lite notion of ‘equality’, she can’t see the urgent need to restrain men and promote women before it’s too late. She seems to envision instead some kind of vast utopian future for humanity, and the environment. This is a surprising stance to take since, unless we do something NOW, there will BE no environment, or no habitable one, and humanity and all its accomplishments, be they male or female, will be consigned to the solar system’s trashcan. Is Moran unaware of the atom bomb, or the Industrial Revolution? Where in hell is this rosy future going to come from, if we can’t find a way to contain men and their sorrier, anti-life impulses? She also keeps talking about 100,000 years of male rule, but it is altogether more likely that they have only held such sway for about 5,000 years, during which they’ve done incredible damage. Patriarchy is a temporary and failed system that needs immediate reversal.

Camille Paglia meanwhile has the hots for Hitchcock and Rhett Butler, and can’t stop talking about construction workers and their pickup trucks – or about herself. Her self-referencing is unstoppable, but her obsession with blue-collar work is obscene. Telling men to keep on laying pipes and bricks and reveling in masculinity is no better than telling women, in the ’50s, to stay home with the kids. ‘I’ve studied the fate of Rome for my entire life’, she informs us. As a result, she fears that a more pro-female society will not be militaristic enough to defend itself against barbarians. So I guess we’re stuck with Rhett Butler?

Maureen Dowd doesn’t say enough, perhaps because the debate soon takes such a humourless tone. Her speciality – Washington politics – also narrows her scope. Better in the pre-debate interview, when asked what men should be doing, she says men should just do what women tell them to do.

Hanna Rosin seems the most effective debater, sticking to the point and rounding things up well enough to procure a winning vote-swing amongst the audience at the end. But she too does not go far enough. She wants the crisis in masculinity addressed. Huh?! This is NOT our biggest problem. What we need to do is concentrate on the crisis of female poverty, female impediments; the crisis of climate change, caused by men who seemingly will not fix it; the crisis of male-run religions that discriminate against women and against other religions. (Let’s just get rid of religion all together. It serves no useful purpose.) Rosin was forceful, but not angry enough.

It’s time to GET MAD.

LE

March 31, 2015