Monday, January 14, 2008

The Boyz are Back in Town

Actually they never left. or they never grew up, or something. Juvenility is rampant in our society and I imagine that's because the notion of 'hard' work, or physical labour, in foreign to us. Academics, and indoor endeavors might hone some fine marketing skills, but they feed the little boy in all of us. That wouldn't be so bad, but men in our society, if they aren't engaged in building something, generally keep themselves busy by wrecking something.

To wit, the news.

To-day in the paper a front page story relates the experience of two former 'honchas' of the Bell Communications company who are engaged in a legal dispute over what they claim is rampant sexism at that corporation. Now these two gals weren't at the front line customer assistance level, they were the six figure income types of 'power dames'. What they claim happened is rooted in some sort of 'Peter Pan' male bondo exercises at Ma Bell. Case in point a weekend experience that had the boys explore their manly sides in some martial arts grappling. Trouble was they forgot to tell the girls, who were expected to participate, not to be wearing the standard female 'power outfit'. After facing off against each other, the girls put their foot down at facing off with the he-men. (Or rather they claimed to have hurt themselves - some coy female defensiveness.) They also claim they were shut out of office drinking sessions - God knows why they wanted to hang out with a bunch of macho drunks - and were exposed to foul language - including a "Go f**k yourself" uttered by one potty mouth at a 'meeting'. My pension fund is thinking of buying the company these sophomoric idiots are running. The gals were 'let go' with a year's salary apiece. I'll keep tabs on their lawsuit.

A second story to-day comes from the automotive sector. Depending on what you're doing, or on your mental capacity, sometimes warning signals can be overlooked or misinterpreted. And so they seem to have been by the 'boyz' who market the automobile. What other industry is so tied up in adolescent yearning? Not only do these birds get to live out a fantasy, they get paid for it. And so it doesn't come as any great surprise that, having come off one of the worst years in decades for auto sales, the mavens of marketing pull out all the stops and go 'hog' wild. Well in this case more like 'cow' wild. They rolled out the '08 - or would that be '09 - pickup trucks with a quasi rodeo of Texas cowboys, broncos and longhorn cattle. Said one cowpoke, "The cattle stay close to the trucks because that's what they get fed off."

That should be great tag line for advertising to the road warriors whose tonneau-covered monster trucks never see dust, let alone a bale of hay. You can't sell a $70 000 velour and leather pick-up to some guy who thinks it's like a rolling bordello, unless he thinks Matt Dillion would be using it to let Miss Kitty polish his pistol. The modern, fully-automated farmer might like it if had a GPS and a wireless computer hook-up - as would a Bay Street lawyer with a fondness for Australian rain gear, or an investment house heavyweight looking for a hobby farm vehicle. The old-fashioned farmer, or anybody who'd actually use a pick-up would be more concerned with price and durability. Obviously there aren't many of the latter, or the marketing boys don't have any truck with them.

So the great hope is that another 'Peter Pan' experience will turn the industry around. Somehow I don't think so because the 'Peter Pans' who should be buying, are finding themselves looking for alternative employment after doing a 'Neverland' on some bad mortgage risks and, possibly, bringing down the whole economy. But what the hell, there are still cops working.*****

A final instance of the 'Peter Pan' syndrome comes from the recently released report on violence in Toronto schools. This report was engendered after the shooting of a 13 year-old at a Toronto High School last year. The 'gun' is being blamed for all the problems relating to violence. But there are some other things - I call them the 'Peter Pan' factors that could have more to do with that. First some history. Virtually no Christmas in the ancient days, went by without the juvenile males getting a set of pistols from Santa under the tree. The Saturday afternoon oaters displayed gunfire in a series of 'wingings' and the rare dramatized dropping of an outlaw. Repeated play consisted of imaginary shootings accompanied with blood curdling sound effects and 'gotchas', but engendered no great desire to snuff a playmate. Real guns were not toys. Nowadays the gun is banned, but television, film and video game brings a steady stream slo-mo blood- drenched bullet impacts on the vile 'enemy'. Cowboys and Indians are taboo, but first-person shooters against a host of communicative protagonists are popular. Paintball pitches and sales are growing notably, they're even marketed for some of that corporate team-building noted above. Guns, if available, are only the real kind and are used to enhance the macho.

Meanwhile the 'macho' is, more increasingly common in a growing number of momma's boys and little princes who are 'protected and mollycoddled' by single moms with their own issues. By the time they grow 'nads' in the Ali G style, they're most likely well to the way to being a total loss to their Moms, mommas, babies and society in general. Well-grounded in the notion that work is for 'suckas' and that they'll get by by talking dirty and hanging with a posse. Schools are in a tough spot, trying to sell these 'boyz' something they don't want to buy and keeping them off the street while trying to stop them from doing what they want to do to everybody else. Actually trying to deal with them can 'get you into trouble', with irate, racially over-sensitive Mommies and a hierarchy that would prefer you didn't 'cause trouble' especially of the cultural mosaic kind. Teachers have to deal with it on the front line, many do it admirably and some do it by remaining uninvolved. Administrators tend to depend on the 'book' and the theoretical and are more sensitive to the politics of the issue rather than the practical. When it comes to 'boyz' and guns, both should be licensed and registered. Being caught with an unregistered gun should get a sentence at hard labour - no exceptions, like drinking and driving is supposed to be. Because shooting somebody, even by accident, is, in my opinion, worse than hitting them with a car. Guns have only one purpose, cars can be used for a number of things.

Guns and trucks and women might be immediate presentiments but the problem of 'boyz' in powerful places will remain until there's a societal change. Probably of the catastrophic kind.

***** In June GM announced it was closing its Oshawa truck plant. Poor sales. Go figure.

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