The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"24" and Haiti

The Hero's Journey has an unfortunately masculine nomenclature, but if one simply looks at the question "what is human?" the tiny differences between male and female life experience pretty much fades. And I'd guess that those who are most likely to believe there are huge differences are those least likely to have had satisfying bonded relationships with the opposite sex.

Differences? Sure. But I would bet anything that there are greater differences, on average, between any two men chosen at random, or any two human beings, in general, than there is between the group "men" and the group "women" when it comes to (at least my version of) the Hero's Journey.

1) Confronted with a challenge. Ah...both genders, easily. One might well suggest that male stories more often deal with violent external actions, while feminine stories more often deal with internal or personal events. But there is huge overlap.

2) Rejection of challenge. Fear stops men and women. There are different reactions, and different cultural judgements about the reaction to fear. I've never seen women shunned for being cowards, but I'm sure it happens.

3) Acceptance of challenge. Again, there may be some differences in the nature of the typical threshold challenge, but not enough to make a real statement.

4) Road of trials. Male stories are more likely to involve travel and danger, female stories more likely to explore social webs. Both deal with internal struggle, however.

5) Allies and powers. The need to gather and refine them is universal. Our ability to make the next "leap" will depend upon our capacity to understand the "gap" or obstacles that hindered us last time, and the clarity with which we compensate.

6) Confront Evil--lose. Dealing with loss, shattered self-image, etc. Again, pretty universal stuff. We all lose. I think that there may be some differing mythologies in male and female communities about what such losses ultimately mean.

7) Dark Night of the Soul. Men and women have some different common patterns for dealing with despair and depression, but ultimately it's all about death or ego-death, really. Again, if you concentrate on the differences, you miss the truth.

8) Leap of Faith. While religion can establish serious barriers between the genders, and encourage the perception of differences, spirituality generally embraces the concept of connection, unity, blending. Yin and Yang together composing the Tao. So to the soul, faith is faith. Human minds create separation.

9) Confront Evil--victorious. In "over-structure" stories the obstacle is often outer (male) and in "under-structure" stories the obstacle is generally internal (female). But again, there is so much overlap that it would be stereotyping to try to shoehorn the genders into one category or another.

10) The Student becomes the teacher. Or: the return to the village with the elixer, or movement to the higher level (grandmother or grandfather's circle, etc.)

It seems to me that vaster by far are the similarities here, and it serves little purpose indeed to concentrate on the differences. Any thoughts on this, or any of these steps, and how they have applied in your own life, or the lives of men and women you have known?

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Loved 24 last night. The female FBI agent (rather sexistly called "Rack Bauer" by the guys at Ain't It Cool News) has been driven slightly nuts by her association with Jack and her use of torture. Looks like they're trying to have it both ways: to play into the revenge fantasy that makes the series work (a perfect hero who uses Whatever It Takes! He never makes a mistake, and always saves the day, so we have No Guilt!), while simultaneously giving a nod to reality: this behavior is insanely corruptive, and only approved of when people believe it's happening to "them," the "others." Across racial, social, religious/national lines, it's entertaining and satisfying, in a tribal way. I'd bet that the capture and torture of an enemy brave was big entertainment among the Apache. Humans are like that. As long as you can be pretty darned sure YOUR kids will never get caught up in stuff like this. I suspect profiling is much the same. When it's the "other" group, why, of COURSE we should differentiate by race, religion, or whatever. So far, I've yet to hear anyone approve of profiling if it is "their" group. Which suggests something pretty universally hypocritical about human beings.

At any rate, there are two basic competing life philosophies. Most people are somewhere in the middle, but it's the:

1) We are all alone, and separate from each other and the world. It's every living being for itself, and damn the hindmost.

2) We're all in this together, and all thought of separation is just illusion. You can't sink half a boat.

Clearly, one position is more "lower chakra", and the other more "higher chakra." And no pejorative is implied by "higher" and "lower"--the root is not less important than the leaf. Clearly, each political wing considers the other to be in the foolish end of the opposite spectrum.

My attitude about "24": I enjoy a good revenge/perfect hero fantasy as much as the next person. More than most. I can even ignore that they killed off their two best black characters by shooting each through the throat on an MLK day. As King was shot. Coincidence, of course. Ahem.

But my biggest complaint is that there are people who seem unaware that no justice system is perfect. That the innocent will inevitably be caught up in the system. And that using people as "things" is insanely corrupted to all, especially the men and women whose responsibility it is to peel away the ego shields and leave the squirming human animal naked and vulnerable, like a Mexican Jumping Bean worm peeled out of its shell. I can't imagine anything that would be more damaging to the human psyche--on either end of that exchange.

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Fifty Cent wants to do a duet with Susan Boyle? Somehow I can't quite wrap my mind around that one.

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Love the wide range of people from around the world committing to helping Haiti, where the death toll seems to have soared above 200,000. The horror. Hard to even imagine that level of devastation. But...how did Iceland and China get there before us?

10 comments:

Mike Ralls said...

> So far, I've yet to hear anyone approve of profiling if it is "their" group. <

I'm a young(-ish) male. If a violent crime is committed, I approve of profiling young or young-ish males over elderly females because it's vastly more likely that a member of group A would commit a violent crime than that a member of group B.

Marty S said...

The two groups vary more within themselves than between the two groups is a very spurious argument,logically speaking. Consider the following two groups. Earthquakes that occur within 100 miles of a big population center and those that occur further away. They have identical statistics in every respect except one. The devastation in life and property. So the more the same than different argument says we should be no more concerned with the one that hit Hatti this week then the one that hit a remote region of California a little while ago. Sometimes all the similarities between groups, people or otherwise, don't make the differences disappear or be less important.
Please, don't take this as saying there are any particular important differences between any particular group of people. I am merely addressing the logic of the argument.

Foxessa said...

The question isn't how China and Iceland got there ahead of us.

It's Why?

The US primary objective is to keep Haitians locked on the island. So it's about moving many troops to patrol offshore, to control the harbors and airport.

Love, C,

Dan Moran said...

So far, I've yet to hear anyone approve of profiling if it is "their" group.

Dude, you'd have to empty the prisons to find room for all the deserving white male businessmen. :-)

Filmdiva said...

EXACTLY what I thought when I heard that China was in Haiti rescuing people before the U.S. was. thats ridiculous. Haiti is 600 miles away from us. and how far away is China?
And Iceland? what the heck?

Marty S said...

Off topic. I just read that Robert Parker died. I will really miss his Spencer novels.

steve said...

At the risk of finding out later that I'm defending the indefensible...

But...how did Iceland and China get there before us?


There were hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans helping in Haiti at the moment the quake struck. They were trying to help before there was a quake, and I doubt they stopped after (unless trapped or dead themselves). Where were the Chinese and Icelanders then? Perhaps there were some, but I doubt nearly as many as from the US.

But this is pretty pointless. Trying to figure out who is doing what and why based on second, third, etc., reports isn't useful, no more than trying to guess what is really happening during an ongoing combat operation. Time will tell, but we won't know for a long while.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'm not sure that liking torture of outsiders is based in "we're all alone" thinking, since part of the basis is ingroup vs. outgroup.

The underlying thought may be connected to "things only work if you force them-- paying attention to breakage along the way means you'll take so much time that you'll get hurt".

It's also not just ingroup vs. outgroup. In the movie Blaze (about the dog who doesn't know he's not really an action-adventure hero), the dog threatens to drop an alley cat off a bridge to get information about where he needs to go. The scene is set up by first showing the cat running a (very unlikely) protection scheme against pigeons, so that you'll have no sympathy for the cat.

In The Night of the Heat, Hardwick tortures (uses pain to force an answer, if you prefer) the infuriating sister after she's done something particularly awful. Again, it's a matter of controlling reader sympathy, but it's not large group dynamics.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'm not sure that liking torture of outsiders is based in "we're all alone" thinking, since part of the basis is ingroup vs. outgroup.

The underlying thought may be connected to "things only work if you force them-- paying attention to breakage along the way means you'll take so much time that you'll get hurt".

It's also not just ingroup vs. outgroup. In the movie Blaze (about the dog who doesn't know he's not really an action-adventure hero), the dog threatens to drop an alley cat off a bridge to get information about where he needs to go. The scene is set up by first showing the cat running a (very unlikely) protection scheme against pigeons, so that you'll have no sympathy for the cat.

In The Night of the Heat, Hardwick tortures (uses pain to force an answer, if you prefer) the infuriating sister after she's done something particularly awful. Again, it's a matter of controlling reader sympathy, but it's not large group dynamics.

Anonymous said...

China In Haiti.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/haitiearthquake/2010-01/17/content_9332643.htm

Natural disasters on a grand scale all over the world that spawn all kinds of humanitarian efforts is a truly marvelous way for all kinds of people with all kinds of ulterior motives to make appearences where their presense would ordinarily prompt all kinds of scrutiny. This kind of access provides wonderful opportunities to see, test, tweak, detect for later review, and closely observe all kinds of things for various and sundry reasons.

A measly six-hundred miles is as good as peeking into someone's window when you have the right electronic-emitting and detecting equipment on-board say, a large jet aircraft above someone else's hemisphere far far away from your own and want a peek or a listen to that your other technology may not provide.