In the last section that I read of GK Chesterton’s “What is Wrong with the World” he said that the only century in which we shared a common sense of reality, truth and honesty was the 18th century – the one of the powdered faces, the wigs, the costume like clothing and all that artifice.
His point being that it was one of the few times in popular culture, in fact the only time, in which all classes strove to adopt the artifice of reality. The entire “look” of the era was one of being old, being an elder. The white wigs, the pallor of the faces, the peculiar emphasis on different parts of the body that do in fact become more prominent with age.
He thought (and he was writing in 1910) that as a culture and society we were now choosing to transform ourselves with a sinister artifice – that of the artifice of youth. While all of us will become old – making that artifice one of reality; none of us may remain young – making that artifice one of fantasy. The effect that either has on the social and individual mind cannot be underestimated.
He also points out the while the perception of women in skirts and dresses is one that has been defined as disempowering and oppressing; that it should be noted that men, who when they wish to convey an absolute moral authority, don dresses to do so have assigned to women this preference for this symbol of authority – how the subconscious does play. He then goes on to explain how throughout the centuries women have been assigned the role of the keeper of morality and justice and universality while men have been cast in the roles of the passionate specialist who, while capable of great feats in a very limited area, is incapable of the flexibility of response and capacity to make connections between seemingly disparate things that is needed to form reasoned decisions.
He writes that because of these roles, unlike what modern society would like to think, that woman has evolved (and is socially trained) to be the more pragmatic and less emotional than man, while man is socially trained to be frivolous and highly emotional. Which flies in the face of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” It doesn’t seem to apply to today’s society until you sit down and follow his reasoning and examples and then you realize, my god – he may be right.
What passes for emotions these days, particular with its emphasis on women, is not an emotional experience but rather a pragmatic examination. There really is no emotion present in the drive to “discuss” or “process” or to “know’ all part of the “feminine emotional experience” as it is defined in modernity. The habits assigned to men, that of feeling something in the moment and but fleeting is actually a more accurate representation of how emotions actually work. They are fast and fleeting responses to stimulus, not long, pro-longed states. Even the vaunted example of the act of crying fits into this, to cry in relation to an emotional experience is natural – to continue crying beyond the moment suggest a choice to remain within one emotional state and to continue to examine and probe it, rather than to continue recognizing the emotional states as they pass which may swiftly move you from the one causing the tears.
I like Chesterton because he makes me think a great deal. I am mulling over all this because it really does turn the stereotypes of men and women on their head, yet it also makes sense. Clouding it has been the growth toward making men more like the social stereotype of women in regards to emotions and women closer to the stereotype of men in turning them into specialists in limited fields of expertise.
I read an interesting study about evolution the other day. It is called (unofficially) the “Framingham Study.” It was (and is) being conducted in Framingham, MA and has been for the past 20 years. They are tracking the medical records and DNA of over 20,000 people there to see what is happening in the population as far as evolutionary changes. The question that is being asked in the study is – is all this technology stopping us from continuing to evolve as a species? Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the survival of the species that can best adapt has gone out the window with medical advances and the ability to provide artificial nutrition. Add to that the social and culture acceptance of the choice not to have children or to have fewer and what have been several determining factors in our evolution over thousands of years is now no longer such an influence.
It has been found, after a 20 year review of the Framingham subjects that the area is evolving towards a shorter, stouter human being with a shorter potential natural life span but a greater potential for a longer, artificial one. In other words, we would appear in this country to be evolving into a species that is not well adapted to living independently, but is very well adapted at dependently which is the antithesis of evolutionary adaptation. We are ceasing to adapt to nature and instead, are adapting to what we have artificially created as our reality. We are moving further and further from the natural world and our potential for union with it which carries with it enormous potential on our mental psyches.
And, that when compared to other similar studies of populations around the world, the human species is beginning to show signs of branching into different paths of evolution. Along the same way that Westerners evolved to be 95% lactose tolerant and Easterners have evolved to be 90% lactose intolerant.
The details of life can be very interesting.
Okay, I am off on an incredibly busy day.
c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.