A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Somewhere around the time our civilization crawled out of the Dark Ages, it was decided that the world should be run by Old Flabby Men. This was a major step up from Vicious Barbarian Bastards who had been the norm since the fall of the Roman Empire, 500 years before. The chief advantage of Old Flabby Men (OFMs) was they realized the world had a future, so it wasn’t a good idea to go around wrecking things all the time. They’d been around long enough to understand that, with a little thought and planning, the world could become a better place. This cut down on the rape and pillage by about half and confined wholesale slaughter to times of war. It wasn’t an ideal system, but it stopped gangs of marauding men from stealing everybody’s turnips every Tuesday, and ordinary people had a chance to do a few things other than starve to death. Roads and schools were built, people bought homes and raised children (who actually survived infancy) and civilization advanced.
So, for the last 1,000 years, OFMs have made the rules, and, in general everybody else has done as they were told. For example, when OFMs decided Canada needed a railroad, people got busy, imported boatloads of labour from Ireland and China, and built one. Things like the mountains, the rivers, and the Precambrian Shield didn’t really hold us up for too long because everybody agreed that a railroad was a good thing. Actually, it was quite an accomplishment. We still call it The Canadian Dream. To their credit, OFMs have done a number of these sorts of things around the world over the centuries — to everybody’s benefit.
The problem with OFMs, however, is they form an exclusive club. It’s very hard to get in, and most people aren’t allowed. In order to join, you have to show up early (when you’re still lean and mean) and you have to toil away for years and years at an idiot job until you, too, become old and flabby. At this point, if you’re lucky, you get to call the shots. If not – oh, well! Of course, any club has the disagreeable habit of forgetting why they’re there in the first place. They start to worry too much about maintaining their membership and don’t remember their overall purpose. The OFM club is no exception. Every so often, they need to reinvent themselves. Again, this isn’t an ideal system, but it works. Just as an aside, in the 21st century women have joined the ranks of OFMs, but they can’t be called either old or flabby because that’s not very nice.
Anyway, over the centuries, the exclusive nature of the OFM club has always set a few people’s teeth on edge. They tend to talk a lot of bull about social injustice, or redistributing wealth, or human rights. They give off the quaint idea that we don’t really need OFMs and offer any number of alternatives. This all sounds good, but, in reality, they’re offering unworkable solutions to a non-problem, and they just want to have a crack at making the rules themselves. Essentially they want to join the club – usually as president. Every once in a while, this brave talk boils over, the unruly mob gets involved and somebody has a revolution. The OFMs are dragged from their offices, palaces or counting houses and given the chop. What follows is a brief return to Vicious Barbarian Bastards. Ordinary people are, once again, at the mercy of any number of armed thugs, legal or otherwise, who metaphorically start stealing everybody’s turnips. Civilization falls into disrepair; this is inevitable. For example, the French Revolution had its Reign of Terror, the Chinese Revolution, its Hundred Flowers Movement; and nobody knows how many people Stalin killed in just one of his many Five Year Plans. Eventually, saner heads prevail, and the revolutionaries start looking like Old Flabby Men. They move into the offices, palaces and counting houses recently vacated by the last bunch, and things gradually get back to normal. This scenario was illustrated by George Orwell, in a cool book called Animal Farm. And we are about to see it ourselves — up close and personal — in places like Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli. With any luck at all, the new crop of OFMs will keep a few more of their promises than the last crowd did. They will recognize that it’s a whole lot better for all of us if they regenerate themselves through the ballot box, not the bayonet. This saves civilization from stumbling through nasty periods of Vicious Barbarian Bastards — where nothing gets done and we’re all in danger of getting dragged down into anarchy and chaos.
As we journey further and further away from our barbaric past, it becomes increasing apparent that OFMs give us the stability we need to advance our civilization beyond thumping each other on the head at any provocation. They offer us a grander vision, something beyond the day after tomorrow. They also take care of the little crap like street lights so we can get on with art and science and medicine. But mostly, they provide us with the rule of law — so we don’t have to spend our days guarding our turnips against every marauder who wants to take them away from us. This is extremely important because it gives us the time and leisure to engage in reasonable discussions about the role of Old Flabby Men in our society.