Ninety-nine floors beneath cocaine dusted vanities in the bathrooms of CEOs, I found myself treading a sidewalk stained with bodily fluids. I was (or at least I felt like I was) a heretic in a gleaming cathedral grove of multinational corporations standing shoulder to shoulder in an untrammelled campaign to erode the sovereignty of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. I swear I could feel these mirror-clad towers of corporatism straining their steel girders to lean over and get a better look at me: the idiot of their hegemony: the disgrace of their master plan: the fuck up of their modern western civilization.
Perhaps inevitably, the iron filings of my thoughts aligned themselves around the scarecrow action figure tucked inside the breast pocket of R.’s shirt (on loan to me for the duration of my laundry duty). As it bounced against my chest with each of my footfalls, it got me thinking about the pestiferous cousins of scarecrows: straw men. Despite the pedagogical warnings of university professors the world over, straw men have moved from town halls, pubs and street corners, to the virtual worlds of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram, etcetera, etcetera…You’re probably not going to like this, but now my tangential thinking has me thinking about Asian carp. Have you heard of them? Have you heard of Eurasian Water-Milfoil? They’re both invasive species (one’s a fish, of course, and the other’s a plant) and together they’re going to kill the great lakes. The Asian carp fiasco started in the southern Mississippi River, and as I write this, hundreds of thousands of them are swarming the head of the Illinois Canal doing everything in their googly-eyed power to overcome the stopgap measures preventing them from entering Lake Michigan. The Eurasian Water-Milfoil menace, on the other hand, has already invaded all five of the great lakes, and now it’s slowly choking the life out of them, because the more you try to remove this shit, the faster it spreads…That’s a great metaphor for something…Anyway, my point is, there’s matches made in heaven (and I can’t think of any at the moment), and matches made in hell, and the straw man and the internet is a match made in hell. Oh, and before I leave the subject of invasive species, I’d like to reiterate that Sapien is Latin for wise, lol.
To create a straw man, all you need is the straw i.e. the half-truths, the stereotypes, the misinformation, the disinformation, and with this weaponry you can go about misrepresenting whoever you please, until you’ve thoroughly succeeded in dehumanizing them, caricaturing them, lampooning them, and then, if you’re so inclined, harpooning them. Might is still right, it seems, in the most developed nations on earth, so go right ahead and use the harpoon of heresy, the cluster bomb of bullshit, the draconian drone of deception, the AR-15 of falsehood, the cuntish keyboard of casuistry and invade, invade, invade!
The proper deployment of a straw man requires the substitution of a given proposition with a superficially similar yet non-equivalent proposition, and this must be done with artifice, subtlety, and with no small amount of panache. The idea is to create an illusion inscrutable enough to resist the critical thinking skills of your audience. If you are successful, and your superficially similar yet non-equivalent proposition proves convincing, then you are poised to mobilize one or more of the weapons in the aforementioned arsenal, you arsehole. Please excuse the last two words of the previous sentence, because I know you’re not an arsehole, but I clearly am for talking about your mom the way I did, and of course, for calling you an arsehole just now. The fact is, I don’t know who you are, or maybe I do, but the theatre of your mind is much too dark for me to make out the distinguishing features of your beautiful face.
Look, I know you’re not an arsehole, and I know you’re not a base head, but even if you were (just a little bit…Perhaps on Sunday afternoons between 2 and 4 p.m.), then I would have no right to judge you for it, because that would make me a hypocrite considering I can be an arsehole too. Not to mention, I’ve admitted to having been a base head myself. Yet, I know you won’t use this information against me, because I know you wouldn’t do what so many regimes and religions have resorted to doing when they’ve found themselves in need of a bogeyman big enough to validate their bloodthirsty agendas. Which is to say I know you would never deploy a straw man for the purposes of oppression and exploitation. Consider for a moment, in this context, the historical struggles of Women, Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, First Nations, Gays, Lesbians, the Transgendered, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…This is getting depressing, so let’s move on. In fact, let’s get back to that confounded plot line.
While ignoring the murmured offers of the guys selling crack next to the ATM machine, I removed the scarecrow action figure from my shirt pocket and examined it more closely. I was hoping to get to the bottom of what it symbolized for R., but I wasn’t expecting this to happen quite so literally as I passed under a streetlight while turning it upside down, and there on the soles of its little plastic feet, written in ballpoint pen, were two words. The right foot contained the word mond, which I knew was German for moon. The left foot contained the word ray. After a few seconds it dawned on me that I had just been introduced to Raymond—a name appropriated by the English from the French, who in turn appropriated it from some other culture (German perhaps?) that created it for the purpose of describing people who were wise protectors. Scarecrows, of course, were once thought of as being wise protectors of crops and, by extension, life itself, if the growing of crops can be conflated with the business of living…Why though, did I say, “once thought of”??? Well, I said that because scarecrows are no longer considered wise. Not since L. Frank Baum’s writing famously informed Ray Bolger’s acting inside an MGM film studio, ten days before Hitler invaded Poland.
Before merging back onto the plot line, I’d like to add that the crucified semblance of scarecrows had long intrigued me, thanks to a game of Trivial Pursuit, wherein I discovered the first recorded use of a scarecrow was in the Egyptian wheat fields along the Nile, three thousand years before the Christ thing even happened. Flashforward to five hundred years later, and the Greek farmers were carving wooden scarecrows in the image of Priapus (a minor god who apparently protected crops with his massive erection)…Wow…The mind-numbing drivel littering these last few pages should probably be redacted before I send this book off to the publisher. Yet, here I am, still ruminating upon the Egyptians, and the Greeks, and Christianity, and huge erections, and whether or not scarecrows were imitating Christ, or vice versa. I really should redact it, but how does one redact the matryoshka of modern western civilization?