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MORAL MINNOWS

Dreamed 1992/9/15 by Chris Wayan

A social worker, an Asian American woman running a rehab program, meets a new client, an ex-con--a pudgy guy with a moustache, mostly white, a little black, with narrow eyes that watch everyone warily. He's sick of the criminal justice system, so he works her program seriously. Over a year or two, he slowly relaxes his hypervigilance. He stops lying. Now his aura resembles his body--rather mild, open, quite warm.

He and the social worker get married! Both work, but he has little aboveground work history so he can't make a lot; her Civil Service job brings in most of their income. But it's enough.

They go on a cruise with two other unlikely couples. One: a young black woman from a poor family, graceful, a dancer, with a beautiful childlike face concealing that she's gifted, who's with a white chunky systems analyst who's solid and matter-of-fact and makes scads of money.

The third couple is a very traditional husband and wife: she has no visible interests outside the home, he seems to live only for his job.

I watch them all with a friend in the ship's dining hall. My friend says "Notice? Not one couple has basic economic equality. They all have a main breadwinner and a homemaker. These are marriages of opposites, complementary not similar." I hadn't thought of it that way--for example both the dancer and the computer guy are gifted--but even they have specialized--one arts/body, one mind/money. There's some truth to his theory.

"Ha!" says my friend. "Watch out for storms. The three breadwinners will compete about money, and about who's the most sensitive... because they all secretly fear their domestic spouses think they're spiritually stunted. And the homemakers will be insecure, wonder if they're incompetent freeloaders... so they'll start sniping indirectly. They should have included at least ONE set of equal partners in this study." Man argues with woman singing onstage. Dream sketch by Wayan; click to enlarge

Study? Whose study? My friend won't say--adds only "An equal couple would be peacemakers, a role model all of them could accept."

And the squalls are already building. The traditional husband is telling the social worker "househusbands are mooches." While his own wife, doing exactly the same work, listens, side by side with the "mooch."

One of other breadwinners has insulted the dancer by hinting she's too delicate to work--whether emotionally fragile or anorexic is unclear. But the dancer gets so mad she yells "Oh I'm fragile, am I? Arm-wrestling! NOW! Back up your big mouth with your bicep, or shut up!" She gets up on the circular stage, lies on her belly, ready to arm-wrestle. But the one she challenged, embarrassed, won't face her on stage.

So she grabs the mike, and instead of fighting she starts singing a torch song. She's wearing a tight bright flowery gown that's too long, gets in the way as she rolls around trying to look seductive--she tangles herself up in it and the mike cord. Yet she has a fine voice, strong presence. Sexy despite tying herself up in complications, because she was angry...

Now she climbs into a pickup truck on stage and calls a tall thin black man out of the audience. He leans on the truck by her side window... we expect a love song, but she starts ranting at him, trying to convert him to neoconservatism! "The Democrats take us for granted" she says. "Only if we register Republican will anyone listen to us."

"You sayin' I should vote for BUSH?" he laughs. "You sayin' Bush's owners will do ANYthing for me?"

Now the round stage is a circus ring. There are other acts... but all with a common theme. Each is meant to seduce someone into a group that'll exploit them. I suspect some sink as low as brainwashing... or kidnapping.

Yet as I recall the black girl ranting for Bush, I can't help thinking "If people fall for pickup lines as dumb as that, they deserve what they get." Whether spouses or politicians...

I leave them all. Just walk around the cruise-ship deck til I can disembark.

But it's not so easy to escape the political circus. Later, I'm walking my bike up toward my parents' house when I pass a crude, hand-painted sign. I recall seeing others here before, but then I didn't stop to read them because they were in Morse code, so I thought they were private. Not this one! It has an English translation beside the code. Turns out it's a quote from the I Ching:

Now the whales are gone,
And the big fish eaten,
And the small fish caught...
Minnows and tadpoles
Head for the capital!

This refers to the recently ended (?!) Vietnam War, which destroyed a whole generation of statesmen. Now no one trusts politicians, so we scrutinize them mercilessly. And who'd want to live under scrutiny like that? Only those with no imagination! In our political goldfish-bowl, no one has room for eccentricity, let alone a personal vision. The net of publicity filters out even the mediocrities. Only ambitious minnows slip through... the dregs of the dregs.

Clinton and Bush are not so different after all. Moral minnows.

NOTES NEXT MORNING



LISTS AND LINKS: love - gender roles - effects of money - political dreams - dream humor - privacy and public life - the effects of news and the media - ethics

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