Comedy Feng Shui

September 16, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society, Web

“As emphasized throughout this case study, Zapotec women hold strong roles economically, socially, and in the kinship system.  The father is almost always living in the Zapotec matrifocal household, and relations between husband and wife tend to be highly egalitarian.  It is not only acceptable for women to exercise… authority in their everyday lives, it is currently expected and encouraged.”  (The Isthmus Zapotecs: A Matrifocal Culture of Mexico, Beverly Newbold Chinas, 2002, p. 87)

Comedy can offer insight not easily accessed through other cultural venues.  Growing up, I noticed that the main male characters in The Honeymooners, The Flintstones and in my own home exhibited a decidedly nondominant male exercising a belief in male dominance.  This seemed to be essential to the joke.  Males behaved like they were in control.  They weren’t in control.  This seemed funny.

For several years, I worked with a Feng Shui master.  I drove out to his home in a far southern suburb of Chicago a couple times a month.  We drank tea.  He occasionally made recommendations.  I don’t remember him talking much.  Mostly he offered the perspective or position of not taking seriously something specific that I was at the time taking seriously.  Tom offered, “Don’t know mind.”

While working with Tom, I again began practicing Ti Chi Chuan, renewed meditation and withdrew from media exposure.  Tom suggested I not drive with NPR on.  In his opinion, the less news, the less media exposure, the better.

I watch no TV.  I don’t often listen to the radio.  I read the NY Times and various blogs off the web.  I receive newsfeeds from Truthout.  I watch the occasional John Stewart or TV comedy piece when on a website.

I’ve entered a sort of no-TV/Radio zone that provides a unique experience.  This experience is often characterized by enhanced appreciation of a moment.  Media often encourage fear, disappointment and judgment.  Opting out of media that interface by using sound and moving images, I am less moved by these calls to feel helpless or frustrated.

It also makes it a little easier to notice what might be going on.

When I was a child, watching TV, with eyes still relatively clear, I kept noticing differences between what I was being told to believe and what comedy was suggesting was just a belief.  One thing that kept appearing, that kept nudging me, was the evidence that supported the conclusion that males were not in control.  It was pretty obvious on shows like The Honeymooners and The Flintstones.  It was ubiquitous in the comedians my parents liked.  Males were supposed to be the dominant sex.  I suspected not.

A lot depends on where you stand.  I also remember thanking God I was not a girl.  Girls seemed to be always getting the short end of the stick.  Clearly, they were second-class citizens in most ways.  Which sex had and did not have control, which sex was dominant, seemed to depend on which convention was being examined and the social context.  Still, it seemed to me as a kid, when it came down to the question of which parent had the power in the home, it was not dads.

Much of the economy of the Zapotecs takes place in the home or in the markets where the women are distributing home-produced goods and services.  A net result is that the strength of female home-based authority becomes dispersed into the society at large.  In our society, men exhibit much control outside the home, but among Zapotecs, women share command across society.

Amongst all the other things transforming society, there is an expansion of the home into the workplace.  Home businesses are proliferating across the society.  The Internet is providing an ability to work from home in increasing ways.  As relationships continue to form through networks grounded in Facebook and Twitter, emphasis is taken off what occurs at work, where men have dominated, to be placed upon the horizontal world where women excel.

Comedy, the medium that seems to revel in the exposure of the inauthentic or hypocritical, is receiving a profound boost as Youtube, Twitter, blogs and other online venues provide opportunities for the comedians among us to produce content.  That chuckle-generating content often has a lot to do with exposing hierarchies that don’t perform.  In a world becoming horizontal, misanthropic male hierarchies become easy targets.

Comedy encourages us to see the truth.  In this new matrifocal world where women can exercise authority across society, acquiring a child’s eyes may be easier than in the past.  New communication technologies encourage us to live in the present.  Laughter is becoming common in the new media environment where the leverage of levity makes it possible to be seen.

It’s happening so fast that all we know for sure is “don’t know mind.”


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