|Stand up straight, Ronnie. They're taking photographs|
It’s funny, isn’t it, how a chance remark can provoke an interesting train of thought. I wrote this some time ago and, to be honest, was scouring the archives for something else, but dark circumstances have befallen me and I can be silent no longer. In a moment of uncharacteristic transparency - I don’t know how many of you know this - but I’m being relentlessly bullied on the Internet. By a woman. With a PhD. ‘ Shame!’ ‘Dreadful!’ I can hear the muted cries of sympathy, or perhaps, sniggering. This particular version is thin, engaging, visionary, dynamic and persuasive – always more problematic when they’re thin, one finds - and I found myself thinking, clearly in a moment of masochistic madness, what it might be like if there were rather more of them just like her. I also noticed myself suffering from an uneasy sense of beleaguerement, since it became embarrassingly clear that the other half, the ones from Mars, with facial hair and both bad attitude and breath in the mornings, we men, in other words, are still far too dominant for our own good. Let’s be honest here, we've made a testosterone-sodden wasteland of just about everything: politics, education, the economy, the environment ... you name it, it's a chaotic black hole. And we made it, pretty much unassisted, all by ourselves. By rights, we should be squealing for some female help, or, at the very least, quietly whimpering, but we're not, because we’ve got tunnel vision and we’re much too proud. I found myself asking – from bitter and repeated experience - when was the last time I asked a female companion for helping trying to map-read? Exactly. I’d rather stub a cigarette out in my eye or bite a hole in the steering wheel than confess to being lost. And, I don’t think it’s just me. All of us swagger convincingly, and that's about it. Swaggering's fine for scraping by in primitive and less emotionally savvy times, when a bit of swaggering made us look good in a lion skin whose original owner was probably killed by someone else, but the world we've built is altogether more complex and a good deal more interactive. We've got stock exchanges, the United Nations, iPads and nuclear warheads. Remember Ronald Reagan - him that thought Rambo was a national hero? Twenty years ago, he joined the demolition business – he and his friend Mikhail presided over the collapse of a republic – the world changed forever and it’s been spiralling downhill ever since. Reaganomics and deregulation have been accused with some justification of being the smoking revolver that has triggered the current financial mess we're all trying to wriggle out of. Our own subsequent profligacy has caused the problem and it's all too easy to spend other peoples’ money and swagger your way into a lot of trouble without even realising it. Well, guys, we've had our turn. Time for the other half to get a shout. We don't need a few ladies in conspicuous positions of power scattered here and there - we need a ten-year prohibition on all forms of male domination from the Pope downwards. Nice to see that Benedict is showing a little leadership, taking my advice and stepping down. Seriously - think about it - a decade in which men don't get to control anything, from the remote control upwards. Imagine the consequences. For one thing, there would be an instant and massive reduction in armed conflict. Overnight. Determined, competent ladies with sensible shoes and large handbags would arrive on African shores and speak very sternly indeed to warring tribespersons and threaten to take all their toys off them unless this silly nonsense stopped immediately. Of course, nations would routinely bitch about each other in secret (at considerably greater length and with a new, toe-curling venom), but there'd be fewer intercontinental skirmishes and a much lower body count. ER’s in hospitals would be reduced to treating facial scratches from well-manicured, but very sharp nails. The economy should clearly be run by women who would simply extrapolate the running of a household to ensuring everyone in the country had their hair cut every fortnight, got regular dental care and were made to turn up for work. City boys who attempt to run international banks would become passé and unnecessary and their obscene bonuses used to open nail care salons for all. Ladies, if your partner is a city boy, leave him. Leave him now. Dump him with a text message, right this very second. It'll hurt for about twenty-four hours, then your life will improve beyond measure. Lob him in the shed with the other squeaking posturers and turn on the cold jets. Shut the door and let them shiver. Then, go get a foot spa with those little fishes that nibble your toes. Men love machines, because machines remind them of themselves. Machines don’t discuss, reason, invite comment or multitask. The seminal line in a moment of crisis during the movie 2012 was “Bentley. Start.” It says it all. The car responded with a low, throaty growl. Precisely. What else could be expected of it? As a result of men’s love affair with such machines they quickly became very good at building them and then driving them round much too quickly, shouting "Helloooo, ladies! Look at me in my virtually uncontrollable and incredibly fast machine with underfloor neon and black leather upholstery!" This was cute for a while, but the novelty's worn off now that the planet's teetering on the brink of becoming an inhospitable cinder. Please, ladies, for all our sakes: just lock us in a room with some Lego or something. I'm sorry, but we're just too stupid to save the planet. Looks like you'll have to clean up our mess once again. We’re all depending on you. "This is all very well, but none too realistic," thinks the female reader. "Men aren't just going to meekly hand over the reins. I know what men are like. They're wilful. Stubborn, even."
|Oh, yes, Prime Minister.|
Oh, dear me. We've got you brainwashed. See, that's what our incessant, ruinous swaggering was all about: pretending to be more dark, complex and dangerous than we actually are. In truth your suspicions are entirely correct: we're very, very simple. We're lazy and we like people running round after us. That's all. Literally: that's it. From Napoleon to Barack Obama, from Copernicus to Liam Gallagher. The core software we run on could fit in the memory of a 1980’s computer game without even scraping the sides.
And I think you know this, ladies. Of course you do! You know this, but it's so dazzlingly, sublimely obvious you actually doubt that it's true. Many of my friends are women, lucky me. I admire them all. I often find myself nodding sympathetically – my mind is, of course, elsewhere - as they agonise for hours, trying to figure out what we’re thinking, what we all want. Yet no matter whom they're talking about, or what the circumstance, from my perspective the answer always seems so glaringly self-evident that it could be scratched on the back of a shirt button. This one wants attention. That one wants a biscuit. Everyone wants to win. Every time, somebody else did it.
If I’m allowed one small observation – please don’t think I’m being critical - the only mistake the ladies make is crediting us with far more mystique than we're capable of, knowingly or not. We're frequently impulsive yet wearyingly predictable, but, sadly, that's just about all we’re emotionally capable of. That's why we screwed the planet up. We didn't mean to. We're men, that's all.