“We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devil’s bargain” Joni Mitchell
A woman wrote me, saying I had to “take responsibility for [my] errant brothers,” something I found a bit confusing. First of all, I don’t have any brothers. Secondly, if I did, I doubt they’d be errant. We weren’t even allowed to have stray animals in the house.
“Good men should be stopping jerks,” this woman insisted, “instead of wondering whether a woman is lying or not.”
All this came about because of an article I wrote called “Believing Our Own Myths.” In it, I described how, during The American Indian Wars of the 1860s, a myth formed that all Indians were bloodthirsty savages.
Jerks have always ruined things. Even The Summer of Love had its jerkish behaviour.
In reality, attacks by Indians were more retalitory and often the result of treaties that were broken or ignored. This led to many native deaths, which can happen when we get caught up in movements and hysteria. The actions of a few end up destroying the many.
“Why are you defending jerks instead of stopping them?” the woman went on, clearly upset that I’d rather talk about Indian Wars than what women are going through today.
“Actually,” I wrote back, “good men are stopping jerks. We hate them as much as you do. Jerks have been ruining things for years. Even The Summer of Love had its jerkish behaviour. There were probably more unreported rapes and molestations back then than there are today.”
Whether that can be proven or not is a different story. According to statistics, no sex crimes were reported. Compare that to Woodstock ’99 where there were four reported rapes and many accounts of sexual assault.
Are police doing a better job? Are women reporting more now? Possibly both. Then again, our definition of sex was different back then. Most of us were hugging each other out of a sense of friendship. Sometimes it went further, but mostly it was just hugging. We were stoned and hugging a lot.
If there was anything wayward going on, we were all guilty and probably giggling about it.
By today’s standards, that hugging could be defined as sexual misconduct. We were a grabby bunch. Women were just as grabby as the men. You could get grabbed just passing a joint around, which is why we got stoned a lot.
I guess, in a way, that made us all jerks. Except there were real jerks, like Abbie Hoffman, who admitted he only protested “to pick up chicks.” Timothy Leary was even worse. He’d say anything to get laid.
By comparison, we were harmless and just as surprised as everybody else when the once famed Haight-Ashbury became full of addicts, drug gangs and predators.
It’s not that the hugging stopped, but we became wary. The predators were out and cute bellbottomed girls weren’t hitchhiking anymore. In many ways, it was to be expected. Jerks eventually rise from their petri dishes.
Like the Victorian era when brothels increased tenfold in London, the jerks became clandestine but no less virulent. They moved into corporate positions, making sexual misconduct part of their own mission statements.
And just as Victorian England produced “Jack the Ripper,” monsters started to appear in clever disguises. They could be corporate executives, television personalities, movie moguls, or even presidents.
Like the American Indian Wars, Weinstein became Geronimo, a danger to society, or at least to women working in his industry.
In an article for The New York Times, Salma Hayek told how Harvey Weinstein wanted a lesbian scene at the end of “Frida.” Hayek stood her ground and said “no.” As she described it, “I don’t think Harvey hated anything more than the word ‘no.’”
Like the American Indian Wars, Weinstein became Geronimo, a danger to society, or at least to women wandering into his territory. As more moguls were outed, the old phrase “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” transformed into “The only good movie mogul is a jailed movie mogul.”
Once that gained traction, it was time to move on to other jerks: the producers, directors, actors, televangelists, executives, TV personalities and anyone else thinking they could get away with conduct unbecoming a sea slug.
By definition “being a jerk” works on a sliding scale. Even nice guys can fall from grace with a careless word or a hand badly situated. It’s made us all wary. Things can turn ugly. We all know the consequences.
Kirk got it on with Uhura once, but he was under the spell of telekinesis.
At the same time, this is part of our own evolution. With the internet and social media, we’ve grown accustomed to personal detachment. Hugging, touching or anything physical can be substituted with an emoji.
It’s like the first time I saw Star Trek back in 1966 (Where No Man Has Gone Before). Here you had the Starship Enterprise, full of healthy men and women, yet nobody touched. Kirk got it on with Uhura once, but he was under the spell of telekinesis.
It’s one thing to visit new worlds, exploring the unknown, but imagine telling someone your last necking session was two years ago — and that was because of telekinesis. Abbie Hoffman would have had a bird.
Was equality part of Gene Roddenberry’s vision? Did he see a world where both sexes work and fight side by side, having the occasional telekinetic kiss?
Maybe space will be the final frontier where women find full equality. Maybe jerks will be left on earth like in Blade Runner, or kept in plexiglass cells.
Maybe, like Joni Mitchell said, that’s part of “the devil’s bargain.”
Robert Cormack is a novelist, children’s book author and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.