Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Of George Costanza and Scapegoats

In the spirit of awareness being the best defense against the ills of a slightly askew society, my wife and I had a discussion recently, brief but fun, about the stresses that our society puts on men and women. My wife admitted that women tend to feel jealousy toward other women who they perceive to be better looking and asked if men felt the same. I said no, but admitted that men feel jealousy toward other men who they perceived to have more status. We had a good chuckle, although a nervous one, and peered at each other with that “not I” look.

My mind shot into overdrive, and I got to thinking about George Costanza, that hapless character on the sitcom Seinfeld. Why George? You see, George is a wildly popular character among men; any man who is quoting Seinfeld is usually quoting George. His popularity is found in our realization that George is our scapegoat, that beast that carries all of the sins of a society. Men will scream in delight each time George fails because when it comes down to it, without George, we believe that we would all look like losers.

This little comedic rumination got me thinking even more about gender roles in our society and our tendency to scapegoat. The down side, of course, is that scapegoats prevent us from taking responsibility for ourselves, our actions, our beliefs and the outcomes of those actions and beliefs. This way, we live by outward appearances instead of living by our beliefs. Instead of scapegoats, then, we need to look for role models.

There are many great role models out there, for us men those who have rejected status and power as the center of our lives, for women, I suppose, those who have rejected being objectified by a commercial society. Logic, of course, dictates that these role models are not likely to be famous, but are likely to be our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, our teachers, and our mentors, men and women who live lives in glorious anonymity. They show us that there is a better way to live.

I feel as if I am rejecting part of what it means to be a man when saying all of this. But that is the point. That nervous look my wife and I gave to each other after admitting the pressures on both of us is very real. The influence of our environment is so very powerful and constant. The best that I can say is what I said in the beginning: In the spirit or awareness…

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