Right to be Selfish

Philosophy, Politics

I will never claim to be an expert on feminism. Largely because I am a man who doesn’t understand the first thing about the issues women face on a daily basis.

I have witnessed the dichotomies that we have for women in this society though and as the father of a beautiful girl, some of it disturbs me. Some of them are long-standing mores from our sexist past. Some are imposed by women themselves. The genesis of those dual standards are an important element to solving the problem.

Popular culture is a very powerful influence on people. Many times you can see the fringes of societal change in said culture slowly emanate in real life. Seeing a particular character on a TV show or in a book can help pave the way for making their lifestyle, sexual orientation, career, status acceptable to the world.

The inverse is also true.

Al-Jazeera recently posted an article on the critical reaction to Lena Dunham’s character on Girls. I confess to not watching the show but as I have read, the main character Hannah can be self-absorbed and critics don’t seem to like it. One critic has even stated that he’d like to see her choke and die.

Yet, critics and audiences never seem to mind when men are driven, ruthless and aggressive. We’ll even cheer a man on as he commits mass murder in Breaking Bad. We celebrate Dexter as he stalks and kills victims, even if they are bad guys (and girls). We love the likes of Tony Soprano, who damaged or destroy everything around him as he continued to flaunt his Neitzschean nature.

But when a woman does it, we can’t stand it. It’s definitely a double standard. We don’t mind it when men wreak havoc for their own personal gains but God forbid if a woman tries to do the same.

When Breaking Bad first came out, Anna Gunn, who plays Walt White’s wife Skyler, was reviled by audiences because she kept standing in the way of her husband’s goal to perfect and sell methamphetamine. So again a man can cook meth, kill drug dealers, lie and steal but if his wife tries to defend her family against all of that, well she’s just a bitch.

Sorry, that’s not right. We can’t have that view towards women in popular culture and yet expect women and girls to become ambitious. Forthright thinking and aggression in a career are clearly not cherished as a female personality trait.

I know, we’re talking about entertainment here. Not real life. But consider the fact that we obsess over real serial killers. We love reading about real mobsters. More than we’d like to admit, this love of male ambition is part of our consciousness.

The question really is, why does the double standard exist in the first place and why can’t we seem to move past it? And suppose we flip this issue on its head and say, “Maybe we shouldn’t just ask why women can’t be ambitious. We should ask why men are allowed to get away with it.”

It probably all boils down to the classic roles of gender. Men are supposed to be violent hunters who have to plot and methodically track their prey. Women have to maintain the home with domestic prowess for the family. Somewhere along the way though, we allowed the male role to expand in such a way that he uses his skills for himself, not just the good of his family. And we have come to a point where we admire men who do that.

I use the term “allow” because that is what’s going on. Men couldn’t behave like this without passive acceptance by society, other men and women.

In Breaking Bad, Walt even admits to his wife that he cooked meth and created his drug empire for himself.

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And … I was alive,” he tells her in the finale.

We should allow women to pursue their personal ambitions or expect better of men. We can’t have it both ways and say the sexes are equal.

We’re likely about to have our first female presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton. No matter how you feel about her, she’s going to be and has been subject to the same hypocrisy. Clinton will be derided for being ruthless, ambitious and willing to do anything to become president, which even means putting up with Bill’s sexcapades.

No doubt she’ll have a male opponent. He’ll have the same traits as Hillary. But he won’t be criticized for it.

We expect it from him.

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Walter White: Republican

Philosophy

walt

Breaking Bad fans are eating up the last episodes of their beloved show and its Nietzschean protagonist Walter White.

Walt has taken us on a wild ride through his transformation as a beleaguered, terminally-ill chemistry teacher to a hell-on-wheels drug kingpin.

Despite the fact he runs his operation in the politically blue state of New Mexico, I personally feel Walt would back the Red candidates in the ballot box.

Now I don’t mean he’s from the new breed of Tea Party Republicans. I’m saying he’s one of the old-school, establishment, Capitalist with a capitol ‘C’ Republicans. Here’s my argument.

 

1. Imperialist-minded

“I’m in the empire business,” Walt tells Jesse.

Long before he tried to dominate the meth market and taught chemistry, Walt had a stake in a biotech firm called Grey Matter. When his back was against the wall financially, he was bought out by his partners for a paltry sum. After that, Grey Matter took off and Walt missed out on millions.

The meth path gave Walt a second chance at creating his own personal empire. The only difference is now he doesn’t have partners, only alliances.

 

2. Expects others to save themselves and allows the weak to die

When he faced his own mortality with lung cancer, his pals at Grey Matter offered to help him by paying for his chemotherapy. Repulsed, Walt rejected their charity and chose to come up with funds in his own way, whether it was illegal or not.

When he saw Jane Margolis violently throwing up in bed next to his partner Jesse Pinkman, he let her drown in her own vomit. He justified his act of omission because he felt Jane was dragging Jesse down with their mutual addiction.

Then when Victor and Mike Ehrmantraut had Walt cornered near the meth lab to kill him, Walt urged Jesse to kill Gale Boetticher. Eliminating the timid Gale would leave Gus Fring without a blue meth copycat and Gus would therefore need Walt to continue the operation.

 

3. Makes uneasy alliances

There are several examples of this throughout the show where Walt needed others’ help either to stay alive or build his empire. Much like a neocon who props up a dictator like Saddam Hussein or funds a rebellion like the Sandinistas, Walt will partner with people who serve his best interests.

His first major partnership is with Jesse Pinkman, a former student in Walt’s chemistry classes. Walt needed Jesse to learn about meth and guide him through the business.

Walt then pairs with Tuco Salamanca in order to get a foothold in the meth market. Once he builds his reputation, Walt works with Gus Fring to mass-produce his blue meth. He would later convince Tuco’s uncle Hector to kill Gus when the reserved kingpin pushes Walt out of the lab. Once Gus is dead, Walt starts his own relationship with cop-turned-criminal Mike Ehrmantraut.

In his latest alliance, Walt employs the help of white supremacists to silence Mike’s men in jail.

Of course there’s a deadly trend with all of those who choose to work with Walt. Eventually they all become his enemies. Thus far, only Jesse has survived.

 

4. Locked and Loaded

One of the first scenes of the pilot is Walter holding a handgun waiting for danger to come after him. Even before he can see who he’s aiming at, he’s cocked and ready to fire.

Then when things between him and Gus Fring turn south, the first thing Walt did was to buy a revolver and plan to take Gus out. When he runs over the two drug dealers about to kill Jesse, Walt picks up one of their guns and finishes off a dealer who survived the collision. Walt also killed the guard keeping Jesse hostage inside the meth lab at the end of season four.

The opening of the first show in season five shows Walt buying a run-down car with a machine gun in the trunk. We can only imagine what he’s going to do with it at the end of the series.

But we do know that he’s not afraid to arm himself which definitely makes him a proponent of the Second Amendment.

 

5. He isn’t big on regulation

While there is no direct evidence of this but I’m pretty sure if he had a say in industry regulations, he’d back the less-is-more perspective. No self-respecting Republican would do something to help the drug trade but the Laissez-faire theory still applies, Walt would not want the government in his business.

 

6. Walt is enamored on the idea of family

Republicans hold dear “family values.” The main reason Walt kicked off his meth career was to ensure his family’s future once he’s gone. Since that time, his imperialistic nature has emerged, which has been nothing but destructive both for his family and his protege Jesse. After finally earning a storage room full of cash, he decides to back out because he’s secured their future.

There’s also been several times where he’s saved Jesse from reckless decisions. He allowed Jane to die (because she exacerbated Jesse’s drug use), Walt used his relationship with Gus to help stop a war between street-level drug dealers and Jesse. When he couldn’t prevent the fight, he outright killed the drug dealers when it looked like they were going to off Jesse.

Jesse has returned the favor including killing Gale and standing up to Gus when Gus wanted to end his affiliation with Walt.

As Mike once said, “What is it with you two?”

 

7. He supports illegal immigrants

When he had a hard time cleaning up Gus’s meth lab after a solo cook, Walt enticed a group of undocumented workers to help him. After they whipped the lab up spic and span, Gus deported them in revenge.

 

So there you go. While Walt’s meth is as blue as New Mexico politics, he’s red at the polls— with a straight ticket.