Monkey business

Happy Chinese New Year! In this, the year of the monkey, feng shui Master Chen Shuaifu predicted economic woes with businesses going bust globally, but a good year for love and babies. Apparently, too, monkey years aren’t good for dogs, who count Donald Trump among them (really!) so even if we’re broke and the right wing successfully defunds reproductive health centers to result in children parents can’t afford, at least Trump, rightfully categorized, will have an epically bad campaign. Better yet, perhaps he will run out of Max Factor pancake makeup, so that, at least once, his under eye area will match the rest of his face and temples.

Speaking of categorization and stereotypes, it seems that America — or ’Murica, or U.S.A., depending which team you’re on at the time and which rally or sports event or satirical piece you’re writing — is sorting itself, no longer by religion, but by political party, a fact I learned at Idea Festival last year and since corroborated by how daters sort their potential matches on online dating sites. Bill Bishop, a former writer for the Herald-Leader, launched a study of how Americans migrate and included his research in his book, aptly named “The Big Sort.”

Bishop wrote that while once Americans sought and chose communities based on religious affiliation, political ideology is now the number one factor in an individual or family decision of what direction to go, young man or woman. Likewise, in a first for online dating sites, Tinder particularly, swiping right to indicate an interest in meeting the profile that pops up is more likely to happen if the profile matches the swiper’s own left leanings or right leanings. Indeed at Idea Festival, Bishop said political party now means more to one’s choice of mate than body type. What’s interesting, though, is as our access to the world grows exponentially through technology, we are self-segregating in an attempt to shrink it to meet our own viewpoints driven by wealth, education and economy.

Which brings me to the political version of the “Fight Club” for the left — and, yes, I’m breaking its first rule and issuing a spoiler alert simultaneously — that Tyler Durden was, in fact, his own brutal enemy. In this corner, $hillary and the FemBots and in the other, but similar corner, the Magician and Bernie Bros. The first says she couldn’t be more anti establishment, the second wants to get money entirely out of politics. Both claim to be the candidate who will “Get Things Done.” Much of the Things are similar. Other Things are not, i.e., health care reform and deregulating banks. What began as friendly banter has turned into friendly fire and the Democrats have begun eating their own. Brother against sister. Husband against husband. Each hoping for the last tweet with “if he or she wins the nomination, I might consider voting for the Republican nominee.” No. You. Din’t.

Inasmuch as the infighting is less of a surprise than the scope and breadth of Bernie Sanders’ support in Iowa, it is a bit of a breath of fresh air, too, as the homogeneity of left breaks up to reveal differing views, the potential for change and the idealism that exists despite decades of doubt based on practicality. In a pathological or viral system, how strong does an antidote have to be to overpower diseased cells that depend on the virus itself to maintain their own survival? Or is the cure better meted out over time by one who shares characteristics with the pathogens and can attack the disease from within?

“The Big Sort” posits that mixed company moderates opinion. It follows then that self-segregation and even self-insulation favors entrenched ideas with little openness to variance or doubt. In an Art News interview by Hannah Ghorashi, Marilyn Minter, who coined the term “food porn” and is renowned for pioneering steamy, wet-look, sexualized, occluded images of women in her photography, said, in retrospect, she thinks she scared people early in her career, which led to early rejection.

She said, early in her career, she surrounded herself with other “pro-sex” women artists who weren’t fazed by the imagery even critics couldn’t yet embrace. “All your friends are isolated in SoHo,” her husband told her.“They never go out. They’re in their studios all day long by themselves. Except for a few who were pro-sex feminists, they don’t know what sexual images even look like.” Minter said she was shocked when she learned everyone didn’t think like she did.

Change is possible, if slow, as Minter illustrates, once we open our eyes to the plight of another or the status quo no longer works for us. Asked how people change, Minter said, “You don’t yell at them; you don’t shame them. You have a conversation in a really calm way.” Take note social media mavens and politicos. Out of the mouths of babes.