The Man—is he really keeping us down?Who is The Man? I’m not talking about people saying “YOU DA MAN!” I’m talking about people saying, “It’s just another case of The Man trying to keep us down.” Who is THAT? The answer has as many facets as the Hope Diamond.
Let’s start by answering who The Man isn’t.
Clearly, The Man is not The Woman. You don’t hear people say, “It’s just The Woman trying to keep us down” (except maybe an old white guy living in Reno struggling to install a gun rack in his Bronco). In fact, one looks forward to the day when one can ruminate on The Woman’s influence on one’s life.
So is it The Patriarchy then? Is that what The Man is? Not entirely.
The Man is both a distant mysterious figure and a highly involved manager of day-to-day operations. In this way, he’s like a man in the executive suite of a corporation. Or a man who monitors drone pilots flying missions in the Middle East from the comfort of a light-industrial office in Las Vegas. Or a man overseeing laws drafted and disseminated to state legislatures by ALEC.
Real value is like a spectrum of light, and The Man is really good at manipulating a narrow band of that spectrum with something called money; You might have seen money, there’s usually a picture of a man on it.
The Man is not a ruler who stays removed from the real world in his palace. He definitely has a palace (many palaces) but in between his bacchanalian wine baths, he’s making business calls and staying on top of things. But The Man is not on top of everything.
If it were possible to see the world’s true organization chart, we would not see The Man at the top. The greater power is beyond The Man—not so much at the top as at the center. Since The Man doesn’t want us to realize that the proper shape of life’s organization chart is a sphere and not a top-down hierarchy, he’d like us to forget we mentioned that.
Some men (vast armies of them actually) like to see themselves as The Man. They read all the business books in the airport and they’re quick to admonish people for not heeding The Man’s edicts. “The Man isn’t keeping you down” they say, “You’re keeping yourself down.” They live in perpetual hope of being invited to The Man’s Caribbean resort. They’re disturbed and angered when your situation challenges their faith in the righteousness of The Man’s economic design by exposing its flaws.
Historically, The Man’s house was also the slave plantation. The Man says he’s given that up now. He’s found better ways to commodify human beings in order to extract the surplus value they produce through their labors and ideas. But there are still slaves in the world (about 30 million people) and whatever The Man says, he is still very much involved in that operation.
It’s a mistake to think that The Man is either big government or big business. The Man has always operated at the nexus of the two, dancing between them (and as The Man he leads). In modern times this thumping dance club is known as The Corporate-State.
The Man’s economic design rests largely on controlling resources and scarcities. It starts when The Woman creates abundance—or as The Man likes to say “creates value.”
Real value is like a spectrum of light, and The Man is really good at manipulating a narrow band of that spectrum with something called money; You might have seen money, there’s usually a picture of a man on it. Through money, value can be defined (by The Man) and redirected (to The Man). Perhaps more importantly, it can make everything that isn’t monetized seem as if it has no value at all.
↑ “It’s a Man’s World” sung by James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti.
Using value manipulations The Man can control and create scarcities to add more value to the value chain. The integrity of this value chain is worth a lot to The Man. So it’s important to protect that value—violently if necessary.
The world of manipulated value and its violent protection is evident in our lives—even the lives of those who think they can reap all the rewards of being in league with The Man and remain completely insulated from the fallout (see army of aspiring men aping The Man).
When the scarcity and the violence hits us, we say “It’s just another case of The Man trying to keep us down” but it’s important to make that statement not as a complaint or an admission of defeat—it isn’t.
The Man may be trying to keep us down, but we know what The Man really needs: our consent and complicity.