Another guest post by K. Alan. My fellow fence-jumpers may not see me here for awhile, but feel free to stop by my blog for samples of my writing and tips that have helped me write, including my current series about YA fiction, The “Right Age” for Young Readers.
Give a man a megaphone, and he thinks he’s in charge.
It’s always been that way, really. To a man—much more so than to a woman—an amplified voice is a sign of importance, and of authority. I live this as I cycle past the shorelines near where I live; a few years ago, amplification systems were installed in the lifeguard towers, and the concept of a quiet day at the beach changed forever. The surf that once hushed the cries of gulls was replaced: replaced by demands that we swim closer to shore, warnings about sun exposure, and general advice that it might be simplest to avoid fun altogether.
So, men with megaphones now rule our local beaches, but this is nothing new. History is rife with men who have shouted to be obeyed.
Portraits of Elizabethan England make the whole place seem like it was a shouting match. Shakespeare and his contemporaries would shout from stages for the penniless to enter their theatres, while The Puritans would shout, from platforms outside, for the upper-crust to avoid those theatres or risk damnation. Both sides had a following, and I wouldn’t be surprised if victory depended on whose voice was louder one day or the next. Without megaphones, though, they were pitting their natural gifts—mostly tonsils and lungs—against one another. Our pantalooned patrons may have been limited by their voices, but that only made them shout more loudly for an audience.
Time rattled forward, then, through an endless string of armed conflicts, until Japanese combatants during World War II had their TERA Rifles and Type 10 Grenades supplemented by long-range radio broadcasting: the ultimate megaphone of the day. Allied servicemen spent hours of their day listening to Tokyo Rose, whose voice was louder than theirs, so could depress them with all the demoralizing news of the war effort. While it is true that Tokyo Rose was a woman—probably several women—it doesn’t take much knowledge of history to know that men put her behind that microphone and handed her those scripts. Essentially, they were men with megaphones, trying to take charge of the world.
It’s difficult, indeed, to block out a megaphone entirely. We think we are ignoring them, but still we purchase clothes more expensive than we need, and cower from the broadcast threats of cowardly terrorists. Occasionally, good people might even elect a megalomaniac with a megaphone to political office. Resisting their noise and their allure is often impossible.
Where, then, are the messages of substance… the messages from quiet voices like Gandhi’s, and from amplified voices like Martin Luther King’s? This is where our zeal to be heard becomes sobering, because those messages are still out there: we just can’t hear them over the rush and chaos of all the boy-bands and cologne commercials. Each invitation to choose our own entertainment are lost in a thousand others; each urging to save our own souls are drowned in depravity. When one man teaches tolerance and another man hatred, we listen to the one whose voice scares us the most.
Now that everyone has a megaphone, it seems that we have flashed back to the Elizabethan culture, when those with the strongest tonsils would be heard.
It’s always been this way, really. Give a man a blog, and he thinks he’s in charge.
– More Words from K. Alan