When I’m flying on one of those so-last-century planes that doesn’t have a screen mounted in the seat in front of me (which is often for flights out of Adelaide), and when I’ve already read the week’s Speccie (sans the books, arts and bridge sections), my practice is to plug my headphones into my armrest, tune to the Smile High Club on radio Q, and see whether they’ve changed the comedy playlist since the last time I was stuck in a plane without a television.
Of course, I’m sure in that situation you would have had a phone or similar “device”, which is compatible with the Qantas app, and is fully charged, and is with you. And as instructed by the increasingly specific safety briefing, you would take care not to let your smart-thing get stuck in the seat mechanism while you’re reciting the various different strategies you’ve been given for locating the plane’s exit—a necessary exercise because, presumably you are incapable of solving a maze that looks like this:
However, unlike you, I have a stupid Nokia Lumia for which even Facebook is unwilling to bother supporting with an app, let alone Qantas. Which is why I didn’t bother charging it, didn’t have it with me, and hence missed a good opportunity to crush it in the seat mechanism. So I had to “tune in to radio Q” and … but wait! After flicking my way through twenty-plus channels, the smile high club was was not to be found. I opened the Q magazine. No mention of radio Q. Just something about podcasts. Huh?
So for a time, I allowed my armrest to cast pods at me. In the first pod, an interviewer for Esquire named Cal Fussman (who I subsequently Googled and it turns out he’s quite famous) talked of a time when he was younger and trekking around Europe. At the time, his accommodation solution was to sit next to people on public transport, chat with them, and then convince them to put up with him for the night. Sorry, put him up for the night. To do this, he had to judge people very rapidly based only on their appearance, to estimate the likelihood of them taking a random stranger into their home. As a result of this strategy, he rarely sat down next to women. He then grew up and got a job with a magazine for which he also chatted mostly with men, so that he could then write articles about them. But some years later, after a surprising interview with a female model in whom he found a kindred spirit or soul-sister or something, he discovered regret that he had never really talked to women before.
He regretted what he now viewed as a type of discrimination in his youth, his assumption that women would not have also been willing to assist him with accommodation. He realised, as the podcast narrator then generously womansplained to vapid listeners like me, that a female opinion can actually be quite valuable. Over an up-swell of emotive music, the narrator challenged all her male listeners then to consider the benefits of talking to women and valuing or even soliciting their opinions:
So that was Cal seeing the light, and realising what stories and connections and opportunities that he’s been missing this entire time. We think it’s a pretty good place to leave you to meditate about your own practices … the business world, and the world at large, needs men to have these epiphanies and conversations in order to move forward with us.
We need to recognise the blind spots and do something about it. And how might you do something about it? We’re glad you asked. To start with, ask the women around you for your input … Listen carefully to what they are saying, acknowledge it and finally, do something about it. Change your ways, see the light.
Put women on your teams, no more women ghettos. Women need to be everywhere and especially on top…
Having Googled Cal, I found that he is married to a woman and has children, so I don’t doubt that listening to one woman, in particular, has also assisted in his home life. His story was sweet, if forced, but the narration was torture; having grown weary of her urging me to have an epiphany about something I already considered quite obvious, I was glad when it moved on.
Next up, an eminent scientist explained how they have looked deep into the sky between the stars, and found that they can see 13 billion lightyears away, and they saw hydrogen. Hence the universe formed out of hydrogen—they’ve got a photo. As she said, “When we say that the universe has changed, that’s not a theory, right. I can actually take a picture … the idea that we were all just hydrogen 13 billion years ago, we can take a picture of that. That’s not theory”. At this stage methought, “she doth protest too much”.
Unfortunately for her, I have a keen interest in cosmology. The “fact” is that we see microwaves coming at us from all directions – called the cosmic microwave background. If one assumes that this is from hydrogen, then yep, we’re seeing hydrogen. We’re also seeing the only kind of light that can penetrate intra-galactic cosmic dust and make it that distance. If one assumes it has redshifted by around 19 red-shift units, and if one assumes a consistent rate of expansion of the universe, then yes, this light is 13 billion years old. If one assumes that the universe isn’t much older than that, then yes, it’s from the beginning of the universe, and even then one might wonder (as scientists do) why the variations in intensity are less than one-tenth of what they should be, why it is not broadly homogenous but has an axis to it, why the dip assumed to be from a red-shifted hydrogen absorption spectrum line is twice as deep as expected and broad with a flat bottom. But no, that’s “not a theory”. That’s a fact.
Change of channel, and now I’m hearing two guys talking about solar energy. The technical “expert” being interviewed told us that Australia’s solar radiation intensity is really high, and our country covers a massive area. If we combine those two, we could be generating enough electricity to export and power Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand … all you need is a high-voltage DC cable across the Timor Sea! Well, what can I say, mind blown—all we need to do is ring China and ask them to make us several trillion solar panels. Then we cover the country with them, and effectively, we take all of the solar energy that would usually be hitting and heating Australia, and send it to another continent instead, so they can turn it back into ambient heat. That won’t affect the climate at all!
The over-simplification was criminal, the naiveté turned up to 11.
When you think about it, what better opportunity to propagandise someone than when you have them trapped in a pressurised cigar-tube for an hour? I could just picture the risk review meeting at Qantas HQ: So, let’s brainstorm folks, what things might go wrong on an aeroplane? It might have a bumpy landing. Ah yes, good point, we’ll need brace positions. It might have to land in the sea. Ah yes, can happen, we’ll need inflatable ramps and lifejackets. The passengers might forget where the exit is? Yes! We’ll need gestures, indicator lights and mnemonics. Um, what if… Speak up, Alan, we can’t hear you! Well, what if the passengers are conservatives?
At this point, I decided to look at the magazine again and see a formal list of my podcast options. It turned out that instead of these progressive intellectual ideologues (ideologues: like monologues or dialogues but entirely predictable), I could have been listening to Kyle and Jackie O, or Chrissy, Sam and Browny, or Jase and PJ, or Jonesy and Amanda. Or was it Hughesy and Kate, or Fitzy and Whipa? Either way, it sounded like some of the same hyperactive ocker breakfast nonsense my taxi driver had already subjected me to that morning. Faced with the dilemma of either rewiring my brain cells or obliterating them, I decided to remove my headphones and go to sleep.
Nick Kastelein is a Christian and a conservative who grew up and lives in Adelaide where he works for an engineering consultancy.
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