Thursday, October 16, 2008

Everyman


Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber, Joe Average, Joe Shmoe, Joe Blow, John Q. Public, and John Q. Taxpayer. You can't have watched the presidential and vice presidential debates without hearing this attempt at giving the average American a name. But what does it really mean? Does this truly capture the zeitgeist of modern American life? 

What does it mean to call someone Joe Sixpack? Well, I think what Sarah Palin wanted to convey was an ordinary guy, working hard, trying to attain the American dream. Unfortunately, it also conjures up images of overweight, possibly hairy middle-aged men in their underwear sitting on their arses and swilling room-temperature Schlitz. Not that there's anything wrong with hairiness, overweight people, or middle-aged men, but could we perhaps select a more dignified image for our national Everyman? Some bloggers say that the term Joe Sixpack also carries certain cultural connotations. Perhaps Joe watches NASCAR? Is Joe a recent immigrant? Probably not. He sure as heck couldn't be Middle-Eastern because he would have to be Jusef, and the sixpack would have to go because Muslims eschew alcohol. I guess Joe couldn't be Seventh Day Adventist either. I might be wrong on this too but I don't think NASCAR has an enormous African American following. So when Sarah Palin tells us she represents Joe Sixpack, how many of us does she want to represent?

Then there's Joe the Plummer. John McCain mentioned him often in the debate, and because he wasn't quite specific on the name (and because he's not a licensed plumber) I believe he meant John Q. Taxpayer (which Joe, or Samuel, really isn't that great at either). OK, so it's silly, and a bit too easy to pick on Joe/Sam. But what does McCain want to convey through the character of Joe the Plumber? My guess is that Joe is meant to personify the hardworking guy, just trying to earn his own small piece of the American dream feels threatened by Obama's abject class warfare. When Katie Couric asked him if he made enough money (250,000) to be affected by the tax cuts he sort of hemmed and said nooo, but it's a "slippery slope." "You vote on somebody who decides that $250,000 and you're rich? And $100,000 and you're rich? I mean, where does it end? You know, that's - people got to ask that question." OK Joe, so by that same logic, let's say selling drugs is illegal and you vote on someone who decides that you go to jail if you sell drugs. And then drinking a sixpack and you go to jail? I mean where does it end ... tax evasion? You know, people got to ask that question. OK, but let's just be nice, because I do think that John McCain is an OK guy. Taxing rich people is class warfare.

But where does all this rhetoric leave us? What is an Everyman? The term comes to us from a late fifteenth-century English morality play. The play opens with a monologue delivered by God. He laments all of the trouble brought about by humans. He feels taken for granted because humans are too absorbed by material wealth to love him. God resolves to summon Death to bring Everyman to heaven for his reckoning. Fellowship, the personification of friendship agrees to accompany him until he finds out the true nature of his journey, then he bolts, leaving poor Everyman to fend for himself. He also meets up with Kindred and Cousin who offer lame excuses for why they can't go. Everyman then asks Goods to accompany him because he has given him so much love, but it turns out that would have just gotten him in worse trouble with God. He then turns to Good Deeds, but she was too weak to go with him because he just hadn't shown her enough love. She sends her sister Knowledge instead and they go together to see Confession. So Everyman goes and does the right thing, he shows suitable contrition, receives the jewel called Penence and Good Deeds becomes well enough to join him on his journey. He receives all sorts of wonderful things, but in the end it is only Good Deeds who is able to go with him all the way into heaven.

What would the modern version of that morality play be? How would Joe Sixpack fare when summoned for his reckoning by the character of God from that morality play? 
God: I see you've only brought beer and a remote control. Are you serious?
Joe Sixpack: You betcha!
God: Have you brought any Good Deeds with you?
Joe S: Well, I've just been working hard, trying to get my slice of the American Pie. I'm proud to be an American. I did pass this personification lady on the way here. She was sort of lyin' there and moaning somethin' about good deeds.
God: But what good have you done for the world? How have you shared my love with the world?
Joe S: I work hard for all the stuff I have and my country's spreading democracy.
God: Is that underwear you're wearing?


God speketh. 
I perceyue here in my maieste 
How that all creatures be to me vnkynde 
Lyuynge without drede in worldely prosperyte 
Of ghostly syght the people be so blynde 
Drowned in synne they know me not for theyr god 
In worldely ryches is all theyr mynde 
They fere not my ryghtwysnes the sharpe rood 
My lawe that I shewed whan I for them dyed 
They forgete clene and shedynge of my bloderede 
I hanged bytwene two it can not be denyed 
To gete them lyfe I suffred to be deed 
I heled theyr fete with thornes hurt was my heed 
I coulde do nomore than I dyde truely 
And nowe I se the people do clene for sake me 
They vse the seuen deedly synnes damphable 
As pryde coueteyse wrathe and lechery 
Now in the worlde be made commendable 
And thus they leue of aungelles yheuenly company 
Euery man lyueth so after his owne pleasure 
And yet of theyr lyfe they be nothinge sure 
I se the more that I then forbere 
The worse they be fro yere to yere 
All that lyueth appayreth faste 
Therfore I wyll in all the haste 
Haue a rekenynge of euery mannes persone 
For and I leue the people thus alone 
In theyr lyfe and wycked tempestes 
Verly they wyll become moche worse than beestes 
For now one wolde by enuy another vp ete 
Charyte they do all clene forgete 
I hoped well that euery man 
In my glory shulde make his mansyon 
And therto I had them all electe 
But now I se lyke traytours deiecte 
They thanke me not for ye pleasure yt to them ment 
Nor yet for theyr beynge that I them haue lent 
I profered the people grete multytude of mercy 
And fewe there be that asketh it hertly 
They be so combred with worldly ryches 
That nedes on them I must do Iustyce 
On euery man lyuynge without fere 
Where arte thou deth thou myghty messengere 


10 comments:

Lavinia said...

Piercing. Funny. Piercingly funny! Blicky Kitty I like your blog. You have a way with words. And kitty drawings!

octopede said...

You know all those really horrible TV commercials and sitcoms where the wife is this no-nonsense, matter-of-fact taskmaster and the husband is the bumbling, overweight, beer-n-brats fartsmith who nonetheless means well yet can't open a jar of peanut butter by himself? Yeah, that's Joe Sixpack, and I hope that most people see him for the convenient strawman he is. But i think we can all agree that there are those who probably find this sort of character easy and agreeable, and may be swayed by an appeal to something that requires little teeth to chew on, so to speak. Lord save us.

PS: The Onion recently pointed out that Obama is totally going after the 'Joe Cabernet-Sauvignon' vote.

Poetikat said...

Oh my goodness! You certainly are ambitious, aren't you? Old English. Wow!
You always seem to hit the nail on the head - in any century.
What did Blicky have at the bar, by the way?

Kat

steviewren said...

Blicky, how interestingly you draw your readers from the postmodern world of me, myself and I and remind us that we aren't the first 'persones' to think only of ourselves and our wants and desires to the exclusion of all others. We all could use a good dose of Pilgrim's Progress...but I really must get a modern version before I read more!

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

Blicky Kitty said...

Thanks for visiting. I'm keeping Blicky away from the birdbaths, but I love to come.

Octopede would that be an asstard fartsmith? Fartsmith is yet another brilliant phrase you've coined because it suggests a pride in craftsmanship rather than mere production.

Kat, I think Blicky was having camomile tea. He usually has that or absynthe.

Thanks Stevie I love visiting your blog.

Poetikat said...

B.K. We don't "do" photo albums - well, we do, but there are waaay too many cat pictures (but we're not those weird cat-people types, trust me). It's just that with no kids, the felines kind of dominate the camera. We're both so unphotogenic most of the time that we shy away from pics.
Having said that, I really need a scanner so I can do this anyway and my cg skills are so marginal - let's say I get around "paint", but have yet to "photoshop" anything. (I live in hope).

I have a piccy - all lined up, in which I look about 10 (except for the jowls of an 80 year old) You'll love it!

Kat

MuseSwings said...

I don't think Joe Sixpack exists except in the feebyle mynde of the sytcom wryter forsooth.

Hot Belly Mama - taking it all back said...

really well written! lol. palin and mccain lost me on the joe sixpack and joe the plumber run. what a lousy campaign tactic. I don't want a president that hangs out with joe sixpack. I want a president that is intelligent with good problem solving skills, not one that will drown their problems in beer, especially a six-pack!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

"So when Sarah Palin tells us she represents Joe Sixpack, how many of us does she want to represent?"

Awesome!!!!

Blicky Kitty said...

Kat I'm looking forward to seeing those photos! :)

Cynthia, I wonder if Typo has descended from some of the middle english spellianglangguage. You do speak typese don't you?

HBM He lost me at "I'm not Obama and I'm running for president" so I'm a bit biased, but yeah his campaign just seems to get more lamentable each day.

NGiP -- you're blog is so awesome and funny. Thanks for stopping by!