A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
The Culture of the Neenerans
Among the diverse cultures of the 21st century, there is a particularly proud group which considers itself to be the most elite and superior culture ever to inhabit the Earth. The politically correct term for members of this self-congratulatory group is Neenerans. This group is in its historical infancy, spanning less than a dozen generations, and its population is small, as Earthly populations go.
Neenerans very much enjoy manipulating their environment. Furthermore, they enjoy manipulating mind and spirit – they believe, devoutly, that wisdom can be found by traveling along the path of linear thinking, which means leaping from assumption to conclusion without exploring messy attendant facts and effects. An argument could be made that manipulation is their principal cultural product. Neenerans are thus adept at controlling information and communication; they are a nation of spin-doctors.
Their primary habitat is the island of Neener-Neener, which occupies a portion of the northern hemisphere once under the care of a now-defunct ancient cultural group whose main concerns, unlike the Neenerans, were preservation of the environment, integrity of mind, and respect for spirit. The Neenerans officially claim only their primary island and a few nearby annexed appurtenances – yet they firmly believe they possess a natural right to infiltrate, dominate, and consume the resources of other cultures, even those cultures which are ancient and considerable. Despite their domineering presumptions, Neenerans officially deny any possible imperialist or expansionist intentions – spin, spin, spin.
Neenerans can be found living and working on every inhabited land mass on the Earth (although, more often, they can be found simply to have controlling interests in economic infrastructures.) The Neeneran language is spoken widely and is often used to conduct business between nations and corporations regardless of the origin of the participants. Proliferation of their language enhances the Neenerans’ ability to manipulate other cultures’ perceptions and to foster oppositional thinking so that there is always a perceived inferior and evil enemy.
The most remarkable thing about this culture is that it is based almost entirely on appearance rather than substance. As evidence of this, I offer a cursory examination of one of their chief financial institutions, something referred to as the Hawk Market, named after its sales force’s audible effort to force up phlegm from their throats before dialing prospective retirees’ phone numbers. Until quite recently, this institution was overvalued by more than 200 percent, the pricing structure having been driven to insupportable heights by the Neeneran populace’s craving for unearned income and the esteem accompanying excessive and unjustified profits. Due to the unexpected consequences of prior manipulations, the Hawk Market currently stands at a still-excessive 1/3rd of its former value, creating considerable grumpiness among post-pubescent Neenerans. Nevertheless, rather than adjust, thousands upon hundreds of thousands of Neenerans devote energy and prayer each day to wishing a magical increase in the Market’s valuation even though such an increase would defy logic and legitimate accounting practices. Far more important to Neenerans than legitimate worth is the appearance of worth.
Appearance has such an important place in Neeneran culture that each Neeneran is schooled from birth in the art of appearances by daily bombardment with carefully crafted cultural messages delivered primarily through music videos and a phenomenon known as sit-coms. Especially important to Neenerans is developing the art of establishing truth, not with evidence but with glitz and repetition. Neenerans believe if you say it often enough and surround it with loud noises and esteemed colors, all will adore and accept it.
Masks of Power
Talismans and ceremonial masks are created by undervalued artisans of the Neeneran culture to further ensure a devoted and near-exclusive focus on the vital issue of appearance. Unsanctified masks can be used by any prepubescent Neeneran as a method of postulating future success and as a way of rehearsing for adult roles in Neeneran society. However, only adult males can use the sanctified masks of adulthood – females are never allowed to use sanctified masks because they are never perceived as adults and therefore cannot attain the privileges enjoyed by Neeneran males (such as equitable salaries or an end to the working day.)
The sanctified ceremonial masks are used by adult males as rituals of passage, to ward off undesirable events, to protect the wearer from truthful perception and accountability, and to imbue the wearer with those powers most admired by and useful to Neeneran culture. The most prized of these is the ability to use language to obscure communication while giving the impression of clarifying. Other characteristics most admired by Neenerans are magical thinking; the ability to divide rather than unify; the ability to be perceived as having clear vision in the face of ideological blindness; the ability to serve special interests while arguing benefits to the whole; the ability to accumulate money without merit; the ability to be perceived as possessing wisdom without age and intelligence regardless of logic; the ability to be perceived as speaking truthfully and authoritatively regardless of enlightenment; the ability to confuse the opposition by twisting or camouflaging facts to legitimize a desired outcome; the ability to appear sincere regardless of earnestness, superior regardless of integrity, moral regardless of intention, and right regardless of evidence to the contrary.
In its short history the Neeneran culture, epitomized by its current leader, has become so enchanted with the powers symbolized by its ceremonial masks that it hasn’t yet noticed that its masks are becoming transparent to the other cultures of the world. The dogs at “the base” have pulled the curtain aside revealing the machinations of the Neeneran wizard. Yet there is a deeper layer beyond the manipulating master, an entelechy which will appear only when the echoes of Neener-Neener have faded into the past.
Copyright 2016 Claudia Nolan
Claudia Nolan is an artist who lives in Sacramento.