Captain’s Log. Stardate October 24th, 2012. I have many observations and hypotheses to offer about the Cuadrilla Klingons, their economy, their dietary habits, and their public rituals, but today I will confine myself to two: first, their indefatigable esprit de corps; and second, their capacity to approach a problem head-on, without indulging in sentimentality.
Let’s start with the esprit de corps. I mentioned in a previous log that walking on the footpaths of Cuadrilla requires a level of assertiveness toward strangers that would surely be interpreted as physical aggression in the Land of Freedom. If you encounter a single, unaccompanied Cuadrillean, you can usually manage to push your way past him or her so long as you courageously hold your course (or alternatively if you ride a bicycle very assertively). But if you encounter three or more Cuadrilleans, it is pretty much a lost cause. They form a sort of “Klingon Chain” that spans the full breadth of the sidewalk, and that bond is almost unbreakable, except perhaps by brute force. The symbolism of their perambulatory practices is certainly not lost on this observer. The ties of kith and kin, clan and tribe, are virtually unbreakable in this region, and often last until “death do them part.” Remembering this symbolism, daunting as it is, somehow changes my instinctive irritation into admiration when I behold a Klingon chain blocking my path.
Now, the candor of the Cuadrillean is well known to any visitors to this region. The Cuadrillean waiter will probably spare you the small talk of “hello, how are you today? My name is....” and just ask you straight up, “what do you want?” I know of a group who went golfing and when they realized their inexperience was holding up the group behind them, they invited the more experienced group to pass them out. In response to this gesture of goodwill, they received unsolicited and candid advice from the other group (predominantly or exclusively made of up of Cuadrilleans) about how to improve their game. Did they ask for that advice? No. Did they need it? Absolutely. And perhaps that is one of the distinguishing features of the Cuadrillean: he will give you assistance and advice unsolicited, but advice and assistance that you actually need. He is not a Little-Miss-Helpful, who ruins other people’s lives in the name of misplaced altruism or unhelpful helpfulness. To the contrary, he perceives that you need something and that he can provide it, and he offers his help in an unsentimental, no-nonsense and effective sort of way.
Let me conclude with a little vignette that illustrates quite nicely the directness and fearlessness with which the Cuadrillean interacts with strangers. I had just entered a bathroom at a public institution, and someone (I cannot prove it was a Cuadrillean, because I was on the inside, while he or she was on the outside – but his behavior has all the hallmarks of a Cuadrillean attitude) attempted to enter quite forcefully, shaking the door with a gusto. As the reader can imagine (especially my Freedom Loving friends, who have quite a strict etiquette about not shaking down the doors of bathrooms), I could not help feeling persecuted, even though my persecutor, as far as I know, had no knowledge of my identity, nor any knowledge that he was doing anything out of the ordinary. In any case, I waited it out, just as one waits out a storm or a tornado, and thanks be to God, the lock was built to resist the full force of a Klingon assault. If this had only happened once I would not have thought it worth recording, but since it happened to me a second time, it is one more relevant data point in my quest to understand the Cuadrillean character.
Captain’s Log, stardate 17 October 2012: Now, I must venture onto some risky territory: the woman question. So far, I have tried to sketch some of the defining traits of the Cuadrillian Klingon: fierce loyalty to their lifelong companions, a marked suspicion of strangers, a strong disinclination to leave the place of their birth, and a shocking contempt for profit and economic growth.
Now, I must venture with some trepidation onto the woman question. If a Cuadrillian woman gets a hold of these comments, this may be the last log I live to record… But in my opening log, I did promise to “boldly go where no man has gone before,” so here goes… Cuadrilla is governed by a domestic matriarchy. Whereas some readers may be familiar with the idea of a full-scale matriarchy – “above-ground,” so to speak, where women have essentially taken over all leadership roles in society, that is not the sort of matriarchy that reigns among the Cuadrillians. To all intents and purposes, this would appear to be a traditional society with a modern edge to it: women tend to household affairs proportionately more than men, and often both men and women work outside the home (undoubtedly driven in part by economic necessity).
But if you take a closer look, you will find that within the sphere of the home, women have near-exclusive jurisdiction (how do I know this, you may ask? I have my sources). Young men, at least until recent times, were practically exempted from household chores by their mothers, and the bond between mothers and children – and especially sons – remains a powerful one to this day. Women may continue shopping for clothes for their husbands and sons into adulthood, and since people tend to marry into their respective tribes, the influence of the mother-in-law on the family of her son or daughter is even more notorious here in Cuadrilla than in other cultures.
On the surface, a visitor to this place might not notice much of a difference, but if you spend a little time here, you will see that the dominance of women over the hearth is actually matched by their extraordinary self-confidence and assertiveness in other social and professional contexts, which are quite marked even by feminist standards. This can be seen in their decisive and unambiguous bearing as they go about their business, in the determined and unwavering expression of fortitude etched into their faces, and in their ability to almost effortlessly maintain their course in the face of competing pedestrians. Most Cuadrillian women have more or less the same haircut, roughly shoulder-length or a little shorter, and while they are certainly not fat, they are generally substantial (and I use the term in its strict sense, not as a euphemism for fat). They are blissfully untouched by the obsession with thinness that has taken over the Land of Opportunity – there is very little fear of anorexia reaching this country anytime soon. I include this detail, which may seem insignificant to some, because I suspect that the not insubstantial presence of a Cuadrillian woman lends an element of gravitas and enhanced credibility to her power and influence in this area of the Klingon region.
- Captain Thunder
Captain's Log, star-date 14th October 2012. As I said in my last post, the Klingons are a rude but noble-hearted people. Strangers are viewed with suspicion, and Klingons very rarely invite someone into their home. I have noticed that folks from foreign lands tend to gather together here, partly because of the bond of mutual solidarity that any stranger feels with another, and partly because they find it next to impossible to break into indigenous social circles.
But I promised in my last log that I would balance out my picture of the Klingons by explaining their noble-hearted nature.
I prefer not to generalize about an entire region, so I will just speak of the Klingons I have encountered, those from Cuadrilla. Many of them grow up around a smallish tribe (say, between 10 and 20) of their peers, and live the majority, if not all of their lives in their company. Thus, a special sense of friendship and camaraderie grows up among them, and many of them do not feel any special need to reach out to people beyond the tribe, and certainly not to people beyond Cuadrilla. Indeed, this social structure is so famous (and somewhat infamous among foreigners who are generally excluded from it) that those who are fully immersed in such structures are commonly referred to as Life-Long Cuadrillians or LLCs for short.
The emotional distance and social reserve that Cuadrillians display toward foreigners is matched by a fierce loyalty and uncompromising honesty with their friends. Whereas Freedom Lovers might have three hundred (or in some cases I have seen, up to a thousand) friends on Facebook, many of whom they barely know, Klingons (at least those of the Cuadrillian variety) only admit a few people into their carefully guarded circle of friends, and they are friends for life. To be invited into the home of a Cuadrillian is an extraordinary privilege, a sign of profound trust and lasting friendship. In short, the defining features of Cuadrillians at their best - something perceived most fully by their friends - are uncompromising honesty and fierce loyalty. When a Cuadrillian tells you he can't do something, he's not making an excuse - he's just stating a fact. When he tells you he can help you, he means it. The same cannot be said in general of people in warmer and more easy-going cultures.
That's all for now.
- Captain Thunder.
Captain’s Log. Star date 12th October 2012. First entry. Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of Captain Thunder. His mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before…
Bumpy but successful landing in the land of the Cling-Ons. A rude but noble-hearted people. I have now inhabited this Cling-On town of Cuadrilla for close to two months, and I have collected some fascinating data.
Things I had come to take for granted in the Land of Freedom and Opportunity (which I will refer to alternately as “Land of Freedom” and “Land of Opportunity”) are almost completely absent in this region. Prevailing norms of courtesy and pragmatism in the Land of Opportunity do not seem to hold in this rough yet noble country of the Cling-Ons.
Three examples: first, Freedom Lovers normally smile at you even if you are a complete stranger, on the most minimal pretext. You walk into a coffee shop and order something, and the waitress will at least attempt to smile at you, even if she’s having a bad day. You give the sign of peace to someone at Mass, and generally they will smile at you as a matter of course. Cling-Ons, at least of the Cuadrilla variety, rarely smile at strangers, or smile only when seriously provoked. I have had the experience of walking past complete strangers with a permanent frown on their face. At first I took it personally but gradually began to realize that it was nothing personal.
Second, Freedom Lovers are indomitable pragmatists, and if they have the choice to make more money or less money, they consider the more profitable choice a “no-brainer.” Here, I have encountered or heard of many cases of grossly unprofitable behaviour. For example, almost all business establishments close from 2 to 4 for a nice long lunch; and the entire city of Cuadrilla practically shuts down for much of the summer. One clothes retailer persuaded a female customer not to buy a skirt because the one she had on was perfectly fine.
But one of my favourite examples is the Swedish company, IKEA. One might think that they, of all people would refuse to assimilate to this culture of contempt for profit. But the surrounding culture must be so powerful that even the Swedes have succumbed to it. I looked up the nearest Ikea, about a hundred miles away, and happily discovered that they deliver furniture to Cuadrilla. So I called them up to order a mattress. I confirmed with them that they do deliver to Cuadrilla, but when I tried to place an order, they said I would have to come in person to the store to place the order. So I asked if they expected me to make a two hour bus journey to their store to arrange for them to ship the mattress back to my home in Cuadrilla. They said yes. I do not think this could happen in the Land of Opportunity.
Finally, norms of courtesy: in the Land of Opportunity, people not only smile at strangers; they will step aside to create room for a stranger on their Sidewalks (what we in Ireland call Footpaths). I have had the experience, corroborated by numerous acquaintances, that people here, even on a wide footpath, stubbornly hold their course as if their life depended on it. If you are insufficiently assertive, you might very well be run off the path. I have a sneaking suspicion that female pedestrians are a little more stubborn in this respect, but thus far have insufficient data to prove this. At first I tended to take this monopolistic behaviour personally, but as I now see that it is practically the norm here, somehow I have less cause for offense. I have resorted to several different strategies for acquiring space on the footpaths, and the most successful has been to travel by bicycle: I have found that when I am careering toward someone on my bicyle, I have a noticeable strategic advantage.
Lest you think this experience an anomaly, I will add one more example from a different situation – something that I have been told by a more experienced visitor to this region, is not uncommon. I was standing around in a bar, talking to a friend, and generally minding my own business, when I suddenly felt myself being physically lifted up and whooshed aside. It all happened so quickly that I had no time to process what was happening. Afterward, I realized it was the waiter who needed to get through. Admittedly, he did excuse himself loudly before removing me from his path. But that did not make the experience any less bracing. It later occurred to me that if a stranger, waiter or no waiter, pushed someone out of the way in a restaurant in the Land of Freedom, it would be considered a very serious discourtesy, and might even be taken by some Freedom Lovers as a form of assault.
But as I said at the beginning, though the Cling-Ons are a rude people, they are also have a very noble heart. And I will explain what I mean by this in the next instalment.