what the hell is happening to this country?
December 26, 2005 6:20 PM   Subscribe

there are, at least to my mind, many nefarious things going on in this country, at all levels. i recently voiced a specific complaint to a friend of mind. his reply was 'this is the way the 'man' wants it.' who is this 'man' anyway?
posted by brandz to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Wikipedia, of course, has something to say about The Man. First few sentences: "The Man" is a slang phrase associated with the counterculture and used to describe higher authority. This "Man" does not usually refer to a specific individual as such, but instead to the government, leaders of large corporations and other authority figures; its meaning is pejorative. The Man is colloquially defined as the figurative person who controls our world. The Man is also often used as a symbol of racial oppression.
posted by jessamyn at 6:24 PM on December 26, 2005

It was originally a prison term, according to Wikipedia. It refers to the powers that be, the government, the warden, or whoever else has the power to push you around.

It eventually came to be applied by blacks to all whites, again according to Wiki. I think your friend just means "the power structure" or "the establishment".
posted by crapples at 6:25 PM on December 26, 2005

Best answer: The Man is the collective personality of those people who are in power. They have your best interests at heart, you know.
posted by chef_boyardee at 6:45 PM on December 26, 2005

posted by UncleHornHead at 6:55 PM on December 26, 2005

the man is a member of them ... you know, they ... they always get what they want ... you can't do anything without them sticking their noses into it ... because that's the way they want it ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:05 PM on December 26, 2005

It turns out the real monster is man!
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 7:22 PM on December 26, 2005

Response by poster: oh, i see, they know best.
posted by brandz at 7:23 PM on December 26, 2005

Best answer: "I'm the Man"

But seriously, The Man is any institution which seeks to impose it's will on you. Examples:

Republican party
Democratic party
Mass media
Large corporations
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:42 PM on December 26, 2005

The Man is any institution which seeks to impose it's will on you

I think they have to be successful to be The Man.
posted by phrontist at 8:14 PM on December 26, 2005

I thought it was a reference to slavery/slave slang. "The Man" is the master, who controlls and oppresses "The Boy".
posted by sandking at 8:38 PM on December 26, 2005

Funny story.

Back in the town where I went to college, there was a local character that everyone simply referred to as Banker John.

Banker John was an eccentric guy, as eccentric guys went back in my old college town. Which is to say that he was pretty eccentric.

Banker John was in his late twenties, but he always wore an old-fashioned 3-piece suit. Even during the summer. This is a feat, because as anyone can tell you, summers in mid-Missouri can get pretty durn sticky.

But it didn't stop there.

He also had all the accessories. The hat. The briefcase. The cane. The pipe. The watch on a chain. In other words, he was exactly what you would think of when I say the word, "banker."

On top of that, Banker John actually was a banker! To be precise, his father owned a rather sizable chain of banks throughout mid-Missouri. As far as I was aware, he was a vice president, being groomed to one day take over the company. John was worth millions.

For some reason, he always liked to hang out at this one coffee shop in town. I don't know why he chose this particular coffee shop. It wasn't one of the nicer or more interesting ones. Still, one could see him there, more or less every day, hanging out, reading, and smoking his pipe. He would make these funny little drawings with an old-fashioned ink pen, where nearly the whole page would be filled in with ink except for a few lines where he let the white paper show through. He also had this set of large, solid, glow-in-the-dark balls that he would.... don't really know the word for this.... It wasn't "juggling," exactly, because he never would throw them up in the air. Instead, he would circulate them about his palm, balancing them on the back of his hand and on his fingertips. The effect was mesmerizing.

Anyway, Banker John really identified with his job. He would sit and talk with you for hours about interest rates, t-bills, and money market accounts. He would explain, in laymens' terms, how these myriad, complex systems work, and how they come together to form the backbone of the America economy. Furthermore, he would tell you how you could use them to your benefit, putting a little away here and there all your life, until you could retire a millionaire at an early age. This wasn't just something that guys like him could do - anyone could do it, according to Banker John. He would tell you why the whole system was good, necessary, and accessible to the average Joe. I got a kick out of talking to him about this stuff, although most people would probably think it was rather dry. What can I say? Complex systems fascinate me.

Now, this isn't to say that John was a very outgoing sort. In fact, he was rather quiet and philosophical. If you wanted to talk to him, you generally had to involve him in the conversation - he would very rarely jump in on his own. Typically, he would speak in mysterious, zen-like proverbs that would take a minute or two to digest. Unless, of course, the conversation was about banking, in which case he would speak with this quiet sort of authority.

One day, I was hanging out at the coffee shop. Banker John was there, as were several of my friends. This being a college town, the topic of discussion was some political issue or another. Can't really remember what it was. We were all taking typical College/Liberal stances on whatever issue we were discussing, whilst John just sat there working on one of his drawings.

Finally, one of us said, "Whose fault is all this?"
Another said, "I blame the man!"
To which I responded, "Who is this Man, anyway?"

At that point, Banker John stood up, pushed out his chair, and stated declaratively, "I.... am the Man."

We all just nodded our heads in agreement. Comforted, actually, that the Man was finally taking some responsibility for his actions.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:59 PM on December 26, 2005 [10 favorites]

It wasn't "juggling," exactly, because he never would throw them up in the air. Instead, he would circulate them about his palm, balancing them on the back of his hand and on his fingertips. The effect was mesmerizing.

This is called contact juggling, best known from the movie "labyrinth". Some googled up images (not the greatest) here. I would not have expected the man to be a contact juggler, however.

posted by advil at 11:18 PM on December 26, 2005

Thanks, advil! That's exactly what he was into.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:35 PM on December 26, 2005

Richard Scaife
posted by Thorzdad at 9:40 AM on December 27, 2005

Response by poster: all great remarks. thanks! oppression seems to be key.
posted by brandz at 6:40 PM on December 27, 2005

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