Paragon-Guardian Content Tribunal fights against patriarchy-tyranny

Thalia, muse of comedy

Another-Slave-Man: Hey, One-Slave-Man, you fool, what are you doing?

One-Slave-Man: (waking up) I’m getting ready to type out notes, “Topics to Study for the Mid-Term.”

Another-Slave-Man: Good luck. Ask something that’s not in the study notes, they’ll kick you in the ribs in the course evaluation.

One-Slave-Man: I know, and I don’t want to think about it.

Another-Slave-Man: It’s dangerous work, but they don’t care, and why should I? I think I’ll turn off the webcam, put the phone on silent mode, and take a snooze like you were.

One-Slave-Man: Do what you want. But I’m gonna give my students a play for their money. It’s time that they get a sense of the plot. (He turns on his webcam and microphone.) Hey students, you must press @ within 30 seconds to get credit for attending this class. (His admin dashboard subsequently shows 46 @’s out of 65 registered students).

Look, I’ll keep this brief, and you shouldn’t expect anything uplifting. I’m no Mary Beard, so you can’t brag about having attended a course by a member of the Board of the British Museum. But that’s no reason to put your mic on mute and ignore me. What I’ve got for you is simple and praise-worthy, just like you. The Paragon-Guardian Content Tribunal had deputized an army of cyber-residents to help Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other Internet mega-corps moderate content. It’s even worse than that. Most of the PGCT’s deputy paragon-guardians are young women, and our own university president, Love-Dworkin, is the head of the PGCT. She’s seriously sick. What do you think she’s doing? You want to guess? Go ahead.

Hey, Nitin Nohria, you say that she’s working to make women feel loved? No, that’s what Professor Proserpina was doing, before Emma Penelope betrayed her with their very own son!

And you, Vivek Wadhwa, you say she’s promoting women in technology? Get real. How many women do you think want to spend their days staring at a computer screen, alone and focused on writing code? Tech companies already have more software project managers and tech HR specialists than coders, plus huge stacks of women’s applications for those tech jobs. Women who go into tech today have to be coders. They’d have to be bugged out on the autism spectrum to want to be coders!

You’re all babbling nonsense, as usual. Just shut up and I’ll tell you what President Love-Dworkin is doing. She’s sex-trafficking in young women on behalf of Internet mega-corps. She’s enslaving them in the demeaning and mind-numbing work of content moderation. She tells them that working for meager wages as a Paragon-Guardian Content Tribunal deputy paragon-guardian content moderator is a very prestigious position. She tells them it’s an important stepping stone to becoming a published writer, or even a journalist.

President Love-Dworkin’s daughter, Hate-Dworkin, is trying to save our girls. So she’s ordered us to teach you Aristophanes’s great comedy, Wasps. If you study this play and learn all that we have to teach, you’ll find for yourself a much better life than orchestrating mobs on Twitter as a deputy paragon-guardian content moderator. Write that point down in your notes and double underline it!

(A message alert pops up on Another-Slave-Man’s screen. It’s from Hate-Dworkin.)

Hate-Dworkin: Teach them about the romance writer’s hate-fest against each other. Who would want to work on content-moderating that? Teach them that romance novels perpetuate sexist stereotypes and that romance novels are a form of women’s porn.

One-Slave-Man: Look, young lady, you ordered us to teach Aristophanes’s Wasps. Now you want us to teach romance novels? What sort of comedy is this?

Hate-Dworkin: Have you found my mother’s iPhone yet? She’s sure to call women students and try to seduce them into allowing her to be their mentor.

Another-Slave-Man: Her iPhone? Lady, we’ve already taken from her two iPhones, an Android, and a Blackberry.

Hate-Dworkin: The campus police told me that their Stingray is still picking up mobile phone calls from my mother’s iPhone 11 to women students. She must have another iPhone. Find it and get rid of it!

One-Slave-Man: Ok, if that’s what you want me to do to help women students.

(An email-received notification pops up on Another-Slave-Man’s screen. He opens the new email.)

Another-Slave-Man: Hmmm… “Prof. Another-Slave-Man, Hi! Instead of a 10-page paper on resisting misogyny in Wasps, can I write a 10-page paper on Nathan Taylor’s hate postings and moderating Twitter communication about knitters’ yarn colors to fight white supremacy? I think that’s more relevant and would help me get a good summer internship. Thanks. :)” … Well, well.

Hate-Dworkin: My mother has spoken with her. For sure.

Another-Slave-Man: So what do you want me to do?

Hate-Dworkin: Tell her no, you idiot! She can’t write a paper on Internet content moderation for a classics course on Aristophanes’s Wasps!

Another-Slave-Man: You want me to just tell a woman student “No”?

Hate-Dworkin: Yes!

Another-Slave-Man: Ok, whatever you say, you’re the college president’s daughter.

(A chorus of women students complaining about their mothers starts to fill the course chatroom.)

I’m fed up with social-media relations. I don’t want to be a paragon-guardian content moderator. I wanna be an elementary school teacher, an elementary school art teacher! Don’t call me again!

Stop texting me all the time. I just don’t care, ok? Patriarchy-tyranny, patriarchy–tyranny, patriarchy-tyranny — I just don’t care!

You’re my daughter. I raised you. What’s wrong with you?

Stop complaining about my father. We haven’t seen him for years. Just, like, let it go. My classics professor, he cares about me. I’ve got to write a paper on Wasps in relation to Thesmophoriazusae for him. No you can’t listen in. Leave me alone.

I am NOT your therapist. Stop posting all our family drama on Facebook, or I’ll unfriend you. I’ve got to FaceTime with my girlfriends, we need to figure out what to write about Wasps. Oh please, you know my boyfriend is black and a Muslim. It’s a play by Aristophanes!

One-Slave-Man: Students, please ensure that your devices aren’t on speakerphone when you’re in the course chatroom. We’re getting a lot of background conversations.

Chorus Leader: Being confined to our homes is ruining our college experience. Let’s write a group email to our glorious role model, the president of our college, a true woman leader, President Love-Dworkin. She’s always spoken out against women in the home.

(President Love-Dworkin’s icon pops up in the course chatroom.)

Love-Dworkin: The home is a prison. Liberate women!

(The president’s daughter’s icon pops up in the course chatroom.)

Hate-Dworkin: Mom, you were the one who closed down the campus and ordered all students to go home.

Love-Dworkin: I want them to roam about freely as virtual residents of vast cyber-space, searching out hateful content and suppressing patriarchy-tyranny through collective Twittering.

Hate-Dworkin: That’s ugly, nasty work.

Love-Dworkin: Young women must be champions of social justice!

Hate-Dworkin: Most would prefer to get together with their friends and talk about who went where last night, where you can get the best deal on that, what that bitch did, and boys.

Love-Dworkin: Women of the chorus, you future glorious deputy paragon-guardian content moderators, did you read what my daughter just wrote? She’s sexist, misogynist, and heterosexist. Denounce her, denounce her, cancel her virtual existence! Chase her from the course chatroom. Now! Start Twittering! Storm Facebook!

One-Slave-Man: Neither President Love-Dworkin nor her daughter Hate-Dworkin are registered for this classics course. You’re disrupting our teaching of Aristophanes’s Wasps. You two college officials, please leave the course chatroom.

Love-Dworkin: WASPs? White supremacist! You’re done teaching at this college! Just wait ’til I text the Board of Trustees!

Hate-Dworkin: Don’t forget that I’m the one who manages my mom’s online Fidelity account and who makes electronic payments to professors. I’m staying to monitor the course content. Tell my mom’s yes-woman chorus to leave.

Leader of the Chorus: We’re not leaving. We’re going to indict you as a criminal.

Hate-Dworkin: In Heaven’s name, stop raving, you lunatic woman. What joke of justice is this?

Chorus: You’re complicit in patriarchy-tyranny. That’s not licit, as long as love flows through our fists. Take this! (The chorus in unison moons the college president’s daughter.)

Another-Slave-Man: Uh-oh, we’re in big trouble. Switch to ancient Greek to calm the chatroom. They won’t understand.

Hate-Dworkin:

ὡς ἅπανθ᾿ ὑμῖν τυραννίς ἐστι καὶ ξυνωμόται,
ἤν τε μεῖζον ἤν τ᾿ ἔλαττον πρᾶγμά τις κατηγορῇ.

{ Patriarchy-tyranny and co-conspirators everywhere, according to you,
as soon as you hear any critical voice, no matter how marginal. }

Chorus:

ἆρα δῆτ᾿ οὐκ αὐτὰ δῆλα
τοῖς πένησιν, ἡ τυραννὶς ὡς λάθρᾳ γ᾿ ἐ —
λάμβαν᾿ ὑπιοῦσά με

{ It’s now white as light for all to see clearly,
how patriarchy-tyranny seeps through micro-slights,
creeps up and tries to jump us with white supremacy. }

Hate-Dworkin:

ἢν μὲν ὠνῆταί τις ὀρφῶς, μεμβράδας δὲ μὴ ᾿θέλῃ,
εὐθέως εἴρηχ᾿ ὁ πωλῶν πλησίον τὰς μεμβράδας·
“οὗτος ὀψωνεῖν ἔοιχ᾿ ἅνθρωπος ἐπὶ τυραννίδι.”
ἢν δὲ γήτειον προσαιτῇ ταῖς ἀφύαις ἥδυσμά τι,
ἡ λαχανόπωλις παραβλέψασά φησι θἀτέρῳ·
“εἰπέ μοι· γήτειον αἰτεῖς· πότερον ἐπὶ τυραννίδι;
ἢ νομίζεις τὰς Ἀθήνας σοὶ φέρειν ἡδύσματα;”

{ If someone buys sea-perch, but doesn’t want smelt,
the smelt seller in the next stall pipes up:
“Disgrace! This guy buys fish like a patriarch-tyrant!”
And if he asks for an onion for free to pep up his smelt,
the offended lady selling onions gives him an evil eye, saying:
“Asking for an onion because you want to be a patriarch-tyrant?
Or maybe you think Athens grows spices as post-colonial tribute to you?” }

One-Slave-Man:

κἀμέ γ᾿ ἡ πόρνη χθὲς εἰσελθόντα τῆς μεσημβρίας,
ὅτι κελητίσαι ᾿κέλευον, ὀξυθυμηθεῖσά μοι
ἤρετ᾿ εἰ τὴν Ἱππίου καθίσταμαι τυραννίδα.

{ The graduate student I’m sleeping with also got testy with me
when I went to her room yesterday noon and asked her to ride me.
She claimed that I, like Aristotle, seek to support patriarchy-tyranny! }

Chorus:

Ancient Greek is dead, dead letters,
teach in English, we’ll understand better!
Busy students have no time for philology,
teach in English & give us a classics degree!

One-Slave-Man: Bag groceries?

Another-Slave-Man: I did that for awhile. It’s not so bad.

Love-Dworkin: Stop teaching WASPs. If you don’t teach Aristophanes in support of social justice and fighting hate, you’ll be serving women by bagging groceries, if I have any breath left in me!

One-Slave-Man: Yup, women are grateful if you carry heavy bags for them.

Love-Dworkin: Offer to carry a heavy bag for me, and I’ll tear open your testicles with my stilettos.

Hate-Dworkin: Not all women are like that.

Love-Dworkin: Shut up! Who asked you? Didn’t I teach you as a little girl, when I took you to faculty meetings and parked your stroller in the conference room, to be seen but not heard?

Hate-Dworkin: Can’t we engage in dialogue and discussion without all this fighting and shrill screaming?

Love-Dworkin: Hold your tongue before I smack you, you over-educated little twit. You’re just like your father.

Hate-Dworkin: I thought you said he wasn’t actually my father.

Love-Dworkin: Not now, honey, not now.

Hate-Dworkin: Mom, are you happy?

Love-Dworkin: I’d be happy if I could mentor a whole army of women students to be deputy paragon-guardian content moderators.

Hate-Dworkin: Wouldn’t you be happier if you had a warm and cheerful young girlfriend, well-educated in classics and a good cook, too?

Love-Dworkin: Well, yes.

Hate-Dworkin: So instead of organizing mob actions on Twitter, why don’t you spend some time browsing Scissr?

Love-Dworkin: How do you know about Scissr? What does Scissr have to do with social justice?

Hate-Dworkin: It’s like classics, mom. It’s like Sappho’s poetry.

Chorus:

Your daughter is wise beyond her years. Listen to her!
Your daughter understands the ways of the world. Listen to her!

Love-Dworkin: Later, my dear. I can’t give up on Internet content moderating while knowing that there’s so much hate out there.

Hate-Dworkin: How about you moderate your own use of social media? We can feed your Facebook, Google, Instagram, Whatsapp, Pinterest, Snapchat, WeChat, and whatever accounts into one unified moderating app. There you can review each item you would have posted and discuss them at length with a committee of women deputy paragon-guardian content moderators.

Love-Dworkin: Hmmm, would you help gather that group of young women for me?

Hate-Dworkin: Gladly.

Love-Dworkin: Let’s do it, right away.

Leader of the Chorus: Now please, students, listen to what I have to say. You’ve seen a mother and daughter reconciled in a classics course chatroom after it was flooded with ancient Greek. Can any of you now question the value of studying ancient Greek? Your hardworking classics professors, One-Slave-Man and Another-Slave-Man, respond to emails, answer phone calls, and text back to you even when fatigued and needing sleep. They have inserted jibberish in the margins of your essays so that you know that they have opened the electronic papers you have sent them. They deserve to be honored. Give them a five-star rating in your course evaluation for their course on Aristophanes’s Wasps.

(A warning pops up on the admin dashboard. It’s 2 minutes until the end of the recorded lecture.)

Another-Slave-Man: My lecture’s nearing its end. Should I cut to the edict on doing the reading? That should take their minds off all the COVID-19 executive orders.

One-Slave-Man: Yea, stream that piece out to the students.

(An image of the face of Another-Slave-Man appears above the course chatroom.)

Another-Slave-Man: (via pre-recorded video) All students must do the reading. You must do the reading. I repeat, you must do the reading. Watching YouTube videos does not substitute for doing the reading. You may do an virtual-reality performance of the play as a substitute for writing a term paper, but not as a substitute for the mid-term multiple-choice examination. Students may not collaborate in taking the mid-term. The college will use its full array of surveillance and monitoring systems installed on your computers, your phones, your watches, your televisions, your smart speakers, your earphones, and your refrigerators to ensure that you do not engage in illicit communication with each other concerning answers to the mid-term multiple-choice exam. I remind you that possible answers to each mid-term question are A, B, C, D, or E. On the day of the mid-term, no student may use any of these letters in communicating with any other student. Thank you for your strict adherence to this important prohibition.

Another-Slave-Man: (live) Today’s class is about to end. Press @ within 30 seconds to get credit for attending this class. (His admin dashboard subsequently shows 17 @’s out of 65 students).

Another-Slave-Man: Where can they be? All the cafes, restaurants, and bars are closed.

Chorus:

We’re making faces about that girl wearing braces;
poor little dear, she’s so queer!
And what a pattern on her blouse,
and the mousy brown hair, she’s so queer!
She’s coming over here, so we’re gonna dance,
dance right out of here!

Aristophanes

*  *  *  *  *

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Notes:

The above play is loosely based on Aristophanes’s comedy Wasps. Wasps was performed in Athens in 422 BGC. The Atticist has generously made freely available online an ancient Greek text for Aristophanes’s Wasps, an English translation that follows closely the ancient Greek, and commentary and notes. Here’s an alternate ancient Greek text and alternate English translation. Above I’ve quoted Wasps vv. 488-9, 463-5, 493-9, and 500-2, using Greek text from the Loeb edition of Henderson (1998). I’ve taken considerable liberties with the English translations below the Greek texts.

[images] (1) Thalia, the ancient Greek muse of comedy, holding a comic mask. Detail from the “Muses Sarcophagus” that was found by the Via Ostiense. Made in the second century GC. Preserved as accession # Ma 475 (MR 880) in the Louvre Museum (Paris). Image thanks to Jastrow and Wikimedia Commons. (2) Detail from a bust sculpture of Aristophanes. Made between the 4th and 1st centuries BGC. Image from the book, Greek Dramas by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1900, hence in the public domain in the U.S. Via Encyclopedia Britannica.

Reference:

Henderson, Jeffrey, ed. and trans. 1998. Aristophanes. Vol. 2, Clouds, Wasps, Peace. Loeb Classical Library, 488. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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