Speaking of Men
Copyright Mercia McMahon 2015
All rights reserved
Published in 2015 by
27 Old Gloucester Street
In memory of Sonia Burgess
A tower against injustice
Table of Contents
It was a world united in a common voice, but otherwise it was a world that was deeply divided. Apart from the shepherds, everyone was protected behind city walls from the invading armies of other cities who wanted to extend their power and wealth through might and fight. The problem was that too much wealth was tied up in building fortifications and supplying armies to defend and attack cities. So a ripple of an idea began and through peace missions and negotiations it spread from one city to another. Negotiations always began tense, then became nervous as arguments raged, but, as the simple and brilliant wisdom of the plan dawned, they turned to excitement. That city then signed up to the plan and sent their own peace missions to other cities. It was so much easier to achieve this progress quickly because the whole of humanity spoke with one language, even if they did not yet speak with one voice. Eventually all the cities in the known world had been invited and to a man (women were not consulted) they all signed up.
It was now time for the rest of the men to be told the great plan, and as they would find out anyway and the plan would affect them, the women would be sort of told. Or at least wives would hear it from their husbands, widows from their sons, and the other women would hear it from the wives and widows. There was no need to tell the women directly, as they would learn about the men’s plans later on, as they always did.
The plan was simple, but not that simple, for the simple plan would be to not build armies to attack your neighbour’s city. Indeed, that is what the women always said, but what did females know about how to fight a war. No this plan was not simplistic, but it was simple. Each city would select its greatest warriors and best builders, and instead of building small cities to protect them from each other’s armies, they would build a great city to rule the world. It would be the head city of all the world’s cities and peoples and so it would be called Capital City. All around the known world in gatherings of men there were great cheers and hopes at the thought of this promise of world domination. At the end of the gatherings, the men were given permission to tell their wives and mothers about the plan. After all, with every city in the world signed up to build Capital City there was no need to keep it secret, even from the women, who of course could not be trusted with secrets. So the men hurried home to tell the great news to their significant women, and were shocked at the underwhelming nature of the response.
“So you’re going away for several years to build an even bigger city, supposedly because the very people who attacked our city and killed your two sons said it was a clever idea.”
“Certainly not because they said so, but it is a brilliant idea, no matter who first told us about it, and they heard it from someone else in a city that has never sent an army to attack us.”
“And just how much wine did you have to drink before its brilliance dawned on you?”
“It is brilliant, and it does not mean that I forgive those who killed my sons, but no-one who has shed the blood of someone from another city is allowed to be part of the expedition. Unless blood was shed in defending your own city, as in my case, or you are a great warrior or leader, because we will need them if Capital City is to rule the world.”
“So all the world’s cities are signing up to build this Capital City?”
“Yes all of them, so not just our sworn enemies.”
“Well, then, if the whole world is going to live in this one city, how are you going to rule the world? And who apart from each other, are Capital City’s warriors going to fight?”
“Don’t talk nonsense, woman, what do you know about the real world?”
Unfortunately for the men, the women were not talking nonsense, and what seemed a brilliant idea when every man was imagining the glory that he would achieve was as holey as one of those things that the women used to do the cooking, whatever they are called in that era. So the gatherings reconvened the following morning all around the known world.
“Well, men, we all know what our wives and mothers have been saying to us last night, and we have heard the laughing and seen the mocking glances of the women as we have come together this morning to gather for a second time in two days. We admit there may be at first sight one or two holes in our argument, but that doesn’t stop this being a brilliant plan. After all, if it was brilliant yesterday evening, it does not become stupid just because the women say so. What do they know about the affairs of the world? We must not let them distract us, but men are sometimes weak in dealing with women. They let their mothers and their wives talk them out of greatness and into being happy with life as it is. So we must protect such weak men by persuading the women of the brilliance of our plan for Capital City. Go back to your homes to persuade your women-folk and we will send out peace missions to find out how other cities are handling any similar criticisms.”
After several months of negotiations between the cities, new gatherings were called around the world. At these gatherings the men were reassured that the women had been similarly dismissive of the brilliance of the plans in all the other cities and the task of talking them around had proved just as fruitless. There was, however, a cunning plan that had been developed to bring the women around to accepting the plan. They were critical because the plan was holey, so they had to be won round by persuading them that the plan for Capital City was holy. At the centre of the city they would build a great tower that would reach to heaven and connect Capital City to the God of the Breasts. If there was one way that the men of the world could win over the women, it was to feign respect for God. As God was also female, women had a particular attachment to her, although men were puzzled why God should be female, if men ruled the world. For the sake of the brilliant plan they agreed to pretend that they were interested in God. This might be a little confusing to the reader, as men would subsequently translate God of the Breasts as something much more masculine sounding, namely God of the Mountains.
The rather brief and biased story of Babel has already been told by men, but to get the full and fun version, you need to hear it from a woman’s perspective and that is what this retelling is designed to provide. The men were going back to use their supposedly new-found devotion to the God of the Breasts to persuade us that they had our best interests at heart, and sadly we fell for it. I guess men seemed such simple creatures and especially after the ridiculous nature of their brilliant plan for Capital City none of us suspected that we were being taken for a ride. Well actually we were not being taken for a ride. Only men were to form part of the expeditionary force that was to travel East in search of the perfect site for their brilliant plan. They promised that once Capital City was built they would send troops to escort us to our new homes. Unfortunately not all the men would leave, but while it lasted the thought of women-only cities from which we would never agree to move to Capital City was highly enjoyable.
Further gatherings were held by the men to decide who was to be lucky enough to head East to build Capital City. No-one wanted to miss out on the glory, old men strutted and spouted to prove their fitness, while boys fought to prove their maturity and mettle. Most of all, no man wanted to be left behind to guard the women.
“Men, listen to me. It is impossible. We cannot all go to build Capital City.”
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The Tower of Babel is a well-known story from the Jewish scriptures that relates the story of how men angered God and as a result the confusion of human languages was brought into being. Yet what if the story was told by ancient women? How would the story differ? This is an attempt to re-imagine the story from a female perspective. This is neither history nor theology. This is humour with a political edge. The book is dedicated to the memory of crusading immigration lawyer Sonia Burgess, who murder in 2010 caused this project to be abandoned after this short novel had already been completed.