I was conversing with the young people at work about our “development objectives.”
(If that phrase sounds like corporate double-speak to you, well then congratulations to you. Nice to be independently wealthy. We working class have salaries based, in part, on our personalities. My personality flaws are part of my work review and my managers get to play amateur therapist on a semi-annual basis to determine what is wrong with me so I can change.)
I find this foreign, but the young co-workers don’t. They accept this, but find it demoralizing, so I was thinking of ways to alleviate their pain. (Works Cooperatively — 5 out of 5.)
It occurred to me that we could all game the system. I could go into my next review and say I struggle with Works Cooperatively, then just sit on my rear until my next review, when my boss will applaud me for my efforts; having noticed many examples of me Working Cooperatively.
I was amusing myself thinking of how to best recommend this to the young people, and thought I should call it the “Briar Patch Strategy.”
Luckily, I caught myself. A quick check on the Internet proved that Kids Today have heard “please don’t throw me into the briar patch,” but they think it means “don’t throw me under the bus.” They don’t know the whole story of the clever rabbit — born and bred in the briar patch — begging that he not be thrown into the thorny place that only he knows how to navigate.
“Don’t throw me into the briar patch” is such great shorthand, much more pithy than “tricking someone into punishing you with something you excel at.” Sadly, it’s from the controversial Uncle Remus stories. I can see how people today think the Uncle Remus stories are racist, and I blame that mainly on the Disney version, Song of the South. I’d never seen any of that movie before five minutes ago, and now that I just looked it up on YouTube, damn, that’s racist.
I didn’t learn my Uncle Remus lore at the movies, I picked it up in book form. I clearly remember reading the 1880’s stories out loud. Picture my ten-year-old self sitting cross-legged on the carpet in my sunny yellow-wallpapered suburban home, phonetically sounding out:
‘Drown me des ez deep ez you please, Brer Fox,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, ‘but do don’t fling me in dat brier-patch,’ sezee.
(When I realized “sezee” was “says he,” I felt like I had solved the Rosetta Stone. I went out and told my mother. I was an adult before I heard Brer was short for Brother.)
So while the current 30 year olds might not know of the briar patch, here’s a 2006 animated film called The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, which brings the stories back, minus the dialect and the Wise Uncle telling the stories to the white child. I just bought it and watched it just to wash Song of the South out of my head.
The Briar Patch is the climactic scene. So if kids saw it in 2006, maybe in about five years I’ll be able to reference “briar patch” again and young people will know what I mean.