I’m not a heavy user of the Web. But sometimes I get a few odd words of an old song or fragments of a melody stuck in my head. I fire up the computer, go to YouTube, type this or that into the search field, and presto, I’m listening to a recording of a half-forgotten song that until only recently had seemed lost forever.
For years I’d sing the first stanza or two of a particularly goofy song from 1969 or thereabouts: “In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find . . . dah, dah, dah, dah. . . . In the year 3535, ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies; everything you think, do, or say is in the pill you took today . . . dah, dah, dah, dah. . . . In the year 4545. . . .” My kids would giggle and tell me to stop making stuff up. Recently, YouTube came to my rescue. I located the song and played it for the kids, who were thoroughly entertainedand then turned to search for a cappella versions of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but there is another strange, half forgotten song that I’ve often wondered about. In the 1990s, I sat through many meetings to discuss faculty hiring. In those days, the drumbeat for diversity was intense, which, at the end of the day almost always meant finding a woman. I can vividly remember sitting in those meetings, listening to a dean or sub-dean or senior faculty member formulate for us the “special importance” of “looking closely” at female candidates.
The air was so heavy with desirean earnest, moralistic, self-deceived desire to feel good and just and progressivethat I almost always found myself transported back to 1972 or so. All around me I’m hearing pieties about diversity, but inside, I’m on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, listening to a transistor radio that is playing a song; the only lines I remember are being sung with great gusto: “Gotta find a woman, Gotta find a woman, Gotta find a woman.”
I’ve felt vaguely guilty every time those lyrics have come to mind in faculty meetings. Something like the literal sense of affirmative action is often necessary. Over the years, I’ve observed a common pattern of reasoning. Serious-minded professors sit around and agree that they want to hire “the best possible person for the job.” Then, in the privacy of their minds, each tends to congratulate himself with the thought that he is, in fact, “the best possible person for the job.” Of course, each also notices that he already has the job and cannot be hired. So, with flawless logic, the professor draws the natural conclusion that the department should do the next best thing, which is to hire someone “just like me.”
So, yes, I’m sure that academia needed a kick in the pants, and probably still does. But all the veiled threats from the higher administration should female hires not be forthcoming, all the hand wringing and heavy breathingI can never get the salacious and utterly blatant lyrics out of my head. The panting, straining words, “Gotta find a woman, Gotta find a woman, Gotta find a woman” have seemed to fit perfectly with the desperate, salivating cohorts of gray-haired male faculty in search of a woman. Indeed, the image has been so perfect that eventually I began to doubt my own memory. Were the lines from a real song? The oldies radio station never seemed to play it. None of my friends had a clue when I tried to warble a few notes. Was I making it up?
YouTube came to the rescue. I’m consistently surprised how little one needs to know in order to find things on the Web. Like so much on the Web, YouTube is set up to suck you into an endless chain of clicks that will lead you to quit your day job and surf forever down an endlessly breaking wave of stuff almost interesting enough to be worth your attention. You know how it works. Next to your selection, the search mechanism offers related items. Looking for a copy of The Golden Bowl by Henry James? Very good, and by the way, there’s also Wings of a Dove, and a biography of James, and even a copy of The Golden Bough by James Frazier. Well, you haven’t thought about Frazier for years, but you’ve always wanted to read that classic in early anthropology. So you click, and soon you’re distracted by still other related items: a book about the California gold rush, a DVD of Treasure of the Sierra Madre that has old footage of interviews with John Huston, and then a whole fascinating set of images of ancient Egyptian ceramics.
I had some vague idea that the song was called “Neanderthal.” After a few hits and misses, YouTube’s handy sidebar of further options took me right were I needed to go: “Troglodyte (cave man).” Wow! Not only was my memory vindicatedindeed I had not made up the “Gotta find a woman” lyricsbut to hear again the full glory of this rhythmic, whimsical, campy, and politically incorrect song was a wonderfully full moment of illicit delight. And as an added treat, the song comes with a primitive music video as hilarious as the lyrics.
Now I’m even more thoroughly ruined. One cannot listen to “Troglodyte (cave man)” and then sit unmoved as an aging male academic urges the importance of hiring more women. The fetid atmosphere of moral urgency is so deeply compromised by careerism (getting good “diversity numbers” is a key to advancement in academic administration), so plainly at odds with any reasonable sense of justice, so obviously insulting to the women who are being used in order to rack up points on the affirmative action score card, that the simple lines of brute instinct invariably burst forth: “Gotta find a woman, Gotta find a woman, Gotta find a woman.”
R.R. Reno is features editor of First Things and associate professor of theology at Creighton University.