Birmingham University School was too full of too few aristocrats’ boys to field winning teams. Outreach for private schools had not yet been invented. Inclusion was against the law in Alabama. Affirmative Action was still over the horizon. Winning, a devoluted attribute no longer found in the heirs of the wealthy Big Mule families, did not merit their establishing sports scholarships for athletes from the other side of town.
Rather than throw in the towel and ignore sports all together, the school fielded weak teams made up of anyone who would show up for a game. Practices were another matter. No team with young Ansel Head ever won anything during his three sport a year tour at BUS.
Teachers feared that without excelling at something, the fragile male egos of their wards would be permanently stunted. Such concerns were needlessly wasted on the young Head. As psychologists have noted, no ego exists until there is some event to which it can attach itself. That something might be nothing more that an attaboy or a good-job pat on the back. But there must be this starting event, no matter how insignificant it might seem, to establish an ego and only then and from there can damage occur.
In boys, it’s even more complicated. The law of averages dictates that when a starting event is translated into an electronic impulse that impulse will most likely be stored in a free floating neuron in the brain which may not yet be connected to synopses that may or may not yet be firing properly. In this case, the boy would be unable to recall the starting event so again there would be no ego to which damage could occur.
Once an ego is established, it must be protected and nurtured for life. The only defense is superiority. Either one is superior or not. It cannot be learned or acquired. Women are born with this trait, but few males have it. Fearing their egos will be assaulted, non-superior males, and that’s most of them, lash out whenever they sense criticism is forthcoming in an attempt to deflect the jab, but their efforts are mostly in vain since the criticism is usually coming from superior beings who are never wrong.
The young Head was fortunate. His pre-War older brother, who was born superior, had fully functioning synopses connected to many more neurons than normal. Having his world and all adults in it to himself for nearly six years before the young Head’s arrival, the brother had learned and remembered much. During that period, he was exposed to Male Ego Mutilation (MEM), an emerging subcategory of Psychology’s Male Ego Castration (MEC). Being superior, he was exempt from either psychosis.
That the young Head was not superior was obvious to everybody. Auspiciously, his pre-War brother had fraternal urges toward him. The pre-War brother nobly took it upon himself to do his duty for the family and shield his inferior sibling from the damaging effects that Mutilation would cause. His plan was simple, direct, and ingenious, well beyond the capabilities of any boy who was not superior and destined for Yale.
As previously noted, there must be a starting event for an ego to emerge, some kind word or complement. What the pre-War brother had also learned, because his synopses were fully developed at birth, is that complements attach themselves to free floating neurons in the brain and that that one neuron holding the potential starting event could also hold more data so long as that data is presented simultaneously. In the microcosm of brain neurons, bad always overshadows good. All the pre-War brother had to do to protect his inferior brother was to prevent his sibling from ever developing an ego in the first place. By vigorously adding a disparaging comment immediately on top of any complement that might, in others, become the starting event for an ego, he would thereby blanket that complement. If and when the inferior brother’s synopses did develop and connect neurons, there would be no neurons with recognizable complements and thus no starting event for an ego. With no ego, his inferior brother would be spared the demoralizing consequences of Male Ego Mutilation.
That his pre-War brother took to his cause with such enthusiasm is a testament to his superiority. His work began the day the brother came home from the hospital.
“He’s so adorable,” an admirer gushed.
“He throws up on people,” the guardian brother immediately added.
“He’s so cute, I could just eat him up,” another added.
“He poops in his pants,” the protector pointed out.
As the young Head got older, “Look at him, he’s walking!”
“He can’t do a pushup.”
At Aunt Roy’s pool, “He certainly takes to the water well.”
“Big deal, he’s wearing water-wings.”
As the younger brother was looking at a book, “He just read aloud ‘Run spot run’ on his own.”
“Yea, but he can’t write his name?”
Day in and day out, on and on it went; the pre-War brother devoted himself to his younger brother, insuring that no ego could possibly emerge. His work was successful. The young Head’s synopses, when they finally started firing, were never able to connect to a single complement that wasn’t blanketed by criticisms. No ego ever developed and the inferior brother was spared from Mutilation’s effects. The ground breaking experiment was so successful that Head’s younger sister entitled her master’s thesis in Psychology, The Ansel Head Male Ego Interruptus Syndrome.
But this is not a story about Psychology and its jargon. Although his environment contributed to his ability to learn and therefore has some bearing on outcome, this story is about Ansel Head’s quest for an education, however little he could absorb, and to that one should return.
The young Head’ teachers were worried about male egos being adversely affected because their charges never won a game. Their solution was to start a glee club. Since only parents and grandparents would attend the recital, the boys could not lose.
The three friend – Head, Henry and Wilbur – joined up. Practice was every afternoon for several months; nightly homework included twenty minutes of singing in the shower. The big show was scheduled in December prior to Christmas vacation in 1955. Blackening their faces and necks, the boys put on an old fashioned minstrel – singing songs, lampooning Black people, and making the audience laugh at their buffoonery. They received a standing ovation. Male egos of Head’s friends were stroked and the teachers were much pleased with the results.
In another world just down the street and only a week or two prior to the show, Rosa Parks had refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery. She had been arrested and a young Martin Luther King was organizing a boycott of the bus company. The battle had been joined.
Less than 100 miles from the friends, there was an education in the making, an education for the millions. But no one knew where it was going or whether it was going anywhere at all, least of all everybody involved. The boys’ overseers had to have known a new game was afoot. But from their perspective, these contests would be handled by the white working class and were better left to them. Little would be gained by disturbing the household help with beligerent talk or any talk on the subject for that matter. The authorities would arrest the outside aggitators and upty trouble makers for breaking Alabama’s laws and that would be that. It was better to keep the boys studying a ninteenth century curriculum where Blacks were content being intimidated into subsisting as they had since the Civil War.
And the boys, knowing no other courses were available, studied onward, content being isolated in the Tiny Kingdom, and happy entertaining a segregated audience with their black faces in a white folk’s demeaning farce of Negro culture. The glee club was education of a sort but one that would prove to be another dead end for Head’s quest.
Knowing no better, Head tried to join the glee club the next season but was denied access because his voice was changing. Wilbur and Henry, seeing the hand writing on the wall, quit before the ax could fall. Had Head had an ego, it would have been a traumatic Mutilation being refused entry solely because of physical characteristics; but thanks to his brother’s hard work, he was spared.