I caught myself ranting to the dog again this morning about eyebrow sculpting. The dog is very receptive to these rants. Today I told him that the only good thing about his prime minister was the impressively untamed wilderness said prime minister used to host above his shifty little eyes. "And then," I said, "then, Wilbur you fine young beast, then he went and got them trimmed! Just like he trimmed funding to the ABC, and trimmed a couple of islands from the Australian migration zone, and trimmed off his non-core promises." The trimming of John Howard's eyebrows (are you listening, Wilbur?) is a metaphor for his treatment of our expansive national identity.
Of course, John Howard's eyebrow-trimming is all of a piece with eyebrow sculpting trends in non-participatory democracies the world over. Scarcely a nominally enfranchised eyebrow do I see these days that hasn't been realigned, clipped, or subjected to the full punitive weight of the tweezer. Small government, my foot.
The dog thinks I am mildly obsessive about the things humans do to their various hairinesses, but he blinks indulgently. His own eyebrows consist of seven displaced whiskers and he tends to ignore them.
These discussions Wilbur and I have about prime-ministerial eyebrows are just the froth on the larger cappuccino of my concerns about hair. I've been working recently on my Hair-Do Index of Eighteenth-Century Cultural Change theory. European society during the Enlightenment is characterised chiefly by its fear of chaos (i.e., madness, political radicalism, nature, North American Indians and teenagers' bedrooms). This results in Newtonian astonomy, Linnaean botanical classification, Augustan poetry, etiquetterie, flummery, frippery – and elaborate wigs. Here, for instance, is Marie Antoinette, exemplifying the spirit of the age:
Or Marie Antoinette's terrestrial proxy, Kirsten Dunst, at any rate. That's not Kirsten Dunst's hair, citizens. That is a wig. And like corsetry and conduct manuals, it is part of an attempt to dissociate civilised people from a state of nature.
Enter the Romantics, dauntless advocates of a return to nature. No need to read their poetry, contract their tuberculosis, or speak their German. Just look at their hair ...
Shelley had better things to do with his time than invest in a restyle with complementary macchiato. And besides, this is hair as nature intended it.
The moral to the story: folks with de-natured hair run around advising disaffected peasants to eat cake and find themselves decapitated in untimely fashion; folks who let it all hang out get to go on walking tours of Switzerland and name their goldfish "Ozymandius".
We have been warned.