Saturday, 17 March 2007

Women in the Workplace

The state of affairs described in the February 2007 UNICEF report - that the UK is the worst place in the industrialised world to bring up children has its origins in both parents being in full-time employment, ie working mums. (I wonder if I will be condemned by every feminist in this land just for saying so!)

Most mothers believe that bringing up children is sufficient work and do not want any more. There are some who want everything and have the energy and competence to combine having well-brought up children with a successful career. Most of us are only human and only want the kind of work we can cope well with, and then not too much of it either. I suggest, as a woman, that the problem is to do with women wanting to have it all and who believe they can become Shirley Conran's SUPERWOMAN just by reading the book. More sensible and less “career-ambitious” women do not have this aspiration and do not enjoy being sneered at by working mums with careers who think that their income-generating work makes them by definition superior and more fulfilled than unpaid stay-at-home mums. Anti-gender discrimination has not helped this state of affairs.

Who, as an employer, wants to provide crèche facilities and have women complaining about sexual harassment and sex discrimination and being occasionally compelled to give maternity benefits to suddenly pregnant and unmarried mothers?

Who, as a mother, thinks dragging her toddler into work in the rush hour on the tube is a perk of working motherhood?

Have we all been mad so long we have forgotten the causes of our distress?

Saturday, 3 March 2007

The Deadliest Sin

To adequately explain virtually all individual and collective miseries, we need look no further than to the indulgence of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Envy, Gluttony and Lust. But where would humanity be if we did not have these temptations to impel us into reckless behaviour and earnest endeavour with occasional successes and mistakes to learn from? Pride could prevent us from committing dishonest acts, anger unthinking submission to tyranny, sloth futile and wasteful activity. Greed is the antidote to poverty and envy that to lack of ambition. Gluttony prevents waste and from lust springs forth the next generation.

Towards pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain is all human activity dedicated. All societies have moralities designed to influence the behaviour of individuals to behave in a desired way, with desirable or undesirable outcomes, depending on the wisdom of that morality.

Religious ideologies are now deeply unfashionable while Christianity declines. Yet political ideologies of equal oppressiveness have now filled the vacuum: communism, socialism, liberalism, political correctness, to name a few. Environmentalism is now the latest morality being used to extract more taxes, but are these ideologies but a modern but equally misguided list of prohibitions promoted by puritanical fanatics, telling us that we must be compelled to be better, more generous and kinder than we really are?

Being forbidden by the state from giving offence to protected groups infringes our freedoms of expression, contract and association. If employers are compelled to pretend not to discriminate on grounds of age, sex, race and disability in order to avoid a lawsuit, if gentlemen’s and working men’s clubs are compelled to accept as members anyone whom the majority of their members do not wish to have, be they women or other races, then our traditional freedoms have been significantly curtailed. As for the most important ingredient of freedom, the right to property, it is now increasingly compromised by the state’s ever-stronger compulsion to tax us while we live and earn, when we retire and are pensioned, and yet again when we die.

Before the term “nanny state” was coined, the term paternalism was used, meaning the same thing – of looking after those weaker than ourselves and paying taxes to see that this was done. But surely no self-respecting male Tory Paternalist would have considered forbidding smoking in public places?

Women now have more opportunity than formerly to impose upon the rest of society the preferences of their gender. What could be more nanny-ish than invading a country, plunging it into chaos and then informing its populace that it was done “for your own good”?

Small children on tricycles wearing safety helmets riding on pavements seems unnecessary to someone who remembers a time when seatbelts in cars were not compulsory. Increasingly older first-time mothers vulnerable to divorce and infertility who cannot just have more children may however think differently. Apparently unrelated decisions by a woman to have a career can result in the unintended consequences of wrapping up a countryful of over-protected children in cotton wool, with predictable consequences on their character and the nation’s attitude to risk.

A balance between the masculine and feminine virtues therefore needs to be struck, and some sensible idea of what is or is not in the national interest should now be adopted, rather than to continue muddling along, thinking we know what the words mean without bothering to define them. What makes us feel good about ourselves now will not necessarily secure the future, and those who prefer safety to liberty will ultimately deserve and receive neither.