While Women still exist, we’ll still have sexism

MPs in sleaze scandal.  Surely not.

I’m fed up with seeing females clad in cocktail dresses, slavered in make-up, with the torture instruments that are popularly know as high heels on their feet, saying how unfair and outrageous it is that men feel that they can grope parts of women’s bodies.  Sisters, how can you not see the irony?  As long as you look like a ‘Woman’, you will be a ‘Woman’, i.e. a second-class human, a weak vessel, a fuck-toy.

I was quite distressed at my school’s speech day seeing sixth-formers and staff dressing up as ‘women’:  short skirts – whose only possible function can be access (especially those with a convenient zip up the back), for they’re certainly not practical – heels, make-up (the speaker had about an inch deep of foundation.  Does she not have skin?????), dyed long flicky-swishy hair.  And the blokes – short-haired, besuited.  All stereotypes, at best; caricatures, at worst.

M-to-F ‘transgender’ beings say they feel like women.  What do they mean by women?  Oh, yes, lo-and-behold:  creatures with make-up, heels, tight dresses and prominent tits.  Are there any M-to-F transgender people who dress in frumpy shoes (those genderless lace-ups which are just called shoes in male-speak), trousers, a shirt and a jacket?  Oh, and short hair and no make-up?  Or, for that matter, any F-to-M transgender types who wear skirts still?  No, because it’s not the fact that we’ve got the wrong dangly bits – it’s the fact that society is still grossly unfair and still discriminates hugely against women.  But we women help it.  Why the fuck does T May go about in ridiculous kitten heels?  Why the fuck does Clare Balding wear make-up?  Why the fuck does the England cricket team wear perfectly normal, neutral, practical clothes on the field and then look like some parody of air-hostesses circa 1980 when off it?  Actually, is the second-to-left a woman?  It’s got short hair and square shoulders.  Maybe it’s a man.  Maybe it was once a man.  Or maybe she’s the most sensible and honest of the lot, who tries to mitigate this hideousness by wearing flat shoes and looking desperately uncomfortable is sexist clothing.  Why the fuck are they wearing skirts?  Why aren’t the men’s team?

Image result for england women's cricket

Please can some scandal come out about Theresa May fondling some nice young Spad’s balls, or Amber Rudd’s outrageously long list of (young) male lovers?  Or Ruth Davidson’s Wall of Steamy Lesbian Conquests?

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Bankers, Hayek, and Envy

Hayek separates, in his Constitution of Liberty, value from merit.  Value is the worth of a good or service for that community (set, in Hayek’s free market world, by that community), and merit is the moral worth of an action.  It doesn’t matter whether I have packed a loaf of bread beautifully or just adequately:  the value of the packed loaf of bread will be the same, and I will get the same wage as the perfectionist beside me.  Companies that produce things people don’t want will not make as much money as companies that produce things people do want, even though they may be wonderful employers.

Hayek says that “in a free system it is neither desirable nor practicable that material rewards should be made generally to correspond to what men recognize as merit and that it is an essential characteristic of a free society that an individual’s position should not necessarily depend on the views that his fellows hold about the merit he has acquired.”  Freedom, or liberty, comes from the markets sorting out value, not on someone or collection of people in government deciding on what jobs or products or whatever are morally meritorious – for that gives them the power of value-judgement, and it’s but a short step to totalitarianism.

Furthermore, Hayek argues, attempts to equalise society based on merit, or to insist that “all must be assured an equal start and the same prospects”, are based on envy (and here he dismisses Crosland’s Future of Socialism).

Finally, Hayek discusses “another argument on which the demands for a more equal distribution are frequently based”:  “membership in a particular community or nation entitles the individual to a particular material standard that is determined by the general wealth of the group to which he belongs.”  As there is no merit in being born into a society, group or class, there is no justice in being rewarded thus.  Being poor in Britain is very different to being poor in Sierra Leone – and “few people would be prepared to recognize the justice of these demands on a world scale.”  Of course, he says, we should protect our citizens against the risks of life (infirmity etc), but “it is an entirely different matter, however, to suggest that those who are poor, merely in the sense that there are those in the same community who are richer, are entitle to a share in the wealth of the latter”.  (He goes on to say that “rather than admit people to the advantages that living in their country offers, a nation will prefer to keep them out altogether” – prescient, but a subject for another post.)

For someone who sits on the fence between liberalism and socialism, these arguments provide much food for thought.  I often wonder at the wealth of bankers, or of top accountants or CEOs, especially in relation to the relative un-wealth of teachers or nurses.  According to an article by the Independent a couple of years ago, “the best paid full-time workers are all in the City of London, where average earnings were £921 a week. That’s nearly two-and-a-half times more than the lowest average UK wage of £389 in Derbyshire.”  Now, the markets dictate that someone who gambles on derivatives is of more value than someone who picks peas.  The liberal in me shrugs and says, ‘while that’s not the relative value I’d place on these, being a liberal means letting things happen, and not imposing one’s own value-judgements, for what we need is liberty over everything, even equality’.

But value is a funny thing.  We see things in terms of monetary value; Hayek himself was an economist who believed that liberty sprang from economic liberalism.  However, it’s more and more clear that our pursuit of monetary profit and gain is destroying the world:  our consumerism is environmentally deleterious.  The CEOs of multi-national mining or petrochemical firms are raking it in while their companies rape the earth; their ill-gotten gains are spent on cars and foreign holidays and all the material things that it behoves rich people to have.  The markets are geared towards consumerism and a growth economy, but these are, in the long-run, unsustainable:  the values of today will have, at some point, to change.

And I am not sure that one can separate value and merit quite so finally, and that redistribution of wealth is based on envy.  To take the latter first, redistribution of wealth perhaps recognises that the value put on things by the markets are not necessarily the value put on things by society – the value, not the wealth.  Let us take a CEO, on £100K a year.  His (for he is probably a he) mother, whom he loves, and who gave him his unmeritoriously fine and privileged start in life, is infirm and in a nursing home.  She is cared for by a female carer (of African origin) who earns £10K a year.  The value to the CEO – or his company – of the carer is immense:  his looking after his mother would, on his estimated hourly rate, cost £50 rather than the £5-an-hour paid to Flora the carer.  He might argue that his salary is because he generates lots of wealth, but surely we have to question what that wealth is for.  If it is for providing us, individually, with a nice life, then surely carers ought to be rewarded for providing us with care which affects us profoundly, but which we are loath to think about because the healthy never do want to contemplate being unhealthy, as the living rarely contemplate dying.  Following Hayek’s argument, the carer has a job worthy of merit, but not of value.  However, perhaps we’ve got value wrong:  perhaps it cannot be just up to the markets to establish value, and perhaps the setting-aside of value-judgements by liberals is itself a value-based judgement.

Is it possible to be an environmentally-friendly liberal?  Possibly not, in that putting the environment first necessarily means curbing some of our consumerist freedoms.  But can we not have a ‘green’ framework, just as now we have a free(ish) market framework?  If we placed environmental value on things, then mining would decrease, travelling would decrease, consumerism would decrease.  It’s an interesting world to consider, but probably far too frightening for most people to do so.

(By the way, there’s an excellent radio article on the value and merit of CEOs here.)

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Foreign Aid

I never usually watch such things, but I quite enjoyed watching the ITV Leaders’ Debate, and Question Time.  One topic which came up in both was the perceived need to cut the foreign aid budget.  It’s UKIP policy, and seems to have found a real resonance in the elderly population of Norfolk, where QT came from.  Nuttall (OMG, I’m reaching that age when these people are my contemporaries – how does he feel he’s got the maturity to govern?) said that the £12.1 bn spent on foreign aid would be much better spent on, well, almost anything.

Except he’s wrong.  Yes, of course there’s inefficiency, and even corruption, in foreign aid.  But the principle of foreign aid is sound.  Apart from Jonathan Bartley’s point that it’s a disgrace that the world’s fifth-largest economy can’t spare actually what is only a little of its income on some of the world’s poorer parts, there’s no logic to the cut-foreign-aid argument.

In fact, logic surely dictates the opposite:  if we help other countries develop well (fairly and sustainably), then we will de facto discourage emigration from those countries and immigration to our own.  Is this not obvious?

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A Taxing Problem

Listening to David Aaronovitch on the Beeb has made me think yet again about taxation.  According to a number-cruncher, we spend 30p of every £1 on social security, health 20p, education 10p, defence 5p, interest on national debt 5p, police 5p.  Of the rest comes everything else – including environmental stuff (it’ll be interesting to see this in thirty years’ time, when we’ve so screwed the environment that it’ll be our biggest expenditure).

Another number-cruncher said that 78% tax is paid by the highest household earners.  The top 1% of income tax payers pays 27% of tax.  That’s very generous of them.  However, they earn over £160,000.  At that gross salary (according to moneysavingexpert.com), you’d pay £57,800, which seems like a whack-loada-tax – and you have £6,724 NICs.  However, that still leaves a nice net pay of £94,476.  Leaving aside the fact that that is more money than I’ll ever earn gross (I’m not envious…), that is more than any individual actually needs to live a comfortable life on.

But we need to do something to plug the widening gap between tax revenues and expenditure.  Not house-based taxes, perhaps.  The last valuation was in 1991 – but to re-evaluate house prices would cripple lots of people (yes, including me) whose houses are in the South-East and who can only just about afford the mortgage.

The parties all have their suggestions for improvements.  My alignment, of course, is with the Greens.  But we need to go further – even to have a change of attitude.  We need a two-pronged attack on the problem of taxation.  First, we need to make taxation not something to avoid (or evade), but something to be enthusiastic about and proud of paying.   Secondly, we need to make how our taxes are being spent much more open.  Both of these things are possible with the internet.

A friend suggested that we could publish “taxpayer-of-the-week” – we could look on those who pay the most taxes as philanthropists, not fat cats; benefactors, not bankers.

Councils could also publish easy-reading version of their budgets and accounts, so we know how much they’ve spent on the police, the local schools etc.  The NHS ditto.

Here are some possibilities and problems from the Open Knowledge Foundation:

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Hard [sic] by a mighty pine tree

Hurrah for olde smutte.  (I heard this performed by TSSAI to the tune of the Friar and the Nun.)
A FREINDE OF MINE
It was my chance, not long ago,
by a pleasant wood to walk,
where I unseen of any one
did hear two lovers talk;
& as these lovers forth did pass,
hard by a pleasant shade,
hard by a mighty Pine tree there,
their resting place they made.

” In sooth,” then did this young man say,
” I think this fragrant place
was only made for lovers true
each others to embrace.”
he took her by the middle small,—
good sooth I do not mock, —
not meaning to do any thing
but to pull up her [smo..] block

whereon she sate, poor silly soul,
to rest her weary bones,
this maid she was no whit afraid,
but she caught him fast by the [stones] thumbs ;
whereat he vexed and grieved was,
so thai his flesh did wrinkle;
this maid she was no whit afraid,
but caught him fast hold by the [pintle – you can guess] pimple

which he had on his chin likewise; —
but let the pimple pass;—
there is no man hear but he may suppose
she wee]re a merry lass.
he boldly ventured, being tall,
yet in his speech but blunt,
he never ceased, but took up all,
and caught her by the [c***] plump.

And red rose lips he kissed full sweet :
quoth she, “I crave no succour.”
which made him to have a mighty mind
to clip, kiss, & to [f***] pluck her
into his arms. “nay! soft!” quoth she,
” what needeth all this doing ?
for if you will be ruled by me,
you shall use small time in wooing.

“for I will lay me down,” quoth she,
“upon the slippery segs,
& all my clothes I’ll truss up round,
and spread about my [legs] eggs,
which I have in my apron here
under my girdle tucked;
so shall I be most fine and brave,
most ready to be [f-] ducked

unto some pleasant springing well;
for now its time of the year
to deck, & bath, & trim ourselves
both head, hands, feet & gear.”

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The Hawkstour

The brace of Hawks are winging it (well, driving in an old Volvo) across northern Europe.  Read all about it here!

 

 

 

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Otto Dix at the De La Warr Pavilion

It was raining in Bexhill; nonetheless, the De La Warr Pavilion was promenading splendidly.  It’s a spacious and grand building, but inside it feels (and smells) rather municipal.  It suffers from too many blank walls, giving it an air of emptiness:  a few paintings (by artists and local school children) would make it busy and warm, and add to, rather than subtract from, its grandeur.  A few signs wouldn’t go amiss, either:  we found the Otto Dix exhibition through sheer perseverance (it was, rather ungrandly, next to the cafe-cum-restaurant).

The first and second Galleries were taken up with contemporary art of variable quality, with an exhibition name of stunning crassness:  ‘I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart.’  Yes, really.  Those who are familiar with the poem, and even more so with Butterworth’s amazing setting of it, will know how heart-rending and horrible it is.  In the gift shop there were for sale yellow t-shirts with – I kid you not – ‘I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart.’  Sack the person who thought of this:  they clearly have no soul, no understanding of poetry and little of life and death.

And now on to life and death.  When we finally found Otto Dix, he was 19 pictures of Great War hideousness.  19 was about the right number:  enough to illustrate all sorts of war horrors, but not too many to dilute them.  There were corpses from gas attacks, bombs, guns, hypothermia;  soldiers and civilians.  The pictures (aquatints and etchings) were crafted so that they took some looking at to let their full stories emerge.  The – from the distance – beautiful mountain scene was in fact a load of dead soldiers strewn over mud.  The abandoned trench was a sinking grave with rags turning into vultures and grim reapers.  The retreating soldiers were stepping on corpses, not ground.  Was the poor soldier sitting by a skeleton on a freezing mountain eating his lunch or spewing it up?

These images should be known to every pupil studying the First World War – not least as a reminder that the Germans had a foul time, too, and that the whole thing was utterly pointless and grim.

A slight disappointment was the accompanying leaflet.  It gave very little contextual information, and was in several instances rather confusing.  A woman asked me what the things were in the ‘Gefunden beim Grabendurchstich’ (translated as ‘Found while digging a trench’), as the leaflet had said ‘To this day, the ground along the Western Front is filled with surprises’.  She’d seen them as bodies, but thought from the blurb that it was a more optimistic picture.  It wasn’t.  They were bodies – as the German caption makes clear:  ‘Graben’ means ‘grave’.  This word featured in another caption:  ‘Zerfallender Kampfgraben’, translated as ‘Collapsed trenches.’ ‘Collapsing war-grave’ would be more accurate and less blandly neutral.  The ‘Appell der Zurückgekehrten’ (‘Roll call of returning troops’) was a line-up of mentally and physically wrecked soldiers, being called by a smartly-dressed, intact sergeant.  Presumably these troops were returning to the front line, and the point is that they should not have been.  The leaflet said ‘The war took a great toll on all its participants.  Here the living are barely distinguishable from the dead.’  What dead?  There are no dead in this picture.

Unfortunately, the leaflet was written by a moron.  The pictures, however, were drafted by a genius.

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