Sunday, 5 November 2017
The Age of Unreason
It is the lot of one generation to bemoan the decline in the next. Since man first started recording such thoughts, the undeserving young have featured highly, teenagers being picked out for special opprobrium even before the term ‘teenagers’ was coined. In parallel, the unequal – some would day simply different - roles of men and women have also provided rich pickings for satirists, activists and ordinary people trying to make sense of the world.
Obviously, if each generation was genuinely less capable than the one which preceded it, mankind’s evolution must surely have taken a backward track; it’s a wonder we haven’t returned to hunting and gathering, gleaning the hedgerows for berries and smearing ourselves in our own shit for warmth. But of course the reality is that those slovenly teenagers become adults, change their attitudes and take their place in the world. And of course not all young people are wide-eyed ingénues, ripe for exploitation by venal adults. Not all.
Bu what the hell is happening to the world at the moment? Since the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, we have been expanding the life chances for every single one of us. No longer are we born and bound into serfdom, into predictable lives of drudge and early death. The opportunities for all people in the developed world are immense and varied, exciting and rewarding. But are we content with this bounty? Apparently not.
After several centuries of progressively loosening the ties that bind we find our world a confusing maelstrom of strictly defined liberties and vaguely stated restrictions. We seem to have a raft of statutory rights that are as if written in stone and inviolable, yet we can unwittingly commit a crime just by expressing a thought that somebody else chooses to misinterpret and find offensive, often long after the words were uttered. We have the right to live our life exactly as we wish yet to do so might put us on the wrong side of the law.
The current Westminster outrage is but one example, with committees now convening to draft codes of conduct and individuals pondering how to avoid the traps. Surely we know the difference between a clumsy attempt to engage and a wilful effort to dominate and control? If we don’t notice the instance a come-on turns into a no-thank-you is that so horrific? Should all public servants be neutered before entering the profession? Should they wear asexual, ill-fitting uniforms to conceal their attractions? Masks? Burkas?
The Prime Minister holds a cabinet meeting
Maybe the whole notion of men and women together in the same workplace should be subject to legal scrutiny and to preserve safe spaces for all everybody should be isolated, working from monastic cells in silence. Hell, maybe they should all convert to islam and be done with it; this sometimes looks like the direction of travel anyway. But, in reality, none of this will happen. They will hold their inquiries, more rules will be agreed and everybody will get back to work unimpeded by allegations of sexual impropriety... until the next time.