Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"What has gone wrong in society as a whole?"

Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, attempts to answer the question:

I believe we have lost our traditional sense of morality. I do not mean that we are less moral than our grandparents. We care about things they hardly thought about: world poverty, inequality, global warming and the loss of biodiversity. We are more tolerant than they were.

But note this: the things we care about are vast, distant, global, remote. They are problems that require the co-ordinated action of millions, perhaps billions of people. The difference we as individuals can make to any one of them is minimal. That does not mean they are not important: they are. But they are issues of politics, not of morality in the conventional sense.

When it comes to personal behaviour we have now come to believe that there is no right and wrong. Instead, there are choices. The market facilitates those choices. The State handles the consequences, picking up the pieces when they go wrong.

The idea that there may be things we would like to do and can afford to do but which we should not do, because they are dishonourable and a betrayal of trust, has come to seem outmoded. ...

Concepts like duty, obligation, responsibility and honour have come to seem antiquated and irrelevant. Emotions like guilt, shame, contrition and remorse have been deleted from our vocabulary, for are we not all entitled to self-esteem? The still, small voice of conscience is rarely heard these days. Conscience has been outsourced, delegated away....

Two extraordinarily farsighted thinkers foresaw all this in the 1950s. The first was the American sociologist David Riesman, who argued that we were moving from an inner-directed society to an other-directed one.

An inner-directed society is one where people have an internalised sense of right and wrong. An other-directed society is one in which people take their cues from what other people do. Only in the latter can you have a situation in which people say: “If everyone else is doing it, it can’t be wrong.”

The second was the English philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who argued that morality had become incoherent because we had lost the foundation on which it was built. Words like obligation and ought belonged to a culture in which people believed that there was such a thing as a divine law: the belief shared by Jews, the Greek Stoics and Christians. Lose this and the words themselves lose their meaning. It is, she said, as if the word criminal remained when the criminal law had been abolished and forgotten.


Female bigotry

"There is discrimination against female playwrights in the theater community," claims Emily Sands, a Princeton economics student who last week presented a study on the topic in a performance-art piece of sorts at a New York theater. But her study, as described by the New York Times, calls the truth of that statement into question:
Ms. Sands sent identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers around the country. The only difference was that half named a man as the writer (for example, Michael Walker), while half named a woman (i.e., Mary Walker). It turned out that Mary's scripts received significantly worse ratings in terms of quality, economic prospects and audience response than Michael's. The biggest surprise? "These results are driven exclusively by the responses of female artistic directors and literary managers," Ms. Sands said.
Amid the gasps from the audience, an incredulous voice called out, "Say that again?" Ms. Sands put it another way: "Men rate men and women playwrights exactly the same."

Ms. Sands was reluctant to explain the responses in terms of discrimination, suggesting instead that artistic directors who are women perhaps possess a greater awareness of the barriers female playwrights face. On the surface, this doesn't seem to make sense. How would "awareness of the barriers female playwrights face" lead an artistic director to rate work attributed to women less favorably than work attributed to men? (All the scripts in the study were actually written by women.)

It turns out this is explained in the actual study, according to which the female artistic directors' lower ratings are based on their perceptions of how the scripts will be received by others:
Female respondents believe a script purportedly written by women will be perceived by the theater community to be of lower overall quality. . .

Female respondents also deem purportedly female-written works to have poorer economic prospects and to face both customer and worker discrimination.

Although female respondents report being approximately equally likely to produce a script in their own theaters irrespective of playwright gender, they perceive a script to be less likely to be produced by the theater community at large and to be less supported by their own marketing directors when the pen-name is female. Moreover, female respondents believe that a female-written script will have less audience appeal and that crew members will be less eager to work on the script. Finally, perhaps as a result of the perceived customer and worker discrimination, female respondents deem a script bearing a female pen-name to fit less well with their theaters.
The study did not evaluate whether the female artistic directors were accurate in their perceptions of the preferences of theatergoers, crewmen and marketing directors.


All I wanted was a parcel. I got an earful

By Giles Coren

One bright, dusty, midsummer-quiet afternoon last week the doorbell rang and I looked out of the window (to avoid making the long descent from study to street only to find a kid with a box of J Cloths for sale or some pair of credulous bozos with good news about the Lord) and saw that it was the postman.

Well, not exactly the postman. What I had seen was a Parcelforce van, which is better still. Now that Parcelforce is the large-object wing of the Post Office, the Parcelforce guy is more exciting than Postie himself, since Postie is now protected by safety-in-the-workplace guidelines from carrying anything that I might eat, drink, read or hang on the wall.

So I bustled to the door full of the joy of the day, ready to hail the fellow with my breeziest “good afternoon” and take delivery of whatever jolliness he had in his bag. But as I opened it, my hair and whiskers were fair blown back by loud music, a thumping beat and the shouted words: “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah bitch! I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah, bitch!”

I was more than a little startled. The postman in question, however, a wiry, sullen-looking fellow, maybe 25 years old, with a Parcelforce beanie pulled low on his brow, seemed blissfully unbothered as he wordlessly handed me an electronic thing to sign. And indeed, when I looked out past him towards the noise, I saw that it emanated from his own vehicle, the aforementioned little red van, as little and red as Postman Pat’s, which was double-parked outside my house, in my quiet suburban street, with the windows open and this loud, aggressive rap booming from it: “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah bitch!”

As he held the electronic thing in my face, the postman (and I insist on calling him a postman, despite his no doubt being officially known at Parcelforce as a “delivery solutions operative”, or some such, because he was delivering my post and was in the pay of Royal Mail Group Ltd) was actually nodding his head to this vile music.

When I was a kid, our postman, Derek, used to whistle as he came down the path with our letters. He may have been whistling a tune whose original words were, “I’m gonna **** you, bitch!” but I doubt it. It was usually Colonel Bogey.

I honestly didn’t know where to look. My house is 50 yards from a primary school. I might have been a little old lady (more than likely if you’re looking for a front door to be answered at three in the afternoon) or a mother with children. How can it possibly be acceptable for a man from the Royal Mail, the Royal bloody Mail, going about what is in theory Her Majesty’s business, to be declaring as he rings your mother’s doorbell, my mother’s doorbell, anybody’s mother’s doorbell, on a quiet June afternoon: “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah, bitch! Yeah bitch!”?

The man can listen to that kind of sick, sexist drivel in his own time, if he wants. And I dare say that the manager of whatever rap band it was he was listening to will have some excuse up his sleeve about how the song only reflects the sexist and aggressive mores of the street, without specifically endorsing them, but, I swear, if he showed up round my place with that kind of specious bilge I would specifically endorse his face for him.

I grasp that people under 25, people born into the iPod age, cannot conceive of music as anything but a constant backdrop. Music is no longer a thing to be enjoyed for its own sake, at gigs and festivals and in pubs and clubs and at home on a stereo, but is a vain and impotent declaration of self to be blared from cars and phones and laptops and headsets at all times — a constant somatic comfort to the dull, blunt, flabby modern brain. But to crawl the streets of the city playing offensive rap music on full volume with the windows wound down is the sort of carry-on you expect from teenage hoodlums, stabby little respec’-seekers and bug-eyed gang-rapists on crack. Not an employee of the Royal Mail. Not your bloody postman.

I didn’t know what to say to the man. So I didn’t say anything. Maybe if I had he would have shanked me for dissing his tunes. I don’t know, maybe that’s what they teach postmen to do these days.

Maybe, with all these threats to its business from e-mail and private sector courier companies, the Post Office is planning to go a different way to modernise. Maybe it is going to train postmen to carry blades, slouch down the street with their trousers round their knees, pouting and scowling and playing rape anthems on their phones, and asking people what they are staring at, so that they can stab them to death.

Or, I don’t know, maybe, “I’m gonna **** you, bitch! Yeah bitch! Yeah bitch!” is the message the Royal Mail is really trying to send us.

The tune, and its bone-headed, soul-sickening lyrics, stayed with me all day. Try how I might, I simply could not dislodge it from my brain, even with a constant, quiet, wistful repetition of “Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat . . .”


Muslim values at work -- in Australia

A man used a butcher's knife to stab his stepdaughter up to 20 times because he believed she was a "slut" who was interfering in his marriage, a court has heard. Khaled Ibrahim Mohamed Ellaimouny, 38, was today jailed for 12 years for the attempted murder of his stepdaughter Amanda Lee Smith, who was 24 when her stepfather stabbed her in the chest, arms, legs and face as she sat on the lounge of the family's Shailer Park home in January 2007.

In the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Crown prosecutor Philip McCarthy said Ellaimouny, an Egyptian national who married Ms Smith's mother after meeting her online, moved in to the Smith family home in January 2006. Mr McCarthy said Ellaimouny, who worked as a chef at a restaurant in the Logan area, got along well with his stepdaughter until late 2006 when he discovered semi-nude photos of her and her boyfriend on a family computer and began referring to her during arguments with Ms Smith's mother as "the slut daughter."

Following marital troubles in late 2006, Ellaimouny moved out of the home. He met with his wife at a local tavern on January 14 and told her to choose between him and her daughter, whom he claimed was interfering in their marriage. He later turned up at the family home where during an argument he spat in Ms Smith's face and slapped her before she and her mother locked him out of the house. However Ellaimouny got in through a side door, grabbed a butcher's knife with a 21cm-long blade from the kitchen and screamed "Now I'm going to kill the bitch" before stabbing and slashing Ms Smith's chest and arms, Mr McCarthy said. "You've ruined my f---ing life; I want you to die," Ellaimouny reportedly said.

Friends of Ms Smith arrived at the house as Ellaimouny was leaving, covered in a blood and carrying the bloodied knife. He allegedly told them: "I stabbed the slut. I wanted to kill her, but unfortunately she's still breathing."

Ms Smith was taken to hospital where she was treated for 20 wounds, including a severed radial artery of her right arm, severed nerves and a 4cm gash into her lung cavity.

Mr McCarthy said Ellaimouny told his wife after the incident: "I stabbed her because she's a f---ing slut, she deserved that. All I wanted to do ... just get rid of her." On the first day of his trial today, Ellaimouny pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted murder and a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, which related to him sending a letter from jail encouraging his wife to convince Ms Smith not to proceed with charges against him.

Justice John Byrne said the attack upon Ms Smith was "frenzied and sustained" and would have been "a terrifying experience for her." "She is fortunate to have survived," he said. He sentenced Ellaimouny to 12 years behind bars and declared him a serious violent offender, which means he must serve 80 per cent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He will be deported to Egypt upon his release.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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