Monday, June 14, 2010
Current mass culture is dangerously deluding women into thinking they deserve to have everything
Comment from Britain
Brought up in an age where self-help mantras have replaced old-fashioned concepts such as duty or self- sacrifice, and where, according to Oprah Winfrey, lack of self-esteem is 'the root of all the problems in the world,' it's no wonder we now believe we deserve the very best from life.
Once, the pinnacles of achievement were a good job or a happy home life. Now, we're encouraged to believe we're entitled to everything we want, the moment we crave it, 'because we're worth it.' Want a £300 designer bag you can't afford? Go on - you deserve it. Or that New york mini-break with the girls? Treat yourself - you're fabulous.
Married women even admit to indulging in affairs, simply because: 'I wasn't getting what I needed at home.' Perhaps once, they'd have stuck it out, or sought counselling - but now, a 'cougar' affair between an older woman and a hot younger man is simply their reward for staying married to the old dullard.
Surrounded by images of celebrities from ordinary backgrounds who have 'made it', we're increasingly convinced that we're no different from them. We may not be hosting the breakfast news or singing to a packed O2 arena - but we work just as hard as they do, we tell ourselves, and we're just as talented.
It's easy to assume that 'good self-esteem' is the passport to a happy, successful life. But compelling research proves quite the reverse. A major study from the London School of Economics found that excessively high self-esteem can be even more damaging than low self-worth. Social psychologist Professor Nicholas Emler found that people with high self-esteem are more likely to hold racist attitudes, reject advice from friends and take risks such as drink-driving, as they believe they won't be caught.
'It's worth remembering that high self-esteem is very far from being an unconditional benefit,' warns Professor Emler. 'Our language contains many unflattering words to describe people with high self-esteem, such as "boastful", "arrogant", "smug", "self-satisfied" and "conceited".
'Perhaps we should be more willing to accept that very high self-esteem is as much a problem in need of treatment as exceptionally low self-esteem and be more open-minded about the benefits of moderation.'
Yet culturally, we're constantly encouraged to assume that, as the song says, 'If I can dream it, I can be it'. Once, a truthful friend might have pointed out that it's called 'a dream' for a reason. But now, simply 'having a dream' is considered to be as valid as having a business plan and start-up funding.
TV shows overflow with ordinary folk who may possess a modicum of talent at cooking or singing, yet vibrate with evangelical zeal as they explain: 'I want this so badly, I know I can win.' Self-awareness has been replaced by mindless self-belief, regardless of the evidence.
'We have fallen for a filtered-down pop psychology message that says: "If you believe it, it's true," ' says psychotherapist Rachel Morris, who specialises in women's issues. 'Best-selling books such as The Secret basically say that if you want something badly enough, you can have it, and that's a very seductive promise.
It's basic, Californian-style positive thinking - but we're now in danger of believing that high self-esteem is equivalent to talent, opportunity and ambition. 'Surely we only have to watch the deluded contestants on The X Factor, or Britain's Got Talent, announcing, "Watch this space Simon Cowell, I'll be back!" to realise that the "I'm worth it" culture is out of hand?'
She adds: 'We're constantly told by advertising, movies and the media that we, too, can "live the dream" however ordinary we may be."
Being challenged, as people are on these shows, means you're forced to question everything you believe about yourself - and it's easier to stay in a state of denial than face reality.'
Sex and the City
This denial may also explain why women are still amassing mountainous debts. Recent research from the Post Office revealed that more than a fifth of us lie to partners about the amount of debt we're in. On average, we owe £9,700, (outside of mortgages) and 45 per cent of women explained their debt has been accrued by 'buying expensive fashions'. Despite the recession, we're still 'treating ourselves' simply because we feel we deserve it, regardless of whether we can afford it or need it.
'Deserving' is quite an immature notion,' observes Rachel Morris. 'Believing that because you've had a tough day, you should have a reward, is based on a childish concept of having a pay-off for eating your greens.'
Genuine, fulfilling reward could be as simple as a cuddle from your child or a walk in the sunshine - but we've been conditioned to believe that excitement, or material goods, are superior.
Having high self-esteem also means you're more prepared to take risks - you'll splash £400 on the shoes you can't afford because you assume you'll get away with it. Deep down, you believe you can not only have it all, but you deserve it all, too.
Maybe that's why more married women than ever before are having affairs - and happily justifying them. With excessively high self-esteem, concepts such as shame are no longer valid. Instead, an affair is considered an appropriate response to ' not being appreciated' in your relationship.
A recent women's magazine survey found that 70 per cent of women regularly lie to their partners. A fifth have had a long-term affair while married, while 30 per cent have had an affair with a married man. In the past, most women were too embarrassed to admit to this type of behaviour. Now, the prevailing attitude is, 'so what? I wanted to'....
Nowadays, we're not obese; we simply need to learn to 'love our curves'. And a man didn't leave because we were dull; he just 'didn't appreciate our inner beauty'.
Asking tough questions of oneself, a tenet of traditional psychotherapy - and religion - has been abandoned in favour of an all-encompassing philosophy of 'love yourself and be who you want to be'. 'The media often promotes the rise of the individual rather than the benefits of being part of a community,' explains Surrey-based women's therapist Evelyn Nathanson. 'As the world has got smaller, our role has become inward looking. 'We look less to each other for support and more to ourselves to promote
feelings of self worth.' Basically, we've learnt to take urselves at our own, skyhigh, estimation.
Perhaps high self-esteem wouldn't be so bad if it didn't impact on others. But affairs, debt and choices that put you first and your partner and children languishing somewhere down the list after a Mulberry bag and spa weekend can only harm your chances of long-term fulfilment.
And, worse still, we're now raising a new generation to believe that attention adulation are the keys to happiness. A recent survey for found that children under the age of ten believe being a celebrity is 'the best thing in the world', swiftly followed by 'good looks' and 'being rich.' ...
Surely it's time to wake up, and realise our sense of entitlement is just that - a sense, not a reality. And that true fulfilment requires hard work, self-awareness, and a realistic appraisal of our own flaws.
'High self-esteem is more akin to vanity,' says Rachel Morris. 'I don't believe someone with a realistic sense of their own worth feels the need to buy things they can't afford or put their family's happiness at risk. There's a genuine value in being loved the way you want, feeling safe in your home, being able to provide what your children need. But achieving that is far harder than buying a bottle of expensive perfume.'
The truth is, none of us is automatically entitled to anything - we can achieve it, through hard work, being loveable, making the most of what we have. But the world doesn't owe us a thing.
Rise of the Jewish Republicans?
Of all the people to whom President Obama has given hope in the past year and a half, perhaps the most surprising is the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Even though American Jews have been stalwart Democrats since the days of FDR, candidate Barack Obama was expected to win a lower majority of the Jewish vote than past Democratic nominees. He defied expectations, however,winning a commanding 78 percent of the Jewish vote, despite a lack of a strong history with the Jewish community and his own Muslim father and stepfather.
It looks as if those earlier expectations might have been right after all -- just a little later than predicted.
At the annual RJC Summer Bash in LA this weekend, attendance was more than double than last year's, from 300 to an at-capacity of almost 700. Not only was the room packed, but it was buzzing. A number of people this journalist met proudly stated that this was their first time at an RJC event -- and each person, unprovoked, said Obama was the main reason.
As one participant joked, "Thanks to Obama, being a Republican Jew is no longer like wearing a scarlet letter."
Expanding the GOP's reach in the Jewish community has never been an easy feat, yet the RJC has done an admirable job given all the hurdles it has faced over the years. But many longtime RJC members observed that this may be the first time that the terrain has been this fertile.
"The more Obama does, from his dangerous Middle East policy to his wildly unpopular health care bill, the more people in the Jewish community are looking at breaking a lifetime tradition and becoming Republican," explained RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks, who has been with the group since its inception.
Several polls in recent months have indicated trouble for Obama among Jews, including the annual American Jewish Committee survey conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, in which the President received only a 57 percent approval mark, a significant drop from his 78 percent share of the Jewish vote.
In the end result, of course, the GOP would be tickled to win 30 percent of the Jewish vote -- and downright thrilled to hit 35%. But with Jews accounting for just over 2 percent of the population, the real victory would be winning the support of hyper-energetic Jewish donors and activists.
In the simplest terms, Jews are disproportionately engaged in political activism and political contributions. It's a cultural phenomenon familiar to most Jews. Political discussion starts in the home -- and continues with friends and in community settings.
And it's a safe bet that the most enthusiastic Jewish donors and activists care strongly about the U.S. support for Israel, meaning that the GOP has a great issue on which to base much of its Jewish outreach.
Long overdue review of Britain's health and safety culture
David Cameron last night announced plans to tear up a decade of health and safety rules that have been blamed for crippling business and stifling the British way of life.
The Prime Minister unveiled a wide-ranging review of Labour's safety laws as well as the country's 'compensation culture', led by former Cabinet minister Lord Young.
The 78-year-old, who served under Margaret Thatcher, has described current legislation as a 'joke' and will be asked to help the Government drive through reform after completing his review.
David Cameron has unveiled a wide-ranging review of safety laws as well as the country's 'compensation culture', led by former Cabinet minister Lord Young, right
Mr Cameron said: 'The rise of the compensation culture over the last ten years is a real concern, as is the way health and safety rules are sometimes applied.
'We need a sensible new approach that makes clear these laws are intended to protect people, not overwhelm businesses with red tape.'
He held out the prospect of wide-ranging reforms saying he was determined to see Lord Young's recommendations put 'into effect'.
Lord Young was commissioned to advise Mr Cameron on health and safety laws last year and his work will become a full-scale review with civil service support.
The former trade secretary said the once serious issue of health and safety had become a 'music hall joke' under Labour, with schools banning children from playing conkers, restaurants barring tooth picks and one swimming pool declaring a pair of goggles unsafe.
And he argued the change in culture could even be counterproductive, putting people in more danger in certain circumstances.
He said: 'Teachers have to fill in so many forms if they want to take children on a field trip, there have been three instances where police have stood by and let people drown as a result of health and safety and we have offices subjected to health and safety laws that were meant for heavy industry. It has gone too far.'
Lord Young also wants to curb the compensation culture fuelled by the rapid growth in no-win, no fee agreements.
He said the NHS alone had paid out more than £8billion over the last five years in personal injury claims, of which two-thirds went to lawyers. 'That is four or five billion pounds that could and should have gone into healthcare,' he added.
Although much of Britain's health and safety legislation now comes from Brussels, Lord Young said government departments had a tendency to 'gold-plate' it and make it even more onerous than it need be.
He added: 'Health and safety regulation is essential in many industries but may well have been applied too generally and have become an unnecessary burden on firms, but also community organisations and public services.
Lord Young will deliver initial findings next month before taking up an advisory role in Whitehall.
Australia: Muslims can do no wrong?
The man carrying a legal bomb into courtroom 11A in the NSW Supreme Court building on Friday morning did not look menacing and is not menacing under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. This was cultural war. The legal bomb was brought to court by the once leonine figure of Clive Evatt, a veteran defamation lawyer who now walks with the aid of a cane, on which his severely bent frame leans heavily.
As Evatt took his place at the plaintiff's bench, the man on whose instructions he was acting, Keysar Trad - a thickset, bearded man wearing a grey suit, blue shirt and tie - sat alone in the back row of the public gallery.
Trad is no stranger to litigation. Over many years he has expended untold hours making formal complaints to the NSW Supreme Court, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Human Rights Commission, the Press Council, other review bodies and, above all, the media, where he has operated as a quote-machine representing the Muslim community in Australia.
He was in court on Friday because of a disaster of his own making. After delivering a hostile tirade against Sydney's top-rated radio station, 2GB, during a "peace" rally in 2005, Trad was himself criticised the next day by a 2GB presenter, Jason Morrison, though not in the same language Trad had used at the rally where he claimed to speak on behalf of Muslims in Australia.
Trad sued for defamation. He was the star witness for his own case. The senior judge, Justice Peter McClellan, the chief judge of common law in the NSW Supreme Court, found against Trad, and found him to be a witness of little credibility, a man of extreme views and, in summary, "a disgraceful individual".
Such was Trad's performance under oath that on Friday the counsel for the defence, Richard McHugh, SC, delivered this devastating portrayal of his credibility under oath: "[Trad] attempted to evade responsibility for his statements by claiming he was misquoted, by claiming he was taken out of context, by claiming he had changed his mind, or by claiming he did not even know what he had said or written at the instant he said or wrote it. He was entirely disbelieved.
"[His] evidence that he did not know who was the author of Mein Kampf - and his feigned attempts at a thought process to recollect the author's name - were a low point in this trial. The transcript in this case can supply only a colourless picture of the evidence at trial."
Even before this appeal, Trad was facing legal costs exceeding $250,000. He decided to up his risk. On Friday morning, I counted 16 lawyers in the court. At this level, justice is neither fast nor cheap.
His appeal was based on several major grounds but the most prominent and contentious, made repeatedly in oral and written submissions, was that Justice McClellan had erred fundamentally by taking Trad's provocative comments over the years out of the context of the Muslim community. To quote Evatt: "His honour did not take into account that Australia is a multicultural society and the viewpoints of ethnic groups are recognised by the Australian community even though not all members of the community agree with them."
And this: "His honour did not refer to or even consider the likelihood the average citizen would recognise that the views expressed by [Trad] were similar to beliefs shared by Muslims throughout the world including Muslims in Australia." And this: "His honour appears to have given no weight to the fact that the speech was made to Muslims in a mosque and not in an address to the general community."
And this: "His honour overlooked the fact Sheikh Hilaly's speech [defended by Trad] was not made to members of the Australian community but to Muslims and others who attended the Sidon Mosque in Lebanon."
This is an explosive argument. It means this aspect of the appeal may rest on the argument that the Muslim community operates under different standards than the rest of society and cannot be judged using the same standards. Further, these standards, even if judged to be extreme by the rest of society, should be respected.
It is fair to say the bench became restive on Friday. There were plenty of tart exchanges from the three judges, justices Murray Tobias, Ruth McColl and John Basten. But this was nothing compared with the fire and brimstone from the defence.
This appeal was an attempt, McHugh argued, to turn the case into one about "freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and that the appellant has been unfairly branded as a racist, homophobic, terrorist-supporting, woman-hating bigot when all he was doing was expressing views consistent with his Islamic faith and his role as a prominent Australian Lebanese community spokesman … The question here is whether the deliberate peddling of grossly sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic filth is not dangerous and disgraceful and an incitement to violence and racist attitudes in Australia in 2010. The most extraordinary claim is that his extreme views are [a] 'Muslim view'. This ought not to be accepted."
If Trad does prevail in his appeal, this case, Trad v Harbour Radio, will be corrosive to the idea of mainstream Muslim moderation, and to the ideal that most Muslims are naturally part of a cohesive element in the weave of Australia's culture rather than functioning under de facto Islamic law while giving mere lip service to the Australian legal system and the values it upholds.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.