Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who do you need?

This is a rhetorical question - anybody knows the answer. It's just meant to make a point. Who do you need most? An ambulance officer who might save your life if you get injured, or a pro golfer? A fire fighter who might rescue you from a burning building, or a 'soul' singer? A rescue squad member who might get you out of a crashed car, or a rock and roll star? Next obvious question: who gets paid the most, and gets adored and idolised by thousands?
Who did anyone need most in the past? A T.V. presenter, or their mother? A star football player, or their father? You get the point here!
My grandmother once said, looking at a newspaper report about Elizabeth Taylor's facelift surgery: "Your mother is worth ten of her". I agreed. I could have said "Make that twenty." The same would be true of my wife. But this in not running a celebrity actress down as such: I'm just getting some priorities right. There's no reason for me to be hostile to someone like Elizabeth Taylor. But she did not help me to get a life - my mother and father did. And that's just a small personal example.
Of course people know this. Also, it's easier to make an idol out of a singer or actor, or sportsperson, because you don't live close to them and see their real, fragile humanity. It's natural enough to be impressed by what someone does, and become a bit of a fan. But it might be a good idea to remember who you're going to need. Is it a friend, who has always stood by you and cared if you had troubles, or a screen idol who might find it a nuisance if you went up to them and wanted something from them? That's if you could get near them!
I wondered about trying to write a satirical novel in which everyone in the world wanted to be a celebrity. Just imagine: we all want to be famous, and make it the whole point of our lives. And to find a way of setting some sort of record, people have to find the most obscure things to do, just so that they're the first. To get into the record books, the newspaper or attract television coverage, you need to find something that hasn't been done before. Just imagine - someone decides to be the first person to kayak across the English Channel, or across the Straits of Florida. They might set out to be the first person to roller-blade right across the U.S or round the coast of Australia. Another idea might be to walk backwards between the West and East coasts of your home country, and someone else decides to do the same in reverse. In each case they're the First To Do It, so it's instant fame! This list could go on and on. In fact someone might set up a business collecting unique or unusual ideas, ways to set some sort of a record or get attention, and get rich selling the ideas because they've already thought of them and put the list in print. Meanwhile, there is a critical shortage of nurses. What would happen?
Would it make people stop and think? Or would they suggest passing laws compelling certain people into certain jobs, as used to happen in the former Soviet Union?
To some extent, it's actually happening. Several English speaking countries have had to run recruitment campaigns outside their own borders trying to find qualified nurses. Just now, I'm told, there is a shortage of teachers. Also, there have been advertisments trying to get more fire fighters. Note what they have in common, those occupations. They're all essential, but none of them are glamorous. You've seen a calendar or a magazine cover featuring sporting stars, perhaps? Have you seen one featuring obstetric nurses? And if you watch television, do you ever run across a show like "American (or Australian) Idol"? That seems to be what people dream of becoming - because it's shown to them as the greatest thing to be.
There is a precedent here. Jesus Christ was the son of a carpenter and a stay-at-home mother. Such descriptive comments of Him as survive, do not portray Him as being glamorous. He was not born into wealth or high social circles. He was not a person who would have attracted hangers-on trying to get a bit of his 'cool' and wealth. But that is the person God chose to make Himself into when He took a human identity and walked on Earth. Does this tell us something?
I don't suppose we can change the world. The celebrity culture will endure. But had we better remember who matters before we find that they're not there?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why I would never enter my daughter in a beauty contest.

It's not for me to say beauty contests should be banned - this is a free society, or supposed to be. Child pageants are a little different from adult ones because the child is entered by their parents. It may not be their own choice. Still, I won't presume the right to say they should be abolished. But I'm quite sure I would never ever have entered my daughter in one. The reasons are pure and simple: my daughter has a value that is NOT subject to some kind of assessment by a panel of judges, and she should NOT be made to feel less worthy than some other girl because when she is compared with them she wins no prizes.
Last night's television included a documentary segment on these 'little Miss sunshine' type of things - the sort that JonBenet Ramsay was involved in. There were brief interviews with some of the little girls who did not win anything. It was quite cruel to see the look of sad bewilderment in the faces of some of those little kids who had just been made 'also-rans' by this contest, which they had probably spent hours, days, weeks preparing for. We would not do that to our daughter.
Of course, you might challenge me by asking: if I was sure she would win, and it turned out she did win, might that be different? Okay, I should examine my conscience about that a bit. Would it thrill me to see my little girl made to feel like a winner? Answer: "Yes, but... there should be a better way than that." It would not be a good thing if she valued herself in terms of beating other contestants in an exhibition of looks and grooming, or trained deportment of the sort that could be considered personal flaunting. It cannot be a good thing for a person to make a life out of 'look at me, aren't I wonderful'.
It's an old cliche to talk about 'not judging by appearances'; 'looking beneath the surface for the real person', and so on. But it's also quite true.
The good things in my life include 29 years of marriage to a woman who is beautiful to me, but in her childhood was overshadowed by her younger sister, who was considered the beauty of the family. I would not swap my wife for her sister, for one minute. Other privileges of mine have included the friendship of several women who were never going to make a career out of modelling; but they had warm kind hearts of the sort that the world needs. Among them, the female people I've liked and appreciated as friends, have the following list of things that would count against them in a beauty pageant: crossed front teeth, buck teeth, flat chests, short thick legs, eye sight problems that require them to wear thick glasses, a lisp, being a clothing size 20, frizzy hair that could never really be styled...and I could go on. The point is, those women are my friends. They cared, and I was better off in life because they were there for me. Some more widely admired women seem to have little time for anything except themselves and what they want. That is not to say that a woman with an attractive face or elegant figure can't have a good heart as well. It's just that physical beauty is really just physical, and to mistake it for likeable character is one of the oldest and stupidest mistakes in history.
Of course, some people do not make the mistake. They quite deliberately value a person for the way that person looks. The cynical attitude is that someone who looks good might be good to be seen with. Just as some men are said to have 'trophy' wives, some women look for husbands who are a social asset. It must be a rather empty way to try having a relationship! That someone gets admiring looks, and it makes people jealous of you to be seen with them, does not mean you can feel safe and complete being in their company. You cannot have a heart to heart talk with them. What that tells us is, that to be hooked on personal appearances makes you a slave to them, and you have to spend your whole life keeping them up; and if the loneliness and stress of it proves to be too much, that why some celebrities have such disastrous personal lives? I won't mention names; but the media devote hours and pages to scandal stories about singers, film stars and celeb sports people crashing and burning. It's either alcohol abuse, drug addiction or having serial relationship break downs. The pressure of being seen and watched, and having to keep up an image, must be seriously destructive. The interest in celebs' problems might be a bit to do with jealousy; but being glamorous, and living by it, comes with it's own set of problems. Right, now someone could tell me I'm into sour grapes- I never had the chance to get a life by being a glamour celeb. My reply: I've got a life that works quite well without it. And it seems the better way to go. So my wife and I would tell our kids the same thing - and for that reason, we never entered them in beauty contests, baby photo competitions or any of that. There are much better things to do. They don't need to feel like failures for not being Mr Universe or Miss Australia. Their value is God given.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Maker's Instructions

You might have heard a story like this one before: two parents wanted to avoid raising their kids within stereotyped roles. So they gave their son a Barbie doll for Christmas, and their daughter a set of toy trucks. Within a short time the girl had named her toys Daddy truck, Mummy truck and Baby truck. And the boy had taken to holding the doll by the body, bending the legs so that they pointed like a gun barrel; and he ran around aiming it and things and 'shooting' them. Well! It looks as if those two kids had their own ideas about things! They didn't just go along with someone else trying to tell them how to act. So could it be that the differences are not just learned - they are inbuilt. That might be part of the great design from a higher source than human social engineering.
When I was very young, it seemed that girls were silly - and I know that young girls can find boys annoying, too. I once said something like "Who invented girls?" Well, it was pointed out to me that if there were no girls, I would not have a mother - or a grandmother, or a great grandmother, (at that time I still had a living great grandmother), because girls grow up to be women. You'd think I would have figured that out for myself! But then, we all have to learn. More than that, none of my friends would have mothers either. So we would not exist! Just as well someone took the trouble to point that out to me!
Well, we've all heard what can happen when parents are too set on having boys, not girls. A society that rejects girls can make itself extinct! In some cultures, the ones mentioned were India and China, there has been female infanticide - the killing of baby girls because they are not wanted. Can you get the pure horror of that?Another report said that couples try to learn the gender of their unborn child, and terminate the pregnancy if the child is female. How high would that rate on a list of history's Worst Ever Ideas?
Underlying that is the idea that males are somehow 'better' than females. There are cultural issues, like the demand that a girl's family pay a dowry when she marries. Why would a man expect to be paid to marry a woman?! Be careful what you say, though. You might get a lecture from the politically correct about respecting other cultures!
On the subject of sexism, it's just as foolish to argue that females are better than males. The two are obviously in some ways different, but equally essential.
Apparently, a well known feminist writer said this: 'masculinity is superior to femininity'. From that came the idea that women should live and act more like men, because it made them stronger. It was a better thing for them to be. That's another entry for the list of extremely bad ideas!
WHY is maleness better than femaleness? What would happen if the world had either no feminine girls, or masculine boys? I can't see how it would be worth living in, and maybe it wouldn't last long anyway! Some planned societies, like the early communist regimes, tried to abolish the different gender roles. Those societies did NOT become the way of the future. Does that tell you something?
The saying goes, "Vive le difference!" (Long live the difference.) The differences between the two are meant to be there! And the thing to get your head round is, two things can be different without either one being better. The world needs BOTH! It is a critical problem: human beings think one thing superior to another, without seeing that one can't exist without the other.
In those countries where infant girls were rejected, there is now a serious problem: too few women, so that many men cannot have partners. Parents who were determined to have sons might have to stop and figure that out. Why did they think someone else had to have daughters, but not them? And just how could you reject your own child, for being a girl? My wife and I only have one daughter. Sometimes I wish we could have had about five - as well as our sons, NOT instead of. But that would be greedy. We know people who can't have children. I must not be ungrateful for what we do have.
One good news story from recent times: a Christian church group is undertaking to have abandoned baby girls from overseas brought into our country for adoption. Good on them too! It would be the right thing whichever sex the abandoned babies were, it just happens that so many of them are girls because of this shocker idea that female children are worthless. And it's NOT just fathers who think that. By all reports, mothers too can reject female babies because they only want to have sons. As an aside there: equally cruel is a parent who rejects a child for being male, because they wanted a female. But it seems infant boys are not so often abandoned - or worse.
I'd better be careful here. If God decided to strike every doer of bad deeds, I'd be going down! But may I still say: if you want evidence that God is real, one of the many evidences of that is the birth of a baby - including a girl. And if you want evidence showing the fallen state of the human race, then try this: some humans can actually reject a new born child because they only want a son, not a daughter.
What a piece of work is a human! We could spend hours listing great achievements; and as long listing great mistakes or bad deeds. One point to make, though: wherever Christian missionaries went, a practice they tried to stop was female infanticide. The modern politically correct view is that they barged in and messed up other cultures. It could be that many individuals now living only exist because one of their female ancestors was saved, by the intervention of those Christians. The Word says: "Male and female He made them." It was not a human idea. Humans cannot improve on it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What matters?

Did you ever see something like this? Someone who is supposed to come from an under privileged home, but they wear a Stussy cap and other brand name clothes. I can remember seeing that going on. Of course, sometimes it looked as if the brand name shirt was the only bit of clothing they had. It looked as if they slept in it! So instead of a number of clothes, cheaper to buy but not 'cool', they own one item of status gear and nothing else! Something strange is going on here. I know there are people who are hard up, there really is such a thing as poverty. The concern is that people might be compounding the problem because they get hung up on silly ideas about how to spend what they do have. It comes to a question of, what really matters?
Do some people get so caught up on image that they try to get their hands on a few things that are fashionable and supposedly give them status, and go without more important things?
In other words, what are they trying to live for? It could be really cruel if they get made slaves to the idea that without certain accessories, they deserve no respect.
When I was teaching, you never stopped hearing about what terrible problems some kids were supposed to have. Then a woman who had worked overseas, in a rural area where some kids hardly had enough to eat, said that kids in the Western world didn't know when they were well off. Some peoples' idea of poverty is not having cable T.V. It's true, life can be made too easy and people can become indulged, and jaded, like the proverbial spoilt kid crying for the moon. Whatever they have, they still want more. But then: when someone is surrounded by material things, and everybody boasts about what they've got, then having possessions can seem to be the meaning of life. Did we give people reason to think that wealth and trophies are what give them worth, and if they don't have them then life is not fair to them? If it works that way, then the message is: to have any self-respect they've got to have things, and show that they have them. That is the only way to get a life!
This is not original, I know. Thousands of people talk about 'the meaning of life'. But it's a continuing problem, like crimes of violence. So we don't have much choice but to keep thinking about it. What do people live for? Is it just to keep up with the 'trendies', the 'cool group', the smart set or whatever you want to call them? If that's how it is working, then people who fall for it are trapped on a treadmill that won't get them anywhere - because there will always be someone who has more, and it will torment them to know they haven't made it until they've got the same. Deadly!
So how can that be changed? Once again, this is not original. As the Scripture says, "What benefit is it to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?" The human being needs something to live for apart from the material world and its trappings. If that's all they can see, then like the horizon, what they want will always be out of reach. Don't worry, I know we need some material things. I love to eat, and more importantly, my children have to eat so I'd better make sure the food is there. The same goes for their clothes, and more besides. But life is more than that. It has to be! And realizing that is important. Failing to realize that can happen when people try to leave things of the spirit, the factor of God, out of the equation when they try adding up the sum of life. I can't tell everybody else how to live. They have the same right to their views as I have to mine. But is it right or not that, figuratively speaking, "Humanity does not live by bread alone." The body is not all. The spirit too has needs. Is the modern western world seeing that and telling its children in time?
Any thoughts and comments? I'm still learning.

The grim stealer

Someone told me this story once. You might call it a modern parable or didactic joke. There's a telling lesson, though. It goes like this: Satan owed this human a favour. So he offered them their choice from his range of tools. They could pick out one they wanted and keep it. The person looked over all the evil tools that the Devil owned. They were all the various means that the demon had and used to torment people, or try to destroy them. After a while, the human saw two outstandingly ugly looking ones, really cruel things. When the human asked for one of those two, the demon promptly went back on its word (as to be expected from Satan). "No!" he said, "you can take any other you choose, but not those. They're my cruellest."
"Why?" the human asked. "What are they?"
The demon replied,"One of them is despair and the other is depression!"
A grim tale, with a point to make. Suffering is made even worse when you lose hope. Short of completely giving up, one of the cruellest forms of suffering is depression.
What is worse, it gets under estimated. That's why it is described as such a pet weapon of the devil! People suffering from depression are sometimes just get told to 'get over it' and if it's real clinical depression, the sufferer can't simply shrug it off, just as they couldn't shrug off asthma or diabetes. There is an actual biochemical cause. That's why medication can actually work (fortunately). Trust me on that: I've had depression!
I know, there is such a thing as self-pity or laziness, whereby a person just drops their bundle and won't help themselves. But that's not necessarily the same thing.
There's a cruel irony here. Depression is a modern epidemic. The sales of medication for it are huge, I've been told. Yet it is much rarer in what we call the developing world, or third world. I've read that suicide is almost unknown in some places which are called 'backward', or at least not highly modernised. In those places the population still suffer from diseases largely eliminated in the West. They live without the technology and convenience that Westerners take for granted. Just as obesity is rare in places where people struggle to get enough to eat, depression is much less common in places where people have to keep busy just getting through each day.
The harsh view of that is to critisize people for being spoilt and weak. But that could be seriously untrue and unfair. The more advanced and regulated a society becomes, the more it both hems people in and puts pressure on them.
Consider this: it can be good for a human to have to work for things instead of just taking them for granted. You learn to appreciate something if you understand what is needed to obtain it, by such ways as growing your own vegetables or building your own shed or house. The trouble is, that's not always possible. Depending where or how you live, there may not be the chance. You may not have ground available. Building laws may stop you erecting a structure. So your society can coddle you with convenience and protective rules, and actually stifle part of the spirit. Then the added effect is, people are told they've got it too easy.
That has it's analogy in physical health. We all want kids to have clean living conditions and good nutrition. Yet if children grown up in such a sanitized environment their immune system never gets challenged, or worked to make it 'fit', and that leaves them more prone to things like asthma. Just as we need some exercise and fatigue to get fit and strong, we need some exposure to dirt and disease so that the body learns to fight them off. That's a cruel irony, it really is! Try to make things good, and find that it's backfired! But that's an analogy. Returning to the point, the cruel irony of depression is worse when people are materially secure.
There could be another dimension here, too. When the world around us has been made so good in the material way, it is expected that we will be perfectly happy and achieve great things. So then we have the issue with people feeling that they are critizised, and that they don't measure up. No matter what they do or how they try, they get told that they should be better because 'You have it so much easier than we did' - that being the sort of thing some older people say to younger ones. But having it easier is a double edged sword. It's good for people to be given some responsibility, and some challenges to face. But then there are times when that too gets denied people. In the past children had to help with the running of a home, or farm, because water had to be got from a well; washing done by hand; food prepared from scratch, such as peeling potatoes or shelling peas; and you had to walk to school. The adults needed help from the younger ones - and for that reason children or youth felt useful, because they were obviously doing something important. But now with technology, urban living and all of that there are fewer ways for school age kids to make themselves useful. So there is less chance to make yourself useful, while more is expected of you. Cruel irony!
The problem doesn't end there.
When you become adult, the world is a seriously demanding and sometimes cruel place. People feel judged, compared with others, and more is expected of them because now that we don't have to struggle just to survive, there is time to find fault with others. It can be cruel when a girl feels bad about herself because she does not look like the models in magazines - as if she should! But that's what happens when society has time to set up idealized images, instead of just being glad they're alive. Boys can suffer because they don't have a macho or athletic look about them. Having a brain -or more importantly, a good heart - is not as vital as looking good.
So society chews up peoples' self image, and makes some of them feel inadequate. Added to that, even when we're more likely to live longer because health care is better, there are uncertainties like unemployment, loss of income and loss of your home, and all that.
That could be the trap. The world is supposed to be better, but it can still be hard and ungiving to some people. For all I know, the state of the environment could be a cause of depression. It's well understood after all that various forms of pollution, or bad diet, damage the health. A lot is still not known about mental health. It might be found in the future that environmental factors can cause depression. Or social factors, which we don't yet recognize as being damaging, could be a problem. It's already well known that some people growing up suffer badly because they don't get respect or appreciation from those around them. That is where depression can start. I won't call depression 'the black dog' because dogs can be loveable animals and don't deserve to be insulted by such a comparison. I'll call depression the leech, or the 'grim stealer' - it can drain us and steal part of our life.
This foul disease might be to our age what smog was to an earlier one - a by-product of the way we live. I can't say. There's a lot of study involved. I'm quite sure that the problem is partly a spiritual one. Satan is real, and looking for a chance to savage God's created beings, especially humans. And Christians incur the demon's anger most of all. For that reason, Christians may suffer attack and be hurt by it. And the cruel complication is this: when genuine sufferers are told they are weak or ungrateful, that makes the thing worse. It's like punching someone on a bruised spot.
I can't speak for everybody else, so I'll just get on my own case. There were times when I needed to keep things in proportion and not let them get me down so much. I didn't always appreciate it when I was well off, and needed to be told: look on the bright side, count your blessings, whatever way you want to put it. Sometimes that was right, too. But there was a time when that condition got me! And it's no help someone getting on your case telling you to 'snap out of it.' I needed medication! I've found out - you can struggle and fight, try to counsel yourself out of it, and it's still there. And it's not just weakness. Some people who go down have shown they can achieve a lot. They can put up with a lot. But only so much. You could not call Samson weak when someone deliberately attacked him through his vulnerable spot. He was only human, after all. We all have weaknesses.You can't fairly call someone weak because they get cut down by things beyond their control.
So that's my take on it. I'll gladly hear if anyone wants to comment. I'm well aware that I don't know everything. Any thoughts?

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's true!

This might sound like mushy sentimentality, but there is some actually hard science behind it.
People who marry, and have children, tend to live longer than those who stay single and do not have children. People who stay married tend to outlive those who divorce. That's not an absolute. It's not to condemn people who don't marry or have children to shortened lives. But it's been found to be generally true. At the same time, another group who often live long lives, are nuns.
You've got two extremes there. People in relationships which produce children, so they involve being sexually active; and those who have no intimate physical or romantic relationships, and don't have children.
So what do they have in common? They both put a great deal of their lives into caring about others. Caring about other living things is a kind of loving - not the romantic sort with melting moments in the moonlight, but to give and care about another is to love them. Marriage involves certain stresses. So does having children. To keep a relationship going and raise children well you have to care about someone apart from yourself and put them before you at times. In a different way, the nun's vocation involves giving her life over to the care of other people. Despite living in quite opposite ways, they both have to extend themselves to be there for those around them instead of just doing their own thing and pleasing number one.
This is not a critisism of people who divorce. Members of my own family have been through it. A person's marriage might end without it being their fault. A divorced person might still be a loving and giving individual. The general trend, with exceptions, is that living longer happens for people who have a relationship which involves caring for others - and having someone to care for. Come to that, keeping a pet or companion animal also seems to be good for people. The same applies. There is a living creature there who needs your attention, and needs you to do some giving.
That could be for a several reasons. If you have to care about someone else, or something else, then you have less chance to dwell on your own issues and let them get you down. Also, if you want to be there for others, you have a reason to keep going. Part of survival is the will to live. You have a will to live if you feel needed.
It sounds corny and mushy to say things like 'It is more blessed to give than to receive', (groan, roll the eyes) but some things are true even if people trash and ridicule them. If a cynical or miserable person can't see that, it may be tragic for them, or it might be they should quit trying to spoil it for everybody else. The thing is, it might be FACT that a human mind and spirit get stronger and their health is better if they give, instead of just trying to take.
Christmas, or family times like it, can be great when you're a kid yourself. They can lose their sparkle for adults, because they get 'same old, same old' and they mean having to be polite and putting on an act; then they can become exciting again when you have children of your own. Kids opening their Christmas presents can be a real ball!
When the strain gets to you, it can seem that having children involves a load of trouble. But when you see the good side, then it's 'everything old is new again'. Our kids loved making mud houses in the yard, going to the zoo or fauna reserve, ridng tricycles and bikes, hiking, going to theme parks, having rides at carnivals, all the things we did - but for them it's new. You can catch the mood from them. Recall taking children to the movies. They loved it. And it's fun when they're having fun. Life renewed. I can remember when our eldest boy went started school, hoping it would be good. I recall taking our daughter to her first ever dance, worrying how it would work out for her and being glad when she enjoyed it. The same goes for things like teaching them to swim. Later, it's teaching them to drive. The point is, they need you. You make yourself live up to it. It'a a way of 'getting a life'. You don't live THROUGH your kids, if you do things the right way. But if you live FOR them, you've got more to live for.
The same goes for your spouse. I don't depend on my wife, or she on me. It's just that there is a lot more to live for if we've each got each other.
Could it be that our species is made that way? It is good for your heart and lungs if you exercise them. In the same way, is it good for your spirit if you extend it to others?
It might sound like mushy sentiment, but what if it's real? To care for others is good for yourself. That might be one of the most important ways that humans are made in the likeness of God.

Friday, August 8, 2008

It didn't work out that way!

This is a fairly ugly subject. But if we face up to the bad things in the world there is more chance they can be changed.
If you ever read "The Catcher In The Rye" then you'll remember how Holden Caulfield became really depressed thinking about the woman working as a prostitute. I share that feeling entirely. It's just bad and cruel for a person to be used that way.
Today's news report: "More slaves are alive today than were shipped out of Africa for the Atlantic slave trade during the last millenium, says Kevin Bales, an American academic on modern slavery". That is the Sydney Morning Herald, August 8th.
What he tells us is that some of them are 'working' (that is, bonded) in the sex industry. They are children or young women deceived into travelling overseas on work visas, some of them knowing they were going to be put to work as prostitutes but some not knowing - and being held in their 'workplace' by threats of violence, often not being paid. Of course this is not news to any one who follows current events. Neither is it news that this is a vile way to treat people. When the subject comes up of 'mans' inhumanity to man', the things often referred to are the holocaust, the massacre of native peoples by invaders to their country and war generally. It is just as evil to think of someone being forced to submit to repeated violation of this kind a slave, and a sexual assault victim as well. But there's no need to tell anyone that - we know. The angle I'd like to look at is this.
When people argue for the legalization of prostitution they say that if it's legal it can be monitored and supervised, so that certain standards are kept. Make it illegal, they say, and you just drive it underground so that the people working in it have no lawful protection. And it looks like that argument is pure rubbish - because even when it IS legal, there is still gross mistreatment of some of those involved in it. Could it be that prostitution is just an entirely bad idea?
Bales, the academic being quoted, says something else worth noting. The problem exists partly because people will will buy what what is being sold. If it sickens you to think of people-trafficking happening, say that to people who go to 'sex workers'. After all, some of those who do are quite open about it. And sometimes women hire men for that purpose, too. If no-one would buy sex, the whole filthy racket would collapse. But to stick to the point, it does not seem to work to make the thing legal. Allowing that gross 'industry' to exist openly does not guarantee that the 'workers' involved will be protected.
It must be a rotten sad thing if someone can't find a partner to love and share certain things with. If the only individuals who went to a bordello were lonely, that would be sad as much as wicked. But from what I've been told, that's not how it is. From time to time a scandal breaks about someone powerful and wealthy - and married - being caught out buying call girls. There's something amiss there. Do some people get their thrills being able to treat the partner they are with as a captive, not a person for sharing with?
Whatever it is, there are good arguments for not making prostitution legal. As soon as something is allowed by law, that can be taken as meaning that it's respectable. And of course it can be shown that outlawing something does not mean it won't exist. When governments tried making alcohol illegal, a huge illegal trade in it began - Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties, all the gangsters and all that. Likewise, narcotics like marijuana and ecstacy are illegal, but people still obtain and use them. But to legalize something might mean that the use of it increases, and if it's a bad thing then reducing the use of it is good. And to come back to the point: there seems to be something evil about prostitution, such that it will always involve mistreatment of the people involved. The damage can be to the 'customer', as well. I can's speak from experience - that is one mistake I did avoid, when younger and a lot sillier - but it's been reported that using sex-workers can become a compulsive, and the habit can ruin people.
If a thing is bad, you don't make it better by legalizing it. Sometimes people try to say there is nothing wrong with that trade. We can all have our opinions! It seems to me that paying for 'love-making' is like paying someone to pretend they are your friend: it's not real, and how long can you kid yourself?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Experience and Innocence

Condescension can be a seriously annoying; and it can be a hindrance to things. Think about what is called 'the generation gap'.Older people get condescended to for being set in their ways, and younger ones get cricisised for not knowing anything. It might be that older people might at least do what they do quite well, because they know it thoroughly. Also it might be that younger ones might come up with some better new ideas because they're less in the habit of doing things in a set way. It is a constant problem.
Some older people condescend to younger ones when they claim to be sticking up for them and their rights. They can be too quick to make excuses for them, or not listen to them, rather than give them credit for knowing what they may well know. It may be kindly meant in some cases. Also it's not right to be too hard on people. And it's not fair or reasonable to expect a 12 year old to know what an adult should know. But it can also be insulting to say that someone 'doesn't know any better' when they do. That can apply to a sense of right and wrong. It can also apply ideas about life and improving the world.
That being said, younger people can also be condescending to older ones. A 60 something man once complained, "I've been through two bankruptcies, a war and a divorce, and my grandson says 'You don't know what life's about!'"
So what can we make of that? Well, the grandson has the sort of things on his mind that you would do at age 12, or 14, whether male or female. I won't try giving too many examples. It's a while since I was that age. A fourteen year old would have a better idea. The point is you can see why the grandson figures life is not about the sort of things that a sixty-year old thinks of. But then, the 60 year old has got past some of the things that the 14 year old is still dealing with. So in a sense neither is wrong. They're at different places. To be fair to the older person, they've had to deal with things their grandchild has not had to deal with yet. But to be fair to the grandchild, they're still having to deal with things that no longer bother the older person. The whole world can't be 60 all at once, and it can't be 14 all at the same time. It needs both. The problem is they don't always realize it.
I read and assessed this assignment once done by Year 12 students, which was to write their autobiographies. Aged about 17 or 18 they set out the history of their live so far. Truly, instead of being a slog that had to be got through it was fascinating. When we gave them back I said, and meant, that it was really good to see the open-hearted way they wrote about things. I wrote my own as well, to demonstrate how to do it; and mine was more edited and guarded, because I was way older than 17; and I'd have to admit, it showed. They were better at thinking 'out of the square' as the saying goes. I was better at putting things in a neat and considered way; but theirs made a more original read.
Some of those younger students had clear cut ideas about right and wrong which could be called 'naive'. But those ideas are also uncomplicated. So if the younger thinker reckons that things are clear cut, the older thinker can make the mistake of complicating the issue because they want to see it a certain way. I've caught myself doing that. It can happen that you overlook certain angles before you learn to see things in greater depth. It can also happen that people become cynical and give up certain principles because it's easier that way. Two mistakes, both of them serious.
I said this before, without repeating myself too much; younger minds can be more wide-ranging and able to look at things as new. So they might see an angle that's been overlooked before. The down side is, that their focus can be short lived, and they may not see a thing through as well as someone older who has decided what things they are interested in, or committed too. It can be a mistake for either to trash the other.
Consider this. Leonardo da Vinci worked out a design for helicopter-type machine back in the 1400s. At the time, it could not be made to work because there was no adequate way to power it. But 500 years later the idea DID work, and very well too! When young Leonardo came up with his idea, did some people think he was a fruit loop full of air-headed ideas that could not work? Possibly, I don't know. The thing is, his idea was a good one. It just couldn't be made to work in his lifetime. It's less known, but an inventor designed a set of gears back in the 1700s that could not work at the time because the right sort of super-hard metals were not available. Now the ideas does work, with steel alloys that have been discovered since.
Centuries ago, some doctors thought of blood transfusion. The idea itself would work, just so long as we know about blood groups and rhesus positive or negative. It's not good to think of some of the failures that could have happened because healers tried to transfuse blood without knowing all that they needed to. But it's a good thing that the whole idea was not rubbished because it couldn't work at the time. When some extra things were found out, the idea did work. Good thing too! Now suppose a young, innovative thinker came up with an idea, but could not make it work until more was known about it. An older, deeper thinker took up the idea and found out the extra needed to make it work in practice. Good outcome, right?
Of course, not every new idea is good. Trust me! I can recall a few of the bright notions I came up with when aged about 13, or even 17, and I just have to,
it's better to forget that one! There was just too much that I hadn't learned.
Then again, sometimes an idea gets trashed because the wise elders can see the problems, they might have seen the idea come up before and not work - but this time round, it might because we know more than we did last time it was tried. As with Leonardo's helicopter, right?
I hope I know better than to get impatient with someone younger than me,when they get enthusiastic about something that I think is 'old hat'. Also, I hope they understand if I quite honestly think I've seen it before.
Talking about work places, I've heard someone complaining that being the only under 40 in their place of employment was boring. The other ones just talked about different things and thought they had certain issues all figured out. Understood. But then I've been in a workplace where every one was young - and it was like a bottle full of blow-flies. There was plenty of noise and movement, but it didnt' really go anyway. No-one had a clear idea of what to do. Lack of experience meant some of the energy was wasted.
So there's a place for both. As the Bible says, one body with many members, each with their own function. The critical issue is that each sees the others' angle on things. It would quite literally be the end of the world if there were no more young people, renewing things. It could be a hazardous world if their were no steady experience heads who knew certain answers without having to learn them over again, the hard way.
Now for the hard part. How do we get everybody to see things from other peoples' angles and keep the peace?