Friday, May 05, 2006

"passionate intensity"

posted by k

The local election results are coming in as I write this. Gains for the fascist British National Party were predicatble, after recent news stories, but we have to face the knowledge that in some areas the majority of voters (I think in some seats it was an overall majority) entered a polling station and put their crosses beside the name of a BNP candidate.

We could blame others. Government statements and policies have created and encouraged a climate of fear and hatred. But if
we permitted the government to assume power, those statements and policies are our responsibility too. It's harder - but not impossible - to challenge media attitudes. The media need us as purchasers so that they can sell space to advertisers. A boycott of papers which cynically promote hatred is possible.

The defence of freedom of speech has a corresponding duty - I have to exercise free speech to challenge views which I regard as damaging and dangerous.

Challenging views which lead people to vote BNP is not easy. I don't know if new BNP voters feel helpless and powerless in the present political structure. I can see why a sense of helplessness might lead to the kind of bad behaviour which attracts attention. Whether or not that is the case, there's an urgent need to involve many more people - from all society - in real political debate rather than focus group soundings.

When people listen to one another they develop and grow - they learn to understand the needs of others while working through their own political stance and potential for action. The big anti-war march in London gave me hope, not because it could have stopped the war, but because people from a range of backgrounds and with different views talked and listened to one another. People came from the isolation of a group of like-minded people and started to develop and express new ideas. This isn't an easy or quick process - we all need time to reflect and think.

In the meantime, I don't know what to do. I shall do my best to listen and respond thoughtfully to a range of views. I shall do my best to see everyone as my equal. There's a lot to be said - still - for the old French slogan of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Note: Please post suggestions for a non-sexist alternative to fraternity. I like its suggestion that we are all members of the same family - and that we have the same position in that family - but we are definitely not all male!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to the main point of your post, of course, I agree. But it is too early in the morning to say much else. And it may be too early for analysis. There are still some results to come in, including some big metropolitan authorities in Yorkshire which are of personal interest to me.

As to a non-sexist alternative to fraternity - always supposing that fraternity still means "brotherliness" as opposed to "brotherliness and sisterliness" - one could consider "solidarity" although it may have been adulterated.

In my drafting, I try to avoid non-sexist language, but constant repetition of "he and she" can be unwieldy. Also, I recoil against the third person plural for "he or she". Parliamentary drafting staff - you see that I avoided "draftsmen" - have the advantage that they can insert a provision to the effect that references to the masculine pronoun and possessive adjective connote the feminine and vice versa. It can occasionally work the other way round. For instance, When the Registrar of Trade Marks was a woman, certain amendments to the Trade Marks Rules made during her spell in office referred to the holder of that office as "she".

7:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't usage such as "non-sexist alternative to fraternity" divert rather than unite focus for debate? I react as if it does so because first it identifies the nature of the mind with the nature of the body and second because it introduces a theme of separation rather than unity. The linguistic challenges of gender may well deserve a wider airing, although most that needs to be said will have been said.


"It is for man to establish the reign of liberty in the midst of the world of the given. To gain the supreme victory, it is necessary, for one thing, that by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood." Simone de Beavoir

8:46 pm  
Blogger kathz said...

Nonetheless, I can't help feeling excluded by words like "fraternity" and have never really felt that the word "him" really includes "her". Being a woman inevitably entails feeling a sense of exclusion from certain "norms" that are taken for granted. For instance, school biology text-books treat female biology as different from the male norm and, until recently at least, it was usual to test new medicines on men because women's bodies were seen as different and odd.

For me, the word "fraternity", for all its historical resonances, is exclusive and promotes a unity in which I don't feel comfortable. Would the men writing here feel entirely comfortable if I announced that I was going to use the word "she" and assume that it included "he"? One day perhaps, comrades! Meanwhile, the history of language can tend to influence and shape thought even as we use it to try to express our hopes for the future.

10:08 pm  

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