Sunday, February 25, 2007

"For Future Generations"

Natalie Bennett's Philobiblon is an interesting read. She writes on history, theatre, politics, feminism, "cyberspace" - pretty much everything - and she writes well, which is why she does it for a living (and why I don't). Her politics are red/green.

Via her blog, this piece on the end of privacy - food for the thoughts of a parent with three avid bebo/msn users aged 9 to 17.

Ms Bennett is yet another intelligent, talented woman who's childless.

Finally, as a single, childless woman, with an active social and professional life, entirely happy in that status, she's pleased to write about that, as an antidote to the inevitable Bridget Jones stereotypes.

Maybe I read the wrong blogs, but I don't see many - if any - Bridget Jones stereotypes on the web.

So what, anyway ? She has no children. Big deal. Neither have a lot of other people. Are you going to trawl the web for childless bloggers to tag ?

No. I only mention it because of this piece on using the internet to resurrect women's lost history. In among the quotes from Barthes and concepts like "the stuffedness of the body" there's stuff that's relevant to all historians (and that applies to both sexes). She (correctly IMHO) identifies the enormous potential of the web in gathering together snippets from disparate sources to begin 'the reconstruction of a life' - something I think is happening above all in the world of geneaology, where a post on a local bulletin board, forgotten for a year, suddenly brings an email from Canada with information about your great-great grandfather. (If only this site had the source texts as well !)

I digress. When Lionel Shriver wrote her magnificent essay on childless boomers she generalised that they weren't very historically-minded.

We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead.

You couldn't say that about Ms Bennett.

The second reason why silicon immortality is important to feminists is that it offers many women the opportunity to contribute to the resurrection of women of their own and other ages, when other avenues are closed to them. Norma Clarke in The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters asks why Jane Barker, Sarah Fielding, Eliza Heywood, Delavrier Manley, innovative, popular, admired writers, were almost forgotten, while the men who were their compatriots – Milton, Pope, Steele, Swift – have got as close to immortality as any person who spends their life laying pen to paper could reasonably expect. I’m angry, sometimes, that these, my foremothers, like so many of their compatriots, did not do enough to ensure their own survival into the future (my emboldening - LT), and I have to ask: why ?

Trouble is, the 'survival into the future' not only depends upon the preservation of these women's stories, but on the continued existence of people who'll want to read about these women. As Ms Bennett writes :

If a memory of, or knowledge of, a person exists within a single human body/mind, then the person remembered has an existence, albeit a tenuous, wraithlike one ...
This alternative, embodied view of immortality chimes with a longstanding 'commonsense', pre-silicon-age view, which also holds that a person lives on whilesoever their memory is retained in that of another
(my emboldening - LT). Making this “life” possible is often, consciously or not, the aim of historians, as Lerner says in explaining "why history matters … the dead continue to live by way of the resurrection we give them in telling their stories".

In this context a look at the demographics is instructive. As the ONS 2005 Poulation Trends summary (pdf) tells us :

As many as two in five secondary or medium educated women born in England and Wales in the mid-to-late 1960s were still childless going into their 30s, and almost half (46 per cent) of higher educated women were still childless at age 33. Among the generation of women born in the 1960s in France and Norway, fewer than one in three women of secondary and higher educational attainment were respectively childless entering their 30s and at age 33.

This isn't only a UK phenomenon. "Expected family size varies inversely with wife’s education" says this US presentation. The same's true in Japan and in Latin America (though in the non-welfare Latin American states both "the least educated and the best educated women share the small family norm").

The UK population is going up. Not all the new Britons will have the same attitudes to historical inquiry. The number of natives is going down - and they're ageing. And perhaps the natives producing the most children aren't rearing so many who'll read about seventeenth century lady jailers for pleasure and profit.

What have you done today to preserve a woman’s life – even your own – for future generations ?

A good question. Another good question is 'what future generations ?'

11 comments:

Dave said...

'white Britons' living in England... huh.
Why can't they actually talk about English people as they do with Welsh, Scottish and Irish?

With the large numbers of Scots moving south and all the other 'white' Britons they would put on the stats, I guess the numbers of declining 'white' real ethnic English are actually a fair bit worse than they say.

Anonymous said...

The Govt may permit genetic engineering on human embryos....could be the end of diversity

Foxy Brown said...

White Anglo-Saxon prods in particular are carrying the White Man's Burden in reverse, namely guilt for real or imagined historic crimes against the Other. This may have manifested itself in the reluctance to procreate and produce the next generation.

I'm in danger of sounding like Guessed Worker, but it's like a form of genetic suicide.

verity said...

Dave, who posts at an unusual hour, may not be feeling at his best.

Foxy has it, as she usually does with her pragmatic takes.

The whole point of socialism is destruction in the pride of being British, meaning castigate the indigenes for being members of the most successful race in human history.

This is what these vivaperous, malice-filled lefty brains want: The destruction of Anglo-Saxon/Celtic society. I guess - oh, I dunno - perhaps they felt excluded in the school yard by smarter children and turned against their own race.

What is so bizarre is, the Caucasians have always been quite happy to share their progress with everyone else - if only because it meant new markets and new money for all. I keep quoting P J O'Rourke: When the water level rises, everyone's boat goes up.

And it was the Brits who shut down slavery to N America by using our gunboats to turn back ships transporting slaves. We've always, actually, been quite inclusive. Think of the number of black West Indians who have been knighted through the decades.

The problem is the cancer of the left, who try to stir up spite and malice where there is none. I don't like Trevor Phillips because I think he's a preachy, self-important shit. I cannot abide Trevor McDonald, because he's a prissy ignorant dimwit. In neither case does my hearty dislike have the faintest connection with their pigmentation. I loathe them for their own dear, self-regarding selves.

The trend has been to encourage intelligent, educated women (of all races) to be childless, and encourage the breeding of an easily controlled, state-dependent underclass (of all races).

To what end, I wonder, given that the wealth producers will have died out or immigrated? It looks like a zero sum game to me. Yet they send their children to private schools ... so they are expecting a future ...

What do others think? Including you, Foxy?

But I do believe there is evil afoot.

alex zeka said...

"namely guilt for real or imagined historic crimes against the Other."

It is indeed stunning for what crimes the English are reviled. Bringing the Africans into slavery, even though Britain was the first to abolish the trade whole heartedly (the French might be argued to have gotten a foot in first) and even though the English bought slaves from African dealers.

Inflicting starvation on the imperial possessions, even though standards of living went up after the Empire spread its cover over the world.

Most bizarrely, for the Holocaust, even though Englishmen fought and died to defeat National Socialist Germany.

It's often forgotten just how pessimistic of the fruits of Empire Kipling's White Man's Burden is. He seems to have predicted the dirth of gratitude we'd garner for all our sacrifices.

"Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child."

[Rest here: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/kipling.html ]

Laban said...

Trev McD's not that bad, Verity.

And Mr Phillips is a very clever man, though about all that we have in common is that our Mums loved Paul Robeson (as I do, despite his politics. Belafonte too). When white liberal guilt and multiculturalism was it he played on it like a virtuoso. After 7/7 cohesion's the thing, and we now see Mr Sober, responsible statesman.

Foxy Brown said...

Verity,

Educated women have had the "biology isn't destiny" mantra rammed down their throats for the past 40 years. Biology is indeed destiny, but women have been taught to despise their intrinsic feminine qualities, such as the maternal instinct. I for one regret the feminist bilge that I imbibed in my teens and twenties.


Alex,

No one will admit it, but the Raj was actually better than post-colonial rule under the likes of Kenyatta, Amin and Mugabe. Was living under the "white man" really that bad? My dad and many of his contemporaries don't think so.


Laban,

As one of the chief architects of the multi-culti state, Trev is not as nearly as contrite as he should be.

alex zeka said...

Laban, As a conneiusseur of the absurd, I do appreciate the way you're slobbering all over the ex-Marxist chief architect of the assimilation-nullifying Multi-Cult. I of course don't believe assimilation of genetically alien peoples is possible with the best will in the world, save perhaps through a totalistic state apparatus powerful and despotical enough to brainwash its subjects from birth.

You, however, set great store by how the main reason today's brown hordes aren't fitting in as well as the Slavs and Huguenots of yesteryear is our lack of cultural confidence. Yet, Mr. Phillips, the butcher of our cultural confidence, alongside its stealthy assassins whom respectability prevents me from naming, become the objects of your adoration. Oh, what a clever man, messing up our country and then dancing away from the heat when it gets too hot!

I submit to you that Mr. Phillips is still a Marxist at heart, only instead of dispossessing the bourgeouis of their property he now seeks to dispossess Europeans of our lands. I furthermore submit that he is more a useful idiot for others, cunning but not wise, who are his and your, Laban, puppeteers alike.

Laban said...

The trouble with irony is that it just goes straight past some people !

Foxy Brown said...

Alex,

I hasten to add that Trevor Phillips is nowhere as bad as Ken Livingstone.

alex zeka said...

The trouble with irony is that you need prior credibility to use it. As far as I can see, praising Mr. Phillips for his 'cleverness', demonstrated by his ability to swindle us out of a large dollop of cash through a manufactured guilt trip, was the next logical step for you, after praising a certain ethny for the same quality.