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...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Only Fair

Yesterday was a wild day, compounded by a freak sickness which thankfully seems abated today. Though weak, I had to go out to my local high-end grocery store, because they sell the best homemade Jewish-style chicken I know, "Chicken on the pot".

Not only was I sickly, but so were my parents. As they age, it is I who has to assume the responsibilities of the house, which I do with alacrity. It gives me a chance to pay them back just a little, for everything they have done for me in my life.

My parents had allowed me, as a child, to lose myself for hours reading inside my room, under trees along the park, in various hiding places in our home. In turn, I was one of those children who miraculously never gave them trouble and who, equally miraculously, was never punished just to be punished by overly strict parents.

Of course, my father was very strict, all the same.

I was given just one full-hour from the ages of 7 to 16, to watch television. But being essentially fair-minded, he said I could choose whatever programmes I wanted, and could break them up in blocs of 10-15-20 minutes if I so desired.

(In the UK, as you know, we don't always start our programmes on the half-hour, or full hour as in America. Thus I could watch, say, from 9:20 AM to 9:45 and so forth)

To that end, he gave me a little booklet which I needed to fill out -- which I confess, as I grew older, I did so less and less. And as he grew older, he too checked it every night, less and less. Yet, our pact never stopped being in effect. No matter how speedily the teenage years started flying past, I still obeyed him.

He was still My Father, the unquestioned head of our household, the man who, after having worked 16 hour days, came home to kiss his wife, hug his daughter, stick his nose in an enormous medical book for a few hours, then fall asleep to do it all again the next day. Year after year, country after country, this was our home life.

This was almost everything I knew, until I in turn was sent off to boarding school, another well-regimented, absolutely fair-minded institution with quaint little rules, the likes of which I'm convinced, only the British can do truly well.

The key to being strict is being fair, you see.

Consistency. Reasonableness. Duty. And most importantly, the ability to laugh at the pompousness of the whole thing, if only for a moment.

This is our heritage, my birthright, and what my father inculcated in me by example.

For a people who live entirely by ego, but are at pains to make sure everyone knows they don't like it, the British are notable for their fair spirit in rule-making, which only really makes sense to themselves.

When I tear my hair at seeing my old country turning a strange cultural corner, by allowing Shar'ia Courts to exist side-by-side with our venerable legal system (which, really, is our greatest gift to the world), I have to pause and remind myself that they do so, at heart, because they believe the practise to be fair.

The idea is to instill that spirit of fair-play, and hope it'll somehow rub off on the next person -- that's the basis of an entire culture, you see: leading by example.

Of course, the British make a fetish of extinguishing themselves on the altar of fairness.

That's what allows chavs, neds, and each generation's latest group of reprobrates to run around practically unchallenged by ordinary people, and shockingly, even less challenged by authority figures.

Think of this when you see a gang of hooligans inside a train in the Tube, rapping old people on the head, going up and down the aisles, screaming and hollering abuse whilst grown men stare down intently into their newspapers and allow this fracas to happen. This despite that back in the day, at least, absolutely no guns would be involved, and one grown man could easily have dispatched these reedy punks in short order.

Other nationals would see this spectacle and think, "Ah, the British are so weak". Yet others would try to psychoanalyse the situation and say, "Ah, they feel guilty about the working classes [or insert group du jour here]".

It's possible, but I think it unlikely.

We're just a nation of people who hope things sort themselves out.

After all, give people a skeleton of strict rules, add a bit of common sense, plus the ability to shame people with sarcastic panache, and bob's your mother's brother, you have a nation called Britain.

Or indeed, you have a family like mine.

A daughter who, if she doesn't work 16 hours taking care of her family, certainly would be ready to do so in case it were needed. As her father lies in bed, his nose now firmly ensconced in ESPN, he hopes that his increasingly frail body won't be a burden to his family, particularly to his only child. She shouldn't have to take care of him.

Perhaps he has forgotten the most important thing he taught me in life, the thing which others debase for their own ends, raising its spectre when they want to change the world, that poor manipulated word which lies dormant until Man awakens it.

"It's only fair."

Fairness is more than a doctrine to some of us. Within its energetic little letters, lies a promise given by a father to its child.

It's indecent and wrong to use the word to manipulate anything. Our children would never forgive us.



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  • I've often thought that certain nations go to war with America/Britain precisely because they think we are weak because we do not treat women as oppressively as they do. They come up with many specious reasons for the way in which women are treated in their cultures, relating them undoubtedly to their own male sexual identities; thus women are only free if men are 'weak.'

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Feb 13, 04:08:00 pm GMT-5  

  • You've captured the essence of family responsibility and then you’ve given it to your readers like a fair-minded parent would. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    BTW, I hope this one makes your "Best of Sundries" list.

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Fri Feb 13, 06:25:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Yes, thank you for sharing this. A lovely glimpse into your family life. And truly lovely writing, too.

    By Blogger Zachary Paul Sire, at Sat Feb 14, 02:04:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Excellent, kudoes!

    Yours is the country that I knew and loved. I believe it will survive the onslaught of political correctness and state nannyism; because as you say, in the end it isn't fair.

    We Americans are always blathering on about fairness, yet as a polyglot nation composed of self-interested groups we no longer have a shared interest or sense of fairness. Our survival as a Republic dims with each political cleaving of commonality and comity.

    Whereas, one only needs to read the heartrending stitchery of the Bayleux Tapestry to understand that Britons carry it etched in their DNA.

    Sorry, I am in a rather bleak mood after weeks of watching the country set on a disastrous path that may be irreversible in my lifetime.

    By Blogger BJM, at Sat Feb 14, 02:38:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Thanks so much Ron, Chickenlittle, BJM and Zach for your kind words.

    I'm glad you all understood it in the spirit it was given. :)

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Feb 14, 03:10:00 pm GMT-5  

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