As most Rusters will be only too well aware, we oldies often have to make difficult decisions in order to negotiate a careful balancing act between – on the one hand – expressing our bewilderment that the young seem to delight in disregarding or overturning all we know and can teach them about life and – on the other – and keeping our own counsel in the natural human cause of seeking to appear relevant and “up to speed” with both the constant blizzard of developments in modern technology and what I shall describe here as the tyrannies of passing fashion in the worlds arts, clothing, social movements and political thinking.
The absolute truth is that – although throughout the history of the word there have always been always stirring individual examples of exceptions to the general rule – “we are all of our own time” and there is very little we can do about it.
Being young – and here I’m setting my stall out by saying that I’m referring to “up to the age of 25” – admirably and wonderfully, we are all fundamentally both idealistic and yet relatively innocent about the ways of the world.
It’s why at that stage of our lives we all go – or, in my case, went – on student marches protesting about wars in any form, nuclear weapons, sexual discrimination, the North versus South divide, right-wing fascist groups, global warming, climate change and indeed “anything-else-morally-and spiritually-sound-you-might-care-to-mention”.
And yet simultaneously in practice, in our own lives, we apparently see (in my case, saw) no contradiction in acting quite differently to the very things we are campaigning about.
From my own personal experience I should estimate that less than 10% of people who campaign about the threat of global warming and climate change ever take individual action to curb their own annual breaks, holidays or even “rites of passage” gap year jaunts to all parts of the world via the very aircraft, airlines and airports that they are demanding should either go “green” and/or (preferably) close down their businesses altogether for the greater good of the future of the planet.
When it comes to what we oldies mock as the 21st Century “woke” Millennial generation(s) – with their obsession about dismantling and distancing themselves from the historical achievements of every nation on the Earth because of supposed racism, devotion to slavery and discrimination of every kind imaginable – it is sometimes hard to know where to begin without pointing out that the only reason they possess the luxury to be able to rant on about their pet “issues of the moment” is the hard work, dedication and sacrifices made by previous generations in getting human society to where it has currently reached.
Which brings me to my (sexual discrimination) text for today.
Doctor Jackie Wilson, Vice Principal and head of the sixth form at Oxford Spires Academy, has apparently got herself into hot water by airing her supposed old-fashioned, no-nonsense, views upon the subject of female pupils’ monthly periods.
See here for a link to a representative report by Isabella Nicolic on the story that appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL
In the late 1990s, not long after I had joined the board of a company in the British film and television industry based in Soho, a female manager in her thirties appeared in my office in order to discuss “a personal matter”.
At the time – whether justified or not – I rather prided myself in my abilities as a team manager and leader.
To put no finer point upon it, I regarded myself as decisive and strong but fair; a good listener and judge of people; a keen motivator and “bringer on” of new talent; as being capable of generating team spirit and optimism via my words and deeds; and as a keen delegator of responsibility when and where appropriate.
Soon after our meeting began said lady launched into her reason for coming to see me.
She explained – at this distance in time further on I cannot now recall whether she cited a particular female medical issue or condition in support of her thrust – that her periods regularly caused her cramps, debilitating stomach pains and other problems; in short, at certain times of each month she might have issues with getting to work on time, or indeed at all.
As her senior manager – and to a degree, as a male – I was suitably sympathetic and said that I would take all this into account. I suggested that, if she ever had cause, she should not hesitate to ring in and/or contact me to register her problem, because it was important to to be aware of it and (if necessary) make appropriate arrangements in the office, and as regards her ongoing workload, in order to cope with it.
Towards the end of the same day, I then had occasion to talk with my chairman – a female – and, among other items we discussed, I reported upon my meeting.
She was abruptly dismissive of both my manager’s personal problem and the way I had dealt with it.
In short, her attitude was that women were to have no special privileges for “female problems” in the workplace at all.
She would never tolerate a female citing “period issues” in explaining an inability to get to work or do her job.
The following day she called said executive into her office and read her the proverbial Riot Act, effectively telling her not to be so pathetic and suggesting to her that, if she couldn’t do her job properly she should get out of the way and let someone else do it – male or female.
And that was that.
We live in different times now, of course …