Mating, the core of it all

I did a lot of reading over the holiday period, partly because my January  has been consistently hot — not at all with 40 degrees plus — but day after day of around 33 degrees, which gets the ambient heat of our house right up, forces me to put on the air conditioning, and inclines us to sit and read. This essay is the first of a pair, each looking at what seem to me to be the core aspects of human social life, from which everything else hangs. This one is about mating.

We human beings rarely have memories extending before being five years old. But thereafter memory becomes an important part of our knowledge. We discover our parents and their styles and moods. We discover other children, our peers. We discover the necessities of life — food, shelter, safety. We get some kind of education, a lot of it from our parents, and then from peers, perhaps at school, if there is one. We learn by using our sight and hearing. We enter the world of work, early or late, but we enter it eventually. Most of us find a significant other, and mate: we are hard-wired to do so. The mating usually results in children, and we look after them. Our children grow up, we grow older, we give up work, are looked after, and then die. In the meantime, our children are going through the same stages as we went through ourselves. All societies are built around these processes, but they are built in different ways to deal with them

Tribal societies provided, and still provide, a particular context for a human life, one which is guided by elders, has strong rules and offers emotional security. Theocratic societies, like Iran, provide a different context. There are strong rules there too, and the society runs on assumptions about the meaning of life and the proper way to behave, even to think. Western industrial and post-industrial societies provide a much more anonymous and individualistic context. They offer much more freedom than in other societies, but with less belonging and emotional security.

But in all of them, to repeat, the real and sometimes hidden engine of social life is the production of children and their maturation into adults. Societies that live close to the bone in terms of food will invent rules and customs that prevent there being too many children for the available food supply. Indigenous Australians in the desert regions did so. So did the Inuit in the frozen north of Canada. The society needs food for its members and particularly for the children, who are dependents. It needs security for them. Tribes organise these tasks in different ways to modern industrial societies.

Much of human history is illuminated, it seems to me, by searching for causes in the interaction between these social needs and changing weather patterns. A long period of warm temperatures and good rainfall in the Roman period led to the rapid growth in population of what had been tribal groups in what we now call Russia and Central Asia. One theory is that the older ones in the tribe told the young ones to move out and find new land, a process that may have gone on for several hundred years. In time the wanderers encountered settled societies that had learned farming. They saw its advantages, did it themselves, and in time created villages and then towns. The Roman Empire tried to keep the Rhine and Danube rivers as its natural and established borders, but the growth of population to the east meant that the last period of the Roman Empires was one of a cycle of resistance and acceptance of the new arrivals, who wanted to cross the rivers and enjoy the benefits of a much wealthier and more settled society. At the end, the last group of wanderers simply over-ran the Empire , which came to its end. The same process of population movement is going on today, for different reasons, as people leave the turbulent Middle East to find shelter and a stable life in other countries, including our own.

Periods of cold and bleak weather in Europe in the early modern times were ascribed to witches. There had to be a cause, and since urban societies lived somewhat precariously in terms of available and stored food, two bad seasons could be disastrous. Earlier tribal societies had seen the cause of poor seasons in the anger of the gods.  In the last half-century the relative abundance of food means that we have no experience of the consequence of a long run of poor harvests, though those in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa know it all too well.

Western societies have changed quite a lot since I was young, in ways relevant to this story. The postwar economic boom pushed Australia to attract new people to come and work here, at first from societies like ours, until finally anyone with skills (even just money), wherever they came from, would be welcomed. That caused a demand for housing that is still unsatisfied. Our birthrate in the 1950s and early 1960s was quite high, and we young ones married early, but the demand for workers and the arrival of the contraceptive pill meant that more and more women felt able to go to work, reduced the numbers of children they had, and postponed the time at which they would have them. The same seems to have been true across Europe, even Catholic Europe. That process reduced the availability of women to do the voluntary work that made the established churches viable as elements of social order. Few Australians now go to church as a matter of course. It is also much less important now than it was when I was young that people actually married when they cohabited. There are all sorts of actual couplings today, including those of people of the same sex. Once consequence is that single-person apartments, almost unknown in the 1960s, are now quite common, standard fare for developers and builders.

For a generation or two after the Second World War the great demand was for the building not just of houses but also of primary schools, then secondary schools, then institutions of higher education. It meant an enormous demand for teachers, which has come to an end. The postwar economic boom meant also a demand for managers to deal with all the new demands for infrastructure,  salaries, working conditions. They are still with us, in large numbers.

Advances in wealth, medical knowledge and technology mean that in Western societies many people will live to well past threescore years and ten, and that has disturbed the traditional balance between the numbers in each broad age-group. The increasing average age of the population worries those who wonder who is going to do the work to support all these oldies, and offers the possibility that many of us will work long past what was once considered the ‘retiring age’ of 65. There was, as I remember, a pronounced uptick in deaths among men in their 66th and 67th year, thought to be a sign of the importance of work as a social setting. Their wives, who for the most part had not been in the paid workforce since their youth, if at all, lived on much longer. But now a boy baby is likely to live to his late eighties and a girl baby into her early nineties.

The focus of building has now shifted from schools and universities to retirement villages, old people’s homes and extensions to hospitals, while the managers now concern themselves with medical and pharmaceutical benefits, pensions, superannuation, euthanasia and fitness, matters which were of little consequence in the 1960s.

The central point of this essay is that the seven ages of man outlined by Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It provide the framework within in all societies, not just Australia, organise themselves. What some see as really important political issues, like the NDIS, or more beds in hospitals, or more day-care centres, or higher pensions, stem from the progress of life for a society at a given time. The issues change over time, but they flow, finally from the patterns of mating at an earlier time.

In a later essay I’ll look at the contrast between two ways of organising societies that you can see in contemporary Australia. In one, we accept that governments are imperfect and that societies can never reach an ideal state, forcing us to recognise and support self-reliance. In the other the search for perfection, for the reality to words like ‘equality’, ‘justice’, and ‘fairness’, is the over-riding point of politics.

 

69 Comments

  • spangled drongo says:

    “There was, as I remember, a pronounced uptick in deaths among men in their 66th and 67th year, thought to be a sign of the importance of work as a social setting.”

    Yes, interesting, Don.

    Many men, a generation or two ago smoked fairly heavily in order to get through a hard day’s work and their work was often so demanding that a person running say, a small production businesses often had a cigarette burning at each machine as he rushed from one to the other to produce a complex article.

    These were intelligent, highly productive people who led peaceful, civilised existences and made this country great but they are all dead now as they fell off their perches before 70 yet the “experts” tell us that smoking costs us billions whereas in fact it saved [awa made] us billions.

    Tobacco, not rum, won this country yet the wisdom today is that you can drink responsibly but you can never smoke responsibly. Nicotine may be the best drug we have ever had. I have never seen anyone smoke a packet of cigarettes and then do anything violent as a consequence yet today, with a huge reduction in smoking there is more violence than I can ever remember for a non-war period.

  • bryan roberts says:

    Don, I would take issue with you on a couple of points The ‘seven ages of man’ is a romantic nonsense. There are three ages – before work; work; and after work. The boundaries have shifted, upwards, as well-being has improved and lifespans have consequently increased. This is not a problem.

    I have no idea why there is the current hysteria about our inability to support the ageing population, when, increasingly, most will retire with superannuation accounts that are supposedly designed to provide an INCOME in retirement. If they are not working as designed, then the government should legislate to ensure they do.

    The Ponzi population scheme will come to an end, eventually, although the cost will be borne by generations yet unborn. The ‘patterns of mating’ have not changed significantly – a few years here or there are constrained by a woman’s reproductive capacity – and any imaginary increase in longevity will be constrained by the Hayflick limit. So humankind will have to face the unpleasant prospect of dealing with stability.

    The days of unending growth are, actually, over.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Bryan, I’ll leave Jacques’s speech — I enjoyed it when we did the play at school. But the point I was trying to make, but muddled, is that the patterns of mating are affected by the eternal world (weather, wealth, technology) and those changes then affect how the society operates — we build schools at one point (and close them later), build different type of apartments, build old-age homes. Each of these changes comes with different sorts of needs, skills and professions. Too much for a short essay, I confess. And no doubt I didn’t think it through properly.

    • JAC says:

      Well, this is a jaundiced view of life, and one which has no room for humanity. ‘Much ado’ may be a romantic comedy , but the recognition of us all in the seven ages is a reflection that we all exhibit these behaviours to some degree in our lives at different times. If life to you Bryan is romantic nonsense you must be great company. Your three ages of work reduces us all to the units of production outlined in Marx’s theory of labour.
      As for boundaries shifting upwards and lifespans increased not being a problem I did not understand that Don was presenting it as such – but the ageing of the baby boomer generation world wide and the pressure on communities to redirect resources to address the issue is not hysteria , it is management. You have touching faith in it when you think that governments can legislate our way to wealth. You must be a public servant living in Canberra.

      If I struggled to follow you this far, I was lost in the twists of the Ponzi(?) population scheme. I agree the cost will be borne by future generations, but this is increasingly the bolt hole for politicians world wide for a multitude of matters – borrow more and leave the reconciliation to those who follow.

      The divergence of birth rates in countries suggests that patterns of mating have indeed changed. As the standard of living in nations rise , the birth rate drops. Most Western countries and some others such as Japan have a birth rate about 1.2 to 1.6 – a declining population. China announced recently ( in connection with CO2 emissions) that it expected the population growth to slow to zero around 2035. India, and most South American states are growing. And Afghanistan – despite almost continual civil war for 20 years – has a birth rate of more than 3. Your proposal that a woman’s reproductive capacity is fixed is a theoretical construct that ignores the empirical evidence that poor people have more children that wealthy ones.- or haven’t you noticed.

      I will need to have your proposition that any increase in longevity, real or imagined will be constrained by the Hayflick limit explained. What is this Hayflick you speak of? And why is the prospect of stability unpleasant?
      I think that the days of unending growth are not over but will be, like the poor, with us forever.

      • bryan roberts says:

        “I think that the days of unending growth are not over but will be, like the poor, with us forever.”

        …and you think I have a jaundiced view of life!

  • bryan roberts says:

    “the patterns of mating are affected by the eternal world (weather, wealth, technology)”
    Thy may be influenced by the external world, Don, but I seriously doubt that the eternal comes into consideration.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Oh dear, what a blooper! I could fix it up, Bryan, but then others would not understand your comment, so I’ll leave the error right there.

  • Neville says:

    I’m no expert on the mating game, although the initial stage can be a lot of fun. But here is a wonderful graphic display by Prof Hans Rosling showing the world’s countries health improvements over the last 200 years.

    Amazing how all countries started as a tight bunch at the bottom left corner but once the IR started and developed quickly the wealthier western countries moved away. But now a lot of the once poorer countries have almost caught up to Europe, Nth America, OZ, Japan etc. Incredible to think that this has happened over the last 60+ years and certainly within my lifetime. The graphics and data collection for his display were all financed by the US taxpayer and today everyone can quickly look at all the UN and other data and easily understand it.

    Of course Lomborg and his mate Ridley have highlighted the incredible health benefits since the beginning of the IR and paid the price demonstrated by verbal abuse etc . Rosling has also had the dopey Ehrlich’s hot on his tail for trying to spread this good news. Here is his short 5 min video and a wiki bio of Prof Hans Rosling. Oh and he’s an award winning stats expert as well, plus many other accomplishments.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahp7QhbB8G4

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Rosling

  • dlb says:

    In one of Brisbane’s suburbs in the 1930s a jazz hall was built for dancing. In the forties it was converted into a cinema and then in the seventies the cinema was demolished and squash courts built. The squash courts only lasted 20 years as they were then replaced with a childcare centre. I’m thinking it must be time for a new reincarnation. I wonder what will it be? medical centre, mediation retreat, aged care facility?

    • bryan roberts says:

      Out of curiosity, has anyone ever asked the ‘aged’ whether they wanted to be ‘cared for’. Most I know hate the very idea.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        I haven’t ever asked such a question in my survey research, but maybe Roy Morgan has done. Everyone I know at the same stage of life wants to stay independent — until they can’t look after themselves…

      • PeterD says:

        Hullo Bryan,

        You pose a very interesting question and Don’s response to it seems reasonable.

        One of the ideas that has struck me is that there are different generational attitudes to aged care. Many who come through the Depression era, see aged care as the pits. There may also be cultural attitudes associated with this. I heard a Greek woman in her fifties explaining how her mother would feel if she was placed in aged care: “Good night and good luck. You’re tipping me out!” I am aware in my broader family circle of three older people -two in their eighties, and one in their nineties – who are very lonely at home, certainly have the means to pay for aged care, but would prefer to die lonely at home. The other point is that they feel duty-bound to leave money to their family rather than spend it on themselves. A friend of mine in her fifties working as a Real Estate agent in Sydney, found three old people dead in their homes in one year. When your’e dead, one of the first things you do is forget to pay the rent. She carries smelling salts as part of her kit now.

        I am on the seventies scale and I see value in being in an aged care home in certain circumstances, especially after seeing my own mother come from Sydney to Canberra and spend five happy years in an aged care facility at Bruce. She met wonderful people and engaged in fulfilling activities but was very wary at first.

        The facts are many old people either can’t afford aged care or don’t want it any way. The Government, seeing the future demographic patterns, would like to see more people supported in their own home environments.

        My view is that a newer generation sees the value of aged care when the circumstances are right, and this will become more common. The prelude to aged care – independent living in the facility with the option to downsize and transition to more assisted care – is another issue which is open to many views.

        • margaret says:

          “The Government, seeing the future demographic patterns, would like to see more people supported in their own home environments.”
          Unfortunately women can’t be the ones to always be the angels of mercy. There’s half a population out there that doesn’t think it’s their role.
          http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/careers-and-mon ey/study-finds-men-avoid-applying-for-jobs-that-advertise-feminine-qua lities-like-empathy-20170119-gtum7d.html

          • PeterD says:

            Hi Margaret,

            The article you hyperlinked identifies qualities required to be an effective carer and than suggests that “It turns out that doesn’t lead very many men to apply.”

            This is a sad state of affairs and while it may be true, it does not follow that it has to remain that way. In a public sense, one’s father may have had heart surgery but a mother with muscular dystrophy and a sister with cancer require male support and this would not be questioned in a caring family. It’s not so much a gender issue as a matter of the heart and caring for those you love. But it may be the case that the way males are socialised in our society, there is a bypass on such emotions. Who am I to say?

          • margaret says:

            Indeed Peter. The way males are socialised … can you imagine a woman perpetrating the horrible crime in Melbourne’s CBD?
            Not saying women don’t commit horrible crimes, but that was a male who should have been apprehended for family violence before he used a car as a weapon.

          • dlb says:

            “can you imagine a woman perpetrating the horrible crime in Melbourne’s CBD?”

            No I can’t but it has little to do with socialisation but everything to with biology. Just think of all the women who are brought up in dysfunctional families with uncaring parents. How many of those get convicted for violent acts? shoplifting perhaps but meanwhile their brothers would stand a high chance of conviction for violence.

            And that ridiculous article from the SMH /New York Times about sexist language in job adds predetermining applicants. Men don’t apply for carer jobs because they aren’t good at them and likewise women don’t apply for cartography jobs as their spatial skills are poor. That’s not to say men aren’t empathetic or women wouldn’t like to be able to read maps, it’s just the way nature made us.

            Having said that, many attributes in nature are normally distributed. You are always going to get a small percentage of men that would make great carers and women that would be outstanding cartographers. And that is why we need a society that offers equal opportunity.

          • margaret says:

            If you take out ‘small’, I agree with your last sentence.
            Yes, a violent crime was recently committed by a young woman armed with an axe and knife.
            Biology no, drugs yes.

          • margaret says:

            Your penultimate sentence and last sentence.
            I don’t believe that men and women are “the same”. You think I’m crazy?! I just saw Terence Davies Sunset Song. Women were driven mad by pregnancy upon pregnancy and patriarchal oppression. Sensitive young men were ordered from the pulpit to go to war and not be cowards. Sons were beaten by their fathers, daughters were sexually abused. Good riddance to the common occurrence of such pre modern horrors. Now we have less of them but they still exist and we have “new sins” like internet pornography etc. etc.
            Women have been held back by their biology and until the Seventies, lack of reliable contraception.
            This to a large degree has been overcome. If a man and a woman decide to have a child their parental input should be negotiated but satisfactorily as equal as possible for each of them.

          • margaret says:

            @ dlb, who says:

            “Men don’t apply for carer jobs because they aren’t good at them and likewise women don’t apply for cartography jobs as their spatial skills are poor. That’s not to say men aren’t empathetic or women wouldn’t like to be able to read maps, it’s just the way nature made us.”

            WTF – there goes my equanimity…

          • spangled drongo says:

            “Women have been held back by their biology and until the Seventies, lack of reliable contraception.”

            Marg, you just wiped out a decade of delights otherwise known as the psychedelic hippie movement of the ’60s with the huge lifestyle changes caused by using pills made from pregnant mare’s piss. The golden age of porn, feminism, gay rights etc.

            If only it had’ve been the last tango in Paris.

          • margaret says:

            To expand on Peter’s term SD – that is complete and utter BS.
            Australia really was a backwater in the sixties as far as the psychedelic aspects and ‘delights’ of the era – it was pretty much business as usual. The music though was superb.

          • spangled drongo says:

            So, marg, you reckon the pill and the hippie era that happened in the ’60s is utter BS?

            Maybe you just had an altered state of consciousness.

            Just because those Nimbin Nutters didn’t get with it early doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

            Me, I was more into Judith Durham and Harry Belafonte but the beat gen too.

          • spangled drongo says:

            You’re probably not old enough to remember Pincus Pills for Prolific People but they both started in the ’50s but got serious in the ’60s:

            http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/a-brief-history-of-the-bir th-control-pill/480/

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippie#1958.E2.80.9367:_Early_hippies

          • margaret says:

            Hullo Peter. What is it about Peters? Is it their calm wise non-understanding of what it’s like to be a woman?
            If so may all Peters come back in the next life as a woman – preferably one who doesn’t fit the preferred stereotype in today’s society.
            I do miss tripitaka as she had a way of nailing the ingrained prejudices, aka Yeats’ circus animals (a poem I have not read), of men of a certain age. Once again I’m done for now but will recommend that you all watch Ashley Judd’s rap rant against Donald Trump, written by a 19 year old girl. Goodbye.

        • margaret says:

          “In a public sense, one’s father may have had heart surgery but a mother with muscular dystrophy and a sister with cancer require male support and this would not be questioned in a caring family. It’s not so much a gender issue as a matter of the heart and caring for those you love.”

          At the risk of my comment being seen as “politics of envy” (a weasel term), I would say that is not a good example. The person in public office and his family are suffering and I admire his decision. However, he really has no choice. There are no other siblings (to my knowledge), the family is a loving, Christian family and he cares. He and they are at least fortunate to have wealth and the means to afford the best care and treatment.
          No matter that we all have our trials and tribulations, rich and poor. The simple fact is that if you are a person of wealth, ‘importance’, and connections, your suffering, condition, and family illness is attended to with alacrity and there is a lot of support available to you.
          It was really very funny that Paul Keating once said he didn’t have private health insurance. Why would he need to. Party ideology. But had he or his family fallen ill …

          • PeterD says:

            Hullo Margaret,

            You query the appropriateness of the Baird example but you digress from the main point I was trying to make: it is not so much a gender issue as a matter of the heart and caring for those you love.

            Many males are carers in Australian families – for their aged parent(s), or for their children et al., who may be afflicted in many different ways. Is it the case that more females are engaged in these caring roles than males? Without knowing the figures, I would certainly say yes.

            In looking at the changing status, roles and condition of women since the 60s, there has clearly been progress but there are still horror areas and so much more to be done. It’s comforting indeed to note some developments in western society but the bombing of girl’s schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan etc, and the chilling status of women under the Taliban or ISIS introduces barbarous dimensions.

            In terms of the appropriateness of examples, we don’t have to look to the Middle East but see through this florist’s eyes the ugly oppression she had experienced in two ‘relationships’ by males and perhaps what this says more broadly:
            http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2017/s4606714.htm

            It does not escape me that in using examples of political, well-to-do, wealthy families, the issues become blurred. There are always going to be lesser and greater examples. We live in a world where young girls {males too?) webcast their own suicide on social media because of low self esteem, depression etc.

            In such discussion, there are multiple perspectives – gender, religious, cultural, power/dominance etc to identify a few. I’m only an occasional visitor to this site but it seems to me that Don’s opening posting invites a range of responses but all of us have what I might call Yeat’s circus animals deep within us and we like to trot them out, make them roar etc so that the discussion flows – we know not where!

          • PeterD says:

            Hi Margaret,

            In response to your posting – ‘What is it about Peters..

            I always object to being typecast and bundled up with others on the basis of little personal knowledge.

            I listened to Ashley’s rap rant. Her antipathy to Trump has been echoed around the world today by many women. My view is that it is hard to differentiate between Donald Trump and Bill Clinton in terms of their predatory sexual behaviour, their use of power and their ability to remain out of jail.

            What struck me about Ashley’s speech, though, was her reference to inequality and (not that she mentioned this) the
            dismantling Obamacare will give each of the 400 richest families in the USA a $7,000,000 tax break.

            Gender is certainly one lens to view Trump but there are other valid ones as well, strange as it might sound.

  • Neville says:

    This Hans Rosling video finds that saving poor children ( in the poorest countries) leads to lower world population growth.

    http://www.gapminder.org/answers/will-saving-poor-children-lead-to-ove rpopulation/

    This video looks at the track record for world pop forecasts since 1950.

    http://www.gapminder.org/answers/how-reliable-is-the-world-population- forecast/

  • Neville says:

    In this video Hans Rosling looks at the Bangladesh miracle that has occurred over the last 30 years or within just one generation. Why is it that a majority of the globe’s population are unaware of this miracle and the wider world health miracle since 1950?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPTwE0qIuNA

    While Goklany, Lomborg, Ridley, Rosling and others have worked hard to counter our ignorance we still find that most so called EDUCATED people haven’t a clue. But why is this the case? I’ve had SFA education yet I can easily answer these questions and believe me I’m not super intelligent. But I do read a lot and I hate BS and BS artists.

    Here’s Rosling’s 2014 TED talk to a huge crowd. Even if you just watch the first 5 minutes it is worth it. It must be very difficult for these people trying to cut through the BS and nonsense to deliver the real facts and data. They certainly get very little help from the MSM.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm5xF-UYgdg

  • margaret says:

    “Mating, the core of it all”. Not an alluring title. Truth and fact perhaps but also, reductive.
    If one of the readings in January had been E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime … a more empathetic view of people’s diverse motivations, circumstances and even Corporation Trump would perhaps result.

    • margaret says:

      “But in all of them, to repeat, the real and sometimes hidden engine of social life is the production of children and their maturation into adults.”
      I would say it’s a parental expectation and social engineering to a large degree, in capitalist societies.
      Obviously if the young did not go forth and multiply eventually we would cease to be – but I don’t believe nearly as many young women want to become mothers these days. It’s a societal pressure as much as a natural urge.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Sad thing is, marg, the dumb ones do [in spades] and the discerning don’t.

      • bryan roberts says:

        margaret, I can tell you from personal experience that , in a cohort of highly educated young women working towards research careers, a majority acknowledged that they anticipated that they would marry, have children, and that this would affect their career aspirations. One in particular, said “some days I feel I just must have children”. Societal – complete and utter nonsense.

        • margaret says:

          I love the term “complete and utter nonsense” – it creates an image for me.
          So these highly educated young women who become “clucky” and have children with I expect men on their own career trajectory, end up fulfilling their biological “purpose” at the expense of their careers but not affecting their male partners careers.
          Something that Julia Gillard’s father said impressed me (he who “died of shame”) … “I’ve never thought of my daughters as baby -making machines”.

          • dlb says:

            Gillard’s father “I’ve never thought of my daughters as baby -making machines”
            Well there you go – parental expectation. I agree societal force does play a roll and it works both ways.

          • bryan roberts says:

            This is a curiously pompous assertion. If a young woman wants to be head of WHO, it is OK. If she wants to be married and have children, it is somehow, not OK. She is stupidly ‘clucky’. The fact that she might be happy as a mother, but not as head of WHO, is, of course, irrelevant.

            margaret, take a deep breath and repeat after me, women have a right to self-determination. Not what their fathers want, not what you want, but what they want.

          • margaret says:

            Curiously pompous eh? Well Bryan, at least it’s not “complete and utter nonsense”.
            Never mind. Yesterday – Trumped.
            Today – Equanimity.

        • dlb says:

          I agree Bryan, as I would have thought the mothering instinct in women would be comparable to the sex drive in men.

          Certainly disagree with Margaret’s statement “I would say it’s a parental expectation and social engineering to a large degree, in capitalist societies.”
          Modern Western (read capitalist) societies are one of the few on earth where women have the luxury of pursuing a career instead of being pressured into child raising.

          • margaret says:

            … “I would have thought the mothering instinct in women would be comparable to the sex drive in men.”
            O.M.G. How very convenient and patriarchal.

          • dlb says:

            Nothing to do with value judgements, just the way biology works.
            These biological drives do have their down sides for both sexes in modern society..

          • margaret says:

            Like Julia Gillard? – (no I’m not fixated on her, just ashamed of the way she was vilified for many undeserved things, including lack of children and other ‘womanly’ attributes such as apparently a good bowl of fruit on the sideboard.

  • margaret says:

    “I did a lot of reading over the holiday period …”
    Don, it would be good to read what your reading list was. Thanks.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Well, it included two books on Alzheimer’s disease, a bodice-ripper written by a woman friend, a book of essays about India (I’ll review it in due course),Nicholas Hasluck’s The Bradshaw Case, a book about male/female differences (the subject of another later essay), a few journals, and a lot of stuff on the Net. I didn’t set out to read them; it was just what happened. I try to re-read books I found important, and I recognise that I am much less interested than I used to be in what is thought to be the Book of the Month. I haven’t read Proust, and am not sure I ever will.

      • margaret says:

        I AM pretty sure you never will read Proust. I am almost certain neither shall I.
        Apart from Doctorow, which once again I recommend to all, I read Penelope Lively’s City of the Mind and Georgia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog. No bodice-rippers (since yours).

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Mine wasn’t a bodice-ripper, but I guess it’s all matter of taste.

          You asked me what I read and I answered. I’m not suggesting that anyone reads the books I mention. My interest is in the effect that books and reading have had on my own development.

          • margaret says:

            Another bristling male.

          • margaret says:

            After all why bring up Proust if you didn’t read him.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            I wasn’t bristling, Margaret. Why did I mention Proust? I could have used other books from the canon. What I was getting at is that at the end of a long life, and a great deal of reading, I still haven’t read all the Great Books, and doubt that I will. What more am I going to learn by doing so? What books should people read? On the whole I think it matters less what people read than that they like reading and do a lot of it. Enough.

  • Neville says:

    “At this TED talk Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is”. This short talk is inspiring and very optimistic about the future.

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ridley+ted+youtube&view=detail&mid =04F8289732EAA029059C04F8289732EAA029059C&FORM=VIRE

  • margaret says:

    For Peter D
    In my reply Peter, I forgot to mention that I had already seen the video footage you posted of the florist. A story of resilience and Helen Reddy would be proud.
    My feeling is that men of your ilk seem to think this is somehow testament to … ‘natural’ obstacles that women have the strength to overcome. No it’s not.

    • margaret says:

      A beautiful poem – as one would expect, from Yeats.

      • PeterD says:

        Hullo Margaret,

        Just one other point re Trump and Ashley’s rap rant.

        Given the huge turnout of women around the world today protesting against Donald Trump, there is a case to view the phenomenon through a feminist lens. There are other lens just as illuminating, even moreso, that Jonathan Kirshner (2017) writes of:

        “It is simply not possible to shy away from the ugly fact that racism was an essential ingredient to his election. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but pretty much every racist did, and that mattered. Moreover, things are not that simple. Trump’s unmediated racism warmed the hearts of once-shadowy white supremacists (one pines for the days when politicians felt the need to couch such appeals in coded language)”

        Source: http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/america-america/

        Aware of your feminist standards – I do not know what it is like to live in a black skin on a bare survival diet in a US city -so my sympathy for the racist lens may not pass muster, but other readers may find it of interest.

        • margaret says:

          I find it interesting AND appalling … OJ Simpson Made in America, Mississippi Burning, To Kill a Mockingbird. I also find the term “women and minorities” very telling. If women and minority groups are largely anti Trump as POTUS – who is left? Thinking caps on chaps.

      • margaret says:

        Also, a poem written by a man who at the end of his life appears to have realised that his ego meant nothing in the long haul. Nothing.

  • PeterD says:

    Hullo Margaret,

    You use the expression ‘men of your ilk’. I would like to see your rationale and thinking underpinning the use of such a phrase which I find bizarre. It suggests you glibly accept cliches, stereotypes or generalisations. Anyone who reads literature, especially one who enjoys Penelope Lively, would appreciate the complexities, individualities and idiosyncrasies of all characters, be they young or old. It is also based on the assumption that I am male and perhaps an older one at that. I have been in forums where there have been five PeterDs and none of them was me!

    To associate my thinking with the idea that this inspiring woman who has suffered considerably was confronted with a ‘natural’ obstacle which called upon a summoning of strength for her to overcome it, is equally bizarre. It is a very tawdry and dishonest representation of my thinking. My reaction, when I write with a sense of good will and preparedness to look at complex issues, is to say: why bother!

    • margaret says:

      Oh dear. You see! So bristly. For goodness sake my husband shares your name – I’m not as respectful as a ‘good’ woman should be – I guess I am a nasty woman – like Hillary.
      Over and out.

      • margaret says:

        Women are angry in the US at the prospect of Roe vs Wade being overturned.
        “Roe v. Wade was a 1973 landmark decision by the US Supreme Court. The court ruled that a state law that banned abortions (except to save the life of the mother) was unconstitutional. … Roe was limited by a later decision called Webster v. Reproductive Health (1989), which allowed regulation of abortion in some cases.”

        • PeterD says:

          Hi Margaret,

          If you can stack the Supreme Court, there is every likelihood the 1973 ruling will be overturned and that Trump values (‘grab them by the pussy’) will be enshrined in new law. Women across the US are concerned – rightly so – but they’re not the only ones.

          • margaret says:

            Peter, you may be a feminist …

          • PeterD says:

            Hi Margaret,

            You wrote: “Peter, you may be a feminist …”

            That’s the most positive statement so far. Thank you.

          • margaret says:

            Well, here we go … it’s begun. Speculative fiction no longer.
            Summary Ch 29.
            “The narrator and Commander are sitting across from each other in his office. They’re both pretty relaxed. They are finishing up a Scrabble game, which she has won. He asks her if she would like to read something. She’s been getting to read secretly during their meetings, which is better than sex.
            She asks if they can talk instead. She prods him to talk so she won’t have to. She asks him what he does and he says he’s sort of like a scientist.
            Finally she gets up the nerve to ask him what “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” means. She writes it down for him. Getting to write again fills her with a wave of power.”

  • PeterD says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I don’t give a hoot about respect: I would much prefer you and others to engage honestly with the content and ideas(or lack of) in my postings and subject them to genuine criticism, argument etc. I’m not seeking agreement.

    In terms of you being ‘respectful’, ‘good’ or ‘nasty’: I would see that as your personal realm. Although the bard says I am indifferent honest, I could accuse myself of so many a sin, it might have been better my mother had not borne me.

    On Hilary: I would certainly have voted for her; it saddens me greatly that she lost out. But even if she won, I don’t she would have accepted some of the ideas of Bernie Sanders that were touching many Americans; furthermore, I don’t think she was going to reform or change business as usual in the political elites. As an example, many Republicans would like to Assange, Chelsea Manning, Snowden in jail but how many of them would argue for the imprisonment of Wall Street investors and fraudsters.

    • margaret says:

      Hillary’s political experience would have been invaluable as President.
      What can I say? I don’t know much but America is full of ignoramuses … but it’s huge and the disaffected have valid reasons for believing that ‘a regular guy’ who will never forget them again was preferable to an elite in Washington D.C.

  • margaret says:

    “No doubt Testosterone Rex will continue to linger on in the public and scientific imagination.
    But it is extinct.
    It misrepresents our past, present, and future; it misdirects scientific research; and it reinforces an unequal status quo. It’s time to say goodbye, and move on.”
    – from an edited extract of Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex.
    She is a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Melbourne.
    This was a very interesting read in The Saturday Age Insight section. I can’t find a link to it but below is a review.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/18/testosterone-rex-review- cordelia-fine

  • PeterD says:

    Hullo Margaret,

    For many feminists, particularly now in the US and indeed around the world after the sad[joyful for quite a few, as well] demise of Hilary, the temptation is to become a lot more combative, more disruptive, more bristling, less respectful, less polite, even nasty…..

    Women will make personal and political choices but there’s nothing wrong in my view with innovative and courageous thinking. That’s why I like Jessica Irvine who writes in the SMH [also like Ross Gittins].

    Jessica Irvine[24 Jan, SMH], writing to the new Premier in NSW, about strategies to make housing more affordable in NSW, starts off warmly: “First of all, nerdy-girl fist-pumps to you for taking the top job”.

    Jessica’s economics and politics are thoughtful, bold and a bit tongue-in-cheek:

    Her forth strategy, for instance, is to relocate parliament to Parramatta. Her rationale:

    “You heard me. Get government out of the city. Heard of teleconferencing? There is no need for bureaucrats to crowd into the CBD every day. The further politicians are kept from business interests in this state, the better.”

    Her thinking appeals to me.

  • […] essay is a companion piece, or a sequel, to my second one this year, on ‘mating’, which I see as the basic dynamo of human societies — not so much the meeting and mating of boy […]

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