Thursday, July 18, 2013

freedom and equality

Poor old Peter Dawson. I'm afraid that the head of the Royal and Ancient golf club is going to be booed off the popular stage for suggesting that there was nothing deleterious about excluding women from
particular British golfing establishments. The popular chorus is likely to drown out his remarks, but I wonder if they are not, in fact, worth hearing out.

At a news conference Wednesday ahead of the British Open tournament, Dawson made it clear he believes that "the issue does little harm to the game and has largely been contrived by the media, politicians and interest groups."
Obviously the whole issue of gender and single-sex clubs has been pretty much beaten to death recently. And we do, I assure you, understand that this is divisive. It's a subject that we're finding increasingly difficult, to be honest. ... It's just kind of, for some people, a way of life that they rather like. I don't think in doing that they're intending to (bring) others down or intending to do others any harm.
And Dawson bristled at the question of whether male-only golf clubs might be compared with clubs that only allowed white people to join:
"Oh, goodness me, I think that's a ridiculous question, if I may say so," he replied. "There's a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly indeed. And to compare that with a men's golf club, I think, is frankly absurd. There's no comparison whatsoever."
Dawson's remarks will light hissing fuses in every liberal, freedom-loving, deeply-concerned and anti-discriminatory breast. His point of view is likely to be pilloried for being "arrogant" and "exclusive" and "uppity" in ways that those inclined to "justice" and "fair-mindedness" will delight in criticizing.

And maybe it's true. It doesn't matter where anyone stands ... this is a hot topic ... break out the Kevlar!

Dawson's observations and the harmonies of disagreement they inspired took me by the hand today and led me to....

Freedom and equality are important social values. By whatever definition, they generate heat. They are worthy values -- values within whose confines I think it might be important to consider -- personally consider:

How much are "freedom" and "equality" locked inescapably with definitions and personal characteristics that are not free or equal at all? If freedom and equality were honest options, would anyone actually choose them? And if they did choose them, to what extent would the very choice create a limitation which both freedom and equality cannot afford to recognize without diminishing freedom and equality?

My own feeling is that while freedom and equality may be very important social values, there needs to be some personal recognition and acknowledgment that freedom and equality are not precisely what even the best-hearted person might aspire to. Limitlessness would be too scary, too responsible, too much-of-a-muchness from a social point of view.

I am not trying to suggest that there is a more-elevated point of view here. I am trying to suggest that without examining the groundwork of a professed longing, things will remain uncertain and loud and righteous and wobbly. Unhappy. Perhaps the matter is a little like the longing for a limitlessness in spiritual endeavor ... it's OK as long as that longing is limited to books and encomiums and money-making institutions, but what happens when what anyone claims to be true actually turns out to be true?

I think it's worth thinking about before anyone breaks out a brass band for freedom and equality.

Just another fuse hissing in the morning light.

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