Tag Archives: equality

Utopia and Ever After

A Cinderella story that says goodbye to pumpkins!

The 1998 romantic fairytale comedy seemed pleasant – I saw it twice at the cinema – but it is, I now believe, a vehicle for something much more profound. The centrality of Thomas More’s Utopia may be very significant. Like More’s treatise, Ever After bookends the main story with seemingly irrelevant stuffing, but this stuffing is key to the presentation that this is real. The old lady ends by telling the Grimm Brothers that “the important point is not that they lived happily ever after – but that they lived”. We wonder if Cinderella really was a 16th century noble turned servant who caught the eye of one of France’s many Prince Henrys. (That Cinderella has a real full name, and the mention of real contemporaries and lack of magic may make us waver – I’m afraid this is a pumpkin free presentation). We may quickly assume not – just as we realise that More’s Utopia is a made up word meaning ‘no land’, and that the progressive croissant shaped New World island is a society of his making.

Both are positing a world that could be, far enough ago and away to allow us to take on the ideas a little more easily than if they were just spouted to us about our own world.

And told in a story format, by a 3rd party linked to the tale, to give it weight.

The universal appeal of love overcoming all barriers is a myth that deep down we know to be true – or want to be. And Ever After is a tale of social levelling. Cinderella (or Danielle) is Prince Henry’s equal in every way but social standing. As Leonardo the fairy godmother substitute says, Cinderella is the Prince’s match – and that implies possibly his better – in strength, courage, morality, goodness and also education.

For the central theme of this story states that education – or more precisely, reading – is at the heart of equality. Henry’s education has come from privilege; Danielle’s from passion.

(Note the Step Sister’s comment: that books are for those who can’t think for themselves – we suspect we’re meant to think that the reverse is true). After meeting Danielle, Henry wants to make universities open to all.

Both Henry and Danielle resist the roles society expects of them, but Danielle’s unconventional father – who gave her Utopia – has allowed her to cross social and gender boundaries.

Those who want to enforce them are the wicked villains who get their comeuppance. The Step Mother and Step Sister so bent on titles and power end up as the very servants they despised, literally pushed to the bottom of the pile (or vat). Danielle sees her fellow servants as equals and friends, and we are encouraged to see them that way too. It is in defending one that the whole story begins.

In this, Danielle demonstrates not only is she well read, but thinks. She sees the injustices of the world and dares to speak out about them. Her intellectual bravery and evasiveness make her a kind of Anne Boleyn to a prince of the same name, who is captivated and determined to have her. Through Danielle, not only is her dear friend freed, but so are all those destined for America as a punishment. Her earliest words to Henry are a Utopia quote about poverty being a condition created by society, which those who created then punish.

The Prince, his family, and the nation accepts Danielle the former servant as part of the Royals – and the whole court knows as her status is exposed publicly at the ball. A group often excluded and discarded with a negative label – the Gypsies – is invited to the ball, like in the parable.

Ever After has further a biblical echo of the Magnificat – for the humble are lifted high whilst the proud are sent away empty. Religion is mentioned little – apart from the aborted arranged wedding, there is only a Sunday where our protagonists don’t go to church. Our villains do, to ingratiate themselves and flirt with royalty, rather than out of any wish for devotion. Danielle says her faith is best served out of church.

Couched as a rom com, Ever After is really a tale that invites us to make its tenets our Utopia. Its real ending is not “that they lived” but that they could and should, in our time.



NB This is not to suggest that I support Thomas More or his Utopia but a critique of that here spoils the overall piece

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Candid Friend of the Green Party

Church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch sat in his home parish church (mine too) and said to camera that he is a “candid friend of Christianity”. I am too, but I am also the candid friend of the Green Party.

I’ve often found their website an interesting slant on news and opinions, and I found their response to events like the Boston Bombings and the Woolwich attack balanced and sensitive. I was sorry that they’ve kept up the fracking and 20 mile an hour speed limits news over commenting on the PRISM revelations (the same is true of the Socialist worker, whose views cannot be called balanced, but I like to hear from a range of people). With two welcome trials in Britain this week about security overstepping on the public toe, I hopefully peeked on the Green website to see what Mses Bennett, Lucas and friends such as the newly titled Jenny Jones might have to say against the Big Brotherism I felt confident they’d oppose. Instead, I found an article that made my eyes bulge…

Am I reading the Mail?! I asked, or my local rag? No – Green Leader Natalie, who I admire, was worrying about obesity, saying it requires “Political Will” to tackle – as per her leader’s blog of 30 Aug 2013.

My understanding is that the worldwide Greens are concerned with having freedom and supporting diversity; in devolving laws to the lowest possible level and not having intrusive and unnecessary ones. Which makes me think that they are against nanny state…oh, but aren’t those slow car laws are a bit controlling?!

What size and shape we are is NOT an issue for the government. The Greens rightly value all colours of the rainbow on the gender/sexuality continuum; they want freedom of belief, they hate racism and any other discrimination.

But this about obesity is controlling, value judging, discrimination! (everything the Greens are against).

When this country, like so many others, is in the pits of austerity, when this country, like so many others, is waging unnecessary wars, when this country is in the midst of revelations that it is being routinely spied on and laws are being passed to make protest harder, then the Greens, as the most radical and critiquing of our parties, the one who claims to be different, ought to be busy with these matters.

I’m sure another allopathic medicine diatribe (sorry that should say discourse) is due soon on this blog, though my Diana and Hannah post gives a flavour of my thoughts on that subject which I can explain more fully another time. But I think, as regards to our weight and size, I can do no better than refer readers to


Who called the fat police? And who recruited Natalie Bennett?! Please resign your badge and get back to your better battles!

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Erotic Justice

This is the name of a book by Marvin M Ellison, an American academic theologian.

(I resisted the pun I could make about the title of my other blog on banking.)

I’ve taken this article down for now as I want to give the subject – kink/BDSM – some more thought before saying my public views. My initial reaction was confusion as to how eroticising acts of humiliation, subjugation and pain could be healthy and loving. I neither want to be judgemental or prudish, or to hurt those I may meet who are part of this world by seeming to reject and condemn them or at least, a part of them. But I also want to stand up for what I think too, and for principles I believe are important.

It’s a hard balance to strike, and I am not sure I have got it right yet.

(See the next post on Whistleblower for a related topic).


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Equal Society

I have just been to a ridiculous talk and discussion on this, based around a book by two British epidemiologists. I will not name them or the venue out of respect for the latter, and because I don’t wish to be personal.

I went because I care passionately about equality, and like most in the room, are sympathetic to the book’s premise that equality is beneficial to all.

What was ridiculous about this event was the arguments used for this premise and the way it was carried out. The authors of the book were not present, leaving a relation of one of them to flog the book and – in his own words – speak at a ‘glacial speed’ over badly presented slides in a physically uncomfortable setting.

The open debate was not facilitated, with some dominating and others being excluded for long periods. Whenever the tenets of the presenters were queried, the presenters talked over the challenger.

It is fundamentally wrong to use science to prove these kinds of ideas. Had I known the discipline of the authors, I would not have attended. We need to get away from narrow foci into interdisciplinary discourses. We need to get away from being obsessed by facts as quantifiable data that can be shown in graphs.

What is shocking and ironic is that some of the stats were gained by injecting humans and animals with diseases. Even though these may not have been used by the researchers, the supposed results are heavily drawn on in their thesis. No-one at the meeting challenged this shockingly unethical methodology.

Since starting sociology at school, I could never understand how something like suicide could be measured and predictions made about likely groups who might resort to it. It wasn’t factors such as financial difficulty, loneliness, disease, unemployment, or deep and sensitive personality types: things that might reasonably have a bearing. It was social class, location and gender.

I have always hated the concept of social class and refuse to speak of people in those terms. I follow my mother’s friend: I am in a class of my own. And so are each of you. This presentation was full of class related comments assertions. The researchers admit they had to reclassify Swedish jobs to fit the British system to be able to make a comparative graph – isn’t that rather stupid? And why is class measured by occupation? Class is outdated and much more complicated that that anyway.

Nothing in these statistics – quotable facts that are easily manipulated and discredited – was backed up or explained, and questions often couldn’t be answered due to lack of the authors’ presence. The thesis was not convincing or even interesting from the start.

What I want to say is: is equality desirable? What is equality in society? I am for justice and fairness and for a good living standard for all, and for opportunities for all. I am not a socialist or communist, wanting everyone to earn and own the same. I am not for increasing taxes and taking the vast majority of the rich’s income.

There was the assertion from the floor that what we mind is perceived lack of deserts of the richer, not that some have more than us. I think we need to be better at not comparing with or resenting those differences. I agree that I mind not if someone’s richer than me, but if what they have seems disproportionate to what they actually do. If I love the arts, I don’t mind that those in the movie industry or successful writers earn millions, especially if they use that money and profile to wider benefit. Terry Pratchet donates some of his income to supporting orang utans and Angelina Jolie is a peace ambassador. The arts also have great value in themselves, and if used well, are more than entertainment; they can be social critiques and purveyors of spiritual values. If I enjoyed sport, I would argue that watching games gives great pleasure to millions, that spectator sport puts money into our cities and countries, and that related charitable work is done with clubs’ money – eg youth football teams in deprived areas, and it promotes exercise.

Big businesses provide jobs and bolster the economy.

Rich people can use their money well. Being wealthy and philanthropic often go together – it was very much so in Victorian times. I don’t believe in super taxes because wealthy people can choose to give their money to causes that the government may not and may be able to do so with far less red tape.

Rich people can be generous on a personal level.

What many of us mind is people like senior bankers – fat cats who are rich for riches’ sake and whose activities harm others, and do not give widespread and accessible benefit. I add lawyers to my list of those who command so much for their services and I ask – why is theirs worth so much more? To get justice, we have to go into debt. It’s an inaccessible system. And democracy is built on law which is run by people the public do not choose.

I am not against expensive things. People’s talents have a price – it just has to be a reasonable one, balancing the cost of providing it and valuing yourself with avoiding a puffed up sense of what you’re worth and what you do to your customers if you ask too much. Without these pricey things which some call trappings of excess, others would have no work and their skills would be not utilised and they would lose the satisfaction from providing it.

I accept economic differentiation and the possibility to go higher which is rewarded financially. That isn’t materialism, it’s ambition, and it is not unspiritual and unethical. Not all of us want to live in a commune.

The discussion today was often on status, which I really don’t think is so important, and such discussions perpetuate it. It spoke of feelings, but that was only in relation to status, not rich inner life.

The introduction spoke of a community where sacred and secular are not distinct; but sacred is not the same as spiritual; in today’s talk, values and ideas focussed on the material.

It used teenage pregnancies as an indicator of inequality and bad things in society. This is another topic itself – but I want to question that negative value against differing cultures, sexual morality, the legal notion of adulthood. I want to query whether the much toted idea of education (which is often another word for being told about birth control) is really such an important factor in improved lives.

Education is sadly not the system of enquiry and exploration it ought to be, but one of conformity and limitation. Education is another form of status, and I felt it implicit in the book that people presenting and writing have attained academic qualifications, believing that they are better equipped to argue than those without at least three degrees. They also let on that the research is long and expensive. So this methodologically and philosophically dubious dry argument is costing money but not offering any solutions – they said they hadn’t money for that.

What I wanted to know was: how do we improve our clearly unbalanced world?

That will be a subject for another time.

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