Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Duels, foot-binding and working moms.

Here are a couple of books I have been working on last week.I'll deal with the blue one first.

The War on Moms (subtitled On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation) by Sharon Lerner caught my eye because I am intimately acquainted with the struggles of moms and families in today's society. I had hoped it would deal with the pressures that families in general and moms in particular face as they deal with being, well, family.

Instead, the book came across to me as a rant and a complaint against the society that doesn't allow moms to make as much as someone who isn't raising children whilst still having all the time and resources necessary to raise said children.

I really do understand how difficult it is to raise and finance a family with all the bells and whistles that we have come to expect. But, I don't think that society owes everyone all the bells and whistles that we have come to expect, as the book seemed to suggest. In the book, Lerner advocated for federal regulations that ensure that moms all get the leave, commensurate salaries childcare, etc. that they deserve. If they do not, then we are failing moms.

The book is full of anecdotes of struggling moms, and I could list many more stories of moms struggling to make ends meet that I am personally aware of. One story, to me, was particularly telling.

One woman had come from a former Soviet Republic where she used to have to stand in line for bread every day. She was so happy to get to America, but became stressed out when she began to have to deal with health-care struggles. She said she expected this sort of thing in her country, but nor here in america (where there are no cats and the streets are paved with cheese).

I think this is the problem. We have come to expect that we can have whatever we want and if we can't get it ourselves, then the Government, meaning everyone else, damn well better make sure that I do get what I want.

It made me angry.

The next book, The Honor Code (subtitled "How Moral Revolutions Happen) is an interesting look at how society changes it's mind about some issues of morality. I thought this was interesting and would provide some good insights on some of the moral shifts that American culture is going through now.

The book looks at how society changed it's mind about Duels of Honor, Footbinding, Slavery and issues with Women. Interestingly enough, too great a part of the world (not to mention a growing part) still suppresses women and believes in "honor killings" and the like.

Here is an excellent paragraph from the New York Times summarizing what the author argued in this book:

“Whatever happened when these immoral practices ceased, it wasn’t, so it seemed to me, that people were bowled over by new moral arguments,” he writes. “Dueling was always murderous and irrational; foot binding was always painfully crippling; slavery was always an assault on the humanity of the slave.” What was needed in each of those cases, he suggests, was the awakening of a nation’s sense of honor, an awakening that caused people actually to act. Mr. Appiah writes well about how shame and ridicule, often delivered through a free press, have consistently been sharp moral motivators.

This book is very interesting and worth reading whether you want to have an overview of the history of dueling, foot binding and slavery, or if you want to look at how and why social mores change and to understand how and why many social mores are changing today.

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