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Blog : Posts tagged with 'conservatism'

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Outing

In which we watch the media trying to whip up a storm in a second-hand teacup


You probably won’t have read this nasty story in yesterday’s Daily Record, exposing the sex life of someone who isn’t famous and wasn’t doing any harm to anyone. Not many people will have read it, because out of the population of the country not many do read the Record.* That’s not the point, really.

As I said, it’s a nasty story, about a normal, average member of the public, who enjoys kinky sex. There is nothing to justify publishing her full details in the way the paper did. Moreover, it throws a lot of light on the social conservatism of tabloid papers in general – the faux-shock that a young wife would behave that way, would want to behave that way. The only consolation is that few people ever pay attention to anything journalists say.**

The Daily Record presumably think, though, that this sort of story sells papers, especially local or regional papers. And in an effort to sell papers, they’ve let themselves be used. I don’t know NR myself, but I know several people who do know her, some people who don’t like her very much, and I know there are a few people who don’t like her very much at all. I can’t imagine that anyone I know personally would have exposed her to the press, but clearly someone, who knows her well, has done. And in all probability that person, whoever they are, does exactly the same kind of things that she does, and would be treated in exactly the same way if Cara Page Of The Daily Record had come across them first. I don’t know anything about the sex lives of the Daily Record staff, but whoever initially sent them this “story” is very likely a very nasty hypocrite.

* It seems to be widely available in England now, a lot more than, say, ten years ago.

** and they’re mostly other journalists, at that.

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The churchgoer in the street

In which major international issues do not disturb the local parish


Given that today, in the news, there’s rather a lot about the slowly-growing and now likely forthcoming schism in the Anglican church, I thought I’d ask the average churchgoer in the street about it. Well, the average churchgoer who is also my mother, at any rate. She’s a fairly average “active” Anglican, though. She’s white, middle-class, female, edging towards elderly, lives in a commuter village, and goes to church every week. She’s a Sunday School teacher, has organised the parish’s Christian Aid collections, sings in an ecumenical Christian parish singing group,* and generally is far more active and puts more effort into religion than most churchgoers, never mind the huge percentage of Anglicans who tick the relevant box on the census but never cross the threshold of a church for anything other than weddings and funerals.

So, I said: “what are you going to do if the church splits in two? Is anyone going to leave St. Nick’s over it?”

Her answer: “What split?”

“You know, the one that has been rumbling for the last few years.” I tried to explain how the rather homophobic Peter Akinola is a figurehead for a group of largely-American homophobic conservatives, who do not like the Archbishop of Canterbury and have been threatening for some time to lead a schism, sometimes in the hope of bending him to their will, sometimes apparently meaning it.

“I’ve not heard about any of that,” she said. “We don’t talk about that sort of thing at church. That’s nothing to do with us.”

So, there you have it. I don’t think The Mother is particularly ignorant. As I said above, I think she’s probably less ignorant than your average churchgoer is likely to be, because she takes a very active interest. But to her, the politicking of a motley band of Americans and Africans isn’t important. An earthquake in Lambeth Palace isn’t important. The Second Coming occurring in the Lady Chapel of our parish church probably wouldn’t disturb most of the congregation, so long as it didn’t disrupt the Mothers Union or the bellringers, and everyone still got a cup of tea (or coffee) after the Sunday communion service. For your average English Anglican, dogma is something you recite during the service without really listening or understanding. It certainly isn’t something to get all argumentative about.

* where “ecumenical” means “Anglican and Methodist”, because they’re the only churches in the village. I’m not sure what they’ll do if those often-suggested plans to subsume British Methodists within Anglicanism ever make much progress.

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Family Values

In which we are irked by a political myth


Heard on the radio this morning: a member of the Lords claiming that gay marriage Civil Partnerships are a bad thing because they’re unpatriotic.* This country was built, apparently, on the values of two parents, their children, and the sacrament of marriage.**

As I’ve said before, my mother is becoming part of the Genealogy Boom, one of the thousands of people who are using the internet to research the names of their ancestors. And, one of the good things about this is that the thousands of people doing this are finding out that the typical Family Values chorus – in the past, everyone lived in a happy, stable two-parent family and the world was a Better Place – really is a load of rubbish. In the past, people didn’t divorce. That’s because they couldn’t afford to. They still had affairs, though, and multiple relationships, and children out of wedlock. Every family has tangled knots in its family tree, because the people in the past really did behave just as badly, or well, as people do today. Family Values is a political myth, and nothing more.

* I tried to look up which specific homophobic peer I was listening to, but her name isn’t listed on the Today website running order, and I don’t want to have to listen to it all again just to catch her name.

** although she claimed that even though she was describing marriage as a sacrament she didn’t mean it in a religious way.

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Ancestors

In which I discover some family history


The Mother has discovered The Internet. Specifically, she has discovered a plethora of genealogy websites, and is using them to try to track down our family tree.

Now, her family is fairly easy to trace back into the 19th century. They had a family bible, kept newspaper clippings and wedding invitations, and are nice, simple, and straightforward to track. My Dad’s family, on the other hand, is another matter.

Dad doesn’t know anything at all about his family tree, beyond his parents, sisters, and the names of a few more distant relatives. Questions to my grandmother, before her death, always went unanswered. However, my aunt has kept plenty of details about our family, and does know a lot more about how they’re all related. As we were visiting her anyway, The Mother asked her if she could get out her family births book so The Mother could copy it all down. And we quickly found out just how complex and baroque my father’s family really was.

For one thing, their surnames are all rather confusing. Once you go back beyond the current generations, very few people in our family bothered to get married. This was, it turns out, one of the reasons why my grandmother always refused to answer queries about family history. It’s very unclear whether her parents ever did marry – there’s no record of it, and my great-grandmother kept paperwork in both surnames until her death – but, my aunt told us, anyone who asked my gran directly about this would usually get punched. Some of my gran’s brothers and sisters shared her surname; but some of them took their mother’s name. My great-grandfather was apparently in the Cavalry – “there’s a photo of him in uniform, on a horse” – in India, in the 1920s, but nobody knows any other details about him.

My grandfather’s family is just as confusing. They, also, rarely bothered to marry. When they did, it often made things worse. One of my grandfather’s close relatives married a man called Frank. Her sister then married Frank’s son – I’m not even sure how you draw that on a family tree. Their son, incidentally, was the mayor of Southampton a few years ago. Having a grandfather who is also your uncle* clearly doesn’t stop you entering politics.

The Mother, being upright, respectable, churchgoing, and definitely no-sex-before-marriage, was rather shocked at all this. She is one of those people who sees The Past as a golden age of morality, when things were done properly and you didn’t get all these single mothers all over the place; so she was rather surprised to see that before her own generation, a lot of my ancestors just didn’t think that way. Myself, I’ve always had a suspicion that Victorian morals are both fairly modern and a middle-class innovation, so I was rather pleased to find all this out. Even though it might make genealogists blanche at the thought of trying to draw the tree out, I rather like my ancestors now.

Update, September 24th: we’ve since discovered that my gran’s parents never were married, because my great-grandfather already had a wife, who he never bothered to divorce.

* in a completely legal way, I should add

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