Monday, November 02, 2015

Short Posts, 2/11/15. On Diplomacy And Human Rights, A God In Your Corner and Gendered Work

1.  "Diplomacy" is like sausage-making.  You don't really want to delve too deep into the process.  An example from today's Eschaton post:

President Karimov is not a man with a big, warm heart.  His human rights record is abominable.

Of course human rights in global politics are mostly used like lipstick on a pig:  as an excuse for something else a country wishes to do that's about money and power.

Hmm.  Why are all my nasty metaphors about pigs?  They are smart animals, probably with good ethics, too.  My apologies for that, dear pigs.

2.  Deus ex machina in action:  

Former House Speaker John Boehner says he used "Catholic guilt" to persuade Paul Ryan to run for speaker.
On CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday Boehner said he invoked God to persuade his fellow Catholic from refusing to run for speaker to agreeing to do so.
Boehner says he told Ryan: "'This isn't about what you want to do. It's about what God wants you to do. And God has told me, he wants you to" run for speaker.
I used the "ex machina" term somewhat differently from its usual definition.  That's because it's so very often used to strangle all criticism, to turn the person interpreting god into some god's henchman (or more rarely his henchwoman, given how little power religions give women to have that cellphone connection to the divine powers).  This troubles me a lot, because it makes debate impossible.

Debate becomes a boxing match where in one corner stands a tiny human, in the other corner all the contradictory and sometimes violent commands some religion has collected, gathered, translated and interpreted over millennia. 

In other words, a god, as brought to you by whatever religion we are talking about, and somewhere inside all that religious information there might just be found a command to squash that tiny human who has dared to raise his or her voice (or dared to use that intelligence which presumably the divine powers donated us).

So no, you can't box with gods.  Unless you are a snake goddess or something similar.  And divine powers really don't care who wins a sporting contest, despite all the athletes who thank god after their victories.  Just a general public information statement.

3.  A recent Finnish dissertation argues that we see work as gendered in ways which affect public policies (link in Finnish, sorry). 

For instance, putting money into male-dominated* industries is viewed as good for the economy (think of fixing roads and bridges or giving subsidies to heavy industry or mining), whereas female-dominated* industries (childcare, teaching, nursing) are seen as expense items, something to cut back when times are harder.  Like the extra parsley sprig on the sandwich. Nice if you can afford it but not necessary.

Of course many of the female-dominated industries are in the public sector or at least largely funded through taxes, and that could explain part of the differences in attitudes.  But it's still true that hiring more teachers or nurses during recessions would raise their taxable income and thus government tax revenues just as well as hiring more road workers or bridge builders would.

So I think there's more to this kind of thinking (which I saw in action during the last US recession; lots of talk about roads and bridges). 

Another reason could be in our tendency to "see" more clearly the concrete products of work rather than the impact of services. 

But it may also be the case that traditional gender roles would make it easier not to notice that caring for children or the sick or the elderly is productive work and deserves payment, because traditionally most of it was done by women outside the formal labor markets.

The author of the dissertation also notes that these tendencies (and the lack of good measures for the outputs of female-dominated industries) could cause pressure for the return of more traditional gender roles if recessions raise labor demand for men but lower it for women. The breadwinner is, after all, most likely to be the spouse who has the highest salary.

*These terms refer to the numbers of workers in the industry.  If the majority of them are men, for example, then the industry is male-dominated.