Sexual harrassment- the other point of view

There’s no harm in a bit of flirting. Don’t get me wrong, says Melissa Kite: I’ve no truck with genuine sexual harassment. I do object, though, to the way sleaze stories are portraying even minor acts of flirtation as uniformly sinister, and casting all women as helpless, “passive victims”. In my days as an ambitious young lobby hack, did I ever feel exploited? Not that I recall. But I certainly remember taking advantage of plenty of British MPs myself, ruthlessly deploying my feminine charms to extract information. I must have taken hundreds out to meals and drinks over the years. I used to particularly enjoy my regular dinners with Michael Fallon (now one of the accused) at party conference time, as “I knew the gossip would be flowing as freely as the wine”. I don’t remember him ever overstepping the mark, but I’m fairly sure that, at least once, “I ever so slightly gave him the come-on” in the hope of getting good political dirt. Sexual assault is inexcusable, “but flirting? Flirting makes the world go round. Well, it made my world go round anyway.”. (Melissa Kite, The Spectator).

Well, yes. This is a point of view we haven’t seen expressed in this often deadly serious and unsmiling world. Epicurus, always in favour of enjoying life (in moderation, of course) would have enjoyed a flirtation as much as you or I. Indeed, I imagine him picking a rose in his garden and handing it to a pretty follower with a charming smile (no, there is no documentary evidence for this; I just hope he did it at least once in his life). Please don’t let our disgust at sordid power plays by powerful men stop us enjoying an occasional rejuvenating and morale building flirtation. As for me, I am happy to flirt with my wife!

Sexual harassment insurance

Sexual harassment is the consuming subject at the moment in America, with aggrieved women popping up all over the place, and startling news about secret shananigans in Congress (about how the taxpayer has been paying for financial settlements, a lot of them concerning sexual harassment) hitting the news. But there is something happening that I really think unseemly: firms are buying sexual harassment insurance. The market is currently worth $2.2 billion a year, covering sexual harassment, racial discrimination and unfair dismissal. 42% of companies have some kind of insurance for these eventualities, most of them medium and larger companies. Firms with sales of $5 billion or more pay about $285,000 a year. (figures from the Washington Post)

The problem with all this is that insurance removes all incentive for companies to address the real problem – that they are employing sexist jerks. The insurance might protect executives from lawsuits and reputational damage, but the effect on morale must be dreadful. The worst outcome for the company is insisting on a confidentiality agreement in return for money. This is just an invitation for the same thing to happen again in companies run by men who create toxic and misogynistic atmospheres. Women employees are discouraged from speaking out, and there is an uncomfortable atmosphere of powerlessness, omerta and suspicion. Forget insurance. The shareholders should not have to pay for sexual deviation of their company’s executives and its costs.

The women (mostly women) tend to be young, maybe on their first jobs, and they know that, if you complain and are paid off you might get as much as two year’s salary, but have to sign a non-disclosure statement. The experience is traumatic, made worse by feeling you have to keep the incident secret – and could it be your fault? Those who go public are very courageous and deserve our support and praise.

This is all about childish power play. Nobody has suggested how many women have to leave their jobs because of predatory men. Even worse is the hypocrisy of the people who wear religion on their sleeves and either keep quiet or actually support religious figures (catholic and evangelicals) who interfere with young women and men.

Epicurus believed in moderation, but “moderation” doesn’t come into it when addressing sexual exploitation of young people from people in positions of power. He would have condemned it out of hand, as we should – and do.

The nerve gas sprayed on our fruit

Look up chlorpyrifos and judge for yourself what it might be doing to you!

“The fruit and vegetables eaten by American families may be contaminated with a nerve gas originally developed by Nazi Germany. It’s a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, made by Dow Chemical.  Studies have found that it damages the brain, reduces IQ, and has been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned chlorpyrifos – or nerve gas – for indoor residential use 17 years ago, and was finally preparing to ban it for agricultural and outdoor use this year. But, after Dow donated $1m to President Trump’s inauguration committee, the EPA reversed course.

“So chlorpyrifos will keep getting sprayed on the food Americans eat and on golf courses.  It thus trickles into the water they drink. Toxic chemicals can already be found in nearly all of our bodies, and could be playing a role in the growing epidemic of lowered sperm counts and infertility, developmental disorders, cancer and other serious maladies. While everyone is “diverted by the daily White House fireworks”, this administration “is handing the keys of our regulatory apparatus” to the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups. It will be a lasting and toxic legacy. “  (Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, Nov 8, 2017)

This is a deliberate and cynical payout in return for campaign cash.  The extraordinary tbing is that the population of the US is sitting on its hands and barely protesting.  We come back to my proposition that the strategy of the Trump crowd is throw a dozen issues into the air every day (the simpler to understand the better – like picking on kneeling footballers),  so that the media and the public barely notice that you are threatening nuclear war (N. Korea) or poisoning your fellow citizens.

Unfortunately, living in Washington DC, I do not have a vote for Congress (another piece of evidence of a broken system, but never mind).   Thus, I have no Congressman to protest to about the shocking behaviour and policies of the dire Mr. Pruitt,  who is decimating the EPA and who has declared open warfare on the health and safety of the American people – and is getting away with it.  He should be arrested on suspicion at least of assault with intent to endanger life, and (better) attempted murder.  The cry “ Lock ‘im up”  comes to mind.

Peel your fruit and vegetables!  Foil Pruitt!

Thought for the day

49% of teenagers say they have contacted someone by email or text message while in the same room as them.   26% of adults have done the same thing. Just 15% of 16-to24-year-olds think that phone calls are the most important method of electronic communication.  (Ofcom/The Sunday Times)

Managers, managers and yet more managers

The number of managers and senior managers employed across the National Health Service rose by 11% between October 2014 and April this year. In the same period, the number of nursing staff and health visitors grew by just 1.1% (and it has fallen since April). (The Daily Telegraph)

What do you want more managers for, especially since the Tory government has been cutting and cutting? What you do need is to recruit more good doctors and trained nurses, and get patients back home and into the hands of health visitors.

I have always thought that an organization with a management structure bigger than that of the worker’s structure is an organisation with a short future ahead of it. Admittedly, this is a very British phenomenon (maybe shared by Italy and Greece?). It is typical that Buggins, the manager, wants to feel more grand and important, control more staff and do less work. It is also a reflection on the dire lack of skill at the very top, particularly in the field of human relations. In England accountants reign, bless them (we need them, but in modest numbers and as seldom as possible as CEOs). Poor management that created uppity unions typified the nationalised industries, and private enterprise was showing clear signs of incompetent management when I worked in England. In America they have a similar problems, only they have loads of semi-trained workers, paid a minimum wage you cannot live on, so that a very comfortable fat-cat management (many hospital managers and doctors reputedly get over a million dollars a year) can hire more loads of workers.

I blame the business schools, neo-liberal policies and human nature. Nothing will ever change, though. The vested interests are too entrenched.