Unusual sources of inspiration

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with SFoxWriting’s Blog 

Earlier today Steven Fox, the blogger of SFoxWriting posted an image titled Multi Coloured Car. I have met Steven some time ago when we crossed swards over an article he had written for Don Charisma’s blog in which he was invited to argue that women make better leaders than men. Steven kindly invited me to expand on a comment I had made and this resulted in a rather more buccaneer response on my part than he had perhaps expected: Women and Leadership | The End of Men as Leaders. Leaving the past aside, today’s post intrigued me. It is only an image. There is no commentary assigned to it and it made me wonder: where do we as bloggers get our inspiration and why certain topics or indeed images appeal to us in the first place.

There is of course a certain freedom for the viewer when faced with an image that does not also provide the author’s or presenter’s opinion and story. We can assign to it whatever comes to mind. After all, the painters of old were not required to be wordsmiths. Their work spoke for itself. The same goes for certain types of photography and yet…

It took me several years to overcome my initial distaste for modern art. I could not relate to it. It did not speak to me and I found it somewhat pretentious. What was I expected to see in a blank canvas with a dot on it? The works of a Rothko or a Judd left me cold. It was the encounter with Minimalism that transformed distaste into curiosity and eventually into appreciation if not love. Specifically, Burlyuk’s words have prompted me to view this development in art in a different light: “Minimalist painting is purely realistic—the subject being the painting itself.”

The subject is the painting itself. Although he referred specifically to minimalist work, this discovery had prompted a snowball effect and I was quick to extrapolate the core of this assertion to art that did not stand comfortably within that category and beyond. It was as if a veil had been lifted and I could see beauty in the most insignificant of objects, stories coursing through space and time all due to one simple fact: they are human creations. I was ready to accept that anything and everything can be deemed art if only the creator, or even “finder” deems it to be so.

It made me reconsider the significance of Marcel Duchapm’s scandalous urinal (signed “R.Mutt” and titled Fountain) as an attempt to question the boundaries between life objects and art, as well as being a subversive dig at the seat  of authority, the art establishment figures who took it upon themselves to decide what constitutes art and what does not. In the words of an anonymous editorial that came in defence of the work:  “Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.”

To return to Steven’s post, by virtue of choosing that image and presenting it under a title, he had transformed it into more than its former self: the object gained new thought. More so, it inspired me to reply in kind with an image of an exhibition piece I have recently photographed and which I now share with you:

Tokyo Exhibition piece: Car and Light. Vic Briggs photography

The image is indicative only in part of what the exhibition piece entailed. One can only glimpse a moment in time. The play of light that emerged from full darkness and mounted in wave-like crescendo until it became incandescent, the sound of an engine about to take flight, set against the backdrop of a snow-covered Tokyo city… Context and art interacted to subdue the senses. It made one question as well as admire. I was persuaded once again that an artist will make believers of us all. Are you?


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

December’s Darlings

top-101It’s that time of the year again when we revisit old favourites. I am always curious to find out which topics appealed to you most.

This post comes a little late since making my way back from the New World to the Old rainy island has unfortunately prevented me from delivering the news on the last day of the month as intended.

First things first, it’s rather chilly in here. The fire may take a while to make up in the grate, so I’ll go and put the kettle on instead. Tea can always be relied on to warm the cockles of your heart. While I am no good at reading fortunes in the bottom of a cup, I’ve been experimenting with other means for reading your likes and dislikes. So…

Make yourself comfy and join me in reminiscing about the good old December days.

baby-on-board# 1 BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination This is the first of five Let’s Talk Opinion pieces to have made it onto December’s Top Ten list, so after a short travel-induced break the series will return to your screens this January. Be on the lookout, as you may very well find one of your posts included, in conversation with yours truly.


world-in-danger_Royalty Free#2 ‘Nothing is true, everything is permitted’ delves into the murky waters of relativity. There is no absolute truth, declares the author, and proceeds to explain why she claims this to be the case. “Thanks for one of the best posts I have read in a while.” says shoe1000 in reply to this post about the nature of truth.


Race_FINAL_shea_walsh_web#3 Shades of Grey is a Let’s Talk Opinion post in conversation with Nina Kaytel. Inspired by fiction, it is the reality how we view the concept of race that has prompted the discussion. Race is not something one is born with. It is something one learns.


beach-love-couple-silhouette1#4 Consent is Sexy “We’ve gotten the idea from movies and magazines that silence is sexy. Ultimate romance means fireworks and fairy dust sprinkling down from the heavens and instilling in us some magical intuition where both people suddenly just know what the other wants.” Ahem. The issue of tacit consent – it is difficult to disagree with Queer Guess Code on this and there comes the question: Are women given enough opportunities to say “yes”?


Jimmy Savile#5 Child Pornography. Disturbing Search Engine Terms  follows in the footsteps of November’s post on Child Pornography and The Sexualisation of Children in popular media, prompted by the appearance of some very disturbing search engine terms in this blogger’s stats page.


20131225-085559.jpg#6 Merry Cumberbatch To those of you who have been following shards-of-silence for a while, my soft spot for a certain Mr Benedict Cumberbatch will come as no surprise. I suppose it was only a matter of time before my patient other half got his own back. And what better time than Christmas 😉


It is never your fault#7 RAPE | Disturbing Search Engine Terms discusses the myths and facts about rape. “Strong, powerful, and IMPORTANT piece” says JMC813. Although it is a difficult topic, rape has become such a frighteningly common occurrence that it doesn’t do to ignore it. May need to add a dash of whisky to that cup of tea before reading on.


#8 Sherlock The Third It appears that it is impossibleBenedict-Cumberbatch-as-Sherlock-Holmes-and-Martin-Freeman-as-Dr-John-Watson-from-the-new-series-of-Sherlock to get through a month worth of Top Tens without including at least one post on Sherlock amongst their number. December is no different. Decrying the long wait to which the fans have been subjected, this post is delivered to you by the usual suspects: The Batch on Sunday team!


HISTORY-SIDEBAR#9 One wo/man can make a difference is yet another Let’s Talk Opinion post to make it to the top this December, this time it is in conversation with April on the topic of women’s rights. The post prompted an impassion discussion between opposed parties, and if you have not yet weighed in on the debate, you are very welcome to do so now.


TARDIS#10 A Master of Boredom For the majority of people on this planet, life is… well… rather dull, apparently. Boredom is a fact of life and you are either bored or lying. Can that be true? Will we let the cynics rule and stand aside to let them paint our world in shades of grey? Nope. Not this blogger.


I hope that you will enjoy what December’s Top Ten has to deliver despite its belated arrival to your screens. Meanwhile… I see you’ve already finished that first cup of tea already. I’d better go and make you another one. 😉

The eye of the beholder

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with lindaghill

“A fool once told me, after I started blogging, that it was useless to think the ‘like’ button on WordPress was anything but a way for others to make me read their work. She told me that the comments I received were worthless. Drivel. Dishonest. That I couldn’t believe anything but that which was brutal, because praise was purely selfish.” A Special Thank You


I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that Linda‘s advisor was a veritable cynic. I can taste bitterness in those words and it saddens me that anyone should have been hardened against the world to such an extent. What is more, that they should taint another’s entry into the blogosphere with their own brush of disappointed hopes.

Why do we blog? Each of us will have their own reasons. I find that most blogs on WordPress at least have the feel of journals to them, whether they come in the form of writing, photography or another form of artistic expression – everyone is generous in what they share, and the support they offer to other bloggers in the community.

For this is what we are: a community.

Getting feedback on what we write is a vital stepping stone in our journey as writers or artists. At times “feedback” appears to have a negative connotation precisely because the word is associated with criticism rather than with positive, constructive feedback that could help one do better. After all, in a schoolroom or university classroom, wrongs are corrected, but as for what we got right…

However, I find that the opposite is the case here. As far as constructive feedback goes, most bloggers take time to write thoughtful and honest comments. If there is any expectation of reciprocation – I don’t see that as a negative. Relationships – even virtual ones – can only thrive when there is a balance between the giving and taking.

My experience on WordPress is similar to Linda’s: “I’ve found kindness and acceptance. I’ve found people with whom I share things in common. …I’ve found more honesty here at WordPress than I could possibly have hoped for. I’ve found brilliant insight, read fantastic rants, and taken in beautifully creative fiction and poetry.”

Here is what I have learnt about you in the past four months since I’ve joined WordPress:

You genuinely care and this is reflected in the way you interact with others.

Whenever a story speaks to you, you are generous in sharing your own stories and lessons learnt from personal experience.

You are honest and considerate in your comments, even when you disagree with an opinion or the way a view is expressed.

All in all, you are wonderful and I am grateful to be able to number myself amongst you.

Thank you for being you!

A happy holiday season to you all, amazing people.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Shades of Grey

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Nina Kaytel

“I always felt omitting race would be more inclusive to the every reader. It is the one detail they can fill in themselves. Does that mean I have ‘white by default’ syndrome? By not including race in my stories am I helping to spread racism?” White by Default


Race is a slippery concept, a phenomenon rooted in political struggle, yet commonly believed to be a fixed characteristic of human beings. We come across it in everyday life. To the majority of us it may appear as omnipresent and real, but the idea of race is riddled with obvious contradictions. A biological fiction, nonetheless, race is regarded as a social fact.

Race is not something one is born with. It is something one learns. You may disagree. I’m aware that my views on matters of race, gender and difference are not necessarily part of the mainstream, so let me explain.

There are differences of ethnicity and skin colour, this I do not deny. However, the way we think those differences is not “natural” but rather socially conditioned. In addressing any concept, I always start with a definition, yet when it comes to race no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.

I was unaware that there was a perceived difference between the latin and slavic “races” or ethnicities until I was put in my place by those “in the know.” The slavs were the newcomers, the conquerers and therefore viewed themselves as superior; my own ethnicity, underlined by language, religion and culture, came short of the desirable ideal in my country of birth. I was different in the wrong way. 

It was then – at the age of six – that I realised for the first time how negative connotations are attached to skin colour and bone structure, to language and culture, to anything that may be regarded as difference. This difference was used to oppress, to make one feel inferior for being “other”. I refused to accept this. Years later, when I had the chance to research the issue in some depth, the truth of that instinctive rejection of race as “natural” was confirmed.

Race is not biologically real – it is socially and politically constructed through law, public policy and social practices.

How was race first constructed? It emerged in human history as a social structure aimed at instituting systemic hierarchies where Europeans or “whites” were awarded privileges and rights over non-Europeans, “non-whites”. White supremacy went global and structured all societies, social relations and practices to reinforce those social, economic and political privileges.

Here are some snippets of the history of this systemic racial profiling of the world, inscribed by men, not nature: In 1856, Ralph Waldo Emerson delineated the significance of race. In 1899 William Z. Ripley wrote The Races of Europe, where he aimed to fix racial difference through head-type. In 1901, Two years later, Edward A. Ross wrote The Causes of Race Superiority, using the perceived differences between the Arab and the Jewish “races” to make his point. This was only the beginning and much more was written on the matter since – all attempts to create a theory of race that may justify discrimination.

When I say that race is a social construct, I mean to indicate that race is rooted in the social history of humanity, not in its biology. It only has biological significance because we have spent centuries giving it that significance.

No one would claim nowadays that there is any racial difference between Greeks and Romans, Saxons and Franks, because our narrative has moved on to creating a story of “white” and “black”, with many theorists doing their best to clothe an idea with “evidence” so that it may be accepted as fact.

This to me is the context in which Nina asks her question: “I always felt omitting race would be more inclusive to the every reader. Does that mean I have ‘white by default’ syndrome?”

And this is why I feel secure in giving a straightforward answer.

We tell stories about human beings and their lives. If racial discrimination is not a part of those characters lives – something they have to resolve for themselves and for the world which they inhabit, then the idea itself becomes superfluous. When those stories come from a place of honesty about the human condition, then the colour of one’s skin will not change the response of the reader. They will make the story their own.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with YOU


You Will Be Offended launched the new Let’s Talk Opinion series of discussion posts on the 31st of October 2013. The majority of posts in this series are conversations with other bloggers. When I come across a topic that strikes a chord with me I pick it up and think it through – accepting the original premise and expanding on it, or sometimes sidestepping, or rejecting it altogether.

The issues that I comment on are important in and of themselves, but there is another aspect to this series that is equally important to me. It is a chance for me to connect with you. Whether it is by including one of your posts in the series, or whether it is through the commentary that follows – I am always sure to learn something new and gain fresh insights – all because you are generous in sharing your opinions. For this, I thank you.

I am sure that there are many an important issue left unearthed still. With so many posts making their way to the WordPress Reader daily, some are bound to escape my notice. So… here is what I propose.  If you have written on a topic that is close to your heart and would like to have my take on it, then send me the link to that post via email at viki.briggs@gmail.com, including the answers to the following questions:

  1. Why is this topic important to you?
  2. What is the key message you would like the reader to take with them from your post?
  3. If you could ask me only three questions in reference to your post, what would those questions be?

I will reply to confirm that I have received your email, and once I’ve had a chance to read your post, I will let you know the date on which a Let’s Talk Opinion post in conversation with you will be published.

Every participant will be nominated for the “Whiskey Award” – this is a No Rules and No Obligations award that simply aims to acknowledge your contribution to the Let’s Talk Opinion series and it will be my way of saying thank you for your company and conversation.

Look forward to your emails.


Let’s Talk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart.

If you like a topic and you would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email me, or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.
Or if like me you happen to be a Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl

Put a stop to female genital mutilation. Full stop.

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

“Female genital mutilation: for the love of all humanity, how on earth is it possible for this to be happening in 2013? in the name of religion, apparently. Whichever god it is you follow, even if it is science, females have been created in that way for a reason. Who should have the right to change it? FGM in the USIn December 2012 the UN passed a resolution opposing the practice, and whilst the main practice occurs in Africa, a recent report gave official figures of 2000 girls seeking medical help in London in the past 3 years following the procedure. The appalling treatment of young girls in this way is beyond reprehension and demonstrates not a single ounce of respect for them as a human being. If would seem however that there is no recourse for these cases. Is it a too difficult subject to deal with because people are scared of offending someone because of ‘religion’? If it was down to me, whoever does this, including the mother and the father who sanction it, they should be tried for actual bodily harm, or in some horrific cases, manslaughter or murder.” Julie



When it comes to difficult topics, female genital mutilation (FGM) comes very near the top. I did not know where to begin. I wavered. What could I possibly say when faced with such cruelty inflicted, perpetuated in part at least, by those who have been themselves submitted to the same.

This cycle of violence – seemingly endless — saddens me to the core.

For those who do not know what female genital mutilation entails:

  • the removal of all or part of the clitoris,
  • the cutting out of the surrounding labia (the outer part of the vagina)
  • the sewing up of the vagina (with a small opening left for bodily functions)

One of the key reasons for FGM being carried out is the belief that it will reduce a woman’s libido, therefore discouraging sexual activity before marriage.

Culture, religion and social norms collude in its perpetuation in some Muslim countries where the practice is prevalent. In part this is due to the high value placed on a woman’s chastity and modesty in those countries.

It beggars belief. I simply do not understand why it is necessary to mutilate a girl for her to be considered chaste and modest?

I am appalled every time another story appears in media about yet another British girl taken back to her parents’ home country to be physically and psychologically abused in this way. It has been estimated that more than 20,000 girls under 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year, and than 66,000 women in the UK have been submitted to the procedure.

While I do not know how this practice can be curtailed in countries where it is inscribed in culture and faith, I cannot understand how it is possible for Western governments to fail in protecting their citizens to such a degree. In the UK, the practice was outlawed in 1985, and yet there have been no prosecutions to date.

In the economic context in which we now live, with the recession seemingly endless, such issues are side-lined. This is a crime and those we put into a seat of power and give free reign to govern the minutia of our lives ought to be more proactive on this issue.

The first major inquiry into female genital mutilation was launched last month. The inquiry aims to ‘get to the truth’ about the lack of convictions three decades after FGM was made illegal in the UK. The Home Affairs Select Committee will challenge ministers and the police over inaction when it comes to charging ‘cutters’ or families who arrange the surgery. Some responsibility is being laid at the door of NHS staff, teachers and social workers for failing to do enough to curb the practice.

At an international level, the 2012 UN resolution is a step forward. However, it will only make a difference if implemented effectively in all countries, particularly those where the it is a common occurrence. So once again it comes down to a country by country approach, and lobbying for local governmental support in stopping the mutilation of girls and women.

The “cultural” argument does not stand up. Not to me. Not in this context. Not when human beings are being hurt unnecessarily. Some traditions are best left behind.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

RAPE | Disturbing Search Engine Terms

It made my blood sear. Yet again it comes down to search engine terms, but before I tell you what particular term prompted me to write this post, let us consider this.

In the US someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. There are over 200,000 sexual assaults each year and 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.  One out of every six American women has been the victim of rape in her lifetime, either attempted or completed, yet 97% of rapists never spend one day in jail for their crime.  Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression and four times more likely to consider suicide.

In the UK, government statistics released in January 2013 estimated that on average 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, that over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted annually, and that one in five women, aged between sixteen and fifty-nine, has experienced some form of sexual violence.

What is more, 28% of victims, especially those women who suffer the most serious sexual offences, never tell anyone about it. Only around 15% of women and girls who experience sexual violence ever report to the police.


For fear of not being believed. For fear of being blamed for what has happened to them. Because they feel ashamed and blame themselves for it.

It is never your fault

Rape is not a topic that people find easy to talk about. This leads to the unwitting  dissemination of myths and misinformation about all forms of sexual violence,  oftentimes fuelled by precarious media reporting of these stories.

This is not an exhaustive list. Myths and facts about rape and sexual violence:

Myth Women get raped when alone outside, especially late at night in dark and little populated places. The best way for a woman to protect herself is to not go out alone.

Fact Only 9% of rapes are committed by strangers. The majority of women are raped in their own homes and in their work places. Why? Because women are less likely to be believed if they report it and even less likely to report in the first place. Almost 90% of rapes are committed by known men.


Myth It is mostly young women who get raped because they ‘ask for it’ through their choice of dress and how they act.

Fact Women and girls of all ages, classes, race and faith are raped. Rapists do not choose their victims based on age or physical appearance, but rather on their perceived level of vulnerability. Rape is an act of violence not sex.


Myth Women say no, but mean yes. They relax and enjoy it eventually. They secretly want to be raped.

Fact Rape is a horrific, violent and humiliating experience. No woman ever wants to be raped. Furthermore, studies have shown that most rapes also involve the use of some degree of physical force. Rapists often use the threat of killing a woman or her children to ensure both submission during and silence after the attack. There is no such thing as sex without consent; no consent equals rape.


Myth If drunk, and/or has taken drugs, and/or has a bad reputation, and/or was alone in the streets late at night, and/or wore revealing clothes, then she can’t complain about getting raped. She got what she deserved.

Fact Rapists have perfected a plethora of excuses and justifications for their crime in order to attempt to discredit the women they rape. No woman deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted. Unfortunately rape cases are frequently dominated by investigations and questioning of the woman’s character rather than an assessment of what has happened to her. Attitudes like these allow rapists to shift the responsibility for rape onto the women they raped.


Myth The woman didn’t get hurt or fight back. It wasn’t rape.

Fact Rapists often use weapons or threats of violence to intimidate women. The absence of visible evidence of violence doesn’t mean that the woman was not raped. The misconception that ‘rape is a fate worse than death’ implies that women should fight and resist throughout. When faced with rape, women make second by second decisions. The fear of aggravated  violence or possible death often limits women’s resistance, but it is still rape.


What has prompted me to write on this topic again, you ask? It was something that reminded me of those myths about rape: yet another disturbing search engine term: “sexy rape in raining”. Sexy rape? Really? An oxymoron if I ever came across one.

Rape is NOT sexy!

That’s that.

BABY ON BOARD | Senators and CEOs

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with genderneutrallanguage

This is the 2nd part of BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination

“Something was really lost taking this post out of context.  That context really addresses most of your points. What we where discussing was if women deserve special treatments in the work place because many women prioritize family over income, and that results in very few women CEO’s and Senators. The question was not if there should be any considerations given to people that prioritize family, but should people that prioritize family over work be promoted over people that prioritize work over family.

We most decidedly live in a society, and this is a good and important thing.  It is not exclusively about the individual, but we do need to balance the individual good against the social good.  It would be a great “Social good” to pay each mother $50,000/year per child for the job of raising children.  The kind of taxes, taking money from other individuals, needed to support this would be enough to break the economy.

I choose to not have children, but I really need to subsidize your children in some ways.  I need to support society.  The only question is extent.  I pay my taxes that fund your children schools.  I pay my taxes that provide school lunches.  I pay my taxes that fund food stamps.  I pay my taxes that will now be used to subsidize your health insurance.  I think many of these programs should be expanded and improved.  We need better schools, and a single payer health care system.  Paying my fair share to be part of a moral society is important.

Where I draw a solid line is when having children is a workplace benefit.  Extra paid time off *because kids* when I’m already paying my taxes to subsidize your choices is just to far.  When we start talking about paying women the same dollar amount for 36 hours of work that men get for 44, we have a real problem.  When we start talking about creating special, lower, standards for women to become CEO or a Senator, we have a real problem.  We need the best candidates as CEO’s and Senators regardless or race, gender, orientation, religion (laundry list of irrelevant things).  When there are mandates to include women, regardless of merit, we have major problems.” genderneutrallanguage


I do agree with your argument. You are right in the points that you make, I find little to quibble in the issues you raise, and yet… I am uncomfortable with the outcome of such an attitude when implemented and applied in practice.

I would fully support it if it were the case that it applied equally to men and women. The comment does mention that it does, yet in reality it is more of an “it ought to”, as unfortunately we do not live in egalitarian societies, and therefore this affects women disproportionately more than men.

Men also choose to have children, yet their careers seldom suffer as a result. All these examples you mention, when people get time off work with pay because they have a baby – well, as a matter of biology, it does affect women more than men.

When children are sick, the primary carer is more often than not the woman, and it is her who has to find a way of getting time away from work. The same goes for taking time away from work when the child’s school calls, when day care closes unexpectedly, when the babysitter doesn’t show up.

The brunt of the responsibility for raising children falls on the woman.

I am aware that there are exceptions, but these are exactly that: exceptions. So, until men and women take a 50/50 approach to sharing the responsibility of raring children, I do believe that it is women who will suffer most, and it is their opportunities and careers that would be curtailed as a result.

And all these things you mention are not workplace benefits. This is the life of a jobbing parent, who try as they may, cannot stop their child from being sick sometimes, or prevent a baby-sitter from not showing up.
I am sure they don’t see it as a benefit, and they’d much rather not have their work interrupted by domestic emergencies either.

Since we reached the topic of benefits; there are many benefits that others have and that I have to pay for that I would rather not – but at the end of the day, I’d rather pay my share and live in a compassionate society, where those who need help and assistance get it, rather than a society that punishes people who fall on hard times.

As for the corporate ladder climbing: somehow I struggle to believe that the childless those who work hard and put in the hours are constantly overlooked in favour of their mothering counterparts who somehow have fallen short of doing their job.

Is it possible that these career mothers have simply been more effective and efficient, taken work home and put in extra “invisible” hours precisely because they know that having a child can work against them and they did everything they could to outbalance that particular potential drawback for their careers?
Is it possible that they actually deserved the raise, the bigger pay-packet or making partners?

I do not know how useful it is to talk in terms of hours worked when it comes to getting the job done either. Some people may need longer for the same project than others. It doesn’t necessarily make them more hardworking. It could be a matter of lesser talent=more hours needed.

Perhaps this is a matter to be raised with the employers themselves. They would not discriminate against mothers, but I am sure they would equally not discriminate against talent either.

Incidentally, I assume the “you” in your reply refers to the “you, woman who chose to have children”, rather than “you, woman who wrote the comment.” I know I did not mention it, but perhaps I ought to just in case: I do not have children.

You say: “When we start talking about creating special, lower, standards for women to become CEO or a Senator, we have a real problem.”

The problem I think lies in those who think it necessary to create lower standards in order to get female CEOs and Senators. Being a mother does not automatically make someone incapable of successfully discharging their duties in a job. It may require flexibility, but I do not see why that would in any way equate with lowering standards.

Women should not be made to feel like it’s an either or. They should be empowered to do both.

There is also altogether an ambiguity regarding what this lowering of standards entails.
Women do not need to be men in order to have high standards, a good work ethic and the capability to do high powered jobs. They can choose not to have children, but that ought never be a choice made based on career progression.

If a career demands of a human being to give up everything else in their lives in order to follow it, then the problem is the culture of that career and it is the demands of that career that are substandard, not the people attempting to make a go of it – parents or not.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Quinn

“I fully believe in equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity and whatnot. However, I am NOT a fan of anyone– male or female – being given “special” consideration “because” they have children. […] This is blatant discrimination – “family” vs. “individual”. And yet, it is. It exists. Life is all about choices. If you chose to have a family, IMHO – then THAT should be YOUR priority (not mine or my employers). If you chose to have a family AND climb the corporate ladder, then you – the individual – must choose your priorities. Corporations have no obligation to make those choices for you or make special concessions for you. […] Using the law firm example you gave, an attorney can put up their own money – hang their shingle – drum up business – grow – hire associates – grow – form partnerships – grow – and on and on. They (the original owner and partners) owe you – a female attorney or paralegal or secretary – nothing. If you don’t want to work the 100 hours a week required to make partnership (for whatever reason) – don’t. Doesn’t really matter if you are a man or a woman. But don’t then sit back and demand some special consideration “because you have children”. […]”***

*** This is an abridged version of the comment. Click HERE for the full version (Quinn on October 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm.),and for the context of this discussion


I absolutely agree, but let me make my agreement contingent on one important thing: a thorough self-reflective and self-aware engagement with the values and norms we want to stand by and cherish, that is: What kind of society do we want to live in?

Some question to ponder:

1. Do we want a society where the individual and only the individual matters? Where did this “individual” come from? Do “individuals” spring up from a void, outside of society and its norms and values OR do they in fact only come into being from within society itself and precisely because of its norms and values?

2. Do we want to live in a society that divests its citizens of their reproductive nature, a society that does not wish to re-create itself and is in fact satisfied to go extinct? What I mean by this is simply this: is the giving birth, bringing up and education of children important to society itself, or is this an absolutely private individual matter that society has absolutely no benefit from or any interest in whatsoever?

3. Do corporations operate in a social void? Are they simply some “individual” exercise or do they in fact benefit from the existence of society, from the system of organisation it offers, from a certain security in laws, norms and values that make it possible for corporations to operate in the first place?

4. Do we want to live in a society, and work for corporations that victimise individuals who whilst contributing to both also take on the burden of creating the next generation? Or may it be perhaps more constructive to acknowledge the value of their work in both areas and reward it appropriately? After all, those that choose to or are unable to participate in the reproduction of society already have a time-energy advantage on their hands to climb the corporate ladder as well as engage in social activities that are no longer attainable for those others who have children. Win/win one would think?

Until the family unit is eliminated and individuals are developed in vitro – see Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for a blueprint – then the two will be forever intertwined in the makeup of society. There is no family vs. individual conflict insofar as I can see it. We are born, we grow up, we live alone, we live together, we learn, we work, we create, we imagine, we strive, we overcome, we succumb, get old and die.

Mutual respect is the basis of equality. I am a democrat. Equality is of great importance in my books. I do wonder however whether we spend sufficient time discussing what the idea actually stands for, because this comment made me realise once again how fluid the concept is, and how little we agree on what it means.

I would like to leave you with this one final comment of my own:

Individuals do not exist in void. They exist in society. Therefore, individuals act upon one another and shape society, just as they are acted upon and shaped by society. There is a tendency within individuals to direct others and to resist direction, a tendency which amplifies both the radical and the contestatory nature of the democratic project, which is a project of autonomy or freedom, understood as the lucid, self-aware and self-reflecting making of one’s own laws.

These laws ought to benefit all – in this case both childless individuals and those who have children.

And a final question:

Why discriminate against either? Why as someone who does not have children must one ever feel like they are somehow done a disservice if their employer happens to value their workers sufficiently to act humanely and with understanding towards those that have a life outside the office that is of equal important to that within?**

**This is the first part of a two part series on this topic. The follow up post is scheduled to be published on Tuesday, the 10th of December 2013 at 7am GMT.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Iraq’s Arabian Nights

Let’s Talk Opinion: Iraq — a showcase for a broader Middle Eastern problem?

Events in the Middle East appear to be a common theme in current events. Whether it is a new war, a new dictator, or new abuses of human rights, Middle Eastern politics does not go out of fashion.

After the terrorist attacks of the 11th of September, 2001 and with the consequent attack on Iraq by U.S. and British forces, the Middle Eastern question became increasingly difficult to avoid. The string of revolutions that have brought the region to a near-standstill in the past few years, put the region under international scrutiny once again.

With Syria in the limelight, it appears that Iraq has taken a back seat in world news. That is not to say that all is well on the streets of Baghdad.


On the 5th of December, 2013 “Iraq returns to Saddam-era number of executions as the country fights terrorism,” reports Colin Freeman in Baghdad. In breaking news earlier today Iraqi officials say 2 bombings kill 4 people north of Baghdad

These are not the type of developments hoped for and promised by those who – in the name of freedom and democracy –  “liberated” Iraq.

To bring light to modern developments in that region, sometimes it pays to look back through history and ask to what extent this mess is one of our own making. Here is a question to consider:

What were the consequences of British imposition of Private Property and tax-in-cash policy on traditional society in Iraq?

Having obtained the Mandate over Iraq in the aftermath of the First World War, Britain was expected to build a strong State and strong institutions to support it, in preparation for Iraqi self-rule. They have failed in both respects.

The creation of an efficient way to tax the population in order to sponsor their own occupation took primacy. In order to tax, the British had to identify the owners of the land to be taxed – thus ensued the introduction of a western conception of Private Property, formerly alien to much of the region.

Before the interference of British and French Imperial rule in the Middle East, most land was owned and worked in common. As the Imperial powers needed to fund their occupation, they imposed a system of private property by declaring small notables and village leaders to be the owners of the land. What is more, the taxes were to be collected in cash, not in percentages of crop.

In the name of efficient administration and effective taxation, they destroyed traditional Middle Eastern society, alienated peasants from their lands and pushed tens of thousands into abject poverty, deeply entrenching “liberal” inequalities within Iraqi society.

The result was an even more unjust and unequal society than the one it had replaced. With the introduction of private property in the Middle East, people departed from seeing themselves as members of small organic communities to being individuals in a competitive and corrupt world, breading even greater inequalities, avarice and corruption. The use of money, rather than crops for exchange, only exacerbated these inequalities.

Unlike the Western States, the State in Iraq is a true Leviathan. The colonial legacy left a fairly weak State, but the subsequent rulers were quick to expand their powers. While in the West civil society had the necessary institutions to keep the State in check, the segregated communities within Iraq had little chance of achieving the same.

The State during Saddam’s rule had absolute power over its subjects, was feared by all and few risked rising against its might. It acquired great despotic power, lacking, on the other hand, what Mann calls infrastructural power: the power to reach into society and control their livelihoods and loyalty effectively.

As the Iraq example proves, having a modern state structure imposed from above can only result in a war of all against all. Sounds familiar?

So… What conclusions may we draw from the above?

  • The introduction of Private Property in the Middle East resulted in the disintegration of traditional society and entrenched greater inequalities.
  • The colonial legacy of a centralised State resulted in the institution of a Hobbesian Leviathan in Iraq, a brute that a diffuse civil society could not counter.

The question remains whether a new Iraq can counter these shortcomings. Will it be possible for a divided Iraqi civil society to keep the State in check and ensure that it does not succumb to pre-war abuses?

Furthermore, given that the current plight of Iraqi society was at least in part the outcome of external involvement in the region, what can be done at an international level to strengthen civil society in Iraq?


Let’sTalk Opinion posts aim to engage with issues that are important to other bloggers. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.