At the End of the Day

Momo the Arab Magician arrived yesterday. With his two sons, who are training to be magicians.

Momo’s conjuring trick of choice is external plastering. He can turn anything from nasty brieze-block to knackered old calcaire stone into an immaculately flat outside wall in half a day. He can transform unpleasant RSJs into grand stone lintels in the blink of any eye. He is, in short, a craftsman.

The other nice thing about Momo is that he is a Muslim who just wants to get on with his life, laugh a lot, enjoy his family, and ignore every Islamist on the planet. So far we’ve had discussions about The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, Oliver Cromwell, Osama Bin Laden, the Dreyfus Affair, and The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. What he lacks in front teeth Momo the Moroccan more than makes up for in his intellect, tolerance, and irreverent sense of humour. He’s been a tonic this weekend: cheered me up no end, and that’s a fact.

A few days ago I sensed the first whiff of Autumn in the air. It’s odd, is it not, how one can do that? A frisson of chill up the conk mixed with the delightful pong of somebody burning leaves and windfallen twigs; the look of Autumn skies – still blue, but with just a hint of watercolour wash; and the softer, slightly golden feel of a late afternoon that tans but doesn’t burn. I love Autumn, but these days the analogy of my age coupled with the signs of failing cognition can make it reflective bordering on depressing. My elder brother wrote from San Francisco this morning saying how fatigue, aches and memory confusion are getting him down: as we share the dreaded Big A gene, I know exactly the place from which he cometh.

But the real beauty of Autumn down here is that 5° drop in temperature that allows one to work in the garden without becoming an unpleasant ball of sweat, and then cool off in the pool without freezing to death. The locals here call it la douce saison – the soft season – and that’s exactly what it is: red heat is replaced by golden tranquility….the thing I fell in love with nearly fifty years ago when a chum and I first traversed this verdant paradise.

On another tack entirely, we’ve had fifty years of feminism now (more or less) and I’m not entirely convinced that Fifty Shades of Grey really justifies some of the intolerant madness we’ve seen. Apart from giving a voice to sad people who see the entire history of Homo sapiens as a wicked male plot to cheat women out of their natural birthright of superiority, what has actually been achieved here?

Are fewer bimbos sitting in the News anchor chair? Is the depiction of women by the media (outside of tokenism in the editorial) any more respectful? How many women have it all? How many women want it all? Is society beyond the office better or worse than it was before? Has male willingness to help with household chores increased significantly? Has the pressure on the average male to bring home the bacon eased? Has the invasion of the workforce by women raised or lowered salaries? Has the rate of fatal heart attacks among women increased or decreased? Has radical feminism increased or decreased the appeal of the Left? Is divorce law more or less fair than it was twenty years ago? Has the number of feckless men and unwanted pregnancies gone down or up?

At the risk of solidifying my position as Mr Unpopular, let me proffer this data-based opinion. In the 21st century, Western bourgeois and political feminism has been a distraction from much bigger problems: the litigious society, dangerous global mercantilism, the erosion of personal liberty, the rise in religious hatred, the neoliberal suppression of average life satisfaction, the loss of a focused radical resistance to Right Wing ideologies, the need for better life balance, our planetary energy crisis, and the loss of any sense that marital partnership is a question of mutual respect not agitprop.

On the contrary: the corporate bias of contemporary feminism has contributed to the ridiculous notion that money is the key to happiness. It is the key to self-satisfaction, and the road to perdition – but not much more.