16.04.1995

Who'll take over?

Who'll take over?
 
LYNETTE BURROWS
 
DOES IT matter that a large number of young women say that they do not intend to have any children? The question is posed by the projection published last week by the Office of Popula­tion Censuses and Surveys which finds that 20 per cent of young women say they intend to remain childless in the interests of personal hap­piness and career prospects. Few people have felt justi­fied in asking whether such exclusive self-interest is desirable. Adverse comment has been confined to selfish warnings that happiness can­not be guaranteed by such means.
 
One curious aspect of our current obsession with women's rights is that it takes no account of whether anything women do is of the least significance to society as a whole. Our criterion that women's personal happiness is the only thing that counts is to view them essentially as social butterflies. This is to do their real power less than justice.
 
When, in the 1930s, a size­able number of young men declared that they would not fight for king and coun­try, for reasons which were far less banal than that it would interrupt their careers or chances of stay­ing alive, there was an out­cry, and much public debate about what such a public stance meant for the coun­try's future. We are entitled to ask the same sort of ques­tions of women, now so many are deciding to forgo child-bearing, because there are consequences for the country which we shall all have to face sooner or later.
 
Demographic shortfalls are nasty things which cause governments to comb the world for workers. The National Economic Develop­ment Office warned industry in 1988 that just such a seri­ous shortfall in young workers was pending in the 1990s as a result of the low birth-rate of the 1970s and, bang on cue, the Department of the Environment announced last month that its 1991 forecast of "nil net immigration" by the end of the century has been revised and that we can now expect one million immigrants over the next 20 years.
 
If one adds to this picture the statistics showing that London state schools will have a majority of non-Euro­peans for the first time this year, we can see that, from this oft quoted "small minor­ity" of immigrants, we are already to be outnumbered in the future in our capital city.
 
The question, of course, is whether this fact will have any consequences for the sort of liberal, tolerant soci­ety we are so assiduously pursuing, and for the women who feel now that a career is more important than a fam­ily. The writing has been on the wall for some time but, as with Babylon's court, realis­tic interpretation of it has been a long time coming. My Bible renders the transla­tion: "God hath numbered thy kingdom; and finished it."
 
IN THE matter of sleaze and the unseemly disclo­sure thereof, how differ­ent is the attitude of the upper crust from the pud­dings below.
Most of the educated people who have commented on the outrageous power of the press to intrude into the private vices of the rich and famous seem to think that it is merely class envy that whets the public appetite for details of the bad behaviour of their leaders. Whereas I see it simply as a fervent and honest desire to establish, by a personal test, that the people who have governed us so badly for so long are indeed as foolish and black­guardly as the mistakes they have made on our behalf would indicate.
 
Ordinary people are sim­ply trying to understand the ruling class that has destroyed the Britain most people knew and wanted. If one wants a quick, symbolic answer to why, on every major social issue of the past 30 years; their judg­ment has been so disas­trously wrong that they have turned a law-abiding, tolerant and, yes, civilised populace into a headless, vengeful, rabble, one need look no further than the fact that not even their wives and children can trust them not to sink the ship in which their happiness and secu­rity exists.
 
HOWLER of the week for me has got to be the full-page back-cover adver­tisement on the BBC's Eng­lish-language magazine Eng­lish for Learners and Teachers. "The best english is spoken in Ireland," it announces above a nice photograph.
 
Well perhaps the lower­case "e" is simply a joke. But then it goes on: "Ireland is renowned for the quality of it's education, the beauty of it's scenery, the warmth of it's welcome and the friendli­ness of it's people." But not, unfortunately, for the accu­racy of its grammar.
 
It wouldn't matter, I sup­pose, except that if the BBC language department does not know the difference between a possessive pro­noun and an apostrophe denoting a missing letter — who can we rely on? Foreigner's?
 
IT WOULD appear the BBC committed another faux pas last week by attempting to sell to the Americans its successful Noddy series, in which the auricularly challenged char­acter Big Ears appears. Apprently "earism" is taken seriously by their public ser­vice television and they want to change his name.
 
Really, the more one learns about political correctness, the more one feels that it is a device used by clever manip­ulators to produce a reaction in the opposite direction. It can only be a matter of time before children in America begin seeking out and beating up anyone with ears like Prince Charles. There is lit­tle chance that they, at least, will be legally challenged.