Mar 1, 2012

The Queen, gawd bless 'er,

in her diamond jubilee speech recommended the practice of neighbourliness, a quality easier found in the USA than in Britain.

This is probably because Americans have had uniformly shitty governments ever since the birth of their state 236 years ago, and have therefore had to fend pretty much for themselves and look after each other, much as the Norsemen did in ancient times.

(The original draft of the US constitution stipulated as inalienable rights, life, liberty, and property. The last item was regarded as too dangerous, - crucially in the case of women, ownership of their own bodies - by the eighteenth century white male land and slave owners writing the document, and the more vague life liberty and the pursuit of happiness was substituted. As one of them put it, it might be used to encourage populist pressures for equal distribution of property, and other wicked schemes. The constitution was quite deliberately framed to protect and institutionalize rule by and for the rich in perpetuity.)

The Havamal, the tenth century Norse document, for example recommends staying on good terms with your neighbour. In case of a fire, they 'will rush out to help in their nightshirts, while kinsmen dawdle over their equipment,' your kinsmen always being miles away, while your neighbours would like to keep the flames from getting to their own houses.

The Vikings did have a weakness for wandering off to see if they couldn't pick up a bit of something further afield; indeed, that's what the word 'viking,' or 'raiding,' means, and why it was applied to the Norsemen.

It seems doubtful, however, that a few yards of embroidered cloth, a gold ring or two, and whatever else they could carry off was worth all that trouble and danger, not to mention wounds, and so one must conclude the Norsemen probably did it because they enjoyed it. Arguably Americans suffer from a similar urge.

So Rudyard Kipling asked, in the Spear Song of the Danish women:

"What is woman that you forsake her
And the hearth and the home acre
To go with the old grey widow maker?"

1 comment:

Wahyusamputra said...

Women’s ownership of their own bodies.

The bitter disputes between the occupants of what is charitably referred to as the clown cart, the Republican candidates for president of the USA, are the meat and potatoes of the infotainment industry, even in the Britain of ‘Walking eagle’. (Why an election almost a year away in another country should be the most important subject is a separate can of worms.)

Most of the (fairly vicious) infighting is on the subject of what women should and should not be allowed to do with their own bodies.

For the (all white, all male) contestants, we might as well be back in the eighteenth century: the one question never raised by any of them is what the devil it has to do with them what women do with their own bodies.

They clearly own and control women’s bodies, according to the discussions taking place.