It’s funny – one of the artists I follow on Facebook is Tracy Chapman. You might have heard of her -she particularly had a string of hits from the late 1980s. She is American but obviously the music travelled across the Atlantic.
I guess those early hits must have set her up for life, and I noticed a while ago that she was doing philanthropic stuff like organising concerts, where unknown wannabe musicians could perform. I thought that this was a nice idea, except she restricted the performing musicians to women. Tough luck if you were a wannabe-famous male politician, I thought, and said as much.
I was quite quickly reminded that women needed all the help they could get, and that the recording industry is very top-heavy in terms of its white, male executives. That might all be true, but how does positive discrimination help the struggling male musician?
Funnily enough I saw this same effect once in a left-wing organisation, an event which brough out something which I thought was far more sinister. This group happened to mention that they applied some rules to election results, meaning that elected officials were split 50:50, men and women. Ironically, in this organisation, it was not at all uncommon for more women to be elected “naturlly” than men, so the rule had the effect of bolstering the numbers of male electees. I made a comment, more in mischief in order to gauge reaction, and was really quite surprised at the hatefulness of the reactions. The lesson I took from that experience was that dissent is not allowed (and that is the sinister aspect, forget your broad church!). The irony there is that there is an argument for positive discrimination, an example being to enforce quotas of men and women, provided such measures are seen as temporary, until an equilibrium is reached. But nobody actually put this argment to me, something else which I found disturbing. It was kind-of, people knew that positive discrimination was good, but did not know why, or rather when, it should be applied. So I had nothing further to do with the group, which was a shame because, on probably 70% of the group’s policies, I was sympathetic, but they lost my support over their intolerance towards dissent.
It strikes me that if quotas are a problem, then yes, positive discrimination is a sticking plaster fix, but it doesn’t really address the underlying causes. I think we, at the very least, need to devote a big chunk of our efforts to solving these.