Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mixed Media: ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ (2013)

The Mixed Media column from the February 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Doctor’s Dilemma by Bernard Shaw at the National Theatre

Bernard Shaw’s 1906 ‘serious comedy,’ The Doctor’s Dilemma, was recently produced at the National Theatre starring Aiden Gillett as Sir Colenso Ridgeon and Tom Burke as Louis Dubedat.

Shaw based Ridgeon on Sir Almroth Wright, a celebrated and fashionable bacteriologist, who when asked by Shaw what he would do if there were too many applying for a certain treatment, replied, ‘we should have to consider which life was worth saving’. This would become the central plot of the play where Shaw indicts privatised medicine because of its lack of impartiality, its pecuniary interest, rationing, moralising, unaccountability, ineffective treatments, negligence, and sees private doctors as competitive tradesmen in ‘a conspiracy to exploit popular credulity and human suffering’. The Doctor’s Dilemma is an argument for the creation of a public health care system such as the NHS in 1948 (which Shaw himself welcomed as an example of ‘gradualist Fabian socialism’).

Lenin felt that Shaw was ‘a good man fallen among Fabians’, and Alick West saw Shaw as a ‘second Proudhon’. In 1882 under the influence of Henry George and reading Marx’s Capital, Shaw wrote: ‘the importance of the economic basis dawned on me’, and was on the point of joining the Marxist SDF but instead opted for the Fabian Society. Shaw disagreed with Marxian concepts such as the labour theory of value and the class struggle and wanted ‘to place socialism on a respectable bourgeois footing’.

Shaw’s 1912 The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism was republished in 1937 and Hardy in the Socialist Standard wrote that Shaw’s views were ‘essentially utopian – that there will be money incomes under socialism, and that the capitalist foundation can be made to support a socialist system of society’. The welfare state and the NHS established from the 1942 Beveridge Report and the 1944 White Paper are Fabian ‘socialist’ constructs within capitalism. Marxists see the welfare state and NHS essentially as the ‘redistribution of poverty among the workers’ from those without to those with dependants, maintaining a sufficiently healthy and efficient working population, keeping unemployed workers from becoming unemployable, and insuring the capitalist class against working-class discontent. For the capitalist class the welfare state and the NHS meant increased profits and were seen as ‘a necessary expense of production’.

As we said in the Socialist Standard June 1944, ‘only under socialism can doctors truly serve their fellow workers, and a real health service for all be established’.
Steve Clayton

Deadly prayers, twisted knickers and motorcycles (2013)

The Halo Halo! column from the February 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Saudi Labor minister faces “Deadly Prayers” from angry clerics’ ran the headline on the Al Arabiya News website (26 December 2012). When you read an opening paragraph like that you just know, don’t you, that the more you read, the more bizarre it’s going to get?

‘A group of religious figures in Saudi Arabia have threatened to strike the labor minister who seeks to create jobs for women with “deadly prayers” ’, ran the story. ‘They threatened to pray that he gets cancer like his predecessor Ghazi al-Gosaibi, who died of the disease in 2010’. And to prove that he meant business, one of them assured reporters: ‘I supplicated against a senior official at the ministry and he received the (cancer) disease and he died’.

They don’t mess about with their prayers in Saudi Arabia, do they? And while, as threats from Islamic extremists go, having the ‘deadly prayers’ of a group of deranged clerics unleashed at you probably isn’t on the same level as a fatwa, it probably is extremely noisy and inconvenient, and God knows what the neighbours must think.

To a non-believer the most disturbing thing about being threatened with ‘deadly prayers’ by 200 odd clerics (well, very odd clerics in this case) must be that they assume that everyone else is as ignorant and gullible as they are. But what was it that got them so wound up?

The cause of the problem was the obviously unsuitable nature of the work that was being proposed for women to do. It was a ‘Westernisation plan,’ the Minister, Adel Fakeih, was told. ‘Your ministry has thrown our daughters in places that don’t suit their values’.

The unsuitable work for women that the Minister was proposing, believe it or not, and that the clerics were getting their religious knickers in a twist about, was the plan to allow women to work in lingerie shops instead of men.

Meanwhile in the Indonesian province of Aceh where strict sharia law is observed the Mayor, Suaidi Yahya, says he intends to save women’s ‘morals and behaviours’ and has ordered them not to straddle motorbikes behind male drivers.

Under new regulations women motorcycle passengers are only allowed to ride side-saddle because straddling the bike seat violates Islamic values. ‘When you see a woman straddle, she looks like a man’ he said. ‘But if she sits side-saddle, she looks like a woman’. And he added, helpfully, that women sitting side-saddle only rarely fell off.

But ‘how to ride a motorbike is not regulated in Sharia’ protested one local. ‘There is no mention of it in the Koran’. And it does seem that the new regulation has not been fully thought through. What if the woman is driving the motorcycle? Should her crash helmet be worn over or under the burka? What position should she adopt when riding a push bike? What about two women on a tandem? Which side should she face when riding side-saddle?

Well the answer to the last one is obvious. – Whichever side faces Mecca. Although care will be needed to face the proper direction when turning corners.

Courting Mormons (2013)

The Proper Gander TV column from the February 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mormonism will be under the theatrical spotlight with the London debut of musical The Book of Mormon later this month. This provocative production has been written by the creators of South Park, which featured an episode lampooning the faith’s flimsy origins. In the 1820s, humble farmer Joseph Smith was supposedly directed by an angel to some magic golden plates inscribed with sacred texts, which no-one else ever saw. His translations of these apparently-real inscriptions formed the basis of Mormonism, a spin-off from Christianity with a morbid emphasis on judgement after you kick the bucket. The South Park episode made the point that nice, friendly people can have some pretty wacky beliefs. This was also borne out by BBC3 documentary Young, Mormon and Single.

The programme focused on the annual week-long Duck Beach gathering in North Carolina, U S of A. This is where hundreds of single Mormons meet up looking for love and marriage; a Mormon meat market, even. Getting hitched is central to Mormon beliefs, with marriage being what you aspire for. And there’s something else missing in an unmarried Mormon’s life as well as a ring on their finger. This is a ticket to the VIP area of their ‘Celestial Kingdom’ afterlife, only open to married (and deceased) Mormons. Aiming for this adds to the pressure to find Mr / Miss Right already felt by these no-sex-before-marriage hormone-bombs. So, when courting Mormons split up, their emotional fallout includes dealing with guilt that they’re not following their faith properly. It’s a shame that all the emotions that come with finding a partner are complicated and constrained by the far-fetched beliefs Mormons have. On top of these expectations, Mormons have to manage without alcohol and drugs as social lubricants at the Duck Beach gathering. But they prove that you can have a good night playing party games and dancing about without booze. And at least this means they can play beach volleyball the following morning, rather than waking up with a pounding head after downing seventeen Jack Daniel’s.
Mike Foster

Obituary: Roland Lambert (2013)

Obituary from the February 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

West London branch are saddened to have to announce the death in November of Roland Lambert, who was the Party’s Head Office Organiser until a couple of years ago, at the relatively early age of 62. Roland first joined the Socialist Party in 1968 at the age of 18, having previously been in the YCL. He was born, bred and lived and worked all his life in the Chiswick area of West London, working for the parks department of Hounslow Council. He was an active member of the branch, participating in all its activities and attending the regular fortnightly meetings. As Head Office Organiser he came into contact with members and others throughout the country who will remember him for his helpful and unassuming manner. Our condolences go to his partner and family.