Sunday, 23 December 2007

there are plenty of fools here in the UK

Yesterday's Guardian Weekend magazine carried an extract from Somewhere Towards the End, the memoirs of Diana Athill (who?).

"There are some things, sexual infidelities among them, that do no harm if they remain unknown - or, for that matter, are known and accepted. I have only to ask myself which I would choose, if forced to do so, between the extreme of belief that a whole family' honour is stained by an unfaithful wife unless she's killed, and the attitude often attributed to the French, that however far from admirable sexual infidelity is, it is perfectly acceptable if conducted properly. Vive la France!"

I wonder, are there any positions in between those two extremes?

Furthermore, what kind of culture finds X "perfectly acceptable" when X is "far from admirable". Certainly not one I would be happy to choose!

And while I'm here, the frame of reference for doing no harm (first sentence) is underspecified. Maybe it's true that person B is not harmed appreciably (in their own opinion) by an unknown infidelity on the part of their partner, person A. But what of the harm to A? And doesn't deceit harm a relationship, just a teeny bit...? The complex dynamics of relationships and morality are clearly not what Athill is interested in. "Loyalty is not a favourite virtue of mine", she quips, revealingly close to mentioning an act of infidelity against her that clearly caused her plenty of pain. Building a philosophy of life on wound-licking with fingers in ears doesn't seem sensible.