Quite often these days I receive emails asking me to consider the environment before I print them. They are quite right of course: my study is already horribly littered even without print-outs of more emails.
But this, I suspect, is not at all what they mean: they mean the Environment with a capital E, in the Mother Earth, Gaia, or Pachamama sense of the word, a sense that always makes me feel slightly queasy, as Wagnerian opera does. If people really care about the environment, why don’t they campaign against rock music in public places, a vastly greater threat to civilization than a mere rise in global temperature and sea levels could ever be.
Now that you’ve got me going on the subject of contemporary sanctimony, how about this for a provocation? I received today an email from a very large and successful form of lawyers asking me for my opinion in a medico-legal case. Appended to the email (after the obligatory bit about the environment, the whales, the dolphins, and the worms) was the following nauseating statement:
The rest of the short piece is here.Out partnership is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its own policies and procedures. This applies to the firm’s dealings with employees, clients and other third parties.. . . Let us remind ourselves that a statement such as the one attached to the lawyers’ email did not get there spontaneously; someone, and quite possibly some committee, had to write it and decree that it should be appended to all the emails that the company sent. Indeed it probably took many sessions over breakfast or lunch to hammer it out.
What, actually, does it mean? Does it mean, for example, that the lady who cleans the offices at night after the partners have gone home, will henceforth be paid the same as the partners, that is to say hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year, because of their commitment to equality? Good luck for her if so, but I suspect not. Does it mean, either, that when someone applies for a job the firm will take no notice whatever of the person’s past record of achievement and ability, and will not discriminate in favor of an applicant with superior ability? Again, I suspect not; I would certainly hope not if I were a client of the firm’s.