© 1993 Karen Selick
 Polarized, Yes--But Not By Our Plumbing
An edited version of this article first appeared in the December, 1993 issue of Canadian Lawyer.  If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.


 Polarized, Yes--But Not By Our Plumbing

Probably the mildest thing I can say about the Bertha Wilson committee's Report on Gender Equality in the Legal Profession is that it is excruciatingly repetitive.  Not only does it belabour issues within its own covers, but it rehashes points that had previously been belaboured by several provincial law society studies. 

I would have thought that even the most impassioned champions of this twaddle must be sick to death of it by now.  Heaven knows, I'm sick of responding to it, but if everyone just lets it slide by unchallenged, it will become orthodoxy by default.

The committee's conclusion is that women and minorities in the legal profession should get special privileges.  For example, women with children should be able to work 20 percent fewer hours for the same pay.  This would encourage their participation in the profession.  Previously, says the committee, the predominant perspective in the legal community has been too male and too white: "There is no such thing as a neutral perspective....A white view of the world is not neutral.  A masculine view of the world is not neutral.  A heterosexual view of the world is not neutral."

Hey, I've got news for them.  Not only is there no such thing as a neutral view of the world, but there is also no such thing as a white view, a masculine view, or a heterosexual view. 

The simplest way of demonstrating this is to compare the views of me and Bertha Wilson.  We are both white females (and presumably, both heterosexual), yet our views of the world are poles apart.  Whose are the white views, Mrs. Wilson, yours or mine?  Whose are the female views, mine or yours?  Whose are the heterosexual views? 

The increasing polarization in our society stems not from sexual, racial or other physical differences, but from ideological ones.  The opposing camps are not male versus female, white versus black, straight versus gay, able-bodied versus disabled.  They are individualist versus collectivist, capitalist versus socialist, libertarian versus authoritarian.  The former camp believes in individual freedom and responsibility; the latter believes in coercion and central control.

Ideologies cut across all other categories of people.  Among the people I have known to share my ideology are blacks, Asians, francophones, mothers, fathers, childless people, Christians, Jews, atheists, rich people, poor people, gays, paraplegics, terminal cancer patients, severely obese people, teenagers and octogenarians.  None of these people believed that their culture, status or physical attributes gave them the right to demand special treatment from, or impose their particular burdens upon, other non-consenting people.  No doubt Mrs. Wilson could find representatives from each such category who think otherwise.

What the CBA task force propounds is a collectivist, socialist, authoritarian agenda.  It would dispense with freedom of contract and impose a form of mandatory wealth redistribution among members of law firms.  If that's what they believe in, they should at least have the courage to say so instead of masquerading as advocates for women and minorities, many of whom actually belong to the opposing camp.

Note the curious asymmetry of these conflicting ideologies.  In a capitalist, individualist, libertarian society, those who wished to be socialists could band together and do just that.  They could form voluntary mutual aid societies, workplace co-ops, residential co-ops, purchasing co-ops, or full-blown communes, religious or secular.  Among themselves, they could choose to equalize their incomes, redistribute their wealth, subsidize childbearing, adopt sexual or racial quotas in their business premises, ban dirty jokes and light switchplates, and so on.  Capitalists would not stop them, because capitalists recognize that freedom includes the right to dispose of your energy and your property as you see fit, no matter how self-destructively that may turn out to be in some instances.

The reverse does not apply.  In a collectivist society, capitalists are never permitted to opt out and deal with like-minded capitalists without interference.  The collectivists insist that everyone pay for collectivist social programs, even if they don't use them.  Transactions in certain kinds of goods and services are forbidden, even among consenting adults.  Everyone has to participate in the quotas, the price-fixing, the regimentation, like it or not.

Then the collectivists have the nerve to tell dissenters, as Bertha Wilson told lawyers in a recent magazine interview, that all this collectivist stuff is really for their own good.  Well, gee, if the collectivist system is so beneficial, why does it have to be compulsory? 

Fifty-seven law firms (including many of Canada's largest) and 411 individuals (mostly lawyers and judges, and at least one- third of them male) actually paid good money to sponsor the CBA study.  Unless these people have all been in a coma or living on another planet for the last couple of years, they should have been able to predict what the report was going to recommend even before it was written.  Now, if they think this collectivist agenda is so great, why don't they just forge ahead and implement it in their own firms, and leave the rest of us poor benighted souls to suffer the consequences of our unenlightenment?

I, for one, am willing to take the risk.



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June 07, 2000