19 April 2018
Trans or Feminist?
The brokers’ dilemma.
By John Watson
Sometimes it is a change in the wind, sometimes a lightening of the atmosphere, but, slight though it be, the sensitive observer will feel it and recognise the beginning of a sea change. Over then to Hendon Magistrates Court where 26 year-old transgender thug, Tara Wolf, was convicted of assaulting a 60 year old radical feminist at Hyde Park Corner. Not the most exciting piece of news, you might think. Neither of them seems to be particularly pleasant, and in any case perhaps it is inevitable that when people hold strong views there will be clashes between them.
It is when you look below the surface that you see something different. If you look up the word “Broker” in the 1933 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary you will find the definition “one who acts as a middleman in bargains”. That is somebody who makes money or draws benefit from activity rather than having a real interest in the underlying transactions. We all recognise the role in relation to financial transactions. A takeover merges two great corporations. Sometimes that creates value and synergies, but often it does not. Why then does it go ahead? Is it just an accident or are siren voices instrumental in persuading the parties of the benefit of the deal and skewing their judgement? The answer to that can often be found by looking at those who have an interest in the transaction proceeding: bankers on contingent fees, management whose salaries will increase. However careful they are not to let their interests affect their judgement, it would be surprising if there was not some bias towards activity over inactivity.
You will see the same in other branches of commercial life. What householder does not receive leaflets from estate agents suggesting that it might be time to sell? What executive does not get letters from head hunters suggesting that they could increase their remuneration by moving? Who has not had a call from an ambulance-chasing law firm asking whether they have been mis-sold payment protection insurance, and offering to sue the provider on their behalf? What will the lawyers get? Oh yes, a proportion of the damages. “Brokers” in the wider sense, they stir activity and take a slice of someone else’s money as a reward.
That doesn’t mean that “broking” is necessarily bad. Often it provides a genuine service. Perhaps the merged companies will benefit from genuine synergies. Perhaps the little old lady needs to sell her house, but has never quite known how to start the process. Perhaps an egregious piece of mis-selling would otherwise have gone uncompensated. Sometimes good, sometimes bad; that is the truth of it.
The process is less obvious when it operates outside the financial arena. Take the feminist movement, say, or Gay Pride. Both have their roots in real injustice and were founded by people strongly committed to making a stand. But inevitably, those“brokers” who trade in activism spotted a good thing. There are plenty of them: political wannabes in search of identities; unheard of academics trying to establish themselves; people who owe their position in the protest movement to their ability to generate resentment. They may or may not give a damn about the causes with which they associate, but by generating activity and tension they create roles and status for themselves. Perceived injustice is what they trade on and they build their careers round it.
Their weakness is that they are vulnerable to their own success. As feminism has become a mainstream cause (which it clearly has – the fatuous gender pay gap legislation testifies to that), the opportunity for activists to build a career around it has diminished too. The activists therefore need to move on to areas which keep them slightly ahead of mainstream opinion. That is why it is now transsexual rights which have become contentious. The British public is fairly easy-going and no doubt it would be possible for the practical problems to be managed with a bit of ad hoc give and take. But that would not be enough for the brokers. No one fuelled a career on sensible compromise. No, they need issues of principle and if those centre on who uses which lavatories or changing rooms, so be it. One way or another the “broker” must get his or her cut.
At the start of his book On War, the German writer Carl von Clausewitz points out that a war should, in theory, escalate to an extreme conflict, but that in practice there are dampers on this process which restrict the level of operations. Are there similar constraints restricting the scope of the campaigning activities of activists? Well, yes, there is a self-correcting mechanism. The kudos which is the reward for their activity will only continue to flow as they move further down the branch of impractical extremism, but as they do so that branch will become less and less able to bear the weight being put upon it. First it will creak and then it will break, the first sign of collapse being when the activists begin to quarrel among themselves. What happened at Hyde Park Corner is evidence that this process is underway. It has a way to run before we come to the second stage – when the public loses patience with the whole lot of them – but eventually that will happen.
So what will happen to the activists as the public preoccupation with LGBT winds down? Will they bank their reputations, regard themselves as having made their contribution, and get jobs stacking shelves? Of course they won’t. That isn’t how “brokers” behave. They will start looking around for other areas from which they can profit by stirring up activity. What is it to be? Anti Semitism? Animal rights? Anti GM?