Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Dignity of a Woman

A Clarifying Insight from The Dignity of a Woman (女性の品格) by Mariko Bando, translated by James Vardeman

The book itself is moderately interesting, though the original is clearly targeted at women and the translation is clearly targeted at Japanese people who are studying English at a high level. In spite of the targeting and a bit of redundancy, the book struck me as mostly quite reasonable, though not startling. It mostly confirmed my understanding of a lot of things about Japan, but I couldn't really get the full meaning from it, especially in the sections that were discussing the nuances of appropriate Japanese expressions. Not just the use of Romaji, but also that the translator mostly left the examples of undesirable usages untranslated, though the examples of good use were generally translated.

However, the thing that struck me about the book enough to motivate this comment was something I realized near the end of the book. Not quite sure what triggered the crystallization of the obvious insight, but this is a topic that has been bothering me and nagging at me for quite a while. As I've aged, I've become increasingly appreciative of the advantages of marriage, and even thought that a so-called 'good wife' might well have influenced my own career in a positive direction.

What I finally realized in a clear way is that "Two against one isn't fair." Not exactly a big insight, but it suddenly explained a lot of the conservatism of companies, especially established companies. Within such a company there is a constant competition for promotion, and other things being equal, the family teams are going to win out. Not just any family team, but especially the teams in which one partner is completely dedicated to the success of the other partner. So for which teams is this recipe for success most likely to work? Obviously in most cases it is a certain category of conservative team in which the wife essentially sacrifices her own life towards the success of her husband.

The obvious long-term result is that each company tends to be 'captured' by that kind of man who is helped upwards by his wife. With this very conservative mindset in place at the top, the entire company naturally becomes more and more conservative over time. The only thing that really upsets the apple cart is when the company is so calcified and stiff that it collapses and dies.

That is bad enough in itself and explains why change is so difficult within most companies. However, it also augers badly for the future, since the Supreme Court recently increased the 'personhood' status of corporations. No matter what SCOTUS says, corporations are NOT people, but now the actual people who actually control those corporations, people who are mostly very conservative, will have much more freedom in using the corporations' money to support their own highly conservative views. It seems inevitable that the entire American society will soon be calcified to death--though I've already long suspected it was too late to worry much about it...

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