Thursday, May 28, 2009

Scotland - Day 14: Wednesday 27

Today we shopped at the Braehead Shopping Complex and Isabel bought some jeans in preparation for our trip to the Orkney Islands.

In the evening, we met again with Pat and Robbie Robertson, and had a great time with them. Dinner at an Italian restaurant of their choosing was delicious, then on to their sports club. It was so interesting to see the place that Pat had told me so much about. They both were very prominent in the Club, with Robbie being President for two years recently.

Robbie and I had a fascinating conversation regarding New Lanark, and the difference between Socialism and Paternalism. He and I were both agreed that Robert Owen was a Paternalist. He was in advance of his times regarding concern for the workers, free education and health care, but the question is always how much choice was given to the subjects of the experiment. Robert Owen could be seen as being a benevolent dictator.

On further reflection, it is obvious that the environment at that time was so materially poor that the workers would have been grateful to have been included into the realisation of Owen's vision: but it was Owen's vision. The only choice the workers could have made was to be part of it: outside circumstances were forcing this choice on them. Socialism, in the ideal, visualizes a partnership of equals between business owners and the people who work with them. Capitalism, in the ideal, visualizes a partnership of equals between business owners and the people who work with them. In the situation at New Lanark, neither ideal was in operation. Owen was a social engineer, with a Utopian vision of how the world ought to be: his employees had no input into, or responsibility for, that world. In fact, when visitors came to see the experiment in action, the children were expected to dance for them. One could say, like trained monkeys!

Whilst out in Africa, Anglo-American, the mining company my husband and Robbie worked for, had been paternalistic in regards its employees. Great thought had been given to designing the mining townships. It was pleasant for us all, and encouraged us to be loyal to the company and stay out in Africa. Robbie and I had both been paternalistic in regards to our servants, making sure that they were well-paid, with short hours, well-housed, had free health care when they needed it, and free education for their children from Anglo-American. This ensured that our servants were loyal to us and worked with us for a long time. A win-win situation all round! The result was that they were upset when we left Africa as they knew that things would change for them, as they have done radically. So sad! Is paternalism so bad when circumstances would make anything different too difficult. We were happy we hadn't to plan the townships, and our servants were only too glad to move out of the bush into a new, more comfortable life.

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