Last Friday was momentous for Irish politics and women across the world. When the exit poll for the repeal of the 8th amendment was announced, I could hardly believe it. Could Ireland buck the Brexit/Trump momentum and restore dignity to Western politics? She did. The Irish PM hailed the result as a 'quiet revolution.' Fintan O'Toole put it best in one tweet: 'There were two silences. The silence of centuries. And the quiet, calm dignity of the ballot paper being marked.'
Until now, I couldn't bear the abortion 'debate'. Too much bitter screeching underpinned by 'rights' talk. The Catholic Church abhors rights-based morality with one exception, the rights of the unborn child. Actually, the question of the status of the foetus is a metaphysical, not a moral issue – and the answer cannot wait for academic philosophers. In modern times, the debate is a question of permissible legislation in a just society. But for women across the world, the vote was deeply personal.
I know of no woman who has taken the decision to have a termination lightly, and the decision often remained a source of shame. But that has been lifted by the Irish. It is also significant that Northern Ireland is now more socially Catholic than the Republic. That Theresa May has so far refused to consider it is a further stain on this government's Brexit obsession with keeping the DUP happy. Sinn Fein needs to step up to the plate. Now wouldn't that be extraordinary?
While clearing out some books last weekend I chanced upon Gloria Steinem's 'Moving Beyond Words.' This collection of essays includes 'What if Freud Were Phyllis?', a magnificent satire of that Viennese fraud. It is both a funny and chillingly revealing commentary on the patriarchal baloney embedded in the history of ideas. Phyllis, a genius of her time, claims that women are superior to men because of their ability to give birth. Women's superiority is so easily mistaken for an immutable fact of life that males inevitably present with 'testeria', and develop womb envy, clitoris envy, and penis anxiety, not to mention breast-castration anxiety. A careless impregnation by these inferior beings could be punished with imprisonment.
Wise women explain that 'while men might dabble imitatively in the arts, they could never become truly great painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, or anything else that demanded originality, for they lacked a womb.' My favourite paragraph is the following: 'Of course, one can understand why men would not choose to replicate their own symbols – chicken necks, bits of rope, dumbbells, cigarillos, spring potatoes, kumquats, belfries, and the like – but instead would choose the glories of cathedrals, stadia, and mammoth caves, the ocean, the sky, and other representations of the womb.' Steinem captures the utter absurdity of Freud.
As for men, this week millions witnessed the most extraordinary example of male heroism and upper-body strength of a Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama, who, at great risk to his own life, saved the life of a toddler dangling by his fingertips from a balcony in Paris. I doff my chapeau to you, sir.
Last Friday saw the publication of the long-awaited Growth Commission report (GCR). As a set of recommendations for an independent Scotland it was disappointing to left independence supporters while appealing to centrists, business and persuadable unionists. Committed to increased engagement with globalisation, and to increasing levels of direct foreign investment, it is heavily reliant on innovation, increased productivity, a highly flexible labour market, low corporate tax rates, and 'prudent' fiscal and monetary policy. As some commentators have pointed out, the principle that the national debt is not to rise above 50% of GDP would please George Osborne.
The report also recommends keeping the pound indefinitely. The idea is that the cost in terms of losing a major lever of government power is minimal since small countries committed to globalisation have already accepted their limited control over the economic forces that will shape public life. But at least the commission recognises that the idea that we can 'take back control' while engaging in globalisation is a fantasy. Take note, Brexiteers.
A major issue is the membership of the commission itself. No trade union representation is an oversight which needs repairing if the left in Scotland are to consider the report seriously. But overall, it's a breath of fresh air to Scots sick to the back teeth of tedious constitutional debate and boring cyber-nattery shorn of any content. The GCR is not a blueprint, but a discussion document that at last provides the basis for a Scotland-wide debate between sensible people – left, right, and centre – with competing visions as to what Scotland would, could or should be.
I polled one person who had read the entire document: my husband. He is a staunch no-voter (unlike me), economically literate (unlike me) and a centrist (eh, unlike me). He liked the report so much that if Brexit does indeed take place and a Boris/Mogg-led government is elected at the next general election, and an independent Scotland is guaranteed entry to the European Union, he will vote yes in a second independence referendum. Whether you are for or against independence, the publication of this report confirms Nicola Sturgeon as the most serious, strategic leader in UK politics, and consigns the ghastly Brexiteers to the recycle bin.