The impetus for this post came from a confluence of stimuli, as is usually the case. Recently I received a book, a biography
of J. Robert Oppenheimer (American Prometheus, by Kai Bird and Martin
J. Sherwin). The book describes the persecution of Oppenheimer
during the Red Scare in postwar USA. The current global and
perpetual war on terrorism shows us that such persecution still simmers.
I also read a post about matronizing, on the blog Mad Melancholic Feminista. The post reminded me that the war between the sexes also simmers.
At this point in time, were are a few years into an economic crisis (home sales in the USA began to decline in 2005).
The effects of this have become obvious only recently. The full
effects will not be known for some time, perhaps another couple of
years. Although the effects remain unknown, it probably is safe
to anticipate that the crisis will bring out both the best — and the
worst — in our society.
The crisis sometimes is compared to the great depression. But
there have been some significant changes in society since the
1930′s. Specifically, there has been progress in race relations,
and in parity between men and women.
The big question is this: will the progress in these two areas be maintained in the crisis, or will there be setbacks?
I would like to think that the progress has made our society
stronger. It could turn out, that the greater opportunities
available to disadvantaged persons will enable them to make
contributions, and receive their due recognition. This could lead
to further advances in social justice. But it also is possible
that the crisis will be used as a pretext to turn back the clock, to
revert to the injustices and inequities that weakened the fabric of our
society for so many years.
There are some changes that we can anticipate. For example, the
increasing rate of unemployment will lead to a decline in the number of
two-income families. Will the job losses affect persons of one
gender disproportionately? Perhaps more importantly, will job
creation programs benefit one gender disproportionately?
Families will have to economize. Many will chose to, or be forced
to, get by with only one car. Many will end up relying more on
home cooked food, on labor-intensive food storage, and on home
gardening. It may become increasingly economical to have one
person stay at home to do those things. Will this have an effect
upon gender roles and biases? Will these skills be valued as they
What effect will the economic crisis have on gender and race disparity
in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine?
Will equality improve in these areas, or revert to the 20th-century
traditions? Will these disciplines continue to show progress,
while manufacturing and service careers do not? Am I being
elitist, to think that there would be a difference?
Job loss is a big risk factor for domestic violence. Will this be an increasing problem? What can be done about it?
Fascists and humanists and equally aware of this fact: the economic
shock will present opportunities to advance their respective
causes. Which will win: the side with the big hearts, or the side
with the big guns? (Not that these are mutually exclusive, taken
literally; metaphorically speaking, they tend to be.)