For Your Own Good

Do you hate it when someone tells you that something that you really don’t want to happen, or to have, is for your own good? So do I. And I will tell you why. Because whenever someone tells you that you can bet the house that the good they are speaking of is their own, and your health and welfare and over all well-being don’t have one blessed thing to do with it. Case in point, the women of Saudi Arabia have launched their first effort since 1990 to try and secure the right to drive an automobile. Saudi Arabia is a patriarchal country that makes my Irish Catholic (wait strike the Irish part because the Irish are notoriously matriarchal) upbringing look profoundly feminist. The Saudis strictly interpret the whole “woman in her place (two steps behind I am told) thing”, and women are forbidden to drive based on this skewed point of view. All women. Muslim or not. A woman is a woman is just a sperm receptacle in Saudi Arabia. Saudi men see this, or so they say, as a safety issue. Women and children are safer being driven by men. However, drivers there, whether they are public taxi drivers or private chauffeurs, tend to be foreigners who are, according to Saudi women, notorious for harassing the women and children they are transporting. Which brings me back to my original point. The “good” part of “for your own good” is not about protecting someone. It’s about maintaining something, usually control, and in the case of Saudi Arabian women it is about maintaining control of them by restricting their movement.

But it’s not just Islamic men. The male gender just about anywhere, sometimes aided and abetted by some of the dumbest females I try my best to avoid, spend a good deal of time and energy coming up with ways to protect women from themselves. In my native country of the United States this kind of paternalism takes the shape of groups who oppose reproductive rights from access to abortions to contraceptives. Even with Roe V. Wade, access to abortion, even in the case of medical emergencies has never been so sparse and the ability to purchase legally prescribed contraception from the birth control pill to emergency day after contraception like Plan B is equally in danger. And it’s for our own good. Adult women in the United States must be protected from the “dangers” of these things. The only danger however is to the status quo. As fewer and fewer women have litters of children and more and more put off having children all sorts of things are occurring that is changing the playing field. Most notably is that more women are on playing fields that traditionally they couldn’t access before. The bottom line is that there is no better way to control women than to deny them the right to regulate their own reproductive systems. Being eternally knocked up is better than foot-binding for keeping women in their place.

But it’s not just whole genders that are kept in line. Governments use the “for our good” line to perpetrate all manner of suppressive acts. The Bush Administration, with the blessing of Republican congressional representatives suspended Habeas Corpus to protect Americans from terrorists even while it allows them to imprison “dissident” citizens without warning, without cause, without trial and seemingly without end. In Canada the government of Quebec is attempting to suppress its Islamic population by forcing its women to unveil before being allowed to vote. This is similar to the recent Indiana law in the U.S. requiring photo I.D. for all voters. It is to prevent fraud but the only fraud is that of governments who hide their true motives behind their concern “for the good of the people”.

In the workplace, this hypocrisy takes the shape of wellness programs for employees. Recently back home the government decided to allow employers to charge higher payroll deductions to employees with high cholesterol, over the limit BMI’s or to people who smoke. It is for the good of the employees they say, but the bottom line of the companies and their shareholders is the primary motivation.

For my own good I have been sold a lot of what I now recognize as self-serving crap over the course of my life. It is a shame that I listened to so much of it and more of a shame that I actually followed some of the advice at different times. We are the arbiters of our own good. Skepticism should always be the approach of choice when someone approaches you, or imposes on you, anything that is supposedly good for you.

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