I have just abandoned For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming, and I want to tell you why.
Most nights, before we go to sleep, I read a little fiction to my wife. We tried it both ways, but it causes my wife to yawn uncontrollably to read out loud, especially at night.
We have recently been reading For Your Eyes Only which is a series of short stories about Bond. It’s disappointing for a number of reasons. I had previously read Moonraker as a child and didn’t remember much about it except that it was nothing like the movie, and very poorly written.
For Your Eyes Only is less poorly written in terms of its grammatical style, but it suffers from a worse offense. It is very of its time. It uses words and phrases I would not deign to put in print because they are racist and sexist. And not just a little – there is clear disdain for other races as inferior. And women are clearly not considered whole people.
Some historic racism can be forgiven because it results from a change in what is considered acceptable linguistically. POC and “black” replaced earlier words to describe non-white people, and the older words have become unacceptable for cultural reasons, rather than because they are offensive in themselves. That is not the sort of thing I am talking about here. The book uses phraseology that makes it clear what the heart of the writer thinks – and it’s not ethical nor good.
I found it offensive, even knowing its cultural context. The same was true when my wife showed me the movie The Quiet Man. I honestly think it’s unwatchable except from an anthropology perspective. It’s fascinating and amazing that we have come so far in such a short period of time. I am proud of my parents and grandparents for having managed to move with the times.
But I am also sad that our cultures were so bigoted so recently.
I look forward to another generation which doesn’t question those things which are now fringe beliefs:
- That mental health needs to be treated in the same way as we treat visible physical ailments – where no-one is ashamed of their broken leg, nor their broken brain.
- The death penalty is seen as barbaric as it truly is.
- That gaol and prison are morally unacceptable.
- That those that cannot live safely amongst the rest of us (psychopaths, pedophiles, etc.) are given a humane way to live their lives separated from potential victims, etc.
I hope and expect homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny to completely disappear, along with institutional racism.
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