I have just finished reading Lindsey Fitzharris’ book ‘The Butchering Art’ (Penguin, 2018). And fascinating it was too, but not for the feint-hearted. It’s a compelling read about the life and medical career of Joseph Lister whose indomitable interest in sepsis transformed surgery and post-operative care during Victorian times. Apart from the gripping yarn about the development of surgical techniques, the book proffers jaw-dropping insights into the lives (or should I actually say the many premature and horrific deaths) of real, ordinary people in the late 1800s. Living in the filth, poverty and squalor of rapidly expanding London and Edinburgh, people had a completely different perception of what they could expect from life compared with today and I marvel at how far we have come in less than 200 years.
One of the starkest things for me was Victorian attitudes and treatment of women and there is an extraordinary description of a “gentleman” who tired of his wife. So he put a halter around her neck and led her to Smithfields market where he sold her among the cattle. My reaction to this passage was visceral. I had to put the book down and walk swiftly across a field in an attempt to clear my head of this horrific image. While still recovering from this unbelievably shocking act of cruelty, I so happened to go online and read the manifesto of one of the political parties which states that, if in power post December 12th, they would commit to eradicating pay differentials, by 2030, on the basis of gender given that women still, on average, earn 13% less than men for the same job.
This resulted in another visceral reaction from me and cause for yet another swift walk in the field. What am I missing? What is so complex and difficult about simply making it illegal to run a payroll that disadvantages anyone, that it takes a DECADE to implement? Surely 100% pay equality which is blind to race, creed, gender or sexual orientation is one of the easiest things to implement? It’s a stroke of a pen and it’s done. Everybody who helps me on my farm, irrespective of who they are or what they do is on an equal per hour rate. End of story.
By the time you read this, the election results will be in, but I wait to see how long it takes the government to excise the sepsis out of the national pay roll. I suspect I am going to get very fit in the next few years, walking swiftly across fields.