Opinion One of the joys of The Guardian, or at least what I find to be one of the joys of the paper, is the clearly, obviously, bonkers insane stuff that sometimes manages to get in between those sheets of newsprint. You can be reading along and thinking, yes, OK, this might turn into something interesting, and then you're faced with someone who has clearly entirely lost all connection with reality.
Examples might be Julie Bindel's assertion that foreign women working in London brothels was evidence of sex slavery: half the baristas at Starbucks are Polish too but no one equates that with slavery, only with migration from poor country to rich. Jeremy Leggett has told us that solar cells will be price-comparable with coal-fired 'leccy in a couple of years thus we must throw lots of subsidy cash at solar right now: wouldn't it be better to wait until they actually are price-comparable, and then install them?
This morning provided a particularly rich and wondrous example:
Online matchmaking is premised on the notion of making rational choices. It is perhaps fitting that the language of economics and business has finally – in our late capitalist society – permeated the most irrational, the most human of all areas: the interpersonal.
No, really, he is, he's arguing that being rational about who you seek to shag is a bad idea.
Society has invited the language and practice of market rationality into its midst. It has taken over not merely communal aspects of society, but the very essence of what it means to be human.
Look, I know that an awful lot of people over on the left side of the aisle don't like markets very much. I'm also aware that the assumption of rational behaviour by people gets some stick as an assumption underlying much market economics. But seriously, getting upset about there being a market, and about market practices being adopted, in the great game of love and sex?
What does he think Homo sapiens sapiens has been getting up to since granny was an Australopithecus? It has always been a market: I'll share my genes with you if I can see what it is that you're offering in return. Great genes would be nice, sticking around to help raise our jointly produced babe-in-arms would be better (a look around at today's human race proves that it can't all have been decided on great genes). And there has no doubt been a lot of that shag for the price of a dinner that Ms Bindel complains about too.
There's just too many indications of it all being a market for us not to treat it as a market: that we generally have an equal sex ratio at the time of puberty is one. That in stressful times more female than male children are born is another: females are more likely to have children than men, unless you're an alpha male, something unlikely to be gestated in a time of famine or food stress. We can even track the likelihood of foetal genetic defects as a woman approaches menopause, the utilisation of soon to be redundant capital goods*.
So to complain about the marketisation of this whole grand game appears nonsensical. But if such appeals to our basic humanity don't work, what about the results of this greater marketisation? We do choose, we always have chosen, whom to pursue and whom to allow to succeed in pursuing us. But our choices have always been constrained by those we can meet in a wandering tribe, family circle, while working in the chippie or propping up the bar.
So almost all humans have had to satisfact: get what's good enough rather than pursue perfection. Sure, perfection doesn't exist – Marie Helvin thinks her ankles are fat – but online dating has expanded, enormously, the number we can choose to satisfact with. This all leads, one would assume, to getting closer to perfection than the having to take whichever of your sisters' friends no one else wanted.
Online dating - marketisation, if you will - expands the number of people you might be able to have sex with. This is a bad thing?
Has anyone told the Guardian's Soulmates department yet? ®
*Not accepted by everyone, but the supposition is that it isn't declining egg quality which leads to the rise in foetal abnormality, but rather that the lining of the womb detects blastocysts with abnormalities and rejects them normally. But when menopause is approaching, the rejection rate drops, the assumption being that there may or may not be time to replace the viable but less than perfect with better.
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