Russell Taylor: Judging a book by its cover

A friend of mine knows a woman who got her tongue split in two to help her get over the end of a relationship. I’m not entirely sure how this was supposed to ease the pain of her breakup, but, then again, when is the best time to turn yourself into a human serpent? It’s a moot point and irrelevant to me, since getting myself a forked tongue doesn’t appear anywhere on my to-do list. I don’t even have a tattoo, which must surely qualify me for some sort of minority rights by now. Perhaps I should speak to the EU.

I was reminded of snake girl when I took the Taylor clan for a day-out in London during the summer. I come from a family of Londoners (which is more than you can say about most people who live there) and I have a strong affinity with the place. But having lived in the ‘burbs for most of my life, my opinion of the capital has come to resemble Obi-wan Kenobi’s take on Mos Eisley spaceport. Fortunately, we were only doing the aquarium and the London Eye, so we didn’t have to stray far from Waterloo.

I can only imagine that our visit coincided with a body modification club outing, because as we walked up the South Bank, we were caught in a maelstrom of pierced, stretched and painted flesh. I tried to adopt an air of liberal insouciance, but I’m not sure I pulled it off. I don’t have any issue with people slicing and dicing themselves (their bodies, their choice), but that’s not the same as saying I find it easy on the eye. You can stick bolts through your neck, for all I care; just don’t be surprised if I stare.

I’m not sure why some individuals adopt looks that are defiantly different from the norm, although I suspect it is often done as much for other people’s benefit as their own (I doubt the last man on Earth would bother getting a face tattoo and a Prince Albert). Some say it’s a way for people to express their individuality, in which case I find it rather sad. If you have to mutilate your body to make a statement about yourself, it doesn’t say much for your powers of self-expression, let alone your self-esteem.

People should be free to do what they like to their bodies, but they should be aware that others will judge them on their appearance. Someone of a liberal-left disposition would probably be outraged by this kind of discrimination, and they’d be right to object if we were talking about a natural attribute, like skin colour. But if someone’s look has been consciously chosen, people are bound to wonder what it says about their character and form an opinion accordingly.

In business, people like to work with those who put their interests ahead of their own and who take their responsibilities seriously. They want to see amenability, not ego; conservativism, not eccentricity. While it’s quite possible that snake girl is a conscientious and selfless worker, her appearance suggests someone who is self-absorbed and rebellious, and who either doesn’t care what other people think or is actively looking to unsettle them. These are not the typical qualities of a reliable worker, and companies will take this into account when deciding who to work with.

To those who don’t work in business, this probably sounds terribly uptight and unadventurous. Surely companies should want to employ free-thinking mavericks, not staid plodders? Where would a company like Apple be if it wasn’t staffed by hippyish dreamers, who have bucked the stuffy corporate culture in favour of a more avant-garde approach? In fact, Apple is a ruthless money-making machine, run by calculating capitalists. I suspect the nearest any hippies get to the levers of power nowadays is operating the coffee machine in the staff canteen. Free-thinkers also need to be diligent and eager to please, and a person’s appearance says more about this side of his character than their ability. Looks can’t compensate for a lack of talent, but they can reveal intent. Someone who has made an effort to conform to the aesthetic norm has at least demonstrated a willingness to meet the standards of those he is seeking to impress – and that’s the kind of thing people in business will take a chance on.

Nonconformists have the choice of falling into line or living with the effects of being different. No doubt they will feel this as a great injustice, but there is a bigger issue at stake than their pride: namely, that people should be free to form their own judgments and live with the consequences. What works best is not just a matter of opinion; it’s the result of tried and tested experience. Unless we understand the effects of our decisions, we’ll never know what ‘the best way’ looks like.

To reuse one of my favourite examples, football used to be terribly racist, with clubs refusing to take on black players simply because of their skin colour. But when it became apparent that this prejudice was denying them access to a vast pool of talent, they abandoned it, and now black players are judged purely on their ability. This goes to prove what Thomas Sowell says about free markets: “Capitalism knows only one colour. That colour is green”. When people have something to gain or lose from their choices, they are encouraged to make the right ones – namely, those which are conducive to what they desire, be it friends, profits or a sporting victory. But when they are forced to discriminate one way or another by government dictate, they are denied access to the things that are of consequence to them.

For instance, imagine liberal meddlers of yesteryear had tried to tackle racism in football by forcing clubs to adopt racial quotas, requiring them to favour skin colour over skill. In doing this, liberals would have turned football into a multiculti carnival first and a competitive sport second, which certainly wouldn’t have been the preference of the clubs or their supporters. What’s more, they would have been demanding that black players be judged differently to everyone else – on their skin colour, rather than their ability – which is, by definition, racist. We now know that by leaving things alone, racism went away by itself and more talent was brought into the game, which only goes to show the pointlessness and malignancy of liberal meddling.

Perhaps one day the snake girls and snake boys of this world will be holding down cabinet positions and running multiglobal companies. If they are, then one of two things will have happened. Either the Left will have claimed total victory, or the prejudice against forked tongues will have been confounded. Regrettably, I suspect the former scenario is more likely than the latter.

10 comments on “Russell Taylor: Judging a book by its cover

  1. andyL
    October 9, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Good, thought-provoking article. Agree with much of it. To take it further, I would add that people who have tats that they then later in life regret having, then they should pay for the removal of them themselves rather than asking the taxpayer to foot the bill.

    On a similar note, perhaps, as it relates to what an employer expects from potential employees, I was told that I had to interview candidates who met the ‘job spec’ even though their applications were littered with spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

    • Russell Taylor
      October 9, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Agreed on the tats issue, Andy. I’ve had to interview a lot of people in my time and those with poor spelling and grammar haven’t got in the door. Employers would be more inclined to take a chance on people if our employment laws weren’t so tough.

  2. Illiod Francesco
    October 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    fun article, but why regrettable at the end?

    One must believe there will always be enough collective sound judgement to witness façade

    • Russell Taylor
      October 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Regrettable because the free expression of judgment is being eroded under pressure from the Left.

  3. Illiod Francesco
    October 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    It’s very likely that people in positions of power and leadership will sport tokens of ink and metal quite freely in the future.only the other day there was an article about the flourishing demand from the over 50s to be inked up.

    but what is it that makes you think this is more likely to be because of an erosion of our free expression of judgement rather than ‘left alone’ development and change?

    Do you think there is an inevitability that leftist unformed techniques will be used?

  4. therealguyfaux
    October 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    In terms of the argument about the racial integration of sport– and its effect on societal relations in general– many Britons who might not otherwise know about the sport of baseball will at least know vaguely about the player Jackie Robinson, who was in many ways considered a “Magic Negro,” in that (just as with Sidney Poitier characters in films) the only thing you COULD hold against him was his colour. It is also possibly known that his team’s General Manager, a man named Branch Rickey, was, in addition to being a racial “progressive” of his time, a shrewd businessman who realised it was important to have “the right sort of black man” (not a shufflin’ Uncle Tom, yet not an Angry Young Black Man) as the icebreaker– “You don’t want the first Negro to be the LAST one, too.”

    But the more instructive view on the integration of sport may have been that of Paul Bryant, head coach of the American-Football team of the University of Alabama in the days of George-Wallace-in-the-doorway. Bryant thought that the University would be integrated when the boosters for the football team realised how many good black players in Alabama were having to go out-of-state to play; and, once the football team was integrated, it would be hard not to integrate the University as a whole. (Bryant was, by the way, not “late-to-the-party”– he had already tried to integrate the teams of the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M University.)
    Bryant did admit a certain amount of moral cowardice, in that the other teams in the competition his team was in, the Southeastern Conference, were not integrated either, prompting Bryant to say, “I won’t be the first head coach to recruit a black player– but I’m damn sure not going to be the THIRD, either.”

    Once the “Bear” wanted black players, the boosters fell into line, and Wallace, having had his political theatre moment, readily acquiesced– which, frankly, he was going to do anyway, but Bryant was a good enough figleaf.

  5. Simon Roberts
    October 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    I had no idea what a Prince Albert was. I had to look it up.
    Thanks for that.

    • Russell Taylor
      October 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

      Make sure that’s as far as you look into it, Simon!

      • theaustrianway
        October 10, 2013 at 8:21 am #

        Another great article Russell – class is clearly permanent!

    • theaustrianway
      October 10, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      Marx on Monday told me that Ed Miliband’s got a PA!

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