I was speaking to a group of ladies, and my subject was ‘leadership’.
“Do any of you think that one day we may have a woman Governor General?” I asked.
I could see by the faces all round the room that people were surprised. I noticed that a few heads began shaking from side to side.
“So none of you think we could ever have a woman Governor-General,” I said. “Well tell me, what does a Governor-General do?”
A hand went up. “A Governor-General represents the Queen.”
I said: “So you think that no woman could represent a woman?”
The moment I said this, there were smiles around the room, as people started to realise the illogicality of their previous position.
Of course all this was about thirty years ago. Since then we have had women serving not only as Governors-General but also as Prime Ministers and Chief Justices.
It all served to remind me of a saying of Arthur Schopenhauer:
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
* When the abolition of slavery was first suggested, it was ridiculed.
* When vaccination was first proposed, it was ridiculed.
* When women doctors were first mooted, it was ridiculed.
* When old-age pensions were mooted, they were ridiculed.
* When street-lighting was first suggested, it was ridiculed.
* When women’s suffrage was first proposed, it was ridiculed.
* When women’s ordination was first suggested, it was ridiculed.
* When women bishops were first proposed, it was ridiculed.
* When equal-marriage legislation was proposed, it was ridiculed.
Always, after the first stage, society moves on to STAGE TWO.
This is when the violent opposition appears. People angrily argue that any alteration in the way things had been done previously would be either impractical, immoral, or certainly doomed to failure.
Happily, when society starts to give serious consideration to new moves, some of them get accepted, and then STAGE THREE arrives. This means acceptance.
People begin to wonder “What took us so long?”
Of course this does not mean that every new idea must always be accepted. It does mean, however, that we must not always oppose ideas simply because they appear to be “new”.