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The Conquest of Happiness, by Bertrand Russell

Back Next  Chap. 11(Zest)   Contents (総目次)

* 下イラスト出典:B. Russell's Satan in the Suburbs, 1953.

In women, less nowadays than formerly, but still to a very large extent, zest has been greatly diminished by a mistaken conception of respectability. It was thought undesirable that women should take an obvious interest in men, or that they should display too much vivacity in public. In learning not to be interested in men they learned very frequently to be interested in nothing, or at any rate in nothing except a certain kind of correct behaviour. To teach an attitude of inactivity and withdrawal towards life is clearly to teach something very inimical to zest, and to encourage a certain kind of absorption in self which is characteristic of highly respectable women, especially when they are uneducated. They do not have the interest in sport that average men have, they care nothing about politics, towards men their attitude is one of prim aloofness, towards women their attitude is one of veiled hostility based upon the conviction that other women are less respectable than they are themselves. They boast that they keep themselves to themselves; that is to say, their lack of interest in their fellow creatures appears to them in the light of a virtue. For this, of course, they are not to blame; they are only accepting the moral teaching that has been current for thousands of years where women are concerned. They are, however, victims, much to be pitied, of a system of repression whose iniquity they have failed to perceive. To such women all that is ungenerous appears good and all that is generous appears evil. In their own social circle they do what they can to kill joy, in politics they love repressive legislation. Fortunately the type is growing less common, but it is still far more prevalent than is supposed by those who live in emancipated circles. I recommend anyone who doubts this statement to go the round of a number of lodging-houses seeking a lodging, and to take note of the landladies that he will meet during his search. He will find that they are living by a conception of female excellence which involves as an essential part the destruction of all zest for life, and that their minds and hearts are dwarfed and stunted as a result. Between male and female excellence rightly conceived there is no difference, or at any rate no difference such as tradition inculcates. For women as for men zest is the secret of happiness and well-being.