30 November 2006

TV programme on Opus Dei

Saw French television programme on Opus Dei, implicitly very critical of it as a secret and insufficiently left-wing Catholic organisation, with many wealthy entrepreneurs among its members and supporters.

Many of its members were professional people, considering that they were contributing to the work by carrying out for the work of their professions as well as possible and with a respect for other individuals.

The concept of doing things as well as possible seemed to be an important part of it. The ladies who cleaned and made the beds in their hostels were meticulous, plumped up the cushions with care, and made sure the coverlets on the beds were absolutely straight.

This reminded me of the perfectionism with which everything was done at the Catholic convent school which I attended and which was in line with the way I habitually did things myself. My parents had always done things that way as well, being middle-class people with high IQs, and not demoralised (at least not on that level) by their frustrating lives.

Of course I had usually found myself doing things that presented no difficulty in themselves, but I had made them as interesting as possible by doing them perfectly, spacing my work neatly on the page, and so forth.

My first encounter with a different approach was when I was forced to attend the local state school and was vaguely horrified by the apparently deliberate sloppiness with which things were done, so that they were just, but only just, adequate for their purpose. Exam papers, for example, would be blurrily reproduced, not quite indecipherable, and skewed on the page but not actually off it.

The modern person demands that everything they do should be ‘interesting’ or ‘creative’, otherwise disaffection with it will be expressed by doing it inattentively. I don't myself see anything favourable in this attitude. We suffer a lot from this sort of outlook in people who work here, usually very briefly, or who talk about coming.