The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

On political correctness

I hate “political correctness”. Even the name, “political correctness”, is politically correct. We should just call it what it actually is – lying.

You see, words are important. How could I write these words and how could you read these words if words didn’t exist? You couldn’t, because neither of us would know what words were, because words would be non-existent. And non-existent things don’t exist. So, yeah, it’s pretty good that words exist.

But while the existence of words is important, the meaning of the words is also important. Actually, the meaning could be even more important than the existence. But I haven’t thought about it a lot, so I’ll just say they’re equally important, and call it a tie. Not one of those ties that you wear around your neck, obviously, because that makes no sense. Maybe I’ll call it a draw instead. A draw is like a tie. But not one of the ones you wear around your neck, obviously. See what I mean? The meaning of words is important. Things can get very confusing if you’re not clear on the meanings of words. That’s why I always use the right words for things.

Why can’t people be like me, and just say what they mean? I just want to call a spade a spade, and so should you, unless you’ve named your spade “John”, in which case you may call it “John”, although I should tell you that “Doug” is a much better name for a shovel. But whatever. The way you people dance around the truth with your silly euphemisms is just ridiculous. I think it’s time we all started being a little bit more honest.

Like when I see a woman feeding her child in public, I say “Would you mind tït-feeding that human parasite someplace else?” Imagine the confusion if I said “breastfeeding”, or “baby”. She might have thought I was asking her to stop feeding chicken to the girl from Dirty Dancing, and then she’d be confused, and I’d still be grossed out by her selfish act of infant nourishment. That’s what we call a lose-lose situation. And I much prefer win-win situations. Or win-lose situations, where I’m the winner, and you’re the loser.

And for god’s sake, don’t say “vision-impaired”, “intellectually-challenged” or “executive assistant”. Just say “blind”, “spastic” or “secretary”. Because that’s what they are. Likewise, don’t tell your wife you want to “make love”. Love isn’t made of anything, so it’s impossible to make it. Fücking isn’t impossible though, so do that instead. And don’t tell your colleagues you’re “going to the bathroom”. Not only is there almost certainly no bath at your work, but everyone knows what you’re really saying, so you might as well just say it: “I’m going to the shïtter to play Angry Turds.” Don’t say “I’m sorry for the loss of your mother”. They haven’t lost her, she’s inside that coffin over there, with a scarf covering her tracheotomy, slowly decomposing. Don’t ask your seven-year old daughter “Is it itchy down there?” Just tell her to stop scratching her cünt. Don’t say “gender-neutral”. Say “freak”. Don’t say “African-American”, “Japanese” or “Jew”. Say “nigger”, “nip” or “kyke”. And FFS, don’t say “gay”. Gay means happy. And yes, they all usually look quite happy. I can be happy too, but I’m not a faggot.

And if you happen to be at a funeral for a vision-impaired, intellectually-challenged, transgender, homosexual African-American executive assistant who died from smoking-induced lung cancer, and you get the urge to make love to yourself in the bathroom, just be honest and say “Well I guess that blind spastic freakish gay nigger secretary got what it deserved. I’m going to go fück myself in the pïsser.”

Sure, you might upset a few of the funeral-goers, but that’s their problem. You’re just telling the truth, and protecting your right to free speech.

And as an added bonus, I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you to go fück yourself.

The Importance of Being Earnestly Who I Want You to Be

Hi, Norrie, my name is Tim, and I’ve been thinking about you a bit lately. Well, ever since you won the right to be recognised as neither male nor female, which is to say, the right to be yourself.

Now, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. In fact, as far as I know, I’ve never met anyone who has grappled with gender-identity issues. So I really don’t have any idea what your life has been like. I know nothing about how difficult your childhood might have been, or how much bullying, scorn and hatred you have endured. I know nothing of the internal struggle that none of us can see, nor the external struggle that we all perpetuate.

But one of the benefits of being a heterosexual male born into a heterosexual male’s body is that I am pretty much an expert on you. No one is more qualified than me to talk about you. Not even you, Norrie.

Because I actually do know you. I read about you in the paper, see. Sorry that’s not quite true. Bill Muehlenberg read about you in the paper, and I read Bill Muehlenberg’s blog about Bill Muehlenberg reading about you in the paper. And I heard all about you on talk-back radio. And I got 84% in Year 10 Biology. And I like apples. Especially Pink Lady apples, which are tastier because they know they’re ladies. If you were an apple – good lord, what am I saying? You couldn’t be an apple, you’d just confuse everyone. Who’s ever heard of a Pink Sir-or-Lady-I-haven’t-decided-yet apple? Or a Non-gender-specific-Grandparent Smith?

But it’s not just about apples, Norrie. It’s about freedom, and Jesus, probably. Oh and the children, I’m pretty sure it’s about the children somehow. But mostly it’s about me, Norrie. Me. Did you not think about how your court case would affect me?

Up until last week, my man-brain was happy sitting in my man-body, smiling a man-smile, and thinking man-things, like “Jeez it’s awesome being a man in a man-body, which is but one of the two options available, the other being a chick with awesome boobies”. But you just had to go ruin everything, and now everything is ruined, because you ruined it. The words “man” and “woman” don’t mean anything anymore, so I have no idea what to call my mankini, which is devastating. Worse than that, anything with two options now confuses the shït out of me. The last time I drove up to a T-intersection, I went straight ahead. And if someone asks me a true or false question, I answer frue, but maybe I should answer tralse. Either way, I sound like an idiot, Norrie. What’s next? Rosé? Three-quarter pants? Dimmable lights? Labradoodles? Michael Jackson? It’s madness, Norrie. Madness.

Please stop. If not for me, then for freedom and Jesus. And apples. Oh and the children, but don’t ask me whose children, because I don’t know. Actually I’ve changed my mind. Please just stop for me. Thanks, Norrie.

Yours fruely,

Tim

Alexandria and The Rule of The Book

The date is March 8, 415 CE. It’s probably a bright and sunny day, as the place is Alexandria, and most days are bright, or at least sunny, in Egypt. By this stage, Alexandria has enough Christians in it to allow for a Christian schism – moderates on one side under Orestes and hard-liners on the other, led by the Patriarch Cyril.

In this awesome, wonderful and wondrous city is a woman called Hypatia. She is a mathematician and astronomer. She teaches. Not just that, she’s held in the highest of regard across the ancient world. Many of her ex-students are powerful political figures in this, one of the most powerful and influential cities of the Roman era. She is credited with great moral authority within this same city. Silesius the philosopher can think of no-one greater on the whole face of the planet. She creates a staggering number of devices for measuring azimuths, tables for all kinds of calculations, is credited with improving the astrolabe to such a degree of fine accuracy that it can be used, not just for navigation and measuring mountains, but for telling the time of the day by just about any celestial body.

She is a shining light in a city that has already produced ideas like the earth being round, the sun being the centre of the solar system; where a philosopher accurately measured the circumference of the planet with what was essentially two sticks and a massive brain… In fact, speaking of brains, this is the city where the West first heard the idea that the brain might be the boss of the body.

And amidst all this, Hypatia is rated an exceptional mind.

But not by Cyril and his cronies. Cyril has been cynically using ignorance and prejudice to condemn Hypatia as a witch. He puts about the idea that her instruments are for divination – black magic. It doesn’t help that an astrolabe can be used to (broadly) predict the tides and weather. Eventually, a mob consisting largely of Christian monks hunts Hypatia through the city and drags her into the Caesarea (once a temple to the Caesars but now vandalised and invaded with a giant cross). Here, in this scratch church, they cut the philosopher into pieces, pick up the dismembered body parts and dump them outside the city.

This murder is often seen as a sort of critical starting point for the process that eventually resulted in the destruction of 99% of the texts in this amazing city’s amazing library.

And certainly, the deeper motives behind all this murder and vandalism can be seen as more political than religious – more temporal than spiritual, but it is impossible to deny that the perpetrators on the ground were motivated by a religious feeling that was as sincere as their ignorance was deep. It is therefore irrelevant that they were manipulated by cleverer men – their prejudice and ignorance was a lethal weapon, honed, aimed and used to devastating effect by their political and spiritual masters.

Sound familiar? It should. What we have here is a clear and specific warning from history. Any time you meet an evangelical who tells you that he doesn’t need to think because faith is his reason, every time you see a fundamentalist screaming and frothing about his right to religious ‘freedom’ over and above the civil rights of any and everybody else – remember Hypatia. Every time you encounter an anti-academic, anti-scholarly, anti-critical right wing bible thumper, or hear a rant from a Tea Party spokesperson, or other spurious ‘defender of the common man’, remember Alexandria. Remember that this is exactly the sort of person that set the development of the modern world back a thousand years or more. The kind of person that did so much damage to our corporate human knowledge that we will probably never know the extent of our loss.

Remember, and also note that these people and attitudes can’t just be scorned, ignored or laughed at.

They have to be fought.

Unpacking Cory Bernardi’s Dystopia – Part 1

You may or may not be aware, but Senator Cory Bernardi has written a book. He has called it ‘The Conservative Revolution’. The fact that the title appears to be an oxymoron, and that the Senator appears to be just a plain moron, were sufficient to inspire me to read it from cover to cover. And what did I find between the economically elegant, flimsy black covers? Well, I’ll tell you.

Firstly, it took me a very long time to work out exactly what the book was trying to be. It started out like a treatise, with Cory helpfully defining terms that he intended using and laying out a few heads of what he was pleased to call arguments. The problem with this was that there simply wasn’t enough evidence or reasoning to make it anything near a fully-fledged treatise. Also, but not quite so critically, he never once descended from the broadest generalities into anything approaching the specific.

Then I thought it might be a manifesto, but in this I was also mistaken. Out of 162 pages, a bare 16 pages are devoted to positive statements of position, belief and intention. And not just this, a good portion of this 16 pages is devoted to repeating negative or antagonistic ideas mentioned ad infinitum throughout the rest of the book. Most of the remaining 146 pages is overwhelmingly devoted to describing and debunking ideas that the author doesn’t believe in.

It was not, in fact, until I arrived at the final 16 pages that I finally realised what, in fact, this book is. It’s a paean to the faithful – an attempt to clarify opinions, ideas and prejudices which he assumes his readers already hold, presumably with the intention of giving them ammunition they can use when arguing with ‘leftists’ and ‘radicals’.

And what, pray tell, are ‘leftists’ and ‘radicals’? You might think you know, but Cory knows better and has helpfully defined these terms for us.

Leftist: “…left and leftist will be used to make general reference to those political and social forces that are opposed to the traditional principles outlined through this volume.”

Radical: “…ideas that are promoted by these people are fundamentally at odds with natural law, the traditions and cultural wealth that we have inherited from our forefathers, and are therefore diametrically in opposition to what is best for society and the individual.”

and

“[People]…who are constantly trying to tear down our institutions and diminish our historical values because these don’t fit with their own view of how the world should function.”

So, that’s that settled then. And a good thing too, because I would have thought that ‘left’ and ‘leftist’ referred to something entirely different (and less vague) and that a ‘radical’ might be considered to be anyone calling for a revolution. Which would have been very confusing, given the title and thesis of the book.

Reading on, we discover that Cory and his Conservative friends (conservatives are people who “seek to protect and defend the structures and values that have allowed our nation to achieve the traditional freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy today“) live in a terrifying world. Apparently, a social revolution occurred in the sixties that has seen the entrenchment of ideas that are threatening to tear Western society apart. Some of these dangerous ideas include secularism, same-sex marriage, legal abortions and, weirdly, Islam. It is the good Senator’s belief that what is needed is for ‘Conservative Warriors’ to bring about a  ’Conservative Revolution’, which he goes on to explain (none too clearly) should be seen as a ‘counter-revolution’. Fortunately, he uses someone else’s definition of this term so yes, in this book, counter-revolution means exactly what you think it means.

What will happen if we don’t have this counter-revolution tout suite? Cory paints a chilling picture. Society will be atomised, but power will be concentrated in ‘big government’. Secularism will run rampant, causing depression, dislocation, suicide and mass alienation. Also, something about Sharia law which, for the life of me, I cannot make sense of. Especially in the context of rampant secularism. The free market will cease to operate and laissez faire capitalism’s tender mercies will therefore be denied to the poor and industrious. We will lose the respect of our neighbours and, he implies, end up in another world war.

He cites as evidence his assertion that ‘leftism’, consisting in this case of over-regulation and nationalisation of the market, caused the GFC and that if we don’t immediately cede more control of the market to big corporate, we are due for another one. I don’t believe I need do more than just mention that particular nugget.

The Senator then goes on to cite various authorities to back up the following ideas:

  • Society is not perfectible
  • Order is required for a functional society
  • Custom and convention make up a significant part of law
  • The use of past knowledge makes for better forecasting
  • Prudence is prudent (which seems a wasteful way to use a citation from Plato)
  • Diversity is important
  • Power should be limited
  • Private property is a cornerstone of society

Which is nice, but completely unnecessary, seeing that none of these ideas are really in dispute.

All of this seemingly random, muddled intellectual flailing leads up to what might be termed the res: Senator Bernardi’s grand plan (?) vision (?) program for revolution (?). Whatever the hell it is, it is made up of three pillars - namely, Faith, Family and Flag.

In next week’s episode, I will examine the author’s interpretation of these three F’s and what it reveals about this statesman’s vision for and of Australia.

A Clarification

I recently wrote a post (Atheism, Some Assembly Required) that appears to have confused some people.

Some readers thought that I was advocating some sort of atheistic ‘priesthood’, or that I believed that formal education in atheism was required. Some were even confused about whether or not I was an atheist. I am.

Put simply, what I was trying to say was that in order to talk about something, one should probably make some attempt to know what one is talking about. In the case of talking publicly about religion, which atheists do almost all the time, this is especially true. Otherwise, we look just as stupid as the religious proselytisers.

The entire article was aimed at the increasingly prevalent atheist slacktivism that I have been encountering on the internet with depressing frequency. Sloganeering and the endless repetition of maxims do not an argument make, and the important – scratch that – the most vital part of atheism is that it should rest on a basis of reason. To cede this basis and imitate the behaviour of the religious right is, in my opinion, the opposite of helping.

Atheism – Some Assembly Required

According to Richard Dawkins, everything in the world is reducible to reason except, apparently, his beliefs. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he fails to see that religion has ever had any positive affect on humanity at any time in history. Then he starts going a bit frothy and saying things like “Religion is Evil”, over and over again, just to show how rational all us atheists are.

I’m sorry: “Religion is Evil”? Which one? All of them? And is it exclusively evil that is practised by all these religions, or are they occasionally known to indulge in the odd good deed? And while we’re at it, are we talking absolutely and including past and future times, or am I to take the statement as representing a contemporary snapshot of the entirety of Earth’s religions? Aren’t we atheists supposed to be the sane and thoughtful ones?

And then it occurs to me that all these questions are irrelevant. There is no point asking them as there is next to no likelihood that they will be satisfactorily answered. It isn’t a considered, rationally derived statement of position. “Religion is Evil” is simply a declaration of the Secular Humanist Creed, recited faithfully from the Gospel according to Richard Dawkins. This is totally fine. Everyone has to believe in something, so why not Rationalist Secular Humanism? There are worse things to believe in. Mosaic law, for instance. Or anything said by Cory Bernardi.

Where this simple, uncomplicated kind of belief becomes problematic, however, is when it is applied in public religious and political debate. In the never-ending argument between the faithful and the unbelieving, there is a depressing tendency for each side to appear as wacky as the other.

Unfortunately, one rational decision (atheism) a philosopher doth not make. Logic and the rules of evidence are not innate – they must be painstakingly learned. Attacks on the Church, to stand any chance of being taken seriously, require equal or greater levels of scholarship to that commonly possessed by priests and theologians. This requires serious and lengthy study in several diverse academic fields. Just conducting a considered evaluation of the Bible, OT and NT, represents years of careful study.

So, a mind that has vacated God is not a mind that can automatically be considered enlightened by reason or illuminated by the pure light of science. Nor is it a mind that has necessarily been equipped to do effective combat in the atheist cause. It’s very much the same mind that was recently capable of believing in the resurrection of some bloke called Christ. The same mind, no smarter or dimmer, no more or less ignorant, just changed.

Atheism is not a free pass into intellectualism. Atheism does not make anyone an automatic expert on history or comparative theology. An atheist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about is just as wrong as a believer who is equally ignorant.

But it is only the religious who have an excuse for talking nonsense. The atheist is supposed to know better.

What Are We All Talking About?

I read Tim’s post ‘Keeping it Simple’ recently. It was about marriage equality and it was compassionate, heartfelt, sensible and correct. What in part made it so sensible was that it simply ignored almost every aspect of the marriage equality debate. The fact that I agreed with his proposition and his approach made me wonder: am I some kind of bigot? Why am I so ready to immediately dismiss so much argument and so many complex positions? Why am I so convinced that I am right? Well, it’s because I am. It’s really very simple.

Firstly, we live in a society that not only champions liberty and equality, it’s one that claims to have achieved equal rights for all sorts of people, including homosexuals. The simple fact of the matter is that if there are legal statuses not available to gay couples, this claim to have achieved equality is false. It really is just a matter of civil and legal equality. Does it exist in this case? No. Should it? Yes. There really isn’t much more to say about that.

Secondly, there’s the religious objections. Let’s leave aside all this ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ business as it’s plainly ridiculous. As I often like to say – if homosexuality is unnatural, then why do penguins do it? The fundamental objection from the major Christian churches seems to boil down to ownership of the institution of marriage. Which is a little bit stupid. Marriage certainly exists as a sacrament in the major churches, but anyone who’s been to a wedding is probably going to have a vague memory of the bride and groom filling out and signing some forms. Government forms, in fact. Because marriage also exists as a legal state. If a church doesn’t want to deliver a sacrament to a gay couple, that’s totally fine with me. I suspect that the 90 odd percent of the population that fails to interface with the church on any kind of regular basis doesn’t give a shit either. This does not constitute a rational or valid reason to attempt to block a government from granting legal married status to whomsoever it pleases. So that side of things is pretty simple too.

So what, in actual fact, are we all talking about? What is with all the ludicrous posturing, toxic prejudice and irrelevant hysteria? It boils down to two very, very simple questions:

  1. Should gay people have equal rights?
  2. If gay people have equal rights, should they be allowed to do all the stuff that straight people do?

The answer to both questions is ‘yes’.

 

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Is it possible to sack a politician for being stupid? I don’t mean for the odd slip of the tongue or ill-considered gaffe – I mean for actually lacking an acceptable level of intelligence.

I understand that politicians, our representatives, need to be chosen by the people. We can’t have a pure meritocracy because it’s simply impossible to ensure that the way in which merit is calculated is kept fair. Having said that, however, can we not find some better way to find those candidates we do put in front of the people?

Being a politician these days is a demanding and complex job. Not only do they bear a magnitude of responsibility unprecedented in all of human history – they are also required, more or less as the case may be, to operate a machine that appears to insert thoughts directly into the minds of staggering numbers of people. I refer, of course, to the machinery of mass media.

If a politician says something stupid in a forest and everyone hears it, does it really matter in any way whatsoever? I’m usually inclined to say no. But then my friend Tim drew my attention to a passage from an apparently widely sold book by Senator Cory Bernardi. I quote:

“Islam and the Quran are a blueprint for an idealogy that seeks to create an Islamic super-state and dominate every detail of life in an Islamic society.”

I don’t know if it’s Tim or the Senator who’s forgotten how to spell ‘ideology’, but as Tim and I were educated in the same place, I’m afraid it’s the Senator who misses out on the benefit of the doubt.

The comment above is stupid, ill-informed and almost certainly based on the best efforts of the Senator’s Lilliputian mind to understand whatever little information it has been able to process. None of this, however, presents me with any problem. The problem arises from the fact that this kind of broadcast stupidity is dangerous. At best it sits in the public mind like a boil, ready to burst into pustulent violence at the slightest heightening of social tensions. At worst, it’s deliberately inflammatory bullshit.

So this is why I wonder: Is it possible to somehow remove a person from a position of power on the grounds of intellectual incapability? Both Cory and Tony better hope that it isn’t.

Keeping it simple

I’ve been to a lot of weddings. And I went to another one on Friday. It was pretty much like all the others – the beer was cold, the canapés were warm, and the guests were hot. But as I stood chatting to new friends, waiting for the bride to arrive, a nervous tension suddenly filled the room. What’s that sound? Are people whispering? Why yes, Tim, yes they are. And the whispering is getting louder… spreading through the room like Vegemite. Which is to say, pretty quickly, but not as quickly as mayonnaise. Eventually, the whispers made their way to me, and my eyes, once bright with anticipation, were now glistening with shock and sadness – the bride wasn’t coming.

Which is just as well, because the grooms didn’t really need one.

Yes, grooms. For this wasn’t just any wedding. It was a same-sex wedding. So there wasn’t really any nervous tension. And there was no whispering, or shock, or sadness. There wasn’t even any Vegemite, but it wasn’t my party, so I shouldn’t complain. There was, however, a large group of very happy people, gathered together to celebrate with Michael and Gregory.

And as I stood there, one smiling face amongst many, I was struck by a sudden thought. This wedding was remarkable, but only for the fact that it shouldn’t be remarkable. And then I had another thought, which was also remarkable, because I rarely have two thoughts so close together.

The whole same-sex marriage ‘debate’ is really quite simple. It’s not a battle between competing ideologies. It’s not about political point-scoring. It’s not about trying to reach a middle ground that we can all be happy with. It’s not about gay and straight, left and right, liberals and conservatives, or compassionate realists and Bill Muehlenberg. It’s not about tradition, slippery slopes, or flawed science. And it sure as shït aint about Jesus.

When you strip away all the theories and theology, you’re left with just one thing.

A couple.

Two people who have had the good fortune to find a partner, but the apparent misfortune of being gay. Who tell us they’ve found love, only to be told that it’s not the right kind. Who want to stand up before their family, their friends and their country, and proclaim their love without shame or fear. That’s all it’s ever been about. Two people, in love, who want the same chance at happiness that the rest of us take for granted.

I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. Do you?

STRAYA!!!

I love Australia Day. Not only is it a guaranteed public holiday on which I can get pissed to celebrate my naturalisation 34 years ago, it is also a day that, through its significance, is pregnant with all sorts of other excellent memories – of friends and family, of other naturalisation ceremonies, of friends in the Navy. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a day when my heart swells with any particular patriotic fervour because, let’s face it, it’s mainly about kiddie pools full of ice, beer and, eventually, your guests.

That’s not to say that the day is entirely frivolous – far from it – it’s just a lot less overstated than, say, the 4th of July in the USA. The flyover, the cricket, the harbour full of white boats and tinnies – all these things enter the consciousness and make me pause at odd moments during the day and reflect on just how damn proud and fortunate I am to be an Australian living in Australia.

And then it happens.

Out come the retards believing that a chain email talking about ‘Citizen’s Day’ has the same weight as a government proposal (such a proposal does not exist). Apocryphal immigrants on the internet telling anyone they can find that when they landed here they didn’t get any handouts (If they arrived between 1945 and 1959, or immediately post Vietnam War, that simply isn’t true). People who are unable to understand that Islam is not a race, yet insist on yammering on about Moslems as if they were an ethnicity. And of course, the endless, endless stream of poorly spelt, grammatically challenged, cognitively dissonant statements starting: I’m not racist, but…”

These idiots talk about “Political Correctness gone mad” when the simple, logical truth of the matter is that, if it had, then they would by now be facing prosecution for being so “Politically Incorrect”. Their continued freedom, in fact, has more to do with the fact that ugly-minded stupidity is not a crime in this excellent, free and diverse country.

Legal or not, however, I have a message for the ridiculously vocal minority that represents this part of Australia.

Dear Mindless Bogans,

Until you have managed to read something other than the Telegraph and inflammatory Facebook statuses, kindly stop spoiling one of our favourite days with your mindless, ill-conceived, poorly-reasoned, toxic bullshit.

Yours Very Sincerely,

 

The rest of the best country in the world that you insist on embarrassing.

The Good Tweets

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