The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

How We Stopped The Boats

Remember the good old days? That long lost time when kids could be kids, the West was top dog in the Middle East and the most important thing on the agenda was a pathetically small trickle of refugee boats? Where did those days go? How did so many months pass so quickly?

It’s a different world now. The pretend crisis of the boats has given way to the pretend crisis of Islamisation and anxiety over a war that is being fought thousands of miles away over territory that wouldn’t have anything to do with us if we hadn’t helped invade it. And let’s not forget the terrifying phenomenon of a tiny number of people flying off to places we’ve never heard of to die in this war that’s got nothing to do with us. So terrifying, in fact, that it seems we had to rush through legislation to outlaw some activities that were already illegal.

But what happened to the boats? Did we stop them? And if so, how? Of course, we don’t ask the question ‘why’ because that sort of thing is for limp-wristed intellectuals who live in ivory towers.

Well, basically, we’ve stopped the boats… from being an issue. In classic parlour magician style, our fearless leaders kept the boats issue in their left hand whilst frantically waving the right at a series of imaginary problems until, basically, we forgot about the boats altogether. In some ways this is good, seeing that the whole thing was a non-issue to begin with. But the fact that our collective xenophobia and ‘not-in-my-backyard-ism’ was stoked to such a fever pitch in order to win an election has created the ironic situation where the boats have become, in fact, a serious issue. The measures that were taken by both parties in the leadup to the last election have created a situation where we, as a nation, are routinely guilty of practices that are questionably legal and unequivocally cruel.

The Manus Island ‘solution’ is a nightmare. People are living in tents, in baking heat of up to 50 degrees in the daytime, with limited access to basic sanitation. And a good proportion of these people are children. Some of whom are being sexually abused. Self harm and suicide appear to be either daily or weekly events and, most horribly of all, the internees of Manus have been assured that the means of their arrival guarantees that their processing will take longer than the 5-7 years that is already the typical waiting time. All this suffering and death because we were gullible enough to believe that a tiny trickle of desperate families represented some kind of threat to our way of life.

I began this post with the intention of being funny and ironic, but I find now that I just don’t have it in me. This situation is disgusting. We, the people, have behaved disgustingly. We ‘stopped’ the boats by voting for a policy of treating people so cruelly that they would not wish to come to us for help in their most desperate hour. And then, when it didn’t work, we allowed our elected malefactors to distract us from the fact that the upshot of these policies is a daily perpetration of what can only be described as crimes against humanity. And for once it’s not the Abbott government that’s to blame – both sides of politics were behind this horrendous situation, which means that it must represent the will of the people, which means that the fault lies squarely with us.

We cannot let this lie. Whether you feel that you’ve been tricked into endorsing the effective torture of men, women and children, or if, like me, you’ve been screaming and railing against it from the start, make your feelings known. I don’t want to sound like a ’60s throwback, but write your MP. Take the 11 or 12 seconds to sign some slacktivist’s petition. Organise a protest. Talk endlessly about it to whoever is unable to escape. Let this government know that we do not accept this shameful stain on our national honour. That we deserve to live in a country whose actions we can be proud of. Like we have for most of the last 114 years.

Whatever it is you can think of, just do it. And if I get to know about it, I’ll try to help. Not because I’m a bleeding heart liberal or a red socialist, but because I’m an Australian Citizen, with all the privileges that go with being one and, more importantly, the responsibilities too.

Why Isn’t the World More Disney?

Children make us see the world differently, largely by ruthlessly hijacking our televisions and replacing our normal cultural input with talking animals and plucky, courageous teens doing unlikely things in garish colour and at great volume.

Despite this, watching children’s television is usually a fairly uplifting experience. The world is presented as an ultimately just place, with powerful people who stand up for ‘the little guy’, bullies getting their comeuppance and true love springing improbably up out of every corner. The values that we see displayed are unequivocal and absolute:

Justice

Fairness

Compassion

Generosity

Love

While all this can get a little sickly, there are good reasons to be in favour of it. The idea that these are the values that will inform the lives and moral attitudes of our children is a heartening one, and, within reasonable limits, it behoves us all to encourage this kind of ethical propaganda. It does, however, raise a few questions.

Why, if generations of children have been brought up with such excellent moral tutors, is the world such a greedy, unjust, selfish and violent place?

Does the moral education provided by entertainment have any effect at all?

If these lessons are being taught to children literally from the cradle, why do so many of us grow up to be such unconscionable pricks?

I’m afraid that there is only one possible answer, and it isn’t a comfortable one. The only logical explanation for the distance between ‘Disney’ and reality is that children learn far more about morality and the world from actual adults than they do from the television. We can expose them to as much media and entertainment as we like, but the real conditioning of their behaviour is achieved by imitation. It is to be expected, therefore, that when it comes to imitation, children are going to choose real people for their subjects, as much as their fantasy lives might indicate that they are, deep down, destined to become Dora the Explorer.

So, why is the world such a greedy, unjust, selfish and violent place?

It’s because we generally behave as if this is perfectly acceptable.

I’m sure that the vast majority of people, on an individual level, are wonderful. Okay – nice, then. Tolerable? Let’s go with tolerable. In any case, very few parents that I have observed directly teach their children to be selfish little bastards – for one thing, most children need no instruction whatsoever in that regard. So what is it that perpetuates the disgusting state of affairs that we now live in? It is the example of acceptance that we set. Whatever we may say, do, or consent to watch, children are freakishly good at picking up on certain truths, and the one that they seem to be picking up most from us is that we’re okay with things as they are.

Sure, we have our daily two-minutes’ hate whenever we read the Telegraph or watch current affairs programs. Sure, we complain and rail against the state of just about everything and everyone that hoves into view. But, most importantly, we most of us don’t appear to do a damn thing about any of it. It is this that informs our children, more reliably than anything else, that no matter how bad things are in the world at large, there is neither a duty nor a need to try in any way to fix them.

So long as we have the mortgage paid, food on the table and inexhaustible reserves of inane conversation, our responsibility to civilisation and the planet has been more or less fulfilled. I can guarantee that this attitude is keenly perceived and absorbed by the forming minds around us, our example overriding any more didactic attempts at ethical instruction.

I hear you say: “That’s all very well, but how do you propose we fix it? And, more importantly, do you seriously think the average parent has time for activism? What kind of feckless idiot are you?” Which would be fair enough. What I would suggest, though, is that we just try to maintain an awareness of the following two questions:

Am I living my values?

Are those values such that I would like to pass them on to my (or anyone else’s) children?

If we can all remain conscious of these two things as we go about our daily lives, we may actually be able to achieve an incremental gain in the direction of a better world.

 

 

 

Reclaim Australia


Depending on who you talk to, either:

a) Some stern and reasonable patriots held 16 rallies across the country in order to make themselves heard on an important issue, or;

b) A small group of mindless troglodytes gathered together in order to shout at Moslems for no reason at all.

Now, considering that the group in question is called ‘Reclaim Australia’, combined with the fact that its guest speakers included Pauline Hanson and Danny Nalliah, option b actually looks pretty good. It looks even better when you look at what Pauline and Danny had to say, always assuming our translation from Stupid to English has been accurate.

Pauline’s barely comprehensible rant about Halal and terrorism, combined with Danny’s immediate plunge into a ‘Hitler Argument’ make it temptingly easy to look at this phenomenon, shrug, giggle, and then simply dismiss it. I like to call it ‘The Bill Shorten Approach’.

But this would be wrong.

While there is no valid set of arguments to support what Reclaim Australia laughably calls a ‘viewpoint’, the fact remains that enough people are sufficiently anxious about Islam in Australia to warrant 16 rallies round the country. The fact that none of these people appear capable of formulating coherent statements makes it more, not less important that we try to understand where this idiocy is coming from.

A good clue to the answer to this question can be found in what they are pleased to call their ‘arguments’. Leaving aside elementary mistakes in logic, which are to be expected when people talk about their feelings (I wish they’d stop, but there you have it), what we mainly have is a critical lack of understanding and knowledge of the things that they are talking about. These people don’t know a damn thing about Islam or Islamism. Or, more accurately, they each seem to know one or two things, without context or understanding, These one or two facts are then crow-barred into a confused narrative about a type of xenophobia that is as old as the nation itself.

We have to ask two fairly obvious questions:

  • Are these concerns valid?

Well, no, but what they are is very understandable. It’s very easy for us to sit smugly in our white enclaves in Sydney’s North and East and airily dismiss any such fears as groundless, but we don’t live in suburbs like Auburn or Lakemba, from any point of which golden minarets are visible. The fact of a neighbourhood filling up with mosques and halal restaurants is just that – a fact. When people become concerned about this, we can’t just pooh-pooh them for being ignorant plebs, or revile them as racists – these people are worried about their homes, their families and the futures of their children. We can’t just laugh at them or call them names – we have to listen to what they’re saying and then point them back toward reality.

It’s a process I like to call ‘Discussion’. I believe there are some precedents for its utility in past cases.

  • Why has this latched onto Moslems?

Well, we all know the answers to this one – irresponsible media and irresponsible government. Between the two, the Islamic community here and elsewhere have been laid open to vilification and scape-goating on a monstrous scale. But why does it persist? Well, I’m afraid that a large part of the blame rests with those of us who camp out on the liberal-humanist left. We see that the ideas circulated about Islam are beneath contempt, and we simply dismiss them. By doing this, however, we forget that there are human beings out there who truly believe in them, and our contempt looks remarkably like contempt for them as individuals. So, these individuals do what everyone does when they are not being listened to: they start shouting. Usually, soon after this, they start swinging.

Which leads us to an uncomfortable, but I’m afraid inevitable conclusion. The reason that groups like Reclaim Australia are stinking up our political dialogue is ignorance. But it’s not just their ignorance – it’s ours. Our deliberate refusal to hear or even consider certain opinions. Our fanatical adherence to a particular orthodoxy of tolerance. We are losing the ability to talk to each other as our politics and ideologies become ever more polarised by our mutual refusal to engage with each other’s ideas.

Reclaim Australia? Nope – nobody has taken it from us.

What needs to be reclaimed is something far more valuable – our ability to talk to each other as a nation.

 

What’s A Few Hundred Years Between Friends?

Lions For Lambs was a fairly unmemorable, if well-intentioned, film dealing with some aspects of the war in Afghanistan. In it there is a scene in which Tom Cruise, playing a hawkish US Senator, tries to sell the broader motivation behind the war. At one point, he talks about the absolute necessity of fighting “crazy Islamists who want to turn the clock back 500 years”.

I mention this because it’s a common idea – it’s stated and implied in the media and in the more right of centre academic discussions of Islam, Islamism and the threat represented by elements of the Moslem world. The basic thesis is that the Islamic world is stuck in the mediaeval period, having chosen to regress there, and wishes to drag us all back there with them.

There are two blindingly arrogant assumptions required to underpin such a world view.

  1. The development of the world should be measured solely along the timeline of Western history.
  2. Western Civilisation represents the current apogee of human development.

There is, however, one key problem with both of these assumptions, and that problem is a matter of approximately 600 years. The simple fact of the matter is that the Islamic world as we know it today began its development five or six centuries after what we used to call Christendom and now, thankfully, label “The Western World”.

So, as an exercise, let’s take a look at some basic timelines for the Umma and Christendom, each starting from its respective ‘year dot’.

Christendom Islam
Year Zero(ish) 

A woman from an outpost of the Roman Empire falls inconveniently and/or inexplicably pregnant. She claims to have been impregnated by a golden shower and told about it by the Archangel Gabriel, who, as we go on, would appear to have been a very busy person.

610 

A man who sells holy souvenirs claims to have been visited by the Archangel Gabriel who, for some reason, dictates to him a book of verse containing some fairly vague guidance about life, the universe and everything.

100-400 

After a snappy three hundred odd years of proselytization, the Roman Empire becomes Christian. Sort of. Depends how you define it, really, but, officially, it’s Christian. Which means so is most of the Western World, whether it likes it or not.

 

At the time, it was largely ‘not’.

600-1100 

The extended family of Gabriel’s impromptu amanuenses spend their time invading Sham, North Africa, Turkey, Syria and, finally, Spain, thus collecting pretty much all the regions that the previous collapsed empires either couldn’t or couldn’t be bothered holding on to. They officially make these places Moslem but, unlike the Empires of Christendom, penalise non-Moslems by adding taxes rather than removing limbs.

400-1000 

This period is a little bit dark and vague. Essentially, most of Europe spends an inordinate period of time invading its neighbours and infighting in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, they are too busy doing this to keep good or detailed records of a lot of it, which is probably why Merovingians and others from this period are so favoured by conspiracy theorists.

 

Eventually, several hero-kings emerge to re-unite the European regions that we spent the previous few hundred years tearing apart. The most prominent of these was Charlemagne, who advanced the interests of the Church and the culture of the West, often using nothing more complicated than fire and the sword.

1100-1500 

This period is a little bit dark but not at all vague. Essentially, most of the near East spends this period invading its neighbours and infighting in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ummayad dynasty. Fortunately, the various peoples and factions kept excellent records of this. This is probably why they were able to preserve a lot of the knowledge that the West was busily washing away with blood and fire.

 

Eventually, this culminates in the formation of the Ottoman Empire, which advances the influence of the Umma and Near-Eastern civilisation using fire, the sword, education and health care. And fire and the sword.

1000-1400 

Early on in this period, having sorted out who’s who in the zoo internally, the Christian Empires start looking abroad to see who they can beat the crap out of. This results in four Crusades. Some of these are in response to aggressive Moslem expansion, some because ‘Empire’.

 

A small island kingdom drafts a document intended to guarantee the freedom of all people who are not slaves, but, for the most part, this is the period where Christendom invades, enslaves and slaughters because God has told them to rid the holy lands of infidels.

1500-Present 

Having finally sorted out who’s in charge of the Caliphate, the Moslem states spend these centuries fighting people who aren’t Moslem. Some of this is in response to Asian and Eurasian aggressive expansionism, but a fair amount of it is because ‘Empire’.

 

Finally, in 1916, the long-running collision with Christendom culminates in the collapse of the Caliphate and the carving up of its territories. All over the Moslem world, groups and nations fight tooth and nail against the Russians and the West because God has told them to rid the holy lands of infidels.

As we can see, there are some eerie parallels. Okay, admittedly, there are a lot of not so eerie ones too, largely due to the fact that the story of Islam and Christendom has often been a story or collision. The point is, though, that the Islamic world today is at almost exactly the same point as the Christian world was at a similar stage of development. Make of this what you will, but it does invalidate the specious and somewhat dimwitted idea that the central aim of the Islamic world is to turn back the clock.

A media release from the Australian Christian Lobby

MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release
_____

The Australian Christian Lobby has questioned the wisdom of a campaign by some Australian corporations supporting a change to the definition of marriage.

“I just wonder if they have thought about how legislating a family structure which causes children to miss out on one of their parents is fair,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

In order to keep his position internally consistent, Mr Shelton then also called for legislation to force married couples to have children, and to ban marriage for couples who don’t want children or who have children from previous marriages, and to ban unmarried couples from having children, and to force married couples without children to get divorced, and to ban divorce. When asked how he would both ban and require divorce, Mr Shelton shouted “OMG THAT TREE LOOKS LIKE JESUS!”, and ran from the room.

When he returned, Mr Shelton went on to say, “This debate needs to move beyond politically correct ideology to a mature and open debate. Men have pee-pees and women have hoo-has, and that’s all there is to it. Furthermore, you’re all poopy-heads, and I will now close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears until you leave”.

Noting that the Football Federal of Australia had also backed the campaign, Mr Shelton wondered where this left the tens of thousands of Australians who play soccer but also believe a child should be raised by their mother and father. “I wonder where this leaves the tens of thousands of Australians who play soccer but also believe a child should be raised by their mother and father,” he wondered. “Mexico? Aruba? That place where all the refugees come from? Even if it leaves them exactly where they were before, playing soccer and believing a child should be raised by their mother and father, I’m pretty sure they all stand around during games thinking about children not being raised by their mothers and fathers instead of thinking about whether they’re in an off-side position, and it will make them sad to think that the governing body wants to change the definition of marriage, and much sadder than the thousands of gay, trans and intersex players who stay in the closet because they think the governing body and society in general won’t accept them. I just really feel for them.”

“The corporates involved in this latest campaign really are not showing very much tolerance to those in the community who have a different view about marriage and the rights of children,” Mr Shelton said. “Of course, if the FFA came out in support of my own personal view of marriage, that would be fine.”

When asked whether he understood the meaning of irony, and whether it was intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance, Mr Shelton yelled “POOPY-HEADS!” and ran from the room.

END OF MESSAGE

Whatever it’s about, it ain’t about the children

There are a lot of arguments floating around in the continuing marriage equality debate, but there is one argument that just… won’t… die. Which I guess makes it (a) a little bit like Jesus, and (b) a little ironic given that the vast majority of its proponents are big fans (of Jesus, I mean, not marriage equality). It’s a textbook case of post-hoc reasoning, and the religious argument you use when you don’t want to look religious. And it annoys the crap out of me.

In its simplest form, it consists of a middle-aged white man wearing a brown cardigan and corduroy pants, running around in circles screaming “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!”. The slightly more academic version, however, goes something like this:

    Same-sex1 couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry because:

  1. Every child has a right to be raised by their mother and father; and
  2. Other things being equal, children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than the children of heterosexual parents.

Let’s have a look at these in turn.

1
This statement is obviously predicated on the assumption that the very purpose of marriage is children. And yes, traditionally almost every couple that traditionally walked down the aisle did so because traditionally that’s what you did when you traditionally wanted children. Traditionally that kind of made sense at the time, because traditionally no one really liked bastards. But tradition can take a hike, because not only are most of my good friends absolute bastards, but nowadays lots and lots and lots of couples get married with no intention of ever having children. Some couples even get married knowing that they can’t have children, even if they wanted to (say hello, Fred Nile!). Which is perfectly fine, and in some cases, probably for the best (say hello again, Fred Nile!).

The corollary to this argument is that, because marriage is all about children, any same-sex couple who is allowed to wed will make their marriage about children as well. Because that’s what marred couples do, see? That will of course involve at least three people out of biological necessity (or in the language of the bigot, “Poofs gotta get eggs from somewhere”), and there is a risk that the resultant child will never get to know the owner of the ovary (or nut) from whence they came. The consequences of allowing same-sex marriage, therefore, are very, very bad.

But let’s break that down.

There are, right now in Australia, lots of gay couples that want children. And do you know what they do? They have children. Which makes them a lot like straight couples who want children and then have children, except they can’t get married. There are also lots of gay couples who don’t want children. And do you know what they do? They don’t have children. Which makes them a lot like straight couples who don’t want children and don’t have children, except they don’t get abortions. Straight singles go out and have children, too. So do gay singles. And intersex and trans couples and singles. All of this is going on right now, with or without marriage equality. And there isn’t anything you or I or Fred Nile or the ACL or Bill Meuhlenberg can do about it.

What this argument is basically saying, then, is this: “The purpose of marriage is children, but you can have children without getting married, and you can get married if you don’t want children, and you can get married if you can’t have children, and there are thousands of gay couples out there who want children and could have children if they wanted to but aren’t having children because they can’t get married, because marriage is all about children, apart from all the married couples without children”.

Or, put another way, “I don’t like gays, and, furthermore, I don’t like gays”.

The only way this argument could possibly make sense is if people only get married to have children, and non-hetero couples aren’t having children because they can’t get married. And since neither of those things is true, the argument doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

It makes even less sense if you follow it one step further: If you truly believe that stopping same-sex marriage will prevent non-hetero couples having children, you are essentially saying that, rather than having non-traditional parents, it is better that those children don’t exist at all. Which is odd, given that almost everyone against same-sex marriage also follows that whole “right to life” thing. Think about it.

2
The second half of the “won’t someone think of the children” argument says that the children of gay parents fare worse than the children of hetero parents.

They don’t.

That should be the end of it, of course, but for some reason same-sex marriage opponents aren’t too impressed with “science”. Unless of course it’s bogus, discredited science that supports their established prejudice.

Even if we’re being incredibly generous, and concede that non-traditional families aren’t ideal, no reasonable person should be able to argue that the outcomes of such families are catastrophic enough to warrant their complete abolition. We know this because, if the outcomes were catastrophic, marriage equality opponents would be telling us about that, instead of mindlessly appealing to a specious defense of an outdated tradition.

Besides which, as we’ve already established, the marriage equality debate isn’t about children anyway. If you want to argue against same-sex parenting, go do it someplace else.
_____

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that this argument is a classic case of post-hoc reasoning, and the religious argument you use when you don’t want to look religious.

There’s no denying that there is a strong correlation between religious beliefs and opposition to marriage quality. And there’s no denying that the generally accepted position of all three Abrahamic religions is that marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman. Statistically speaking, the chance that this is due to pure coincidence is infinitesimally small. That alone should be enough to convince you that any time someone says “Won’t someone think of the children”, what they are really saying is “Won’t someone think of Baby Jebus”.

If you happen to be one of those people, however, and you genuinely believe that your opposition to marriage equality isn’t religiously motivated, ask yourself this.

If we, as a society, could somehow address all your concerns, would you still oppose it?

What if we could guarantee that all children raised by same-sex couples got to know their biological parents? Or if all those useless, horrible same-sex parents undertook a year-long course on how to be as good at parenting as heterosexuals? Or, perhaps better still, all married same-sex couples were forbidden from having any children at all?

Granted, those seem a little far-fetched. What about this, then: what if a multitude of independent scientific studies were published that proved that the children of same-sex couples actually do better than their heterosexual equivalents? If it’s all about the children, surely you wouldn’t object then, would you?

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but… yes, yes you would.

And if that’s the case, then you should wait for your cognitive dissonance to subside a little, grab your bible, and see yourself out. Because you’re simply not qualified for meaningful debate.

_____

1. I use “same-sex couple” here, for the sake of brevity, to mean any non-heterosexual couple.

Devine Logic

While waiting for a morning coffee, I decided to open a copy of The Daily Telegraph. Flicking idly through its pages in search of a few moments of diversion, I was surprised to discover that the world in general and this country in particular are in a terrible state. Not only is the progressive left taking over the world through the agency of single mothers and the ALP – things are so bad that even newspapers like the Telegraph have lost the ability to spell. Or reason,

But all this was as nothing compared to the stunning revelation that was in store for me when I turned the page and found myself staring at Miranda Devine’s latest effusion. In it, she makes the startling claim that the two major factors in the radicalisation of an Australian youth who recently performed a suicide attack in Iraq were: divorce and atheism.

This is deeply worrying, and not only because I now have to determine how we ended up back in 1950 again.

My parents were divorced when I was a small child. Also, I am an atheist. So, as if Labor selling us out to the Greens and paedophiles apparently lurking at every street corner weren’t enough, I now have to worry about spontaneously combusting in a Middle Eastern Country in the service of Allah.

What makes it worse is that this process is inevitably going to be completely impossible to predict. If atheism and divorce cause people to become Islamist terrorists, it must happen by a process akin to magic.

Miranda, bless her, did attempt to comfort me by attempting to overlay her revelation with a thin veneer of reason, but I’m not fooled. Her argument, if you can call it that, that the ‘moral vacuum’ of atheism and ‘nihilism’ that goes with it, leave vulnerable adolescents prey to belief systems that advocate violence is thin to the point of being diaphanous. For a start, Atheism does not necessarily predicate a moral vacuum. It is also very different from nihilism – you can tell by the spelling. It’s all very implausible, so I can tell she’s just trying to make me feel better.

Besides, even Miranda can’t expect us to swallow an argument that atheism causes religiously motivated violence. Only a semi-literate reactionary retard could possibly fail to grasp logic on such an elementary level.

So, assuming that she is right, then there can be no possible rhyme or reason to the apparently inevitable metamorphosis into an Islamist terrorist that I am about to undergo. It seems deeply unfair that my parents’ separation, combined with a rational refusal to believe in invisible sky people should have such dire consequences, but I guess that that’s just how the world works.

By magic, that is, and in direct defiance of reason,

I guess I should leave some final message before I go and explode myself thousands of miles away. All I can think of, though, is a request: if any of my friends out there should see me wearing an explosive vest and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, please try to steer me as close as possible to wherever Miranda is at the time.

Liberty, Equality and, for Crying Out Loud, Some Humility Please!

Watching our Foreign Minister always makes me feel uncomfortable. Sure, we have a long tradition of drunk, half-witted, boorish, ugly and just plain stupid ministers in general and Foreign Ministers in particular. So what’s the problem? There’s nothing special about this one, is there?

But there is. Deliberately or not, the FM carries herself in a way that suggests that it is her absolute right, as an educated Westerner, to tell the rest of the world how they should live and what they should think. I know, when I look at her, that she is utterly convinced of her mandate to instruct. Her obvious Western Supremacism radiates from her every twinset.

It’s also invalid.

I live in Manly. At this time of year, Manly is lousy with women wandering about the place in bikinis. Personally, I’m in favour of this, but even if I wasn’t, I live in a country where women have the right to wander about in bikinis to their hearts’ content.

It was not always thus. Near the the library, there is a mural made up of historical headlines from The Manly Daily. This being The Daily, they mostly deal with sharks, nudists and the wrong code of rugby. But then there’s this one:

 BATHING TRUNKS WORN IN STREET

Blonde in bikini put off beach

Just a few decades ago – within living memory – religious (ecclesiastic) law required us to cover our bodies in public. Sound familiar? This body of law still exists, but we’ve either stopped enforcing it or changed the way it’s interpreted. So we can all pat ourselves on the back for being an advanced, progressive society.

Really – I mean it.

It was a long, hard road. There were riots, demonstrations, some murders, a lot of protests and a hell of a lot of turmoil, but we got there in the end. Point is, though, that, historically speaking, the end of that process was something like five minutes ago. Wind the clock back a tiny amount and our ideals, values and principles are deplorable. Homophobic, militantly religious, racist, sexist – the list goes on. So what changed? Did we become better people? Have we risen to a higher moral plane than the rest of the world? Do we, somehow, deserve the irritating air of self-righteousness worn by Julie when she’s enlightening Johnny Foreigner?

Of course not. The latter half of the 20th Century found us holding the keys to the kingdom. The West was best, even the losers, so cue the welfare state, consumerism, education, urban redevelopment, and so on and so forth. Sure, there was the cold war and the communist domino thingummy, but, by and large, most wars were far away, bellies were full and the money was rolling in. So, like most people who have run out of real problems, the West began to examine its own soul. The result of this turbulent, traumatic process was the enlightened, liberal and more or less progressive thinking prevalent in mainstream Western politics today. But if the latter half of the 20th Century was a period of soul searching and self reflection for us, what was it like for the rest of the world?

In a word – hectic. Every major region of the world outside the West spent the greater part of the post war years in turmoil. Africa’s young nations, having been possessions, then battlefields and finally, orphans of the various dying Empires, have yet to finish recovering from the West’s tender mercies. Asia, convulsed by revolution, incessant warfare and the bumbling intervention of cold war America, is only now beginning to re-emerge as a viable version of its old self. The Balkans, despite the two global wars fought ostensibly with reference to their sovereignty, were far too busy imploding, exploding and committing war crimes to devote much energy to social justice. The Middle East, fragmented by the termination of the caliphate and the secularisation of Turkey, settled down to a few decades of near constant warfare, the politics of outrage, the catastrophic disruption of Israel’s formation and the inevitable crumbling of the ludicrously thoughtless makeup of their ‘nations’ at the hands of, you guessed it, the great Western powers.

So no, our advancements in social justice and political theory are not the product of some inborn Western superiority. The difference lies in opportunity. The only thing that separates us from the rest of the world is that the West spent the last half century angrily questioning its own morality, while the rest of the world spent it scrambling to survive.

How can we sneer at other countries when, less than a generation ago, Western nations were amongst the worst citizens of the world? We’ve produced rulers more fanatical than the Wahhabi, and reformers crazier than the Taliban. The faults we attribute to our enemies – religious fanaticism, tyrannical government, expansionist aggression, ethnic cleansing and persecution, slaving, the maltreatment of women, the disabled, minorities, minority faiths – Western nations of the post Roman era practically invented most of these.

So where the hell do we get off with this pretence of superiority? What right do we have to act as the world’s moral arbiters? Our power, as the West, rests in guns, money and the robust stability afforded by our legal and political systems. And guns. The world doesn’t listen to us because we’re better people. They listen because we have the most stuff. When we lecture foreign powers on democracy, rule of law and all the other nuggets of evolved statehood that we think we invented, there is a small possibility that our power and affluence might prove sufficient arguments to sell these ideas. But if we pitch these concepts from a position of moral superiority, we must rightly be rewarded with the horse’s laugh. We got where we are by theft, force and ruthless acquisitiveness. This is well known. The people we are lecturing are not only keenly aware of our past crimes, they are more than likely to be numbered amongst our past victims.

So please, for the love of reason, Julie, try to remember this simple fact:

We are no better than anyone else out there. We are just better off.

So let’s drop the self-righteous act, okay? Besides – I can’t think of anyone less entitled to it than the nations of the West.

Another open letter to Fred Nile

Dear the Honourable Reverend Mr Fred,

People are always picking on politicians. Take Tony, for example. No please, take him. I think you two would get along great. He thinks women sit around ironing all day dreaming up new ways to withhold sex from the men. There must be tens of bigots who agree with him, but you knight one racist monarch and everyone has a hissy fit. I don’t think that’s fair the Honourable Reverend Mr Fred.

People have been picking on you a bit lately, too. Like when you recently re-married, and everyone went nuts. Sure, you lost your wife, which was bad, but four hours later you found a new wife, which was good. She’s also a lot younger than you, which is good, but she’s too old to have children, which is bad. But it means you won’t have any more children, which is probably good. Now I’m not saying that it was too soon to re-marry, or that she’s too young for you, or that biologically-childless marriages should be illegal, but I found the whole thing repulsive. What a stroke of luck, then, that my opinion on your relationships is completely irrelevant, and you could just do what you wanted. Isn’t that nice?

Then you said that the only man in the Lindt cafe siege was the man with the gun, and everyone went nuts again. Which is just silly. Sure, it hurt a little to know that I wasn’t actually a man. But on the plus side all I need to do is be charged with murdering my partner and sexually assaulting six women and then take a whole bunch of people hostage with a gun, and my manly manliness with be restored. So it’s not all bad.

Finally, you’ve started your political campaigning. And some genius, who is probably you, since I can’t imagine there is more than one genius in your party, came up with this, and posted it to your Facebook page:

In nature...1

I’m tempted to think there might be more than one genius at your party, however, since someone else has since taken it down. Which is a shame, because reading between the lines, I think it was a really good message:

In nature...2

You are absolutely right, the Honourable Revered Mr Fred – equality is a social construct. Being a genius, you would have also noticed that the society you live in is not only itself a social construct, but is filled with lots and lots of other social constructs. Things like parliaments, and preferential voting, and scamming your way into a lifetime pension with only 2% of the vote, and religion, and marrying a much younger post-menopausal woman four hours after your last wife died. You know, all the things that don’t exist in nature, but have been maliciously thrust upon you against your will. It’s just not fair.

Well that’s all from me, the Honourable Reverend Mr Fred. I have to go and eat someone a lot smaller than me. Not eating people a lot smaller than me is a social construct. And I know how you hate those kind of things.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

The Logic of Hatred

It’s easy to think, given the current happenings in the Middle East and elsewhere, that the world is in uncharted territory, facing a new, historically unique threat.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. There is no new thing under the sun, and the recently prominent wave of Islamist terrorism is no exception. Strip away the superficial, incidental factors of faith, ethnicity and geography, and what we are left with are the basic fundamentals common to all violent radicals – something I like to call ‘the logic of hatred’.

The Red Brigade, The Black Hand, every tired old variation of the ‘People’s’ this and the ‘Freedom’ that, right back to the bomb throwing nihilists and anarchists of three centuries ago, have all hated exactly the same thing. Problems arise, however, when we try to determine what that thing actually is. The language of hatred tends to be vague, dealing heavily in symbols whilst being sparing with specifics. The enemy tends to be described in practically meaningless terms such as ‘The Man’, ‘The Military Industrial Complex’, ‘Western Imperialism’ or ‘America’. Chasing down what these things actually mean is a complete waste of time. They are labels of convenience, bandied about merely to provide a focus for the specious reasoning that is the real common identifying factor of all such groups.

Basically, it goes like this:

  1. I don’t have the things that I want
  2. This must mean that the world has been rigged against me
  3. It therefore follows that those who have these things must also be the ones who rigged it.
  4. Given this state of affairs, violence is my only recourse.

Which, if you look at it, is an interesting mix of self-pity, blame culture and zero-sum thinking, none of which are worth a tinker’s damn to anyone interested in the truth.

The problem, however, is the intense appeal of this kind of logic to the disaffected. It is a line of thought that chimes in perfectly with feelings of impotent rage and bitterness, providing the perfect pretext for the angry and the marginalised to follow their own personal inclinations. We are never more ready to believe in the truth of an idea as when it happens to agree entirely with our own personal feelings.

So there we have it – the logic of hatred is not only invalid, it’s not even original. So why bother to understand it? The answer is simple. We need to understand this kind of thinking in order to clarify our own position.

In the case of Islamist extremism, this understanding leads neatly to three conclusions.

  1. As the majority of this kind of ideology is centred on political goals, the fact of their professed faith is little more than a coincidence. Basically, this kind of action has nothing to do with mainstream Islam.
  2. Bearing in mind the narrow stupidity of this kind of world view, it is generally fair to say that these groups are not susceptible to reason, which means that attempting to engage them in dialogue or negotiations of any kind would be pointless.
  3. Given that these groups are violent almost by default, and that they cannot be reasoned with or appeased, the only possible solution is to eliminate them, while at the same time making efforts to prevent the formation of whatever next week’s flavour of violent malcontent is going to be.

When we understand the logic of hatred,the seemingly irreconcilable imperatives of tolerance and the prosecution of the ‘war on terror’ no longer seem quite so contradictory. Which is nice. But the important thing – the vitally important thing – is to be absolutely 100% crystal clear as to who we are fighting and why.

The enemy is emphatically not Islam, even when it takes the form of angry teenagers shouting in the street because they’re sick of being discriminated against. The enemy is actually any individual, ideology or group that uses the logic of hatred as a pretext for violence. Our own use of force cannot – must not – derive from this same mixture of self-pity, self-righteous indignation and fear. Just as we ruthlessly exterminate the personnel and materiel of terror groups overseas, we must fight, with equal ruthlessness, the flawed and vile logic of hatred that exists within ourselves.

 

 

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