The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

On civility

We’ve been hearing a lot about civility lately, or rather, the lack of it. Sometimes a little civility goes a long way. And sometimes it’s nothing more than a debating tactic; an excuse to air views that don’t deserve much airing.

We can, and should, have a civil discussion on the way we price carbon. But should we really entertain a civil discussion on, say, whether women should have their voting rights renounced? Are all discussions equal?

For Peter Jensen, the answer is apparently ‘yes’:

I’m looking for a respectful and serious discussion of very important issues.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Except it isn’t.

You can’t sit there and ask for a nice, civil conversation when you have absolutely no intention of changing your mind. You can’t enjoy the tax-free status provided by the LGBTI community, and use it to fund your denial of their basic rights. You can’t ignore all of the polite rebuttals to your fallacious slippery slope, and claim that marriage equality will lead to bestiality and incest, again, and again, and again. You can’t lie, and distort, and cheat, and then get upset when we tell you to fuck off.

And, above all, you can’t ask for civility, and a respectful consideration of your views, when those views are entirely based on the belief that homosexuality is evil, even if you’re not a complete wanker, and don’t think it should be criminalised.

But don’t despair. There are things you can do. You can go away and have a long, hard think about whether marriage equality will actually affect you, personally. You can think about whether it will give some joy to a group of people that have been discriminated against for a long, long time. You can do some reading, and learn that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice, and the world isn’t divided neatly into “men with dicks” and “chicks with coochies”. You can realise that whether marriage equality happens or not, we will still have same-sex couples, and some of those couples will raise children, and the world won’t explode.

And when you’re finished doing all of that, and you’re still against marriage equality, there’s only one thing left for you to do: take your civility, and shove it.

B&R: Pick and choose

Introducing… Block & Roll

Here is my mediocre attempt at a comic… for when I want to dazzle you with a pithy, incisive one-liner, and not bore you with a whole blog post. I give you… Block & Roll!

And yes, I did it all in Excel. So there.

Anti-equality argument 5 – Why can’t they just be happy with civil unions?

Why can’t you?

Let me fix that for you… again

The last poster was stupid. This one’s just sad.

In the accompanying article, the woman in the photo, Belinda, explains that she was “born with a broken face”, and “despite some clever doctors doing their best to fix” her, she remains disfigured.

I am happy that she seems to have found some kind of peace with the hand she’s been dealt. But I also feel profoundly sad. Sad that she celebrates the beauty that her god sees in her, while simultaneously wishing she’d been “fixed”. Sad that she finds strangeness in the human reaction to her appearance, but not in the deity that bestowed it. Sad that she doesn’t realise that although “god doesn’t dislike us because of our scars”, he dislikes us enough to give them to us. Sad that, for every person who has managed the double-think required to love the god that cursed them, there are 1,000 others who’d swap the imaginary cosmic compliment for some kind of normality. And sad that, although Belinda was able to ask her god for answers, there are countless others, like my autistic nephew, who will never be able to.

And so, the more appropriate caption is this:

Reality is in the hands of the creator.

Belinda is beautiful. But she’s not beautiful because of the way her god made her. She’s beautiful in spite of it.

Edit: I had originally recaptioned the poster with “God. Messing with people’s heads since 4000 B.C”. Many thanks to Chrys for highlighting my insensitivity, unintentional though it was.

Even if…

When I did debating back in high school, apart from dazzling people with my spiffy private school blazer and my ability to occasionally (and very deliberately) look up from my TAB cue cards, I used to employ a little tactic called “The Even If”. I remember that it was my father who suggested it first:

“You don’t always have to argue against the facts they present. That can take ages. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just accept their fact and argue against its implications. Also, you’ve got tomato sauce on your blazer.”

Sorry, that last sentence probably wasn’t relevant, but you can see the appeal. Rather than spending your entire life researching the bogus claims of your opposition, you simply take what they say at face value and shoot down whatever nonsense their “fact” implies. Take the following example, which I covered here:

    Same sex marriage opponents:
    Research shows children do best with a mother and a father!
    Well that may or may not be true, but even if it is, a child raised by your average gay couple will do a lot better than a child raised by hetero drug addicts. It makes no sense to ban one and not the other.

Case closed!

Yes, the claim being made may very well be false (as in the above example), and proving it so is admittedly very satisfying, but it can be quite time consuming. So I was understandably torn when, just last week, Jim Wallace astounded us all with this piece of wisdom:

The life of a [homosexual] male [is] reduced by up to 20 years. The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn’t smoke.

My interest was immediately piqued, and the humanist, logician and actuary in me all wanted to run off and check whether this astounding revelation was true (to the life tables, Statman!). But, as I sat there considering how best to tell my wife that I couldn’t feed our newborn son for the next few hours because I needed to research the almost certainly false assertions of the jelly-brained leader of a mediocre Christian lobby group, I suddenly realised… there was no need to. Even if Jim’s claims are true, he still loses.

So let’s imagine for a moment that we live in Jim’s world. A world where homosexuality is a habit, just like smoking, that people indulge in to look cool, or to relax, or to have something to do with their hands at parties. A world where homosexuality can be encouraged and discouraged with the proper educational tools. A world where there are apparently no lesbians, which is a shame. And, most shocking of all, a world where any gay man that indulges his homosexual habit will shorten his life by 20 years.

What are we to do? Apart from training up a few lesbians, I mean.

Well, according to Jim, since we tell our children not to smoke, we should also tell our children not to gay (if “to smoke” is a verb, then “to gay” must be, too). Probably something along the lines of, “Don’t gay, or you’ll get AIDS, and do drugs, and wear mesh shirts”.

It doesn’t take a great deal of mental exertion to see that, even if we accept gaying is a habit, telling children that the only solution is not to gay is simply ridiculous: while there is no way to smoke safely, there is a very easy way to gay safely. For less than Jim’s 2012 ACL performance bonus, you can buy a thin latex sheath to put over your penis before you put it in your partner’s bottom. And if that’s not enough for you, you can put on two (condoms, not bottoms). Might it not make more sense to tell children that, rather than telling them to avoid gaying at all costs? To answer that question, let’s see what the ACL thinks of the situation in Canada:

Not only is the [Toronto District School board] trampling parents’ freedom of conscience, it is also trampling that of teachers…saying that “teachers refusing to create an inclusive classroom that is safe and supportive for all students would create a poisoned learning environment”.
Senate submission on same sex marriage

Why, that’s awful! What else is going on over there?!

The Toronto curriculum, designed for K-12 students, is particularly aggressive in that it goes beyond highlighting homosexual issues and urges teachers to encourage children to engage in social action on the issue, such as by participating in homosexual pride parades. New teachers in Ontario will be required to undergo mandatory “training in sexual orientation and gender diversity”.
– ibid.

AGGGGGGHHHHHH! My eyes! My eyes!

But… surely we’re immune from such nonsense in Australia? Not a chance!

The Australian Education Union actively promotes homosexuality among its members and in schools. Its policy document, Policy on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People, says it is committed to fighting heterosexism, which involves challenging “[t]he assumption that heterosexual sex and relationships are ‘natural’ or ‘normal’.
– ibid.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the impression that Jim isn’t all that keen on discussing gaying in the classroom at all, so gaylord knows how he’s going to discourage children from gaying, let alone telling them how to do it safely.

And there you have it. I could have spent hours finding the studies his figures were based on, and then checking who commissioned them, where the data came from, whether there were sampling biases, and whether there were any other studies that contradicted them. Instead, however, all I had to do was show that Jim’s suggested course of action was not only illogical, but something he doesn’t want to do anyway.

Easy peasy.

I should add that, thanks to some diligent legwork by the always awesome Chrys, we know that the claim is bogus anyway. Surprise, surprise.