Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Right Not to be Offended

Post lifted from Coyote Blog

One of the main salients in the war against free speech is the notion that people somehow have the right not to be offended;  in other words, that authorities may legitimately limit speech that gives offense to anyone.

I could site a zillion examples, particularly on campuses, but this one is at the top of my inbox (emphasis added):
Sparks flew during question period at a Nov. 21 Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) council meeting after a motion that would prevent pro-life groups from assembling on CUSA space was tabled.

The motion -- moved by Katy McIntyre, CUSA vice-president (student services), on behalf of the Womyn's Centre -- would amend the campus discrimination policy to state that "no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding be allocated for anti-choice purposes." ...

According to McIntyre, anti-choice groups are gender-discriminatory and violate CUSA's safe space practices.

The motion focuses on anti-choice groups because they aim to abolish freedom of choice by criminalizing abortion. McIntyre said this discriminates against women, and that it violates the Canadian Constitution by removing a woman's right to "life, liberty and security" of person....

McIntyre said she received complaints after Lifeline organized an academic debate on whether or not elective abortion should be made illegal.

"[These women] were upset the debate was happening on campus in a space that they thought they were safe and protected, and that respected their rights and freedoms," said McIntyre....

Julien de Bellefeuille, Student Federation of the University of Ottawa vice-president (university affairs), said that although his student association does not currently have any policies regulating anti-choice groups, he said the motion is a good idea and something that his school should adopt as well.

Note that the debate is not over whether abortion should be illegal, but whether advocates of abortion bans can even discuss their position publicly.  Ms. McIntyre is arguing straight out, with no possibility of confusion of motives, that she thinks that women who believe as she does should be protected from being anywhere in the vicinity of an opponent of her position (presumably she could protect herself without this motion simply by not listening to such speech, so the purpose most be to eliminate opposing speech altogether.

I have a couple of thoughts.  First, there is no right not to be offended.  Trying to define any such right will be the end of free speech.  Second, its funny how the offense is only treated as one-way.  While I am OK with abortion, I have many friends who vociferously oppose it.  I am positive they are in turn offended by supporters of abortion, but I don't see any motion here to protect them from offense or provide them a "safe zone" free of opposing views.  Third, it strikes me that a better word for the "safe zone" she wants is "echo chamber,"  where like-minded people as her can be free from having to hear any opposing opinion.

Australian flag banned at Australian soldier's funeral

Leftist clergy hate patriotism

The Uniting Church [formerly the Methodist church] has again sparked outrage by refusing to fulfil a Digger's [Australian soldier's] dying wish to have the Australian flag draped over his coffin. The Highfield Rd Uniting Church in Canterbury banned the flag at the funeral of long time congregation member and war veteran Geoff Bolton on November 15. It is believed the family were only told of the church's policy on the morning of the funeral and were forced to have the RSL service in the church's foyer.

Essendon Uniting Church minister Wes Campbell outraged many by refusing dead World War II veteran George "Dick'" Vipond a flag on his funeral casket in March last year, forcing the Digger's family to move the funeral to a nearby Anglican church.

State RSL president Major-General David McLachlan said he was disappointed as he thought the issue had been resolved after working with former Uniting Church moderator Sue Gorman last year. "It is an incredible insult to the family and also to Mr Bolton himself," told 3AW. "He was a veteran, he wanted to be buried under his national flag that he'd fought under and he his family has agreed to the RSL service. "I think it's just unacceptable. Here are people wishing to have the final ceremony conducted in the church where Mr and Mrs Bolton were married some 50 years ago. "The churches at the moment are crying out for membership, but those that have been faithful members of the church get treated this way and I just don't think it's right."

Former Uniting church moderator Sue Gorman issued a statement in June last year stating "the Synod Standing Committee gives strong affirmation for the use of the national flag within the Christian funeral liturgy." "The majority of Uniting Church of Australia Ministers... allow the coffin to be covered with the national flag during the funeral service (of a returned Service person) and they can continue to follow this practise," she said. However she cautioned all parishoners consult carefully with ministers to make sure funeral wishes and arrangements were clear, "with all ministers to devise a way forward when the reasonable requests of bereaved families with respect to the flag on the coffin conflict with the understanding of the Minister." A statement from the Uniting Church is being prepared and will be released shortly, spokesman Rev Kim Cain said.


A strange politically correct Christmas season in Melbourne (Australia)

BAH, humbug! What has become of a jolly old-fashioned Christmas when a radio commercial yesterday earnestly implored everyone to place their orders for an organic turkey and a gluten-free pudding? Call me Scrooge but we are entering a very confused, plastic and politically correct Christmas season. If we don't watch out, it may soon become an offence to burp.

And what was that about celebrating the birth of Jesus? Has he been transformed into a Wombat Divine? Scrooge himself, before he was converted to let his hair down and really enjoy Christmas, was a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner". Those were Charles Dickens' immortal words in A Christmas Carol.

Christmas was once a time when you ate too much and drank too much and did good works and embraced family. This old sinner went wandering through Melbourne's CBD yesterday, seeking the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Dickens described the original ghost, clothed in a simple green robe, bordered with white fur and sitting on a kind of throne made up of "turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreathes of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes and seething bowls of punch".

Imagine trying to set that up in the heart of the city today. The inspectors wouldn't let you near a space without a building permit and animal welfare groups would set up a picket line. Instead, an environmentally safe artificial Christmas tree made of green, red and silver-frosted plastic stars stuck on the end of metal rods inserted into a green mesh cone now stands in the centre of the city. How lovely.

The tree, of course, has a commercial sponsor. A plum pudding on sale in a city store's food hall contains a health warning: "3.1 per cent alcohol by volume". The ingredients, also listed by law, are: "currants (10 per cent), raisins (10 per cent) sultanas (10 per cent), breadcrumbs (wheat flour), water, yeast, salt, soy flour, vegetable oil (canola), emulsifiers (471, 481), vinegar, vitamin (thiamin), butter (cream, water, salt), brown sugar, fresh eggs, flour, dates, mixed peel, Australian brandy, water, spices, lemon essence (contains colour 101), vanilla essence and baking soda". Yummy.

Please, pass Scrooge another slice of the delicious emulsifiers 471 and 481 with a dab of the colour 101. The accompanying brandy butter container, of course, tells Scrooge he is getting exactly 199.44 kilojoules of energy with each serve. Is that supposed to make Scrooge feel guilty enough to go for a brisk bicycle ride to burn off the brandy butter?

This Scrooge wandered on, joulelessly and sadly, past the five Myer windows, past the ghosts of Christmas past. No jolly Ghost of Christmas Present here either, but a crowd of somewhat confused human beings staring into caverns full of glassy-eyed, nodding and jerking replicas of Australian native animals. Mothers were trying to explain the show to their children. It was a difficult task. "Wombat Divine", said large signs, with a star overhead.

The story began: "For as long as he could remember, Wombat had wanted to be in the Nativity. "Now, at last, he was old enough to take part. "So, with his heart full of dreams, he hurried along to the audition." A strange theological tale then unfolded along the length of the windows. In short order, we learnt that Wombat was "too heavy to be the Archangel Gabriel", as well as being "too big to be Mary", "too short to be a King", "too sleepy to be Joseph", and too short, again, to be a shepherd. Instead, Wombat gets to play Baby Jesus. In the final window, the animals were in somewhat of a nodding frenzy as a panel explained: "On Christmas Day, when everyone was opening presents and eating pudding, they all agreed it was the best Nativity ever. " 'You were divine, Wombat!' said Emu, and Wombat beamed."

Don't tell the Archangel Gabriel, but those emulsifiers in the pudding can have the strangest side effects. How different to the abandoned days of Dickens' Mrs Cratchit and her pudding, "like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half a quatern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck on top". The pudding was enjoyed by Tiny Tim whose words, at least, endure to this day: "God bless us every one!"



Mega-incorrect though it is to say so. The kids get a bad start if only because unmarried mothers are mostly poor and dumb. Excerpt from a comment below by Australian relationships columnist Bettina Arndt

Children in single-parent families are getting less of just about everything that we know leads to successful adulthood. That's the conclusion of a powerful new book by Kay S. Hymowitz, Marriage and Caste in America, which argues that family structure underpins the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots in America, which is a disturbing trend applying equally in this country.

For all the talk about Murphy Browns -- elite, professional women choosing to become solo mums -- it rarely happens. Talk to well-educated, professional women, who could afford to have children on their own and you'll find few would even consider it. As Hymowitz shows, the old-fashioned, married-couple-with-children model is doing quite well among better-educated women. It is primarily among lower-income, less-educated women that it is in poor health.

The figures show that here, as in the US, it is largely low-income, less-educated twentysomethings who are having babies without a wedding ring. In 2001, only 3 per cent of women aged 25 to 29 with degrees were single mothers compared with 30 per cent of women with no post-school qualifications, with the latter's higher divorce rate swelling the numbers. Most educated women marry before they have children because they are preparing their children to carry on their way of life, suggests Hymowitz. They know that marriage significantly increases their chances of doing that. Kids with two parents are more likely to have two incomes cushioning them during their developing years. More money means more stability, less stress, better day care and schools.

While educated women still believe in marriage as an institution for raising children, that's dropped off the radar for women who lack their advantages. Hymowitz argues this means disadvantaged women have lost a reliable life script, a traditional arrangement that reinforced the qualities they and their men need for upward mobility, one of their few institutional supports for planning ahead and taking control of their lives. And they've lost a culture that told them the truth about what was best for their children.

There's no question that culture has disappeared. Just look at the soaps, such as Neighbours and Home and Away, which regularly feature young women becoming pregnant. Because of their early-evening slot, abortion is rarely mentioned. So bingo, the women become single mothers. In the women's magazines, there's a passing parade of celebrities having children on their own, with never a question asked about their choices.

According to last year's Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, 70 per cent of Australian women and 84 per cent of females aged 18 to 30 now believe single parents can bring up children as well as a couple. But educated women still have the good sense not to do it. Most choose to provide their children with the extra security of a two-parent family. It is those who can least afford to take the risk who have been sold a pup, which condemns the women and their children to a lesser life.


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