Thursday, February 08, 2007


Leftists are today's absolute monarchists

On January 30, 1649, King Charles I was executed; soon afterwards Eikon Basilike, his partly ghost-written apologia, was published. It rapidly became a bestseller, running through some 50 editions in the first year; no doubt that played its part in building public support for the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The Eikon can be described only as a High Tory document, arguing that a king and a subject have quite different functions. Whatever else may be said of him, Charles I was neither a liberal nor a democrat.

If one looks for the first recorded example of the use of the word "discrimination" in its modern political sense, one finds it in a rather tortuous sentence in Eikon Basilike. "Take heed of abetting any factions, of applying to any public discriminations in matters of religion." King Charles always did believe in uniformity in matters of religion; that was the policy of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Charles's enthusiastic supporter. Charles was a "no discrimination" king. That was his advice to his successors.

It has been surprising to find Charles's doctrine rising up again in the present dispute over the Catholic agencies' refusal to organise adoption for same-sex couples. It is even more surprising that Charles's doctrine has been adopted by the Left or liberal wing of politics. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, seems to be deciding this adoption issue. He has said that he would never agree to discrimination; "no discrimination" has been echoed by the Government front bench in the House of Lords.

It seems to be the policy of the Liberal Democrats. David Cameron has told The Daily Telegraph that "we shouldn't put up with this discrimination on the basis of race, age or sexual orientation". If interpreted literally, that would eliminate the age of consent, which involves discrimination on the grounds of age, and would raise the awkward question whether paedophilia constituted a "sexual orientation".

Almost all law is concerned with discriminating between different cases that receive different treatment. Even the Civil Partnership Act itself is avowedly discriminatory. Same-sex couples gain substantial tax advantages, equal to those of a married couple. Members of the same family are not allowed to enter into civil partnerships with each other; nor are unmarried heterosexual couples. These seem to me to be unfair discriminations, but that is not the point. They undoubtedly are discriminatory and the exclusion of heterosexual couples is undoubtedly a discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is a matter of same sex, yes, but different sexes no.

Mr Cameron is a thoughtful politician, which makes his views on the adoption issue particularly interesting. He said: "It is time to sweep away failed multiculturalism. I don't think it would be right to allow carve-outs for Muslim groups or Hindu groups or whoever, so that means one law that everyone has to obey. And that's why I don't think a block exemption for Catholic adoption agencies would be right." Mr Cameron understands that he is attacking multiculturalism. He does not seem to understand that multiculturalism is the basis of liberalism.

If liberalism has a core of meaning, it is that different people, different groups, different churches, different religions, have a right to hold different views. Society has the overriding right to protect itself against anarchy and terrorism, but so far as possible society should leave people free to make their own judgments and decide on their own actions. All voluntary agencies could and should have been left to make their own rules for adoptions. The State could decide the rules for state agencies.

Mr Cameron is in company that would regard itself as liberal. He has most of the Liberal Democrats with him, and most of new Labour with him. He sees himself as a liberal Conservative. But his view that there should be no exceptions in law to allow for differences in religious beliefs is neither liberal, nor workable. It is illiberal because liberty depends on pluralism and therefore has to accept multiculturalism. It is unworkable because Britain has no way of imposing our belief systems on Islam. Other religions may give way, like the ocean; Islam is like a rock. Wise sailors do not steer into the rocks.

Society has no choice but to act against a church or religion that attacks social order, as some Muslim groups do. In the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I or King James I the English Government was justified in acting against Catholic plots, though many Catholics were unjustly punished and were pushed into extremism. British policy in Ireland has never been forgiven.

When Mr Cameron argues that Catholic adoption agencies should be given "time to find a way through the new rules", he does sound condescending to most Catholics. The Catholic Church has had a doctrine of marriage, as an indissoluble union between two people of different sexes, taking priority over all other relationships, since the time of Christ, endorsed by his specific words.

The Catholic Church believes that doctrine would be prejudiced if Catholic agencies arranged adoption for same-sex couples. After 2000 years, the Church is not going to change its mind because of a vote in the House of Commons. In matters of faith and morals, the Catholic Church sees itself as sovereign, because it is teaching the doctrine of Jesus. The Church may not break British law, but it will certainly not break its own law.

Harold Macmillan is said to have observed that a prime minister should avoid taking on three bodies, the Brigade of Guards, the Roman Catholic Church and the National Union of Mineworkers. Ted Heath was indeed destroyed by the mineworkers, Margaret Thatcher eventually defeated them. A prudent prime minister knows the limits of his own authority. He can pass laws, but he cannot enforce consent. The great religions command strong loyalties. It would be a great mistake if the British Government decided to take them on, and a pity if the Leader of the Opposition supported a policy of compelled uniformity.


Rising nationalism is a natural response

There is a fine balance to promoting tolerance

Unfashionable as it may seem, the Cronulla riots provide a useful reminder of the inherent risks of civil decline when the political class strays too far from grass-roots expectations on a nation's sense of self. The issue is not confined to Australia and is felt more in Europe than the US, where nationhood is more aggressively founded on a binding loyalty to a defined set of core values. Elsewhere in the West, a renewed clamour for national identity is a predictable and overdue response to the permissive extremes of the decades-long embrace of no-rules multiculturalism. The trend has been provoked by the rise of militant Islam, with its own competitive identity that transcends national borders. The reaction can be measured by a resurgence of pride in the Australian flag among young people and near universal support for the Government to impose a tougher citizenship test for migrants. It is reflected in the Government's decision to swap multiculturalism for citizenship in the title of the Immigration Department.

The new reality sits uncomfortably with the so-called progressive view that favours unbridled tolerance for the minority and a loathing for the dominant culture or conventional view. These themes are explored by Francis Fukuyama, professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, who says that if existing citizens do not sufficiently value their national citizenship, they can scarcely expect newcomers to value it. The potential cost of inaction is evident in comments by Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes in The Australian today that opinion surveys in Britain consistently show 50 per cent of British Muslims would like to see the introduction of sharia Islamic law. This is akin to exchanging the constitution for the Koran.

This new reality is prompting a reappraisal from all quarters. Writing in British newspaper The Guardian, Nick Cohen repudiates his left-wing heritage and outlines how the postmodern thought has bred the conditions for greater intolerance, such as that in Cronulla. It was the Left's capacity to support Saddam Hussein against coalition intervention that prompted Cohen's reappraisal, which has only been reinforced as his former comrades have also refused to speak out against the sectarian violence that has now laid siege to Baghdad, lest criticism be construed as support for the US. He argues that the death of socialism - disgraced by the communists' atrocities and floored by the success of market-based economies - has brought a dark liberation to people who consider themselves to be on the liberal Left. It has freed them to go along with any movement, however far to the Right it may be, as long as it is against the status quo in general and the US in particular.

Unfortunately for the West, the liberal tolerance shown by the Left to minority groups has not always come with reciprocal obligations. Professor Fukuyama argues that Europe's failure to better integrate its Muslim population is a ticking time bomb that has already contributed to terrorism. It is bound to provoke a sharper backlash from populist groups, and may even threaten European democracy itself.

Writing in the Journal of Democracy, republished in The Weekend Australian, Professor Fukuyama advocates a two-pronged approach involving changes in behaviour by immigrant minorities and their descendants as well as by members of the dominant national communities. First, it is necessary to recognise that the old multicultural model has not been a success and has led to demands for group rights that cannot be squared with liberal principles of individual equality. Second, national identity must be clearly defined and expressed. Both things are evident in Australia, with the reappraisal of multiculturalism as an open-cheque policy and the introduction of more stringent citizenship requirements. For Professor Fukuyama, a failure to be clear on national identity leaves a society vulnerable to being overwhelmed by those with a much better defined sense of community identity. Professor Fukuyama's view that jihadism is aided by the quest for identity spawned by migration to non-Muslim countries is particularly so if host countries fail to offer meaningful economic and cultural integration.

While Australia does not share the extent of problems faced by Britain and some European countries, such as The Netherlands, there are many lessons to be heeded. Just as Professor Fukuyama notes that disaffiliation within the Muslim community can provoke terrorism, so too were the Cronulla riots a predictable response to a growing sense that the dominant Aussie-Anglo culture was being undermined. Left unchecked, this can result in ugly consequences, but banning displays of the national flag at events such as the Big Day Out is no cure. The rational response to globalisation is to reaffirm one's affiliations, and the most sensible way to do that is through a sensible nationalism, where we all stand for something.


Leftists love to find "Victims" -- even if it is all in their own minds

Where some Australian Leftists see pornography, other people just see a child wearing nice clothes

A girl is standing alone on the beach. Her hips are thrust forward, her legs slightly parted. Her lips are wet with gloss. Some of her clothes are slightly askew. You can see her bra, white and tiny, through her singlet. She is not yet 12 years old, and she is selling the clothes she is wearing. Is the image vaguely pornographic? Does it sexualise the child?

Emma Rush, a feminist academic from the left-leaning think tank, the Australia Institute, believes it does. Last October, she put her thoughts down in an academic paper, provocatively titled Corporate Paedophilia. An electronic attachment to the report contained images of children taken from a David Jones catalogue (and also from Myer, Fred Bare, Frangipani Rose, Barbie magazine, among others). Some showed girls alone on the beach or in bush settings. Rush said they were "sexually vulnerable". In others, the child models wore make-up.

Rush flayed the advertisers, saying: "Pictures of sexy children send messages to pedophiles that children are sexually available and interested in sex. That is very irresponsible on behalf of the advertisers and marketers." She objected also to some of the products being marketed to children, such as the "bralette", a bandeau-style bra for girls aged four to eight, with removable straps. One version is made by Bonds. It is available from most department stores. "I just think, you know, what does a three to four-year-old child need to be wearing a bra for?" Rush said.

All the advertisers named in Rush's report were appalled to be accused of something as heinous as the exploitation of children. David Jones, which cultivates a reputation for high-quality apparel and corporate decency, was outraged. Chief executive Mark McInnes immediately telephoned Australia Institute director Clive Hamilton. In a heated exchange, McInnes demanded that any references to his company be removed from Rush's report. When Hamilton refused, David Jones called in the lawyers to defend its brand. Under changes to defamation laws that came into effect in January 2006, it is almost impossible for a big corporation to sue. But David Jones was determined to make its point and yesterday launched a creative legal course, claiming a breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act.

Legal analysts say the action is not certain to succeed, but there is quiet admiration for David Jones. The children in its catalogue were not scantily clad; they were dressed as children often are these days, in smart, designer clothes. Duncan Fine, a father of two boys and author of Why TV is Good for Kids, says: "Good on David Jones for standing up for themselves. I looked at the pictures and I thought, if you were to look at that and see something even vaguely pornographic, there's got to be something wrong with you. "It's the same with kids in bikinis. If you think a seven-year-old running across Bronte Beach is a sexual image, well, you have a major problem."

Fine says it is "irresponsible, just ludicrous" to use the term pedophilia in the report. "Pedophilia is a crime so awful, we shouldn't make light of it. It was clearly designed to get attention. And the idea that kids these days are somehow being harmed by advertising, well, there is just no evidence for that." Indeed, on almost every measure, today's children are doing all right. They are better educated than their parents, more likely to finish Year 12 and get a job afterwards, less likely to use drugs and get pregnant as teens. "If anything, we are in the age of the uber-parent," says Fine. "Parents are doting on their kids. Children are saturated with love and affection and care."

The term corporate pedophilia was coined not by the Australia Institute in 2006 but by commentator Phillip Adams, who first used it in a column in 1995 to describe the phenomenon "where childhood is truncated and abbreviated by the march of marketing, so children can be turned into little adults, and marched through the malls". Speaking to The Australian, Adams says he is concerned less with the sexualisation of children than by the truncation of childhood. "The age of consent for commerce has certainly been lowered. You still cannot physically seduce a child under the age of 16, but retailers and advertisers can seduce them any other way. "It's a fact that mighty corporations hire all the smart-arses to find ways to turn kids into purchasers of crap, basically. It's that seduction of the innocent that is objectionable." Adams remembers no marketing to children when he was himself a child, except perhaps in Batman comics. "There was a long period of pre-pubescence," he says. "Children were not sexualised. We lived in a world of sexual mystery. We knew bugger all. These days, it's anal sex, blow jobs: they know everything."

It's certainly true that children are exposed to sex and pornography earlier, and more often, than in previous generations. "You don't need to go to the internet for it. It's in the mainstream media," Adams says. Last year, one of the best-selling CDs for girls aged between eight and 14 was the Kids Pop Party Mix. It comes in a pretty pink CD case, with a purple karaoke microphone on the front. Most girls buy it to get just one song, the smash hit Don't Cha by the Pussycat Dolls: "Don't cha wish your girl friend was hot like me?/ Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?/ Don't cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me?"

The Pussycat Dolls started as a burlesque act, stripping to their lacy underwear for money. But the Kids Pop Party Mix is produced by an offshoot of good old Aunty. It's on the ABC Kids label, sold through ABC stores. The promoters market the CD by saying: "Finding the right music for that in-between age group - the eight to 14-year-olds - can be difficult, particularly in these days of soft-core pop videos. Parents want to ensure their children are listening to music that's appropriate to their age group. ABC Kids has come to the rescue with the bumper Kids Pop Party Mix." [the ABC referred to is Australia's mega-correct public broadcaster] ....

Adams says some parents appear to have abandoned "even the most classic parental responsibilities. God knows, I can't begin to imagine what is going on in the minds of parents."

But according to Fine, "Parents frankly don't believe their children are being manipulated. Where some people see pornography or exploitation, others just see a kid in a catalogue wearing nice clothes." This is the view of Louise Greig, a Sydney mother and entrepreneur, whose fashion label Frangipani Rose was among those targeted by Rush in the Corporate Paedophilia report last year.

Rush says the child in the Frangipani Rose ads had been styled provocatively, which horrified Greig, since the child was her own daughter, nine-year-old Georgina. "The idea that you can look at a photograph that I've taken of my own daughter and think, that's pornography - what goes through that woman's mind? What kind of planet does she live on, that she would think such sick thoughts?" Greig responded to the report.

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