Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Utter Failure of Political Correctness

Below is a re-run of a post I put up on Tongue Tied in 2005. It amuses me so much that I have to repeat it. I have added a photo of Ms Titmuss so that you really get the idea

This survey from England must be causing weeping and wailing and garnishing of teeth (Yes. I know it's "gnashing") in feminist and teaching circles. I suspect all the propaganda that kids get shoved down their throat these days has backfired. Excerpt:

"The survey of almost 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19, conducted by a mobile entertainment company, TheLab, found that many young women's favoured role models were men's magazine models, with C-list celebrities Abi Titmuss and Jordan ranking higher in the hero worship stakes than author J. K. Rowling, The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, and feminist Germaine Greer. Almost half the respondents listed Titmuss as a role model, while 9 per cent chose Rowling and only 4 per cent Greer. Offered a selection of occupations, 63 per cent said they would rather be a men's magazine model than a doctor, teacher or nurse. The second most popular choice was "lap dancer", at 25 per cent, with teachers trailing at 3 per cent".

I love it!


Sweden, renowned for decades as the model of cosy womb-to-tomb welfare socialism, has suddenly become a much rawer place. The centre-right governing coalition of Fredrik Reinfeldt, which came to power last autumn, is seen by David Cameron as a potential template for Tory fortunes. Since the election they have seemed determined to roll back the nanny state after many decades of Social Democratic feather-bedding. On the agenda is abolition of wealth tax, cuts in income tax and a privatisation programme that is already starting to excite foreign investors.

But the most symbolic act so far has been lifting the 37-year ban on professional boxing, outlawed by the Social Democrats as cruel and morally dubious. "It was a political move, not a medical one," says coach Peter Bermsten, as Josefin rubs herself down. "It took a political decision to bring us back to reason." We are talking in the Fox fight club in Malmo, its walls plastered with yellowing posters from the days when Sweden was a world-class boxing nation. One, from 1959, shows Ingemar Johansson set to thump the heavyweight Floyd Patterson.

Sweden has some catching up to do. "Boxing did not fit into the Social Democratic self-image of the Swedes in the 1960s," says _se Sandell, a towering flaxen-haired middleweight, who has risen to the top of women's boxing only by moving to the United States. Boxing is booming again and Sandell has become the idol of a new generation. The smack of leather on leather, the grunt of young boxers who are no longer confined to heavily regulated amateur bouts: this is the sound and the fury of a cultural revolution in the making. Not the whiff of cordite, but of embrocation and sweat.

Sweden's social welfare model, so admired by Gordon Brown, was ripe for overhaul. Indeed, so ripe that the Social Democrats grudgingly started their own reforms, cutting down, for example, on Europe's most generous sick-leave arrangements, which were blamed for turning a healthy nation into a society of work-dodgers. But they ducked the key question: how much should the state steer the inner life of the individual? This, after all, is a country that bans all television advertising aimed at the under-12s, and where the Government retains a monopoly on alcohol sales to stop people drinking too much.

As we stand with Anders Ljungberg, a local journalist, in Malmo's immigrant quarter, we see a group of Kurdish teenagers scuffling playfully at the bus stop. A Volvo draws up and a white Swede leans out of the window; the kids quieten down. "He was ticking them off," Mr Ljungberg says. "He probably told them that there were better ways of behaving."

The greatest compliment you can pay a child in Sweden, says Ake Daun, a sociologist, is to say that he is tyst och fin, quiet and well-behaved. The Social Democrats came into power in 1932, have ruled for 65 of the past 74 years and ensured that Swedish adults, too, were tyst och fin. They paid the highest taxes in Europe and in return got the biggest handouts. Parents pay a maximum of 90 pounds a month for childcare, receive up to 80 per cent of their salary during their 390-day maternity leave, receive free university education and access to free retirement homes. But the sums, even with the current strong economic growth, do not add up. Swedes are afraid of losing their privileges. But they are even more afraid that they will slip down the prosperity league. In 1970 they had the fourth-highest per capita income in the world. Now, as the sociologist Johan Norberg says: "If Sweden was one of the states of America, it would be the fifth poorest."

"We have to make it easier to get work," says Djordje Jovanovic, 72, a former waiter who helped to vote the Social Democrats out of power. "I don't want us to lose our wealth. When I go to my place on the Costa del Sol I see really poor Brits pocketing the bread that they get with their soup in cheap restaurants. We shouldn't stoop that low, and that means working harder here, securing our future."

At H&M, the Swedish fashion retailer, we meet Johana Hallin, a 28-year-old teacher. "We have to make it more profitable to work than to be on social welfare," she says with passion, and she really does seem to be the voice of young Sweden. Certainly she fits into our caricature of a Swede: blonde, funny, she even teaches the Swedish language.

Yet Sweden is losing its blonde-ness. Some 23 per cent of the population of Malm", Sweden's third city, were born abroad; if their children, born in Sweden, are taken into account, over 35 per cent have foreign connections. Somalis, Afghans, Turks, Iraqis and Palestinians are all wedged into the state-sponsored estates in Malm"'s Rosengard district and almost all live on welfare.

So here is the most explosive issue in Prime Minister Reinfeldt's quiet revolution: if he wants to cut social welfare handouts to force people to work, what happens to the foreigners who cannot get jobs because they are foreigners? They get poorer and, since they are being told constantly to behave more like Swedes, they will start to become more demanding. No more tyst och fin.

That is why Mr Reinfeldt has taken the unusual step of appointing Nyamko Sabuni as Integration Minister. She is neither blonde nor blue-eyed: she is originally from Burundi and is a Muslim. And rarely has a Swedish minister openly uttered such tough sentiments. She wants to ban the head-scarf for girls under the age of 15, make visits to the gynaecologist compulsory for schoolgirls to ensure that they are not forcibly circumcised, cut state funds for Muslim schools and stopped funding for a Centre Against Racism. There is one central aim, she says: to get migrants into jobs. "Language and work are the keys to integration," says Ms Sabuni. "The Social Democrats drove people into a dependency culture." The Swedish model was based on a homogenous society - not only white, but also hard Protestant workers shy of public conflict and ever ready to work out consensus. That was the starting point for Gunnar and Alvar Myrdal, the spiritual founders of the welfare state in the 1930s. The assumption was that if it did not work in Sweden, with its population of only nine million, it would not work anywhere else.

It really does seem to be foundering. Sweden is a society full of hidden tensions and unemployment, an intrusive state and citizens frustrated by their lack of choice. It has been defeated not only by the arithmetic (of how to support an expanding legion of welfare claimants and pensioners on the basis of a shrinking workforce) but also by sharpening global competition.

Travel on the 999 bus from Copenhagen to Malmo across the formidable Oeresund bridge and the accompanying music is of clinking glass - bottles of booze bought in cheaper Danish shops. State-controlled alcohol sales, in southern Sweden at least, are sure to buckle. In the 1970s toy shops were forbidden from selling warlike toys, even water pistols: now everything is available over the internet and 10-year-olds in Malm" can admire a plastic replica Nazi Tiger tank in a cheap unregulated high street store. The Social Democrats trumpeted the defeat of street prostitution after passing a law that jails kerb-crawlers rather than women who sell their bodies. But trade has simply moved from the red light district on Industry Street to the laptop, with most assignations being made online.

The nanny state is on the retreat. The idea that a just society can be engineered by an all-seeing bureaucracy has had its day. The admiration for Sweden from the British Left and Right is thus slightly puzzling. The interest of the Conservatives - David Cameron and George Osborne are recent visitors - can be explained by the need to find an example of how a long-lived Centre-left government can be toppled without polarising society. But the real change in Sweden is coming from the people themselves. They want more freedom of choice and are willing to put with a few punches on the way


Boy Scouts defeat ACLU

Court dismisses suit to bar use of military fort

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the Defense Department from allowing the Boy Scouts of America to hold its National Jamboree every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Fredericksburg, Va. The ACLU, suing on behalf of individual named taxpayers, had argued allowing the Boy Scouts to hold the event on public property is an unconstitutional establishment of religion, because the organization's membership is limited to those who believe in God. The ACLU points out the Boy Scouts require members to swear an oath to "do my duty to God and my country."

The court ruled Wednesday, however, the ACLU did not show standing to bring the lawsuit. Peter Ferrara, general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union explained the ACLU could complain about the policy to Congress or the president, but it "had no business bringing a lawsuit over it and asking the courts to step in."

The ACLU is a non-partisan legal policy organization launched in 1998 that says it is "dedicated to defending all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment." The Defense Department, which sees holding the event at the fort as a boon to military recruitment, is expressly authorized to host the event by a federal statute enacted by Congress, Ferrara points out. Seven Presidents have attended and spoken at the jamboree, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. President Bush spoke at the 2005 event, attended by more than 40,000 scouts. The next jamboree is scheduled for 2010 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.

As WND reported in 2005, 90 members of Congress filed a federal appeals court brief declaring support for the Defense Department's sponsorship of the jamboree. The brief asserted the Defense Department's support comes in the form of "non-religious supplies and services." "The military's rental of forklifts and trucks, transportation and military equipment, restoration of Fort A.P. Hill after the Jamboree, and provision of other secular services is clearly 'neutral and nonideological,'" the brief said. "The only possible message that the military's aid can be viewed as conveying is that patriotism, self-reliance, physical fitness and support of the military are positive things."

Also in 2005, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., introduced legislation to make sure the Boy Scouts can use government facilities for gatherings, meetings and events. In 2004, the Pentagon settled a lawsuit by telling military bases around the world not to become direct sponsors of Boy Scout troops or Cub Scout dens. Military personnel can now sponsor Boy Scout groups only in their civilian capacity. As WND reported, the threat of lawsuits by the ACLU has forced the BSA to pull the charters of thousands of scouting units from public schools.


Elite bias against Christianity getting a bit embarassed?

An excellent post below by Australian columnist Andrew Bolt. I most particularly applaud the final paragraph. I have Bach's divine "Passio secundum Matthaeum" playing as I write this. I particularly love the great baritone aria: "Mache dich mein Herze rein". It always moves me to tears

MOCKING Christ has not, in years, seemed this childish - even cowardly. And no, I'm not a Christian. Of course, this being Easter, Christianity's most holy festival, we've seen some of the usual tributes of disrespect from the cultural elite. While the ABC refused to show the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, for fear of God knows what mayhem, it had no such fear this week of mocking Jesus, whose crucifixion is remembered today.

Its Triple J station held "Jesus, you've got talent!" - a talent quest for singing toga wearers and the like, (and did so without the protection of one policeman). Chicago's School of Art Institute, meanwhile, displayed an art work showing Christ resurrected as Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama, son of a Muslim-born Kenyan. And New York's Lab Gallery unveiled a life-sized Jesus made of chocolate, anatomically accurate right down to his bared penis.

I know, it's tame stuff given what we've seen before. Who can forget Piss Christ, the crucifix plopped in a jar of urine at the National Gallery of Victoria? Or the Chris Ofili picture of the Virgin Mary, decorated with cow dung, which the National Gallery of Australia tried to bring in? Or the ABC's Christmas special of 1999 - a comparison of the Sistine Chapel's religious frescoes with the paintings made by hip British artists Gilbert and George of their semen, faeces, spit and blood?

But all these are just accent points of an elite culture that slurs Christians so naturally that The Age blithely ran opinion pieces last month with yet more priest-baiting lines, such as these: "Being Catholic, the `70s meant rock masses, liturgical dancing and clapping to Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham until you lost all will to live. When you heard the word `priest' you didn't immediately think `child molester' - you thought of that guy with sideburns and shocking breath who played the guitar badly and wanted to be `down with the youth' . . . "(W)e'd watch Mass for You at Home: just as soul-destroying and mind-numbing as the real thing, but it took half the time and you didn't have to shake hands with that weird guy with the eczema."

Ask any Christian politician how hard it is now, given the Gulf Stream of anti-Christian bigotry, to discuss moral issues in the media. Their opinions will be dismissed as the he-would-say-that prattlings of a Vatican parrot or of a nice-but zealot. Ask Tony Abbott, the Health Minister and a Catholic, whose reasoned arguments on an abortion pill were sniggered away by a slogan on a gloating Greens senator's T-shirt: "Get your rosaries off my ovaries."

YET it seems the cheap-shot sneers of intolerant atheists are fewer this year. More muted. And the squawks we still hear seem more contemptible. It would be no wonder. I wouldn't be alone in thinking each time an artist or commentator insults Christians: "friend, if you're so brave, say that about Islam". Show us your chocolate Mohammeds. Show us your Korans dipped in urine. Where is the singer who will rip up a Koran as Marilyn Manson ripped up a Bible? Or will on television tear up a picture of Islam's most honoured preacher as Sinead O'Connor shredded one of the great Pope John Paul II?

It's not as if Islam doesn't threaten our artists more than does Christianity. See only the murder of film director Theo van Gogh or the fatwa on writer Salman Rushdie or the stabbing of Rushdie's translator. Or see those deadly riots against the Mohammed cartoons. So when I see a Western artist mock Christ, I see an artist advertising not his courage but his cowardice - by not daring to mock what would threaten him more.

I am most certainly not saying that moderate Islam should now be treated with the childish disrespect so often shown to Christianity. Nor am I saying most Muslims endorse violence, or that there aren't a few Christians who might turn violent, too. After all, the chocolate Jesus has been removed from display when Lab Gallery's boss was bombarded with complaints and even - he claims - threats. But I am saying that more people now know there is a double standard here illustrated perfectly by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which banned acts that told jokes against Muslims but promoted ones that lampooned Christians. It's this blatant double standard that may finally have shamed some of the usual jeerers into showing Christianity a little respect.

And perhaps - just perhaps - more of us might be wakening to a truth we too long took for granted. It's no accident that we feel safer insulting Christians than trashing almost anyone else. This is a religion that's always preached tolerance, reason and non-violence, even if too many of its followers have seemed deaf. It's also urged us to leave the judgment of others to God (a message I ignore for professional reasons). We are the beneficiaries of that preaching, even those of us who aren't Christians.

We live in a society, founded on Christian principles, that guards our right to speak, and even to abuse things we should praise. We can now vilify Jesus and damn priests, and risk nothing but hard looks from a soft bishop, and a job offer from The Age. We dare all that because we do not actually fear what we condemn. We know Christians are taught not to punch our smarmy face, and we even count on it. Indeed, it is the very faith we mock that has made us so safe.

This is one reason why I, an agnostic, will today do what I do every Easter, and play Bach's divine St Matthew Passion while I sit for a while and give thanks. I will be thanking again not only a preacher of astonishing moral clarity and courage, but one who inspired a faith that has brought us unparalleled gifts - including the freedom to create even a chocolate Jesus in this most holy of weeks



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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