Monday, November 26, 2007

Bicycle sex

After careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that, if we wish to live in a civilised society, we ought to defend the right of cyclists to have sexual relations with their bicycle behind a locked bedroom door.

When I first saw the headline a week ago, about a Scotsman being convicted of simulating sex with a bike, it just raised a wry smile. Only later, when sent the full news story (such tales always linger on the BBC's "most e-mailed" chart) did I realise it was the legal case, not the crime, that should be seen as outraging public decency.

The 51-year-old (let us save him from further exposure), was convicted of "a sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner and simulating sex". Police were called to an Ayr hostel after two cleaners discovered him, wearing only a T-shirt, holding his bike and moving his hips back and forth. The Sheriff's Court gave him three years' probation - and placed him on the sex offenders register.

What "sexually aggravated breach of the peace"? Those upset cleaning ladies only saw it because they used a master key to open his locked door. It seems that such is our obsession with sex crimes today that even the old adage about "not caring what people do in their own bedrooms" no longer applies.

And what exactly did they hope to achieve by putting him on the sex offenders register? Will it make the anxious bicycle owners of Scotland feel safer at night? Should we all demand the right to know if our neighbours worry their bikes? Perhaps the vacuum cleaner community will also demand protection against uninvited advances. What such bizarre cases do achieve is to lengthen that worse-than-useless register further still, reinforcing the false impression of us being besieged by an army of sexual predators.

I might not like to share a room with a bike-sexual. And I suspect that some other cyclists may harbour unhealthy thoughts about their machines, as they parade about on their "trophy bikes" to show that they are better men than us. But wheeling out the law to say one who "saddles up" in private should be padlocked to the same list as rapists and paedophiles? On your bike.


Progressive Superstition

Post below lifted from Don Boudreaux. See the original for links

Here's a letter that I sent today to the Gray Lady:
Opposed to globalization, Jeff Milchen asserts that "The only truly sustainable path for business in the 21st century is localization" (Letters, November 23). Mr. Milchen should learn some history. He can begin with Fernand Braudel's 1981 book The Structures of Everyday Life, which details the living standards of ordinary Europeans during the late middle ages. This era was emphatically one of localization: people consumed only locally grown foods and locally made clothing. All building materials were local. There were no highways, railways, or CO2-emitting engines to pollute the local atmosphere with greenhouse gases or with foreign goods and foreign ideas.

But paradise had its price. Starvation was common, as was death by plague. Giving birth was more dangerous for women than a game of Russian Roulette. People lived in tiny one-room dirt-floor huts without indoor plumbing. During the winter, some of the farm animals (all local!) shared these accommodations.

What little "business" there was during the long era of localization - subsistence farming - might have been sustainable, but human dignity and human life certainly were not.

Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux
I googled "Jeff Milchen" and, not surprisingly, found that he frequently is identified with so-called "Progressives." Ironic, isn't it, that "Progressives" advocate a return to the economic arrangements of the dark- and middle-ages?

The not so great generation

The "greatest generation" is a term sometimes used in reference to those Americans who were raised during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, worked in farms and factories and sacrificed for the war effort while maintaining the home front. Following the war, these Americans, many of whom were born between the turn of the century and 1930, went on to produce a level of wealth and prosperity heretofore unknown to mankind.....

There's little question that the greatest generation provided their offspring, the baby boomer generation, with goods and services that their parents could not afford to give them. But tragically, the greatest generation did not instill in their children what their parents instilled in them, the values and customs that make for a civilized society. In previous generations, people were held responsible for their behavior. Today, society at large pays for irresponsible behavior. Years ago, there was little tolerance for the kind of crude behavior and language that's accepted today. To see men sitting while a woman was standing on a public conveyance used to be unthinkable. Children addressing adults by their first name and their use of foul language in the presence of, and often to, teachers and other adults were unacceptable.

A society's first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions and moral values. These behavioral norms, mostly transmitted by example, word-of-mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. Policemen and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. This failure to fully transmit value norms to subsequent generations represents another failing of the greatest generation.

If there's an American generation that can justifiably be called the greatest generation, it's that generation responsible for the founding of our nation -- men such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington and millions of their fellow countrymen. This is the generation that threw off one form of oppression and laid the foundations for unprecedented human liberty. That is not a trivial achievement, for most often in mankind's history, one form of oppression has been replaced with another far worse, as we've seen in Russia, China and Africa.

More here



Hardly a week goes by without a British columnist having recourse to mention George Orwell. Whether the subject is compulsory ID cards, the growing Nanny State or a surveillance system to rival that of any communist country, the words "Orwell warned us" remains the recurring theme.[1]

While 21st century Britain may be doing its best to turn Orwell into a prophet, there is one point where, for all his genius, George left us manifestly unprepared. Although it is an aspect overlooked in contemporary discussion, it is also the key to understanding the current situation.

The point is simply this: the reign of Big Brother is being introduced to Britain from the liberalism of the far left, a tradition that has historically championed Orwell's defence of civil liberties and free expression.

This observation is particularly germane when considering the new corpus of offences restricting speech, religion, public debate and, in some cases, even thought itself, to that cluster of ideas which the liberals have designated `politically correct.'[2] The State's eagerness to function as Guardian, not simply of law and order, but also of the ideologies of its citizenry[3], was made patently obvious last year when New Labour tried to push through legislation as part of the Religious Hatred Bill which would have made it an offence to criticise different religious truth-claims.

Even without the impetus of such a law, UK police currently operate under `guidance' that defines a `hate incident' so broadly that it can include debating another person about their lifestyle.[4] Although this guidance has no statutory force, and has been called `pseudo-law' by one distinguished constitutional lawyer, it can influence the policy of police constabularies provided it does not lead to an actual charge being issued.[5] The effect is that simply to express certain viewpoints is at least treated as criminal.[6]

It was this tendency to police beliefs that Dr. N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, lambasted in an address to the House of Lords on 9 February, 2006. Dr. Wright referred to a new class of crimes which "have to do, not with actions but with ideas and beliefs." He said:

"People in my diocese have told me that they are now afraid to speak their minds in the pub on some major contemporary issues for fear of being reported, investigated, and perhaps charged. My Lords, I did not think I would see such a thing in this country in my lifetime.. The word for such a state of affairs is `tyranny': sudden moral climate change, enforced by thought police."[7]

From religious organisations that must now navigate the increasingly complex labyrinth of gay rights laws[8] to Christian Unions that are being forced to admit atheists into their ranks[9], it is clear that today's liberals are making sure Big Brother does more than merely watch us: he's checking out our credo.[10] Chesterton was surely prophetic when he conjectured that, "We may eventually be bound not to disturb a man's mind even by argument; not to disturb the sleep of birds even by coughing."[11]


It is instructive to note that this dogmatic intolerance of dissent, while putting public debate into a state of paralysis, has come to Britain in the package of `tolerance', `equality', `human rights' and even - heaven help us - `freedom'. These were, of course, the values of classical liberalism championed by the humanists of the Enlightenment.[12] But while the contemporary liberal still likes to think of himself as operating within the ideological legacy framed by such men as Hume, Locke, Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau and Mill, the totalitarian utopia towards which he strives would presumably be anathema to these defenders of freedom in so far as it is the ultimate betrayal of genuine liberal values.

This is a point that has not been missed on the old fashion liberals who still remain among us. For example, in his book The Retreat of Reason, Anthony Browne argues that the dogmatic, bullying posture of the contemporary liberal is a betrayal of the true liberalism and rationalism of the Enlightenment.[13] We find a similar theme in the work of the lesbian and self-proclaimed leftist Tammy Bruce, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organisation of Woman, and author of The New Thought Police: Inside the Left's Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds[14] and The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture and Values.[15] In these works, Bruce uses a liberal platform to critique left-wing anti-intellectualism, thought totalitarianism and inverted racism, being careful to insist that she is not a conservative. Similarly, the British commentator Melanie Phillips is careful to tell us that, though "styled a conservative by her opponents"[16], she is really defending the liberal values of the Enlightenment. ".liberalism," said Phillips at a recent conference, ".has so badly undermined itself and departed from its own core concepts that it is now paralysed by moral and intellectual muddle.. What we are living through in the west is nothing short of a repudiation of the Enlightenment, a repudiation of reason; and its substitution by irrationality, obscurantism, bigotry and clerical totalitarianism - all facilitated by our so-called `liberal' society, and all in the name of `human rights.'[17]

Nor is it merely a handful of liberal intellectuals on the fringe who have been challenging the encroachment of left-wing totalitarianism. When Tony Blair's New Labour government began to be perceived as a threat to Britain's ancient civil liberties, it was the nation's mainline liberal newspapers, notably the Independent, the Guardian and the Observer, who unleashed the harshest criticisms of his `Orwellian' assault on `liberal values.'[18]

The liberal community is, therefore, divided between two kinds of ideologues: those, on the one hand, for whom the appellation `liberal' is, strictly speaking, an anachronism since they would deny freedom using the rhetoric of liberal values. These I will refer to pejoratively, but also descriptively, as `illiberals.' On the other hand, there are old fashion liberals who keep crying out, "What has happened to the values of the Enlightenment? Aren't we supposed to be liberals?" Rather confusingly, the later group - which I will refer to as classic liberalism - is often now associated with conservatism, as they seek to conserve the genuine liberalism of our pluralist humanist society.

In this essay I will attempt to chart why liberalism has fractured into this matrix. I will propose that the totalitarian agenda of the postmodern illiberal, while on the surface at complete odds with the values of classical liberalism, is also the logical corollary of the man-centred ethics of the Enlightenment. While agreeing with classical liberals like Browne and Bruce that the emerging totalitarian thought-control represents an anti-intellectualism significantly contrary to the rationalism of 18th century liberalism, I will also suggest that these developments are simply the fulfilment of where the Enlightenment project had to enivitably lead......


We have seen that the Enlightenment's approach to epistemology, aesthetics and ethics is, at best, a terminal philosophy, containing in itself the seeds of its own self-destruction. Having established this principle, we are now in a position to better understand the continuity and discontinuity that exists between today's illiberals and their Enlightenment forebears. Just as there is continuity and discontinuity between the rationalistic empiricism of Locke and the radical scepticism of Hume or Postmodernism, and just as there is continuity and discontinuity between the aesthetic values of the Enlightenment and the nihilistic decadence of postmodern art, and just as there is continuity and discontinuity between Rousseau's doctrine of the Noble Savage and the Reign of Terror's brute savagery, so there is both continuity and discontinuity between the classical liberalism of the Enlightenment and the tyranny of today's illiberalism. Put simply, those who wanted to champion human rights and liberty as free-standing values unhinged from any transcendent ethical framework, necessarily planted a self-destruct mechanism on the very values they sought to uphold.

There may be little resemblance between a body newly dead and the rotting corpse a month later, yet the latter is what the former will inevitably become if it is left unburied.


Of course, the contemporary illiberal will not admit that the inevitable rot has set in. Like the characters in Orwell's Animal Farm, he continues to use the principled rhetoric of his predecessors even when the substance has been sucked dry. As Rose noted:

"The Liberal still speaks, at least on formal occasions, of `eternal verities,' of `faith,' of `human dignity,' of man's `high calling' or his `unquenchable spirit,' even of `Christian civilization'; but it is quite clear that these words no longer mean what they once meant. No Liberal takes them with entire seriousness; they are in fact metaphors, ornaments of language that are meant to evoke an emotional, not an intellectual, response - a response largely conditioned by long usage, with the attendant memory of a time when such words actually had a positive and serious meaning."[43]

Like Orwell's animals, who brought slavery under the banner of equality and liberty, the contemporary illiberal is all too happy to welcome any and every erosion of freedom provided it is done in the name of one of his ethical axioms and, more importantly, as long as it does not remove any of his own cherished freedoms.

To their credit, the advocates of today's secular theocracy are more nuanced than those of the French Revolution. Instead of the guillotine they have political correctness; instead of the reign of terror they have mass media at their disposal. They have also added to the pantheon of secular virtues new axioms, which are even more notorious for their entropy. Look how quickly the virtue of multiculturalism degenerated into competition for group power.[44] Look how quickly diversity became a charter for uniformity.[45] Look how quickly the rhetoric of victimhood gave rise to the tyranny of the minority.[46] Unlike the Christian ethical system, which remains ever fixed in the solidity of the transcendent unchanging God, the liberal's ethical base is characterised by a constant ethical flux.

We live in a world where the ethical entropy has all but run its course. The humanitarian liberalism of the Enlightenment has warped into the inhuman illiberalism of today, with results that would do even Orwell proud.

As the laissez faire liberalism becomes the new orthodoxy and permeates our institutions of power, it can no longer rage against the establishment, yet because its orientation is intrinsically revolutionary, the only option is to revolt against those beneath its power structures - those, for example, who still dissent from the grinding uniformity it demands. As illiberalism begins venting its revolutionary zeal on those who refuse to be squeezed into the status quo, the stage is set for a conservative counter movement. That is the point at which secular liberalism becomes unstable, for all totalitarian regimes must eventually end in mass discontent and therefore revolt.

This presents the advocates of sanity with a tremendous opportunity, but it also carries with it an enormous danger. The opponents of illiberalism are all too willing to arm themselves with the principles of classical liberalism and fight against symptoms rather than causes. Thus, many conservative apologists are now urging their liberal opponents to simply be better liberals, more consistent with the Enlightenment values they claim to cherish. If the liberals are ever convinced by such an argument, all that would happen would be to simply wind up the clock three hundred years and then watch the whole cycle unwind again. This is because liberal values can never be sustained without first going back and re-establishing a pre-Enlightenment epistemic base. The Biblical terminology for that process is called repentance, and therein lies the difference between freedom under God or enslavement under man disguised as liberty.

Much more here


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 INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL 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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