Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cardinal criticises UK homosexual laws

The senior Roman Catholic leader used his New Year message to praise marriage and deliver an implicit attack on the Government's gay equality laws. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Church in England and Wales, said most parents did not want their children to be taught that marriage was just "one lifestyle choice among many".

The cardinal said the traditional family remained central to the well-being of society but was being dangerously eroded. While society was slowly waking up to the dangers of climate change and pollution for the planet, it was still destroying the family, he said. "It has taken us a long time to realise that if we cut down trees, use cars with highly leaded fuels and build factories with toxic emissions, we were gradually destroying the ecosystem within which we live and breathe.

"Perhaps, however, it has been harder for us to admit those elements in our relationships or in our society which have contributed to the fragmentation of the family. "Yet it is equally true that we are rapidly moving the very structures on which society is built and on which humanity depends; we are gradually destroying the 'ecosystem' that supports the family."

The cardinal said he was aware that many people had suffered broken marriages or were "courageous" single parents and he understood their sorrow and hurt. However, he emphasised the Catholic Church's commitment to the home as the focus of family life and the centrality of Christian marriage. "Most parents do not want their children to be taught that marriage is no more than one lifestyle choice among many," he said. "They do not want to expose their children to the risk of becoming promiscuous or indulging in drug and alcohol abuse. "Many, many young people, when expressing their dreams and hopes, express the desire to one day be happily married and to have a family."

The cardinal's comments follow a series of clashes between the Catholic Church and the Government over the introduction of gay equality legislation and civil partnerships. Some Catholics have even questioned the Cardinal's role in the recent conversion of Tony Blair, the former prime minister, who was instrumental in pushing through many of the reforms.

In his message, the cardinal urged parents to bring God into their homes so that their children would carry Christian values into the next generation. "Our children are the messages we send to tomorrow," he said. "We can forget easily what is said in church, or even in school, but we don't forget what happens in the home. "Somehow, if we take God's Word into our daily life and try to live it, then we are scattering the seed ourselves for the younger generation and generations to come."


What feminists don't get

I recently wrote some posts on feminists who become mothers. The idea was to see what happens to the feminist ideal of autonomy when babies start coming along. There was a very critical response from the feminist women I quoted. Predictably, some of the women argued that I was a privileged male who already had autonomy and wanted to keep it from women. For example, the operator of the blue milk site which ran the series on feminist motherhood had this to say about me:
Only someone with all the autonomy they could ever hope for could possibly suggest so determinedly that others not aspire to it. White male drowning in privilege I think.
She's not alone in holding such a view. There was an entry at the feminist website I blame the patriarchy on the topic of marriage and autonomy. It was assumed in the feminist discussion following the entry that men got all the autonomy they wanted in marriage, whilst women suffered on alone:
I want everything, just like men get to have, except without having an easy life buttressed by inequality. ... Thus, marriage is "work" ... but it is woman who has to do most of it; the dude merely has to show up at the wedding. ... Your Nigel is different [One suspects that most Nigels are!], of course, [but] he enjoys a privilege that you will never see for as long as you live. I allude to the privilege of personal sovereignty.
Are these feminists right? Do married men have all the autonomy they could ever hope for? Are they drowning in a privilege they seek to deny to others?

It's not enough just to say that the feminists are wrong; what has to be explained is just how far off the mark they are. If a man held autonomy to be a key aim in life he would never marry and never consent to an active fatherhood. Marriage and fatherhood lock men into a life of work and responsibility in which there is rarely time or money for a man to do as he pleases. It's not an easy thing for a man to adjust to and increasing numbers of men appear to be opting out or at least delaying their commitment to married life.

Most men, though, do sacrifice the larger part of their autonomy to work, marry and have children. They do so because of an impulse to find love and a soul mate; because of a sense that becoming a husband and father are the proper "offices" for an adult male through which their lives are completed: because of the instinct to procreate to pass on something of themselves to future generations; and because of paternal instincts to have children to love and to guide to adulthood. Men are in their natures protectors and so there is a level at which meeting the burdens of fatherhood is a self-fulfilment.

Why do feminists misunderstand men? The answer is that they are thinking ideologically. According to feminist patriarchy theory, men as a class invented gender as a social construct in order to secure the privilege of autonomy for themselves at the expense of oppressed women. Institutions like marriage, according to patriarchy theory, are designed to secure male privilege over women.

So if you're a feminist who accepts patriarchy theory you are likely to believe that men are motivated by a desire for power over women and that marriage secures for men a privilege of autonomy in which, unlike women, they have it easy and can do as they please.

The gap between theory and reality is vast. Patriarchy theory is not a truthful account of what happens in society and it does harm to relations between men and women and to family formation. It's time to put it aside and to look more directly at the lives of men and women.



By Barry Rubin

Much will be said about Benazir Bhutto's assassination; little will be understood about what it truly means. I'm not speaking here about Pakistan, of course, as important as is that country. But rather the lesson-as if we need any more-for that broad Middle East with Pakistan at one end and the Atlantic Ocean coast on the other.

This is a true story. Back in 1946, an American diplomat asked an Iranian editor why his newspaper angrily attacked the United States but never the Soviet Union. The Iranian said that it was obvious. "The Russians," he said, "they kill people!" Murder is a very effective way to influence people.

A dozen years earlier, in 1933, an Iraqi official, Sami Shawkat, gave a talk which became one of the major texts of Arab nationalism. "There is something more important than money and learning for preserving the honor of a nation and for keeping humiliation at bay," he stated. "That is strength....Strength, as I use the word here, means to excel in the Profession of Death."

What, you might ask, was Shawkat's own profession? He was director-general of Iraq's ministry of education. This was how young people were to be taught and directed; this is where Saddam Hussein came from. Seventy-five years later the subsequent history of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world show just how well Shawkat did his job.

September 11 in the United States; the Bali bombing for Australia; the tube bombing for Britain; the commuter train bombing for Spain, these were all merely byproducts of this pathology. The pathology in question is not Western policy toward the Middle East but rather Middle Eastern policy toward the Middle East.

Ever since I read Shawkat's words as a student, the phrase, "Profession of Death," which gave his article its title, struck me as a pun. On one hand, the word "profession" means "career." To be a killer-note well that Shawkat was not talking specifically about soldiers, those who fight, but rather those who murder-was the highest calling of all. It was more important than being a teacher, who forms character; more important than a businessperson, who enriches his country; more important than a doctor who preserves the life of fellow citizens. Destruction was a higher calling than construction. And for sure in the Arabic-speaking world what has been reaped is what has been sowed.

But also the word "profession" here reminds me of the verb "to profess" as in the word "professor," that is "to preach" and to teach. What is of greatest value is for an educator to preach and glorify death. What kind of ideology, what kind of society, what kind of values, does such a priority produce? Look and see.

Like children playing with dynamite, Western intellectuals, journalists, and diplomats fantasize that they are achieving results in the Middle East with their words, promises, apologies, money, and concessions. Yet how can such innocents cope despite-or perhaps because of--all their good intentions with polities and societies whose basic ruling ethos is that of the serial killer?

And what can be achieved when those most forward-looking and most creative, those who want to break with the ideas and methods creating a disastrous mess, the stagnant system which characterizes so much of the Middle East, are systematically murdered? Read the roll: King Abdallah of Jordan, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon, the bold author Farouq Fawda in Egypt, Iraqi Sunnis who dare seek compromise, Palestinian moderates, Algerian modernists, and thousands of women who seek a small degree of freedom.

The radicals are right: dying is a disincentive. And for every one they kill how many thousands give in; and for every one they threaten how many hundreds give in? Even in the West many individuals who pride themselves as knights of knowledge and paladins of free speech quickly crumble at the prospect of being culled for their cartoons.

Seventy-five years after Shawkat, Hamas television teaches Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip that their highest aspiration should be to become a suicide bomber, with success measured by how many Jews are killed. And, by the way, the Palestinian Authority's television in the West Bank sends a similar message, albeit slightly less frequently.

Will billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) change anything when the men with the guns grab what they want? Are PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, respectively a timid bureaucrat and a well-meaning economist, going to take a bullet for lifting one finger to get a compromise peace with Israel?

How are you going to get a government of national conciliation in Iraq when the insurgents have shown they can gun down any Sunni politician or cleric who steps out of line?

The current supporters of the Lebanese government are the bravest politicians in the Arabic-speaking world, men willing to defy death rather than surrender to the radical Islamists of Hizballah or the imperialism of Syria. But how can they stand firm when democratic governments rush to engage with the Syrian government that murder them, while Western media proclaim the moderation of a Damascus ruler who systematically kills those who oppose him?

Can anyone really expect a stable society capable of progress in Pakistan when a large majority of the population expresses admiration for Usama bin Ladin? And what about the Saudi system where, as one local writer put it, the big Usama put into practice what the little Usama learned in a Saudi school?

Don't you get it? The radical forces in the region are not expecting to retain or gain power by negotiating, compromising, or being better understood. They believe they are going to shoot their way into power or, just as good, accept the surrender of those they have intimidated. That is why so much of the Western analysis and strategies for dealing with the region are a bad joke. Usama bin Ladin understands that, as he once said, people are going to back the strongest horse in the race. According to all too many people in the Western elites, the way to win is to be the nicest horse.

But doesn't this assessment sound terribly depressing and hopeless? Well, yes and no. Radical Islamists like to proclaim that they will triumph because they love death while their enemies-that is, soon-to-be-victims-love life. Be careful what you wish for, though, because you probably will get it. For those who love death the reward is.death.

For those who love life, the outcomes include decent educational systems, living standards, individual rights, and strong economic systems. I can't help but thinking that Western Civilization has been built on a different model, even when people completely forget about it and take it for granted, based on ideas like this:

"I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life...." (Deuteronomy 31:19)

All these things, and others that go along with them, are what really produce strength. And isn't it interesting that, contrary to Shawkat, the nations that put the priority on these values, ideas, and constructive efforts enjoy far more honor and suffer far less humiliation than happens with his model. This is not that they have no faults but they also contain the mechanisms that are usually sufficient to correct these faults.

In contrast, the profession of death has wrecked most Middle Eastern societies. But it has never succeeded in defeating a free society. It is not an effective tactic for destroying others but only for devastating one's own people. Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The Sami Shawkat philosophy: alike in its Arab nationalist, Islamist, and Pakistani authoritarian versions which dominate Middle East politics.


More on Australia's proposed internet censorship

It sounds entirely defensible, at first: the Federal Government plans to protect unwary children by blocking violence and pornography on the internet. Yet this simple sounding initiative - barely discussed during the election - is riddled with technical, financial, moral and social complexities. The Government's plan, overseen by Telecommunications Minister Stephen Conroy, would require internet service providers (ISPs) to block undesirable sites on computers accessed by all Australians.

A seething Dr Roger Clarke, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, bluntly described the proposal as "stupid and inappropriate". He said not only was it unworkable, but it was a sinister blow to an individual's rights to use the internet without censorship. "Not only will it not work, it is quite dangerous to let the Government censor the net and take control out of the hands of parents,' Clarke said. "It is an inappropriate thing for them to be doing. Mr Conroy is like a schoolmaster playing God with the Australian population, all because of the dominance of a moral minority."

Conroy's view is that the legislation - compared by critics to Chinese-style internet censorship - will render unseen the most vile and extreme sites only. "Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation on the internet is like going down the Chinese road," Conroy said. "If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor Government is going to disagree."

One problem for the Government is that blocking child porn may unintentionally block acceptable sites. The history of the internet is full of such examples; one blogger found that, due to spamware set to block ads for sex drug Cialis, he was unable to publish the word "socialist".

Another problem, according to civil libertarians, is that policing the net should be left to parents - not a big brother-style bureaucracy. And, if it is disingenuous to compare Labor's policy to China's malevolent control over web access to its citizens, it is equally disingenuous of Rudd's Government to claim the issue simply relates to child pornography. There are genuine concerns that the Government - backed by morals groups such as Family First - will in time extend the powers outside of their intended target area.

Also of concern is that, under the Government's plan, users would be permitted to "opt out" of the scheme - and might therefore find themselves listed as possible deviants.

Service providers fear any legislation would be "the thin end of the wedge", heralding widespread censorship. Besides, what evidence is there that young children using the web are regularly stumbling across child pornography? Sites used by paedophiles are well hidden and frequently relocated to avoid detection.

On a practical level, ISPs fear the mass blocking of sites could slow internet speeds and cost millions of dollars to implement. Crucially, the Government has not explained how such a system would be paid for or who would monitor it. The truth is, despite the policy having been part of Labor's manifesto since 2005, and following claims the Government is "engaged constructively with the sector", no one has the faintest idea how such a system would work.

It is expected any future filtered feeds would be based on a current voluntary UK system operated by British Telecom. Sites identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMAC) would be "blacklisted" and then blocked by the servers. The ability for download speeds to be maintained would depend on the exact number of sites blocked - it is suspected around 2000 sites could cause problems. A user typing in the address would be sent to an error page or possibly - as in Scandinavia - redirected to a police page.

However, ISPs fear a system based on key indicator words could rapidly clog the system. In the UK the Internet Watch Foundation has its encrypted list of 1200 paedophile and race-hate sites updated twice a day. Even still, it is unlikely to deter computer savvy paedophiles here from simply relocating their sites or from swapping pictures on message boards or in forums, thus rendering any filter impotent.

So far the industry, although eager not to be seen to be dragging its feet on child pornography, has been noticeably reticent in its response to Labor's plans. Internet Industry Association spokesman Peter Coroneos was keen to emphasise the work already being done by service providers in supplying free filters. They are likely to clarify their position after ACMA runs simulated tests on a filtered network later this year. "We obviously want to know if this will have an impact on network performance," Coroneos said. "At the moment we don't know what the extent of it will be, what it will cost, and whether it will set a precedent for other changes. We just don't know if it is feasible."



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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