Sunday, September 26, 2010
I Think, Therefore I’m Guilty
Everyone can agree that today’s Britain — which we’re always being told has become so much more liberal — is the very model of a forward-looking, tolerant society in which freedom of expression is paramount. Correct?
If only. In fact, the intellectual trend in Britain is a remorseless slide towards a dark age of intolerance, reverting to a reason-suppressing, heresy-hunting culture in which certain opinions are being turned into thought crimes.
Astoundingly, people are being arrested by the police — even if the case against them eventually falls — because of what they have said. They are not inciting violence or any criminal activity. They are merely expressing a point of view. Yet for that they may find the police feeling their collars.
It is difficult to say when, exactly, the priorities of the British police shifted from the prevention of criminal offences towards criminalising people for causing offence. The police have become the thin blue line against the Wrong Opinion. Instead of protecting society against oppression, British police officers have become the agents of oppression.
Freedom of religious expression, for example, is a bedrock principle of an open society. Yet if Christians express their religious opposition to homosexuality, they are treated like criminals.
Dale McAlpine, a Christian preacher in Cumbria, was carted off by the police, locked in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour after telling a passer-by that he believed homosexuality was a crime against God.
Harry Hammond, an evangelist, was convicted of a public order offence and fined for holding a placard saying ‘Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord’ at a street demonstration in Bournemouth — even though he was attacked by members of the public who poured soil and water over him.
Pensioners have even found the police on their doorstep accusing them of ‘hate crime’ for objecting to the local council about a gay pride march or merely asking if they could distribute Christian leaflets alongside the gay rights literature.
Such Christians are far from alone in finding that certain opinions are now forbidden. Across public life — in academic, legal, governmental, scientific and media circles and beyond — an atmosphere is being engendered which is inimical to independent thought.
And this is often amplified to incendiary levels through the electronic lynch-mob of the internet. Writers who bust the boundaries of permitted thinking may become the target of frenzied denunciation by a global army of haters whipping up a campaign for the dissident to be boycotted, banned or sacked.
After Jan Moir suggested in the Daily Mail that the death of the gay Boyzone singer Stephen Gately was linked to a louche lifestyle, she was subjected to a fireball of vilification on the internet, Twitter and Facebook.
The Crown Prosecution Service then said ‘the Metropolitan Police passed the article’ to them ‘to determine whether or not any crime had been committed’, but Moir would not be prosecuted.
Prosecuted! For making what at most was a tasteless remark? What on earth has Britain come to when the CPS entertains this as a serious possibility?
Moir’s particular thought crime was unwittingly to desecrate the hallowed shrine of victim culture. Certain groups of ‘victimised’ people — lone mothers, ethnic minorities, Muslims, gays — enjoy a kind of Protected Species status, in that they must never be offended; nor can any fault ever be laid at their door.
To offend or criticise them is to be guilty of hate crime. But since hatred is a subjective notion, this has opened the way for an oppressive culture of coercion, double standards and injustice.
Offending such groups has become a hanging offence — and that includes protesting against this very phenomenon.
It took Robin Page, chairman of the Countryside Restoration Trust, some five years to clear his name after he was arrested for remarking at a 2002 rally against the government’s anti-hunting laws: ‘If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you.’
To enforce the dogma of thought crime, language has been hijacked and turned inside out. Dissent has been relabelled as either hatred or insanity. Those who disagree with current orthodoxies are therefore deemed to be either bad or mad.
These modern heretics are demonised as Europhobes, homophobes, xenophobes or Islamophobes. They can therefore safely be purged from all positions of influence and their ideas trashed without any discussion.
The taunt of ‘phobia’, or irrational fear, is used along with outright accusations of insanity to place rational dissent beyond the pale. As the former Today programme editor Rod Liddle recently revealed, a BBC apparatchik said to him of Lord Pearson of Rannoch and other Eurosceptics (whose views happen to be shared by half or more of the population): ‘Rod, you do realise that these people are mad?’
Just such a charge was made by totalitarian movements from the medieval Catholic church by way of the Jacobins all the way to Stalin’s secret police.
In similar vein, the rational anxieties of millions about mass immigration or militant Islam destroying the culture of the country are held merely to demonstrate that ordinary people are racist bigots or Islamophobes.
The great gift bequeathed to us by the 18th-century Enlightenment is the freedom to disagree. This is now in eclipse. The intelligentsia — the supposed custodians of reason and intellectual freedom — has turned itself into an inquisition, complete with an index of prohibited ideas.
Nowhere is this more starkly displayed than in the hounding of scientists and others who question man-made global warming theory.
Such sceptics are vilified, smeared, denied funding and even — according to the renowned meteorologist and IPCC reviewer Professor Richard Lindzen — intimidated into telling lies to shore up the theory.
Assertions wholly inimical to science, such as ‘the argument is over’ or that global warming is the belief of a scientific ‘consensus’ — the claim once used by the medieval church to stifle Galileo — are deployed to ensure the argument is over before it can begin.
More viciously still, these dissenters have been dubbed ‘climate change deniers’ to equate their views with Holocaust denial. Not only are they thus likened to Nazi sympathisers, but rejecting man-made global warming theory — for which many of the best brains in climate-related science say there is scant or no evidence — is equated with the genocide of the Jews.
Without the freedom to question and argue, science cannot thrive — and without science, reason would be crippled and modernity would grind to a halt. Which is of course the aim of the environmental movement, whose roots lie in a stream of pagan, irrational and proto-fascist thinking which goes back to the counter-Enlightenment.
‘Politically correct’ views all derive from anti-Western, secular ideologies such as anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, utilitarianism, feminism, multiculturalism and environmentalism. These all share the aim of overturning the established order in the West.
So any groups who have power within that order can never be offended or hurt because they are themselves offensive and hurtful, while ‘powerless’ groups can never be other than victims.
This obsession with power is, of course, a Marxist position; indeed, ‘political correctness’ is a form of cultural Marxism. But how has good old empirical, pragmatic, anti-ideological Britain succumbed to such extremism?
Part of the explanation is that, with the collapse of Soviet communism, the left shifted its focus from economics and politics to the cultural arena. Employing Gramsci’s tactic of ‘the long march through the institutions’, it captured the citadels of the culture for a variety of utopian ideas.
Class divisions would give way to equality, capitalist despoliation of the earth would be replaced by pre-lapsarian agrarian communes and all hatred, prejudice and irrationality would be excised from the human heart.
Like all ideologies, these utopian fantasies wrenched facts and evidence to fit their governing idea. Independent thought thus became impossible — which inevitably resulted in an attack upon freedom, because reason and liberty are inseparable bed-fellows.
Because these creeds purported to embody unchallengeable truths, they could permit no dissent. Reason was thus replaced by bullying, intimidation and the suppression of debate.
What we are living through is therefore a fresh mutation of the previous despotisms of first the medieval church and then the totalitarian political movements of the 20th century.
The West has now fallen victim to a third variation on the theme: cultural totalitarianism, or a dictatorship of virtue. For, in a pattern that goes back to the French Revolution, the left believes that its secular, materialistic, individualistic and utilitarian values represent not a point of view but virtue itself.
To oppose such coercive behaviour or uphold factual evidence in the face of ideological distortion is thus to be damned automatically as evil, mad and extreme.
But here’s the really striking thing. Progressive intellectuals who scorn ‘the right’ as knuckle-dragging extremists are themselves promoting a range of secular fantasies which uncannily mirror pre-Enlightenment religious fanaticism.
Anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, environmentalism, scientism, egalitarianism, anti-racism, libertinism, moral relativism and multiculturalism are all quasi-religious movements — evangelical, dogmatic, millenarian and with enforcement mechanisms to stamp out heresy.
Some would call all this tyranny. But to progressives, tyranny occurs only when their utopia is denied. Virtue therefore has to be coerced for the good of the people at the receiving end.
Since progressivism is all about creating the perfect society, it is therefore incontestably virtuous; and so — like Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety, like Stalinism, like Islam — it is incapable of doing anything bad. Unlike everyone else, of course, for whom it follows they can do nothing but bad.
Accordingly, progressives feel justified in trying to stifle all dissent. Never engaging with the actual argument, they instead use gratuitous abuse to turn their opponents into pariahs (while they themselves, failing to grasp the point about evidence, characterise all reasoned arguments against them as outrageous ‘insults’).
So if you are a white Christian man upholding traditional family values and expressing a desire to stop immigration and leave the EU, while being sceptical of man-made global warming and believing that Darwinian evolution does not explain the origin of life on earth, Britain is no longer your country.
But don’t worry. Utopia is taking its place. The police are on their way to tell you.
Equality -- or Freedom?
If you would understand why America has lost the dynamism she had in the 1950s and 1960s, consider the new Paycheck Fairness Act passed by the House 256 to 162.
The need for such a law, writes Valerie Jarrett, the ranking woman in Barack Obama's White House, is that "working women are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man." But why is that a concern of the U.S. government, and where is the empirical evidence that an inequality of pay between the sexes is proof of sexist hostility to women?
On average, Asians earn more than Hispanics; blacks less than whites. Mormons earn more than Muslims; Jews more than Jehovah's Witnesses. And Polish Americans earn more than Puerto Ricans. Does that prove America is a racist and religiously bigoted country?
The assumption of the Jarrett-backed law is that the sexes are equal in capacity, aptitude, drive and interest, and if there is a disparity in pay, only bigotry can explain it. But are there not other, simpler answers for why women earn less?
Perhaps half of American women leave the job market during their lives, sometimes for decades, to raise children, which puts them behind men who never leave the workforce. Women gravitate to teaching, nursing, secretarial and service work, which pay less than jobs where men predominate: mining, manufacturing, construction and the military.
Over 95 percent of our 40,000 dead and wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq were men. Men in prison outnumber women 10 to one. Is that the result of sex discrimination?
Sports have become a national obsession, and among the most rewarded professions in fame and fortune. And TV viewers prefer to watch male athletes compete in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf, tennis and boxing. Is unequal pay for men and women professional athletes a matter for the government?
Larry Summers lost his job as president of Harvard for suggesting that women have less aptitude for higher math and that may explain why they are underrepresented on Ivy League faculties in the sciences, economics and math. Would not that male aptitude help explain why men are dominant in investment banking and corporate finance, where salaries are among the highest?
Jarrett wants to empower the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to more closely monitor all businesses until women reach pay parity.
But if inequality of pay is a result of human nature and a free society, a greater equality of rewards can only be achieved through coercion, a government declaring its value, economic parity, to be supreme, and imposing its value and its preferred pay structure upon employers.
If this is where America is headed, why not go all the way and dictate that Asians and Hispanics, Muslims and Jews, women and men, blacks and whites, gay and straight must all be paid the exact same for the same work -- and let the EEOC hire 100,000 more bureaucrats to see that it happens? Would that be a great country or a socialist hell?
And before we empower the EEOC to monitor every business for sexism and racism, perhaps the commissioners will explain why African-Americans are 40 percent of all EEOC employees, while only 10 percent of the civilian labor force. Not a single white male sits on the commission.
Whence comes this egalitarian fanaticism? Not from our Declaration of Independence, which spoke of all men being equal in their Creator-endowed rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nor from the America Revolution, which was about liberty not equality, not this alien ideology of egalitarianism.
Equality is not even mentioned in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, and the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" clause did not even make an appearance until after the Civil War. And that was about equal justice under law, not the socioeconomic equality of all Americans.
No, this egalitarian ideology is traceable to the French Revolution, where the royalty and aristocracy went to the guillotine in the name of "egalite."
Under the Paycheck Fairness Act, writes Jarrett, "employers will be required to prove in court that any wage differences were based on factors other than sex -- such as education, training or experience -- and were consistent with business necessity."
In short, women alleging sexist practices by their bosses do not have to prove their guilt. The boss must prove his innocence. This is another way of saying businessman are to be presumed guilty when charged. If that is not un-American, it surely once was.
Should this bill become law, the effects are predictable: more forms to be filled out by businesses, more bureaucrats for the EEOC, more charges of sex discrimination, more class-action suits, more fines, more lawyers getting rich via the litigious looting of the private sector.
America's decline is directly related to the growth in government power and the concomitant loss of freedom.
Except in God-given and constitutional rights, we are not equal. We are all unequal. The utopian promise of equality is but the banner of every power-hungry politician in modern history. And the rise of the egalitarian society means the death of the free society.
Contraceptive pill better for men than for women
Far from bringing equality, contraception has redistributed power away from women, says Cardinal Pell
THIS year is the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill, a development that has changed Western life enormously, in some ways most people do not understand. While majority opinion regards the pill as a significant social benefit for giving women greater control of their fertility, the consensus is not overwhelming, especially among women.
A May CBS News poll of 591 adult Americans found that 59 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women believed the pill had made women's lives better.
In an article in the ecumenical journal First Things that month, North American economist Timothy Reichert approached the topic with "straight-forward microeconomic reasoning", concluding that contraception had triggered a redistribution of wealth and power from women and children to men.
Applying the insights of the market, he points out that relative scarcity or abundance affects behaviour in important ways and that significant technological changes, such as the pill, have broad social effects. His basic thesis is that the pill has divided what was once a single mating market into two markets.
This first is a market for sexual relationships, which most young men and women frequent early in their adult life. The second is a market for marital or partnership relationships, where most participate later on.
Because the pill means that participation in the sex market need not result in pregnancy, the costs of having premarital and extra-marital sex have been lowered.
The old single mating market was populated by roughly the same number of men and women, but this is no longer the case in the two new markets.
Because most women want to have children, they enter the marriage market earlier than men, often by their early 30s. Men are under no such constraints.
Evolutionary biology dictates that there will always be more men than women in the sex market. Their natural roles are different. Women take nine months to make a baby, while it takes a man 10 minutes. St Augustine claimed that the sacrament of marriage was developed to constrain men to take an interest in their children.
Men leave the sex market at a higher average age than women to enter the marriage market. This means that women have a higher bargaining power in the sex market while they remain there (because of the larger number of men there) but face much stiffer competition for marriageable men (because of the lower supply) than earlier generations.
In other words, men take more of "the gains from trade" that marriage produces today.
Reichert also claims that this market division produces several self-reinforcing consequences, including more infidelity.
From a Christian viewpoint it is incongruous and inappropriate to consider baby-free infidelity as an advantage for women or men.
But younger women are likelier to link up with older, successful men than older women with young men, as any number of married women can attest after rearing children, only to find their husband has left for a younger woman.
Another consequence is a greater likelihood of divorce. Because of their lower bargaining power, more women strike "bad deals" in marriage and later feel compelled to escape. This is easier today because the social stigma of divorce has declined and because of no-fault divorce laws. More women also can afford to divorce and, in some cases, prenuptial agreements provide insurance against the worst.
Only the official teaching of the Catholic Church remains opposed to the pill and indeed all artificial contraception, but this is not even a majority position among Catholic churchgoers of child-bearing age. Indeed, this particular Catholic teaching is often cited as diminishing the church's authority to teach on morality among Catholics themselves, as well as provoking disbelief and even astonishment among other Christians and non-believers.
Catholic teaching does not require women to do nothing but have children but it does ask couples to be open to kids and to be generous. What this means in any particular situation is for each couple to decide.
Progressive Catholic opinion 40 or 50 years ago urged believers to follow their consciences and reject the church's opposition to artificial contraception. Today's advocates of the primacy of personal conscience urge Catholics to pick and choose among the church's teachings on marriage, sexuality and life issues, although they generally allow fewer liberties in social justice or ecology.
These changes, regarded as progressive or misguided depending on one's viewpoint, are not coincidental but follow from the revolutionary consequences of the pill on moral thinking and social behaviour; on the broadening endorsement of a moral individualism that ignores or rejects as inevitable the damage inflicted on the social fabric. This revolution was reinforced by the music of the 1960s, for example Mick Jagger's Rolling Stones, or the Beatles.
While early Catholic supporters of the pill claimed it would diminish the number of abortions, this has not eventuated. Whatever the causes, abortion rates have increased dramatically since the mid-60s in Australia and the US, although the number has peaked.
Real-life experience suggests that the "contraceptive mentality" pope Paul VI warned about in 1968 has had unforeseen consequences. To paraphrase Reichert, an unwanted baby threatens prosperity and lifestyle, making abortion seem necessary. It is the women who bear most of the burden of trauma and grief from abortions.
Even women who believe deeply in the Christian notion of godly forgiveness, and those who do not believe in God at all, can battle for years with unassuaged guilt.
In support of his claims that women are bearing a disproportionate burden in the new paradigm, Reichert cites evidence that in the past 35 years across the industrialised world women's happiness has declined absolutely and relative to men.
We have a new gender gap where men report a higher subjective wellbeing. This decline in women's happiness coincides broadly with the arrival of the sexual revolution, triggered by the invention of the pill.
The ancient Christian consensus, which lasted for 1900 years, linking sexual activity to the lovemaking of a husband and wife to create new life, was first broken by the Anglican Church's Lambeth Conference approval of contraception in 1930.
In this new contraceptive era, where no Western country produces enough children to maintain population levels, the Catholic stance is isolated, rejected and often despised.
But the use of the contraceptive pill not only changes the dynamics within a family between husband and wife, it is also changing our broader society in ways we understand imperfectly. But 50 years is not a long time; it is still early in the story.
Sydney artist protests burqa
SECURITY has been called in after tensions threatened to boil over a provocative mural to ban burqas at a Newtown workshop. Following artist Sergio Redegalli's painting opposing the Islamic face covering veils with the slogan "Say no to burqas", security outside the premises has been called in after tensions threatened to boil over.
Police also attended the unit at Wilford and Station St after a female resident allegedly unleashed a foul mouthed tirade against the picture and attempted to deface it with paint.
Security guard Nathan Daniels, called in by Mr Redegalli to protect his work, said there had been a lot of abuse - nearly all from women. "The trouble has been mainly from feminists saying it was sexist and racist. This one woman was abusing the artist - shouting and swearing at him as well as making threats that she's `going to get him', so we had the police called in," Mr Daniels said.
"The thing is Mr Redegalli is trying to get the message across that by women wearing the burqa their identity is being wiped out. A policeman said to me it has practical problems for them, such as identifying people," he added.
A resident, who did not want to be named in case of reprisals, said: "I'm only a pensioner but I would like to give the guy $50 for doing this. "These people come to our country so the least they should do is try and integrate a bit. I don't want to be named because I fear for the safety of my family and friends - everyone's scared of them."
Mr Redegalli said the painting was a rallying call against the creeping growth of extremism in Australia and was not anti-Islam. "It's about the burqa and extremism and not Islam. This mural has come from frustration," he said. "You can't say anything about Muslims without getting in trouble."
The image, which faces one of CityRail's busiest corridors, has been defaced twice since painting began on Monday.
Marrickville Mayor Sam Iskandar said he "condemns" the painting but council did not have the right to remove it.
Muslim Women's National Network Australia president Aziza Abdel-Halim said the image was disrespectful, insulting and an "immature way" of starting a debate. "I don't think [Mr Redegalli] is really even worth thinking about," she said. "[Wearing a burqa] is a matter of personal choice."
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.