Tuesday, December 21, 2010
What we can learn from Victorian 'hypocrisy'
Charles Moore Reviews the British TV programme 'Sinful Sex and the Demon Drink' (BBC2)
It is strange that the editor of Private Eye should have become one of the most morally subtle presenters on television, but true. Ian Hislop is not one of those boring people who, as they get older, go from one extreme to the other. He has not suddenly converted from a drunken, scoffing, dissolute youth to a starchy middle-aged puritanism. He remains satirical and funny. But he is clearly interested in the moral impulse in society, and does not dismiss it as mere hypocrisy.
Hislop's approach was particularly valuable in this, the last of his series of three programmes, The Age of the Do-Gooders, because it is in relation to sex and drink that we get our easiest laughs at the expense of the Victorians. What humbugs they all were, we say complacently. Boldly, and in the spirit of genuine inquiry so often absent from television history, Hislop decided to take them seriously.
The famous test case is W E Gladstone, the dominant statesman of the 19th century, and an enthusiastic rescuer of prostitutes. Walking home from Parliament late at night, he would engage whores in conversation, sometimes even giving them a bed for the night, hearing their stories, hoping, with the help of the Scriptures, to win them for a better life.
You have only to look at pictures of Gladstone, with his masterful countenance and flashing eye, to see that he was a man with a strong sex drive. Psychologists could draw a very obvious conclusion from his passion for cutting down trees. He admitted in his own diary that his thoughts about Marian Summerhayes, a beautiful courtesan to whom he once declaimed Tennyson's The Princess for four-and-a-half hours, ''require to be limited and purged''. He seems to have scourged himself with a whip when temptation proved particularly strong.
To the modern mind, all this damns Gladstone. He was clearly, as we charmlessly say, ''getting off on'' prostitutes, and therefore no better than a dirty old man. Certainly if any prime minister today were to be caught doing what Gladstone did, he would be hounded out by a self-righteous media who would not listen to his excuses.
But Hislop was not inclined to condemn him. He interviewed the director of a Christian charity called Trust which helps prostitutes in south London. She praised Gladstone, and an age in which he could act freely to try to do good. Nowadays, she said, ''Health and safety and all that kind of stuff get in the way." (And it should be noted, in passing, that Gladstone helped materially as well as spiritually. He gave £80,000 – about £4 million today – to help build homes in which prostitutes could stay and learn an honest trade.)
I feel that the Gladstone example applies in other spheres. Take our current obsession with paedophilia. The fact is that a significant number of good teachers have paedophilic tendencies. If they commit no wrong acts, this should not be seen as a problem. Their urges towards children, if they control them, may make them more interested in their pupils' welfare than the rest of us would be. If we want the best for our children we should not be intolerant of the Gladstone equivalents – those who sublimate their dangerous desires to good effect.
In relation to drink, too, Hislop had the courage to listen to the unfashionable position. As someone who opened a bottle of wine before sitting down to watch his programme, I am not on the side of Joseph Livesey, the founder of the temperance movement, who invented The Pledge of teetotalism. Nor, one suspects, is Hislop. But people like Livesey were right to see drunkenness as the greatest self-inflicted slavery and sobriety as a surest way to the emancipation of the poor. To anyone visiting a British town centre on a Saturday night, it is obvious that our culture has not mastered the problem. Indeed, it has made it worse, since women are now encouraged to join in the once male-only madness.
The greatest fault of the do-gooders is that they tended – and their successors still tend – to elide what is right with what should be the law. You have only to look at the drugs trade, which has flourished for 50 years in conditions of complete illegality, to see how a ban can make social evils even greater.
Besides, it is illogical for puritans, who rightly put such store by the exercise of the conscience, to try to compel when they cannot persuade. The Pledge itself was a classic ''Big Society'' phenomenon – an action that gave people dignity by helping them choose what would help them. Such a thing cannot be imposed. The modern challenge, for libertarians and do-gooders alike, is to work for a society which is both free and disciplined. It is babyish to see the two qualities as automatically opposed.
I began by saying that Hislop displayed moral subtlety in these programmes. This was most apparent in his treatment of the Christian motives of almost all his subjects. He made them clear, without bashing the point. From their Christianity came a deep belief in the goodness and the sinfulness of every human being, and the importance of the victory of the one over the other. Their faith also made them believe in change, both in human society and in the human heart. What Hislop was saying, gently, is that we feel the lack of their faith today.
Why it's natural for girls to play with dolls and boys to love guns
Girls play with dolls because they’re programmed to, not because of any sexual stereotyping, new research suggests.
Young chimps in the wild play play boy and girl games, much like their human counterparts, scientists found. Although both male and female chimpanzees play with sticks, girl chimps treat sticks like dolls copying their mothers as they care for infants.
The findings suggest girls play more with dolls than boys not because of sex-stereotyped socialization but because of ‘biological predilections.’
Richard Wrangham of Harvard University said: ‘This is the first evidence of an animal species in the wild in which object play differs between males and females.’
Earlier studies of captive monkeys had also suggested a biological influence on toy choice. When juvenile monkeys are offered sex-stereotyped human toys, females gravitate toward dolls, whereas males are more apt to play with ‘boys’ toys’ such as trucks.
The findings were the result of 14 years of observation of the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda. It found that chimpanzees use sticks in four main ways, as probes to investigate holes potentially containing water or honey, as props or weapons in aggressive encounters, during solitary or social play, and in a behaviour the researchers refer to as stick-carrying.
Mr Wrangham said: ‘We thought that if the sticks are being treated like dolls, females would carry sticks more than males do and should stop carrying sticks when they have their own babies. 'We now know that both of these points are correct.’
Young females sometimes took their sticks into day-nests where they rested and sometimes played with them casually in a manner that evoked maternal play. However scientists are unsure if stick-carrying was a form of play for all chimp clans or was just a ‘social tradition that has sprung up’ in the study group.
If it was found to be unique to the Kanyawara chimps ‘it will be the first case of a tradition maintained just among the young, like nursery rhymes and some games in human children. ‘This would suggest that chimpanzee behavioural traditions are even more like those in humans than previously thought.’
The findings were published in the latest issue of Current Biology
Hope for Every Man, including homosexuals
Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve received numerous well-reasoned emails asking me to explain my differences with radio talk show host Neal Boortz – at least as they pertain to an ongoing controversy involving Augusta State University student Jennifer Keeton. Insofar as our present differences arise from more fundamental differences regarding human imperfection and personal redemption I am pleased to elaborate.
For those not aware, Keeton was threatened with expulsion from Augusta State University for refusing to submit to a re-education program run by state-employed university officials. The re-education program was not targeted towards the manner in which Keeton had articulated certain ideas (including private conversations outside of class with fellow students). Instead, it was focused upon the substance of those ideas.
According to state officials, the principal “problem” was Keeton’s assertion that free will plays a role in homosexual conduct. Because she is a counseling major the state was concerned that, upon graduation, she might incorporate those views into her private professional practice. The “solution” mandated by the government was forced abandonment of her belief in free will. This was stated as a condition of remaining in the state-funded university program.
Neal Boortz’ position on the matter was succinctly summarized on his privately owned website back in early August. His support for the government reeducation program appeared then, as it does now, to be based upon two premises – the first of which I believe to be accurate, the second of which I believe to be deeply flawed.
The first premise is that feelings of homosexuality, when first experienced by a young person, tend to be accompanied by rather intense feelings of confusion and anxiety – as does the decision to seek counseling regarding one’s sexuality. In this regard, Boortz has characterized the situation accurately.
The second premise is that hearing a counselor articulate the view that the patient has some degree of control over his sexuality would heighten, rather than attenuate, his feelings of confusion and anxiety. In this regard, Boortz has characterized the situation inaccurately.
It is unclear how Boortz arrives at the conclusion that someone would find the phrase “You can change” to be more traumatic than the phrase “You cannot change.” Human beings have always been comforted by the idea that they have some control over their fate. To suggest that homosexuals are somehow emotionally traumatized by ideas that are found comforting by others is to suggest a high degree of emotional volatility. The idea is not only condescending but lacks any basis in reality.
The idea that homosexual conduct is fully under the control of genetics has been refuted. If sexual orientation is fully genetically determined, identical twins will always have the same sexual orientation. If one is gay, the other identical twin will always be gay. If one is straight, the other identical twin will always be straight. Since this is not always the case, other factors are involved. This situation cannot be as simple as Boortz imagines it to be.
The State of Georgia is attempting to do no less than force a student to articulate a position that has been empirically falsified; namely, that the genetic influence upon homosexuality is so complete as to nullify free will. Their motivation is predicated upon a second falsehood; namely, that the first falsehood promotes self-esteem.
To date, too much has been made of the fact that the Boortz position is at odds with his professed libertarianism. Not enough has been made of the fact that his position is at odds with his professed Christianity.
Put simply, the Boortz position fails to recognize the distinction between temptation and sin. It also fails to distinguish between living an imperfect life and living a life ruled by imperfection. Those who may have given in to temptations to engage in homosexual conduct are not genetically resigned to the full indulgence of the homosexual lifestyle.
Ideas have consequences. The ideas we express have specific consequences in the course of human history. They may either produce life or they may produce death among those who hear them. In that sense, this case is not just about liberty for one individual. It is about hope for an entire generation.
Jesus did not come into the world to establish government programs that teach people there is nothing wrong with them and that they lack the ability to change. He came into this world to save sinners. But His offer is available only to those willing to acknowledge their sin and willing to change. And He gives us the power to change even when talk show hosts tell us we cannot.
We live in a world that hates God – so much so that it nailed Him to a cross. But Hope was resurrected and is there for every man today. And that is our greatest source of comfort in a world that preaches hopelessness.
Useful Idiots and Fifth Columnists: The Media Role in the War Against the West
We are living through a global campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel in which the western media are playing a key role. The British media are the global leaders of this campaign in their frenzied and obsessional attacks on Israel. In the BBC in particular, such virulence attains unparalleled power and influence since it is stamped with the BBC’s global kitemark of objectivity and trustworthiness.
Israel’s every action is reported malevolently, ascribing to it the worst possible motives and denying its own victimisation. Instead of the truth, which is that every military action by Israel is taken solely to protect itself from attack, it is portrayed falsely as instigating the violent oppression of the Palestinians.
Tyranny around the world — such as the 20-year genocide in southern Sudan, or the persecution of Christians in Africa or Asia — goes almost unreported, as does Palestinian violence upon other Palestinians.
Yet Israel is dwelt upon obsessively, held to standards of behaviour expected of no other country and, with its own victimisation glossed over or ignored altogether, falsely accused of imposing wanton suffering.
Time after time, otherwise cynical, reality-hardened journalists have published or broadcast claims of Israeli ‘atrocities’ which are clearly theatrically staged fabrications or allegations. The false narrative of Arab propaganda is now so deeply embedded in the consciousness of journalists that they cannot see that what they are saying is untrue even when it is utterly egregious and indeed absurd.
The war against Hamas in Gaza in 2008/9 was a case in point. The British media had scarcely reported the constant rocket bombardment from Gaza. Most of the public were simply unaware that thousands of rockets had been fired at Israeli citizens.
But when in Operation Cast Lead Israel finally bombed Gaza to put a stop to the attacks, it was denounced for a ‘disproportionate’ response and for wantonly and recklessly killing ‘civilians’ — even though, according to Israel, the vast majority were targeted terrorists. Nevertheless, the media gave the impression that the Israelis were a bunch of bloodthirsty child-killers.
Israel is further accused of causing a humanitarian catastrophe in maintaining a blockade of Gaza. But there is scant mention of the many supplies Israel does allow through, nor the steady stream of Gazans being routinely treated in Israeli hospitals, nor the fact that it is Egypt which maintains a much tougher blockade on its own Gazan border.
This is because Israel’s crime is to defend itself militarily. To much of the media, Israel’s self-defence is regarded as intrinsically illegitimate. It is routinely described as ‘vengeance’ or ‘punishment’. Thus Sir Max Hastings wrote in the Guardian in 2004: ‘Israel does itself relentless harm by venting its spleen for suicide bombings upon the Palestinian people.’
Israel’s attempt to prevent any more of its citizens from being blown to bits on buses or in pizza parlours was apparently nothing other than a fit of spiteful anger. The Israelis were presented by Hastings not as victims of terror but as Nazi-style butchers, while the aggression of the Palestinians was ignored altogether.
In short, Israel is presented as some kind of cosmic demonic force, standing outside of humanity. To what should we ascribe such unique malice towards an embattled and besieged people?
The first thing to say is that this phenomenon is characteristic not just of the media but the wider intelligentsia and political class.
In Britain, the established church, the universities, the Foreign Office, the theatrical and publishing worlds, the voluntary sector, members of Parliament across the political spectrum, as well as the media — have signed up to the demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel. It’s the home of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
It’s where human rights lawyers threaten to arrest Israelis for war crimes as soon as they step off the plane at Heathrow.
It’s where an English judge virtually directed a jury to acquit anti-Israel activists, who cheerfully admitted committing criminal damage against an arms factory because it sold equipment to the Israelis, on the grounds that the Israelis were making life in Gaza ‘hell on earth’, and were behaving like Nazis and that if they had done this during World War Two they ‘might have got a George Medal’.
It’s where Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron told the Turkish Prime Minister that Gaza was a prison camp, that the Israeli ‘attack’ on the Turkish terror flotilla ship was ‘completely unacceptable’, and where the British Foreign Secretary ‘deplored the loss of life’ in that Israeli attack.
Britain has effectively become a kind of global laundry for the lies about Israel and bigotry towards the Jews churning out of the Arab and Muslim world, sanitising them for further consumption throughout English-speaking, American and European society and turning what was hitherto confined to the extreme fringes of both left and right into the mainstream. Where Britain has led, the rest of the west has followed.
What is striking is the extent to which a patently false and in many cases demonstrably absurd account has been absorbed uncritically and assumed to be true.
History is turned on its head; facts and falsehoods, victims and victimisers have their roles inverted; logic is suspended, and an entirely false narrative of the conflict is now widely accepted as unchallengeable fact, from which fundamental error has been spun a global web of potentially catastrophic false conclusions.
In Britain and much of Europe, the mainstream, dominant view amongst the educated classes is that Israel itself is intrinsically illegitimate. Its behaviour is viewed accordingly through that prism.
Much of the obsession with Israel’s behaviour is due to the widespread belief that its very existence is an aberration which, although understandable at the time it came into being, was a historic mistake.
People believe that Israel was created as a way of redeeming Holocaust guilt. Accordingly, they believe that European Jews with no previous connection to Palestine — which was the historic homeland of Palestinian Muslims who had lived there since time immemorial — were transplanted there as foreign invaders, from where they drove out the indigenous Arabs into the West Bank and Gaza. These are territories which Israel is now occupying illegally (even after its ‘disengagement’ from Gaza in 2005), oppressing the Palestinians and frustrating the creation of a state of Palestine which would end the conflict.
Every one of these assumptions is wrong. Moreover, many of these errors and distortions not only promote falsehoods but actually turn the truth inside out. This is because the west has swallowed the Arab and Muslim narrative on Israel which acts as a kind of global distorting mirror, appropriating Jewish experience and twisting it into a propaganda weapon against the Jews.
Because of the dominant belief in victim culture and minority rights, self-designated victim groups — those without power — can never do wrong while majority groups can never do right. And Jews are not considered a minority because – in the hateful discourse of today – Jews are held to be all-powerful as they ‘control’ the media, Wall Street and America.
So the Muslim world cannot be held responsible for blowing people up as they are the third world victims of the west; so any atrocities they commit must be the fault of their victims; and so the US had it coming to it on 9/11. And in similar fashion, Israel can never be the victim of the Arab world; the murder of Israelis by the Arab world must be Israel’s own fault....
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, 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.