Friday, November 02, 2012
Egalite without liberte? Non, non, non!
A new army of equality quangos and experts promises to make us all equal – but at the expense of our freedoms and desire to be rich
Historically, when people talked about equality, they meant one of two things. They either meant political equality - that is, equal rights, the expansion of freedom to more and more sections of society. Or they meant material equality - that is, a rethink of the way resources are created and distributed, the expansion of wealth so that more and more sections of society could enjoy it.
But today, we have a very curious situation where the new equality industry - all those quangos, experts and politicians who present themselves as the guardians of equality - actively undermines those two goals of the old struggles for equality. Today, equality is promoted not as a means of expanding freedom, but of limiting it. And equality is celebrated not as a means of expanding wealth, but as a way of shrinking wealth, or at least making it less ostentatious.
Where once we fought for equality in order to expose greater numbers of people to the gains of freedom and the joy of wealth, now the state and its offshoots promote equality in order to protect us from those things - in order to protect us from the alleged dangers of too much freedom and from the alleged mental distress that comes from wanting too much material stuff.
In relation to freedom: One of the most striking things about our society is how much validation and even adulation the idea of equality receives, and how little the ideal of freedom receives. There are numerous quangos and think-tanks devoted to promoting equality, but hardly any devoted to preserving freedom. Politicians like David Cameron are always talking about how important it is to address inequality, but they never make a loud defence of freedom - in fact, they pass laws that eat away at our freedom.
And not only does our society value equality more than it does freedom - it also uses equality as a tool for undermining freedom. You can see this pretty clearly with the UK Equality Act - the new ‘duty’ of equality that is enforced by government, which some religious and political groups have raised concerns about it, worried that it might be used to attack freedom of conscience and freedom of association.
Just consider the pretty shocking case where the state sought to force the far-right British National Party to rewrite its constitution. The Equality and Human Rights Commission argued that the BNP’s constitution was anti-equality. The constitution broke race relations laws by stipulating that the BNP was open only to ‘indigenous Caucasians’. It failed the equality test, and therefore it had to go.
Now, you might well hate the BNP’s constitution - that’s fine, most normal people do. But what you should hate even more is the idea that the state should have the right to edit or trash the constitutions of political parties. Because if we accept that the state should have that right, then we accept that there is no longer freedom of association or the right to political organisation; we accept that those two key freedoms - the freedom to associate with whom we choose and the freedom to promote whatever political views we like - can be undermined by the state in the name of ‘equality’.
The BNP case showed just how cynical the promotion of equality is these days. There were no queues of black and Asian people demanding the right to join the BNP, a racist party. This was no bottom-up demand for equal treatment - it was a top-down exploitation of the language of equality by a state keen to punish a deviant political party and force it to conform to the state’s values.
Today’s elevation of equality over freedom is bizarre - because freedom absolutely presupposes equality. Freedom is unquestionably a more important value than equality. In fact, earlier generations of fighters for equality saw equality as important only insofar as it allowed for the expansion of freedom. So for the French Revolutionaries - who propelled equality into historical consciousness - the demand for equality was about giving meaning to freedom. It was about making the ideal of freedom a reality by extending it, in Robespierre’s words, to both ‘slave and tyrant’. Equality emerged in the eighteenth century as a means of achieving freedom, which had been discussed as an ideal for centuries, in the living, breathing world.
Today, the use of equality to undermine freedom seriously denigrates both - it denigrates both the purpose of equality, and the meaning of freedom.
Then there is the debate about material equality. Here, too, the meaning of equality has been warped. Where earlier generations fought for the creation of more, in order to facilitate the spread of wealth to all, today’s equality quangos effectively fight for less. For them, equality means everyone having just about enough rather than everyone having an awful lot or all they can dream of.
Their starting point is the idea that desiring wealth is potentially bad for our mental health. They have even invented new diseases to describe the longing to be wealthy - they call it ‘affluenza’ or ‘stuff-itis’. They have pathologised the desire for more. And that’s because their aim is to lower horizons rather than raise them. For them, equality is a kind of therapy for the poor, a tool which should be used to make poor people feel better about the fact that they live on less than others. The new equality quangos are obsessed with lowering the perks and privileges of the rich - with ‘shrinking the pay gap’, as they call it - because their overarching aim is to stem feelings of jealously and out-of-control desire amongst the poor when they see rich bankers swaggering about with champagne and cigars.
This was best summed up by Will Hutton of the High Pay Commission, who recently said: ‘The knowledge that ostentatious consumption is possible has a shadow effect on every British citizen.’ In short, we must protect the poor from the sight of wealth; we must protect them from the harm of wanting things, and we must do this by making the wealth in our society less garish and obvious, by shrinking it, by removing the suggestion that everyone could achieve this standard of living or that it would be desirable for them to do so. This is really about helping the poor acclimatise to the fact that they are poor, by removing riches from their sight and from their minds.
The key problem today is the treatment of equality as an end in itself, as the good, logical end goal of policymaking. In past struggles, equality wasn’t treated as an end in itself - rather, it was viewed as a tool for the expansion of freedom and for the spread of riches. That is, it was about unleashing people’s potential and their individuality by making them more autonomous, both politically and economically; it wasn’t about making everyone the same, with the same views, the same incomes, the same life trajectories.
Today, equality, the end goal of just about every modern policy proposal, is about restraint; it’s about reining in allegedly dangerous freedoms and dampening down material desires. No wonder it is so attractive to the elite: ‘equality’ has become a PC word through which our rulers can limit people’s freedoms and lower our horizons and generally make our ambitionless, slothful society seem principled by describing it as ‘equal’. We should tell them we don’t want to be merely and always equal - we want to be free.
Why a Good Person Can Vote Against Same-Sex Marriage
Next week voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington will vote on whether to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Given that there are good people on both sides of this issue, how are we to explain their opposing views?
The primary explanation is this: Proponents and opponents ask two different questions.
Proponents of same-sex marriage ask: Is keeping the definition of marriage as man-woman fair to gays? Opponents of same-sex marriage ask: Is same-sex marriage good for society?
Few on either side honestly address the question of the other side. Opponents of same-sex marriage rarely acknowledge how unfair the age-old man-woman definition is to gay couples. And proponents rarely, if ever, acknowledge that this unprecedented redefinition of marriage may not be good for society.
That is why proponents have it much easier. All they need to do is to focus the public's attention on individual gay people, show wonderful gay individuals who love each other, and ask the American public: Is it fair to continue to deprive these people of the right to marry one another?
When added to Americans' aversion to discrimination, to the elevation of compassion to perhaps the highest national value, and to the equating of opposition to same-sex marriage with opposition to interracial marriage, it is no wonder that many Americans have been persuaded that opposition to same-sex marriage is hateful, backwards and the moral equivalent of racism.
Is there any argument that can compete with the emotionally compelling fairness argument? The answer is that one can -- namely, the answer to the second question, Is it good for society?
Before answering that question, however, it is necessary to respond to the charge that opposition to same-sex marriage is morally equivalent to opposition to interracial marriage and, therefore, the moral equivalent of racism.
There are two responses:
First, this charge is predicated on the profoundly false premise that race and sex (or "gender" as it is now referred to) are analogous.
They are not. While there are no differences between black and white human beings, there are enormous differences between male and female human beings. That is why sports events, clothing, public restrooms, and (often) schools are routinely divided by sex. But black sporting events and white sporting events, black restrooms and white restrooms, black schools and white schools, or black clothing stores and white clothing stores would be considered immoral.
Because racial differences are insignificant and gender differences are hugely significant, there is no moral equivalence between opposition to interracial marriage and opposition to same-sex marriage.
Second, if opposition to same-sex marriage is as immoral as racism, why did no great moral thinker, in all of history, ever advocate male-male or female-female marriage? Opposition to racism was advocated by every great moral thinker. Moses, for example, married a black woman, the very definition of Catholic is "universal" and therefore diverse and has always included every race, and the equality of human beings of every race was a central tenet of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other world religions. But no one - not Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Aquinas, Gandhi, not the Bible or the Koran or any other sacred text, nor even a single anti-religious secular thinker of the Enlightenment -- ever advocated redefining marriage to include members of the same sex.
To argue that opposition to same-sex marriage is immoral is to argue that every moral thinker, and every religion and social movement in the history of mankind prior to the last 20 years in America and Europe was immoral. About no other issue could this be said. Every moral advance has been rooted in prior moral thinking. The anti-slavery movement was based on the Bible. Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost the "Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr." and he regularly appealed to the moral authority of the scriptures when making his appeals on behalf of racial equality. Same-sex marriage is the only social movement to break entirely with the past, to create a moral ideal never before conceived. It might be right, but it might also be an example of the moral hubris of the present generation, the generation that created the self-esteem movement: After all, you need a lot of self-esteem to hold yourself morally superior to all those who preceded you.
We now return to our two primary questions.
Is the man-woman definition of marriage fair to gays who wish to marry? No, it isn't. And those of us opposed to same-sex marriage need to be honest about this, to confront the human price paid by some people through no fault of their own and figure out ways to offer gay couples basic rights associated with marriage.
But whether a policy is fair to every individual can never be the only question society asks in establishing social policy. Eyesight standards for pilots are unfair to some terrifically capable individuals. Orchestra standards are unfair to many talented musicians. A mandatory retirement age is unfair to many people. Wherever there are standards, there will be unfairness to individuals.
So, the question is whether redefining in the most radical way ever conceived -- indeed completely changing its intended meaning -- is good for society.
It isn't. The major reason is this: Gender increasingly no longer matters. There is a fierce battle taking place to render meaningless the man-woman distinction, the most important distinction regarding human beings' personal identity. Nothing would accomplish this as much as same-sex marriage.
The whole premise of same-sex marriage is that gender is insignificant: It doesn't matter whether you marry a man or a woman. Love, not gender, matters.
Some examples of this war on gender:
--This year Harvard University appointed its first permanent director of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer student life. The individual, Vanidy Bailey, has asked that he/she never be referred to as he or she, male or female. Harvard has agreed.
--In 2010 eHarmony, for years the country's largest online dating service, was sued for only matching men and women. Its lack of same-sex matchmaking meant that it violated anti-discrimination laws in some states. As a result, eHarmony was forced to begin a same-sex online service.
--Each year more and more American high schools elect girls as homecoming kings and boys as homecoming queens. Students have been taught to regard restricting kings to males or queens to females as (gender-based) discrimination.
--When you sign up for the new social networking site, Google Plus, you are asked to identify your gender. Three choices are offered: Male, Female, Other.
--Catholic Charities, which operates the oldest ongoing adoption services in America, has had to end its adoption work in Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, DC because the governments there regard placing children with married man-woman couples before same-sex couples as discriminatory.
Increasingly, even the mother-father ideal is being shattered in this battle to render male-female distinction insignificant.
--The socialist French government has just announced that in the future no government issued document will be allowed to use the words "mother" or "father." Only the gender-neutral term "parent" will be acceptable in France.
--And in Rhode Island this year, one school district cancelled its father-daughter dance after the ACLU threatened to sue the district for gender discrimination. Only parent-child events, not father-daughter dances or mother-son ballgames, will be allowed.
And all this is happening before same-sex marriage is allowed. Imagine what will happen should same-sex marriage become the law of the land.
It will hasten the end of the male-female distinction and of any significance to mothers or fathers as distinctive entities.
It will mean that those who, for religious or other reasons, wish to retain the man-woman definition of marriage will be legally and morally as isolated as racists are today.
And it will mean that teachers and other adults who ask little boys and girls who they would like to marry, will, in order to be in sync with the morality of our times, have to make it clear that it might be a someone of the same sex. "Will you marry a boy or a girl?" will be the only non-bigoted way to ask a young person about their marital plans.
The history of left-wing policies has largely consisted of doing what feels good and compassionate without asking what the long-term consequences will be; what Professor Thomas Sowell calls "Stage One Thinking." That explains, for example, the entitlement state. It sounds noble and seems noble. But the long-term consequences are terrible: economic ruin, a demoralized population, increasing selfishness as people look to the state to take care of their fellow citizens, and more.
By redefining marriage to include same sex couples we are playing with sexual and societal fire. Just as the entitlement state passes on the cost of our good intentions to our children and grandchildren - unsustainable dependency and debt -- so, too, same-sex marriage will pass along the consequences of our good intentions to our children and grandchildren - gender confusion and the loss of motherhood and fatherhood as values, just to cite two obvious consequences.
It is not enough to mean well in life. One must also do well. And the two are frequently not the same thing.
There are reasons no moral thinker in history ever advocated same-sex marriage.
Corrupt poll serves to demonise Israelis as pro-apartheid
ON October 23, the [Leftist] Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran a front-page story under the headline "Most Israelis support apartheid regime in the country", based on a clearly politicised push poll.
Once the poll findings were properly analysed and the flawed methodology and highly manipulative questions were revealed, Haaretz apologised, printed a retraction and admitted that its headline was misleading and the "apartheid" slur was misplaced. But the damage had been done. The original article was front-page news but the retraction was tucked away on page 5.
Gideon Levy, the journalist who "broke" the story (and was forced to write the retraction), has now admitted making "mistakes" that "shouldn't have happened", dubiously citing "neglect due to time pressures".
While Haaretz's admissions won't be noticed outside Israel, the original story was quickly picked up around the world. Britain's The Guardian and The Independent, Toronto's The Globe and Mail and The Sydney Morning Herald all ran the story under headlines as misleading as that of the original Haaretz piece: "Many Israelis support apartheid-style state, poll suggests" and "The new Israeli apartheid".
Australia: Conservative radio talker has the last laugh; now tops
With puffed-up pseudo-indignation, the Left tried to destroy him over a minor gaffe but they failed utterly
THE public has delivered an extraordinary verdict on the Alan Jones controversy and the attempt to destroy his program via an advertiser boycott.
The Alan Jones show has surged back to the top of the market. It is again bristling with ads. His number of listeners – all voters and consumers – is showing a healthy glow.
Prior to the recent anti-Jones campaign, Jones had a cumulative audience of 442,000 listeners in his 5.30am to 9am slot on weekday mornings. It was 2 1/2 times the audience size of his most direct commercial competitor, 2UE, but still trailed ABC 702.
This changed dramatically in the latest Nielsen ratings. Jones cruised past ABC 702, gaining 22,000 listeners while 702 lost 17,000 listeners.
The survey was generally bad for the flagship ABC station. Its daytime audience fell 9 per cent as ABC 702 suffered losses across every shift from 5.30am to 7pm, losing a cumulative 142,000 listeners.
This probably had nothing to do with Jones and more to do with changing media consumption patterns but the difference in fortunes was striking.
The latest Nielsen numbers are also a blast of cold air for 2UE. The station is not just a direct commercial competitor of 2GB but has also mimicked the 2GB formula, for a time even hiring David Oldfield, the former strategist for Pauline Hanson. The station should also have benefited from a ferocious coverage of Jones in Fairfax Media mastheads.
The upshot: prior to the boycott, 2UE had 166,000 cumulative listeners during the 5.30 to 9am slot, the equivalent of 38 per cent of the Jones audience. In the latest survey, 2UE shed 30,000 listeners while Jones was on air, a plunge of 18 per cent. Its audience has fallen to an equivalent of just 29 per cent of Jones's audience.
The Alan Jones show took a big commercial hit during October from the boycott but the show again has plenty of advertisers. Shares in 2GB's parent company, Macquarie Radio Network, fell sharply at the height of the boycott, from 64¢ to 54¢, but have since sprung back to pre-boycott levels.
The anti-Jones campaign has become problematic for its organisers.
In the marketplace of ideas, and the arena of freedom of speech, this controversy was a setback for Jones but has proved an abject defeat for his political adversaries in terms of market share.
The campaign targeted small businesses that advertised on the Jones program, jamming their online operations with anti-Jones spam. The campaign thus inflicted commercial damage on companies that had done nothing wrong.
The social media campaign which drove the anti-Jones campaign has been exposed as having organisers with clear organic links to the left, the unions and the Labor Party.
Ten days ago, Simon Sheikh, the long-time national director of GetUp, a social media network imported from the United States, announced he would seek preselection from the Greens as a Senate candidate in the ACT at the next election. This removed the fig-leaf, if one even existed, in front of the reality that GetUp serves as a proxy for the unions and the Greens.
Another anti-Jones organiser, Change.com, which like GetUp is a progressive social media network imported from the US, used to market itself as a politically neutral platform. It revealed itself as far from neutral when Change.com become an active cheerleader for the anti-Jones boycott campaign.
The campaign via Change.com was white hot for a week but quickly ran out of steam. After an initial surge of 100,000 online signatures in support of a boycott the growth in numbers fell to a trickle. When the petition closed after a month it had 116,000 signatures.
Any further attempts to target companies that advertise on Jones will be perceived as vindictive, given that Jones has apologised for the remark which sparked the campaign (that Julia Gillard's father had died of shame because his daughter lied so much) and commercial damage has been inflicted via the advertiser boycott. The point has been made.
The offending remark were made at a private function, and quickly withdrawn, but the outrage directed at Jones came from people who never listened to his program and are not remotely interested in his extensive philanthropy.
Based on the overall reaction to the Jones controversy, as distinct from the froth on social media, the campaign has proved to be a flash flood with little impact on the wider audience.
The Nielsen ratings suggest the campaign is widely perceived as an exercise in overkill. This morning a clearly nervous man went on air during the Jones's show and said: "First-time caller. I just want to give you my support."
Another caller, Stephanie, a Jones regular, wanted to talk about the two years of abuse she endured from another radio talk host who indulged in an obsessional hatred of Jones.
"Was your name and address ever mentioned on air?" Jones asked, in classic Dorothy Dix mode. "Indeed my full name was mentioned for nearly two years by a broadcaster, and where I live," replied Stephanie. "My sons were mentioned … I was referred to on air, several times, as a skanky ho."
Jones: "There are rules for some and different rules for others … It's perfectly OK to refer to Tony Abbott as a 'douchebag' or 'Jack the Ripper'."
A sense of resentment has energised Jones, and his audience. It's called blowback.
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, 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. Email me (John Ray) here.