Wednesday, June 05, 2013
I'll risk the Judgment of Future Generations
Everyone must be judged from time to time. It's a fact of life. Nonetheless, I'm getting tired of judgmental statements directed toward me for my unwavering defense of marriage. I'm talking about real marriage between one man and one woman, which is the only kind of marriage that really exists.
People often try to call something a marriage when it isn't. Calling a union between two men or between two women a marriage doesn't make it one. It's like embedding the name "Jesus Christ" in the official title of the LDS church and thinking that makes Mormonism somehow Christian. Call a square a triangle if you like but it's still a square. Your hardheadedness won't make it become a triangle. It will only make you appear obtuse.
Of course, the marriage destroyers are not content merely to call non-marriages "marriages" as part of their ongoing effort to denigrate the institution. They also insist that everyone else do the same. And when we don't, we incur the wrath of the godless. While accusing others of being judgmental, they will cast judgment upon all others. But for this generation of leftists that isn't enough. Increasingly, they have insisted on invoking the judgment of "future generations" as well. Let me provide three examples:
1. During a debate last October, a liberal historian told me that those who oppose same-sex “marriage” will be "shamed by history for their refusal to join in this great cause for civil rights." The great cause was, of course, destroying marriage for everyone, black and white alike.
2. A retired professor living in my community said opponents of same-sex “marriage” are "hopelessly bigoted." He also said that "after we are gone" the next generation will look back and ask "what were you thinking?" to those who opposed redefining marriage. He didn't specify how we will answer after we are "gone." That’s a strange argument coming from a self-professed philosophical naturalist.
3. Finally, a man I've never met bombed my Facebook fan page with several angry remarks on the issue. He concluded by telling me that my bigotry would not escape "the judgment of future generations." In a fit of judgmental bigotry, I banned him from my page forever. I couldn't help it. I guess I was born with the anti-gay agenda gene.
These references to how I will be remembered are getting spooky. Maybe I'm dying soon and everybody knows it but me. Just in case, let me get something straight about what I want my legacy to be. Put simply, I want to be remembered as someone who feared the judgment of an eternal God more than he feared the judgment of future generations.
With all the peer pressure surrounding the marriage issue that’s what it boils down to in America. I guess you could say that we now have a divide between two kinds of people. There are: a) those who fear the judgment of man and b) those who fear the judgment of God.
There are good reasons why the latter do not need to be intimidated by the former. First and foremost is the rank hypocrisy of the man-fearers. The same people who invoke the "fear of future generations" argument also support abortion, which tends to dismember future generations before they can judge anyone. These future generation fearers are also the ones running up the national debt with entitlements that only the present generation will have a chance to enjoy.
So I say to my critics, keep living in the present and treating the culture like a giant ATM machine. Withdraw often, never make a deposit, and redefine institutions in order to accommodate your sex life. But stop feeding me this nonsense about your concern for future generations.
Hate mustn’t be made a thought crime – only acting on it is
Words must be regarded differently in law from acts. It distinguishes a free nation from a totalitarian one
Whatever arguments there may be about the scope and power of government, one point that nobody disputes is that its primary function must be to protect the safety of the people. In democratic countries, national security – the preservation of life and property – trumps everything. But what if the danger to public safety gets overtaken by the danger of what is being done in its name?
At the moment, we – by which I mean what used to be called the “Western world” – are being forced to decide just how much personal liberty should be curtailed in the interests of safety. And we are having this debate in the wake of personal tragedy and terrifying threats from an enemy within. That is pretty much the most dangerous concatenation of circumstances that the values of a free society can face.
In Britain, where inherent liberty has been a fundamental principle of the political culture for centuries, we are seriously considering banning (that is, making illegal) whole categories of speech: not just forms of words that specifically incite crime but the propagation of potentially incendiary ideas and hateful expressions of feeling.
The BBC’s decision to present the radical Islamist Anjem Choudary with an opportunity to address the nation in the immediate aftermath of a hideous murder in a London street by men who identified themselves as Islamic extremists was stupid and offensive. In the alarm and hyper-sensitivity of the moment, it instantly gave rise to demands that such stupidity must, in future, be prohibited by law. As if the only way to stop self-indulgent broadcasters from doing asinine things was to criminalise them. (The BBC’s defence was patronising to the point of absurdity: “It is important for people to understand what we are up against.” Well, I think they can stop worrying. We’ve all got it.)
Choudary’s appearance was an insult to the family and friends of the murdered Lee Rigby, and a provocation to the general public. But was it a crime?
Interestingly, in the US where it would be constitutionally impossible to bar anyone from expressing his opinions, there has, to my knowledge, never been such a platform offered to any Islamist by a mainstream television network. Perhaps there is something about that root-and-branch legal commitment to freedom which makes broadcasters take their responsibilities very seriously. Or, more cynically, maybe it is just that US networks have to worry about the reactions of their sponsors, and so cannot be quite as unworldly and cavalier about public censure as the BBC.
As it happens, the US is having its own wrestling match with free speech. President Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, actually tried to justify his department’s wholesale interference with the freedom of the press, which is specifically protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, on the pretext that a reporter’s inquiries might have solicited a government leak which might have jeopardised national security. Presumably, the fact that the reporter in question (James Rosen) worked for a cable news channel (Fox News), which the Obama White House regarded as pestilential, was neither here nor there.
Except, of course, that it wasn’t. Under the cover of “protecting the national interest”, the supreme law officer of the land procured a search warrant for a journalist’s private emails and movements that effectively defined his lawful news-gathering process as criminal conspiracy. America has not forgotten the principles on which it was founded and Mr Holder is probably going to have to resign. The confounding of “threats to national security” with threats to the Obama White House has become too embarrassing even for the liberal media to accept.
But the issue goes beyond this Attorney General and this White House. In a time of amorphous danger and almost fiendishly unidentifiable enemies, is it possible to hold the line on the indivisibility of freedom? How difficult is it to create a trumped-up concern about public safety, which then allows government officials to become capricious and vindictive with the powers that they seize? And what sort of chance is there that these powers would ever be enforced with any consistency or even any real understanding of the significance of arguments and ideas? Once governments get the hang of it – redefining and limiting who has the right to say what – is there any guarantee that they won’t decide that they like it altogether too much?
But, you may say, it is only the wickedness of those who abuse freedom that makes this necessary: the right to speak and to proselytise one’s religion should not extend to those whose beliefs involve fomenting hatred. Humane as this may sound, there is a problem here. Freedom of speech (especially in the form in which it is enshrined in the American Constitution, as a universal God-given right) does not apply only to nice people. Incitement to violence is already a crime: there should be no difficulty in prosecuting it and any hesitation in doing so is a legitimate matter for complaint against the criminal justice system.
But the expression of hate is quite different. In a free society, you should be able to hate anybody you want – for any reason – so long as you do not act on it. (Incitement can be classified as an “act”.)
For that matter, how close are we already to creating thought crimes? Hate can sometimes be considered an aggravating factor in assault: if the attack is thought to be motivated by homophobia, or racism, then the criminal act is deemed worthy of a harsher punishment. And the expression of hatred alone is a crime if it is directed against an ethnic or a religious group. Of course I understand that it is naïve to say that words do not have a power of their own, or that they can be clearly differentiated from actions in their effect on the world. I am a member of the ethnic group whose persecution and mass murder in the last century was a direct consequence of a campaign of vicious hate speech. But that does not alter the fact that words (and thoughts) must be regarded differently in law from acts. It is the recognition of that difference that distinguishes a free nation from a totalitarian one.
Governments have to be reminded of this every single time they step over the line – even if they are doing so to public acclaim as the Coalition might be if it “bans” Islamic extremist preachers from the airwaves. In the febrile moments after a public outrage or in a climate in which partisan politics seems to license the odd nasty little strike, vigilance becomes more important than ever. Even if it is your side – the good guys – who are messing around with the concept of freedom now, who might be in charge in a couple of years’ time? The Washington media army are thinking a lot about that at the moment.
Now it's a social worker for every child - in Scotland
More state interference in families will not protect children
For anyone familiar with how our “child protection” system too often works in practice, rather loud alarm bells might be rung by a Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament that takes the state’s intervention in family life to a startling new level. Under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, every child from birth will be given a “named person”, charged with keeping an eye on that child’s interests until it reaches adulthood.
We are familiar with the idea that state employees are expected to take an interest in a child’s welfare, from health visitors to teachers at school. But this proposal that local authorities should be empowered to appoint an official to act as a personal “guardian”, or social worker, to oversee every aspect of a child’s life from birth onwards is a world first.
In fact, the Bill is remarkably vague about the powers to be given to these “named persons”. Will they be free to arrive unannounced at the family home to check on how a child is being treated by its parents, when it goes to bed, what food it is given, what political or religious opinions it is being brought up with? In other words, the Bill gives no idea of how this hugely ambitious scheme, estimated to cost Scotland’s local authorities up to £138 million a year, will work in practice. And most worrying of all, to anyone familiar with the failings of our existing “child protection” system, is how often the most damaging errors can arise when professionals are charged with reporting to social workers their suspicion that something in a child’s life might be amiss.
In too many of the cases I have followed where children have been removed from their families for what seems to be no good reason, their nightmare began with a report by a teacher or a doctor that got some overheard remark or slight injury absurdly out of proportion. Too often, such suspicions then harden into allegations that are never properly tested against the evidence, and the damage is done. However admirable, in theory, the thought of appointing a “guardian” to watch over every child might seem, experience suggests that, in practice, this may exacerbate those weaknesses in our existing “child protection” system, which make a mockery of the noble aims it was set up to promote.
ÞLast week I promised to give an update on the increasingly bizarre story of Vicky Haigh, the mother of a two-year-old daughter who was last month sent back to prison for breach of a probation order, on the basis of a solitary “witness statement” that she hadn’t been allowed to see. After evidence was produced that seemed to show that this statement was highly questionable, Miss Haigh was released from prison to return to her bemused family.
Last week, however, she was called back, fortunately accompanied by an experienced solicitor, for an exhausting formal interview with two policewomen, who seemed to be trying to find new reasons for returning her to prison.
Although the interview ended inconclusively, the officers said they would like to interview her again this week. I will say no more until their enquiries are completed.
UK foreign aid, the final insult: Ethiopian sues Britain after claiming it supports 'Stalinist' regime
Four million people forced off their land by security forces while their homes and farms are sold to foreign investors
It is hard to think of many more blessed spots on Earth than the Gambella region of Ethiopia, with its fertile soil, lush vegetation and flowing rivers – so different to the usual famine-struck images of barren terrain and starving infants we see from that country.
There are even rich seams of gold running under the verdant fields of fruit and vegetables, panned for centuries by the tribes that lived in the area.
As my bearded companion describes his homeland to me in his deep voice, he whips out his mobile phone to show me pictures that remind me of the more bucolic parts of Britain.
‘We lived in a village alongside the river where you could grow anything – maize, sorghum, lemon, bananas, oranges, pineapple. We were so happy growing up there and living there in our village.’
‘I wish I could take you to see my home,’ he adds. ‘It is so beautiful.’ Instead, this man is stuck in the living hell of the world’s largest refugee camp, forced to abandon his family when he fled in fear over the border to Kenya after vicious beatings and torture.
Yet he was lucky to escape with his life. Friends and relatives from his village of Pinykew and others nearby have been butchered, the women subjected to mass rape by gun-toting soldiers and gangs armed with machetes.
Now he is fighting back on behalf of his Anuak people, instructing lawyers to confront the paymasters of the repressive regime that ripped apart his life. Those paymasters are the British Government.
In a landmark case, he aims to issue proceedings against the Department for International Development (DFID), arguing its money supports a Stalin-style programme of brutal forced relocations driving large numbers of families from their traditional lands.
The London law firm he has instructed to look at launching the case, Leigh Day, says the aid breaches the department’s own human rights policies. In effect, the case challenges the way Britain hands aid to some of the world’s most despotic regimes.
In response, the Government must spend taxpayers’ money defending itself from charges it is destroying the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, rather than helping them.
If it loses, it might have to abandon key aid projects and pay compensation to thousands of exiled Ethiopians. This could cost millions of pounds.
The test case marks the culmination of long-held concerns over Ethiopia. It has become the biggest recipient of British aid, despite being an autocratic one-party state, run in similar style to the old Soviet Bloc countries.
Britain is giving £1.3 billion to Ethiopia over the course of the Coalition, the annual handouts rising by nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015 as the DFID struggles to find places to spend its soaring, ring-fenced budget.
Yet this is a regime that shoots street protesters, locks up dissidents and jails more journalists than almost any other country in the world.
The ruling party uses foreign handouts to strengthen its tyrannical grip, giving food and vital farming aid only to supporters, even in regions suffering hardship and hunger.
This is why the friendly man I met insists on only being known as Mr O; he is terrified taking this case could lead to fatal reprisals against his family. ‘I am very angry about this aid,’ he said. ‘Why is the West, especially the UK, giving so much money to the Ethiopian government when it is committing atrocities on my people?
‘The donations have not gone on development but on supporting the government and the army. We would be happy if it really went on development; instead, the very opposite has happened with your money.’
At the centre of the case is Ethiopia’s ‘villagisation’ of four million people in the west and south of the country, areas that have opposed a government dominated by northern Tigrayans. Among them are 225,000 Gambellans, Protestants living in a former British enclave the size of Belgium.
They are being forced from their farms and homes into new villages, just as Stalin did with such disastrous consequences in the Ukraine.
The lucrative land they lived on for generations is being sold off to foreign investors or given to well- connected Ethiopians.
Mr O learned of these plans at the end of 2011 when officials from the ruling party turned up one day in his village and ordered them to move.
‘The government was pretending it was about development, but people refused straight away,’ said Mr O. ‘They just want to push the indigenous people off so they can take our land and the gold.
I heard similar stories from other Gambellans. One blind man said he was beaten in the face after resisting relocation; his sister was raped by soldiers and now has HIV.
A 39-year-old mother told me she and her husband were taking a sick child to hospital when armed soldiers and highlanders from the north confronted them. Her husband was shot dead and she was beaten in the face; the scars were clearly visible.
Officials then told villagers to move. ‘Our first question was about the water but they said move first, then we will supply water pipes. But we had all these rivers in our home village and their new village was six hours’ walk away from water.
‘So we put conditions on the move, saying we would go if you put water pumps in, schools and a health clinic. But the government, despite saying it was all about development, refused the deal.’
Instead, the army and gangs went on the rampage, burning homes and killing people. Three soldiers grabbed her and raped her; one teenage son was abused with an electric prod then taken off to prison. ‘Thankfully he managed to escape,’ she said. ‘After that, we knew the next step was to kill him, so we had to leave quickly.’
Like others I met, her life has been devastated. She is exiled in a camp where the majority of refugees are Somalis and the Islamist terror group al-Shabaab operates, so must wear long clothes and cover her head.
She blames British aid policies for inflaming her misery. ‘If your country wants to help development, stop co-operating with the government that is throwing us off our land.’
Zerihun Tesfaye, a leading Ethiopian journalist who fled four years ago after threats forced the closure of his paper, said British-backed projects to aid agriculture were routinely manipulated, with access to seeds and fertiliser used to control villages and crush dissent.
‘The Ethiopian government knows the West, especially Britain, is ready to assist its repression,’ he said.
‘And they play the anti-terror card to get all the money. Sadly, people in the West give money because they have heard these famine stories since their childhood. But the money is not going to the poor – it is going to support a government making things worse in many areas, not better.’
But DFID denies British money is used to force people from their homes and argues its assistance has helped millions in Ethiopia.
‘We condemn all human rights abuses and, where we have evidence, we raise our concerns at the very highest level,’ said a DFID spokesman.
‘To suggest that agencies like DFID should never work on the ground with people whose governments have been accused of human rights abuses would be to deal those people a double blow.’
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.