Monday, February 06, 2017
I am fully in favour of my country admitting as refugees people who are in danger for their lives elsewhere
But they really do have to be refugees and their average standards of behaviour must be at least as good as the average of the host population. One expects gratitude, not hostility, from those who have been rescued. So, broadly, that excludes Muslims and Africans.
Australia does admit many refugees and has been admitting refugees for a long time. It started before WWII when thousands of Jews fleeing Hitler were admitted.
Then immediately after WWII, large numbers of "displaced persons" in Europe were admitted. Then in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, large numbers of Asian "boat people" were admitted.
And in between, large numbers of economic migrants from rural Greece and Southern Italy were admitted.
And all those European and East Asian immigrants have blended in to the Australian peoplescape with minimal friction. Their children act and speak much as other Australians do and their children tend to have a high rate of educational and economic success. There were a couple of occasions when Yugoslavs bombed one-another but not one Jihadi indulging in random killing has emerged from them. They have been of clear benefit to the country, bringing new ideas, skills and improved services.
And Leftists use that undoubted fact to argue that ALL immigration is desirable. But that is just another manifestation of their manic and obviously wrong insistence that all men are equal. All men are NOT equal and groups of men are also therefore not equal.
Africans have brought their normal high rate of violent crime to Australia and many of the Australian host population have had much suffering inflicted on them as a result. And many Australians have also died at the hands of Muslim fanatics. Had we kept those two groups out, all that suffering would have been avoided.
So I heartily endorse Donald Trump's moves to protect Americans from hostile sub-groups. And I support Pauline Hanson's calls to do the same for Australians. Opinion polls have shown that around 50% of the Australian population support Pauline's ideas in that regard so my thoughts on the issue are perfectly mainstream, not "racist", "xenophobic", "white supremacist" or any of the other insults that Leftists normally hurl at people who support selective immigration.
I get the impression that most people who have relocated to Australia are in fact grateful for the life they have here but I want to close this essay with a story about how powerful gratitude can be.
Persians appear to be particularly energetic people and that would appear to be why they have over the centuries created three great empires. Once an empire declines, that is normally the end of it. But not so Persia. Hundreds of years later a new Persian empire will arise. But it was in one of their weaker periods that the Muslims swept through and took control of them. And in their usual kindly way the Muslims gave them a choice: Convert or die.
Most converted but there were a few who clung to the native Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism is a rather sensible religion that make a much better job of explaining the problem of evil than Christianity does.
But when they found that living in Muslim Persia was going to be very dangerous to Zoroastrians, the strong believers fled to Gujurat, in nearby India. They were received there with tolerance by the local Hindus. There is a great variety of religious devotions in India so one more was no great problem.
And the Persians (Parsees) were very grateful for the refuge India had given them. And they expressed that both in words and later in deeds. With their Persian energies, the Parsees prospered mightily in India and many became quite rich. So what did rich Parsees do with their money? They gave most of it away, initially to poor Parsees but also to other Indians. They became a major source of charity in India.
So the Parsees did not share the fate of the Jews, with people becoming envious of their success. There are of course always grumbles but Indians saw that Parsee success benefited them too and Parsees highlighted their giving as a act of gratitude so Indians felt that they had earned the charitable support.
So Parsee gratitude for refuge sustained their welcome and even protected them when they became an economic elite. Being grateful is as powerful as ingratitude is contemptible -- JR.
Make "Doctor Who" a black woman? Please don’t
It’s philistine to obsess over diversity in culture
Predictable as ever, Doctor’, says the Master in the Doctor Who episode ‘The Deadly Assassin’. In a similar vein, the Guardian has followed the announcement that Peter Capaldi is leaving the series with not one but two articles about how the new Doctor must be a woman, black or preferably both. Because white males are boring! After all, it’s 2017. As the Hitler Youth said to the 19th-century humanists: ‘We don’t think like that anymore.’
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having more women and black people cast in mainstream roles. The more the merrier. But when cultural representation of diversity becomes an end in itself, then it becomes meaningless, a box-ticking exercise that distracts from exploring what stories we want to tell and why.
Moreover, when on-screen diversity is seen as the pathway to a more just society we’re in trouble. Not only does this entail a re-essentialising of people along biological lines – something that emancipatory movements, from female to black to gay liberation, fought long and hard to get away from – but it is also, at root, unradical. Diversity of representation is embraced by cultural elites as a gesture that suggests change, but which in fact does nothing but reinvent the ideological status quo to be more palatable. In the end, it is simply the cultural version of capitalist logic: equality will trickle down to the disadvantaged by their representation in culture.
This sort of mainstream, essentialist tokenism also has an impact on freedom of expression – it limits the ways we can think about storytelling.
The real problem with Doctor Who has nothing to do with the gender or race of its actors. As Nicholas Barber notes in The Economist, the contemporary trend is for fictional universes to shrink around the private lives of their characters. Star Wars, James Bond and Sherlock have all lost whatever ambition they might once have had, and have turned into glorified family soap operas. Doctor Who has also been showing strong tendencies in this direction, with the parentage of River Song being a particularly drawn-out, dull and self-involved storyline.
It is useful to note that the James Bond franchise is going through the same agonies in trying to find the right actor to fill the central role. Due to the sense that the franchise has no more interesting stories to tell, the focus is now on who will play the man, with similar attitudes towards atypical (ie, tokenistic) casting being thrown around. Let’s make him black! American! A woman! Etc.
‘Casting is storytelling’, says Joss Whedon. Cast an actor in a role, and you have cast all his previous roles, too. This is why actors become established as ‘types’ so quickly, and why ‘casting against type’ can be either fun or difficult. The art of the casting director is to know the persona that the actor embodies and work out how this can serve the story. This is not always obvious. In this sense, race and gender matter, and finding the right actor for a role matters. But it must only matter to the character.
For example, James Bond has been defined through various personas, but they all added to an essential Bondness that is found in the original character. What drives Bond is that is he’s a failed aristocrat, and this Gestalt is inherent to all his representations across the eras. For this reason he should be white – it is inherent to the meaning of the character. And it is also the reason why Bond is becoming more and more irrelevant. On the other hand, it does not matter if Hermione is played by a black person. Race is not part of who she is.
As Hegel said, ‘The individual does not invent his own content, he is what he is by acting out the universal as his own content’. When you translate this logic into the realm of fiction, it means that, by being true to their own logic, fictional characters achieve universal appeal.
The initial impulse behind Doctor Who was educational. The Doctor could take his audience and explore any time and any place in history. But while Doctor Who still has the superficialities of a sci-fi time-travel show, the underlying need to look outward and explore the new, unfamiliar and Other seems to be missing from recent series. It has been replaced by a seeming obligation to hold a mirror up to the audience and say ‘You exist too!’. The Doctor has become a means for others.
The main question for Doctor Who must be: what story does the next Doctor want to tell? If casting is determined by biology, then the only stories that can be told will concern the character’s meaning to us. We will be stuck with Doctors that ultimately only represent something that is outside themselves – that is, concepts of race and gender.
Trying to create diversity through casting makes us lose sight of the universal, and with it the essence of the stories we want to tell.
Want to defeat fascism? There’s an app for that
The #DeleteUber campaign is lazy and narcissistic.
DeleteUber is a hashtag movement that thinks standing up to Trump is as easy as deleting an app on your phone.
During the protest at New York’s JFK airport against Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, a union with 19,000 members, announced it was going on strike around JFK in solidarity with the protesters. Uber didn’t join the hour-long strike, and in fact tweeted that it was turning off surge prices around JFK. It was swiftly accused of attempting to break the strike and capitalise on the controversy. #DeleteUber started trending on Twitter, and numerous protesters downloaded the rival taxi app Lyft as a replacement. Lyft got more daily downloads than Uber for the first time ever.
#DeleteUber was coined by Dan O’Sullivan, who goes by the Twitter handle @Bro_Pair. He added incentive to the anti-Uber ‘movement’ by promising to retweet every screencap showing users deleting their Uber account, as if they might not actually do it without the promise of a retweet. This makes it more a meme than a movement. Some users said they were deleting Uber because it had ‘colluded’ with ‘fascists’: if only we’d known that defeating ‘fascism’ was as easy as making some swipes on your phone.
O’Sullivan’s retweeting of Uber-deleters included those who had already been using Lyft anyway but wanted to make the statement of deleting Uber, and even people who created an Uber account just so they could delete it. O’Sullivan is aware of the laziness of it all. In response to a tweeter who said, ‘This is literally the easiest one of the hashtag resistance plans you lounge-a-bouts can hope for’, he said: ‘If you can’t make it to an airport, there is an absurdly easy thing even the laziest among us can do.’ Instead of appealing to people’s reason and higher political ideas, he tapped into a sense of lethargy. O’Sullivan sagely observed that ‘this has been the only good thing I’ve seen come from hashtags ever’.
It’s certainly a good thing for Uber’s arch rival, Lyft. It doubled its daily downloads, becoming the No1 downloaded app on the Apple App Store on Sunday. It seems many who criticised Uber for ‘scabbing’ are unaware that Lyft had also carried on driving during the taxi strike — though it has since confirmed that it did so with surge pricing switched on, so I guess that makes everything all right for some reason.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has pledged $3million to a legal defence fund for drivers affected by Trump’s travel ban. Some are suggesting he did this in direct response to the #DeleteUber campaign, in an attempt to salvage the company’s reputation. But this isn’t true: it was in an email sent to Uber drivers before the taxi strike happened that he announced plans to ‘compensate [drivers] pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table’. He announced the amount of money this would involve after the #DeleteUber campaign happened.
People are denouncing Uber’s legal defence fund as a cynical PR move; so where is their condemnation of Lyft’s announcement that it will donate $1million to the American Civil Liberties Union? This plan to help ‘defend the Constitution’ was also revealed after #DeleteUber happened, so maybe Lyft is being cynical too, and capitalising on public anger / consumerist switching? The sudden notion that Uber is evil and Lyft is good shows how immature this campaign has been.
Anti-Uber tweeters also criticise Kalanick for being a part of Trump’s business advisory group (he has now stepped down, and this too is hailed as evidence that protest works). But they apparently have no qualms with Peter Thiel being an investor in Lyft: Thiel works in Trump’s transition team and is one of his top tech advisers. While Kalanick (belatedly) called Trump’s travel ban ‘unjust’, Thiel hasn’t condemned it; he simply said he ‘doesn’t support a religious test, and the administration has not imposed one’. Lyft has been careful not to attack Thiel, merely saying they ‘don’t agree’. Presumably this also applies to Carl Icahn, another adviser to Trump, who invested $100million in Lyft.
The urge to #DeleteUber is not really about political protest or standing up for liberty. It’s more about punishment. It feels typical of the shaming culture so entrenched on Twitter. It’s about publicly castigating anyone who has been seen to stray from the correct ideology. It reduces a complex crisis over the rule of law and freedom to another opportunity for virtue-signalling. It’s a complaint against capitalism expressed in a consumerist choice. How narcissistic to look at the plight of refugees and wonder what we should do with our apps to make ourselves feel better.
GOP unveils bill to allow political activity by churches
On the same day President Trump vowed to “destroy” a law preventing religious groups and churches from engaging in political activities, Republicans in the House and Senate introduced legislation to make the proposal reality.
The law known as the Johnson Amendment, first enacted in 1954, prohibits churches and other religious organizations from keeping their tax-exempt status if they endorse political candidates or participate in partisan political activities.
The bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who is a Southern Baptist pastor, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) would let the organizations remain tax-exempt and express political views as long as they are made during regular activities. Any associated spending would have to be minimal.
“For too long, the IRS has used the Johnson Amendment to silence and threaten religious institutions and charitable entities. As a minister who has experienced intimidation from the IRS firsthand, I know just how important it is to ensure that our churches and nonprofit organizations are allowed the same fundamental rights as every citizen of this great nation,” Hice said in a statement on Thursday.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber. "People who work for a nonprofit still have constitutional rights to assembly, free speech, and free press," Lankford said.
Earlier in the day, Trump reaffirmed his support — first made during his campaign — for getting rid of the Johnson Amendment during remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast.
"I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution," Trump said.
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 and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.