Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Chicken shop bans baby Jesus

A fast-food chain has banned one of its Sydney stores from displaying a traditional Christmas nativity scene because of fears it would offend non-Christians. The head office of the Oporto chicken store chain last week imposed the edict on its Hornsby store. The chain's area manager discovered the 1m long nativity scene, showing a baby Jesus in a crib along with a Christian cross, on a counter. The traditional display had been erected by the store's franchise owner. The chains's chief executive, Jeff Fisher, said the company had a policy supporting "generic" Christmas decorations, such as trees or tinsel, but not nativity scenes. "We are just trying to keep a generic approach without trying to push any one religious belief. We are cognisant of the fact that in Australia we are a very multicultural society," he said. "The significance of a Christmas tree versus the more poignant Christian-type decorations is that the majority of people can relate to a Christmas tree and it is fairly generic in nature."

Mr Fisher said the chain had 66 stores and the Hornsby franchise owner was the only one to push for a nativity scene. "Part of the concept of being part of a franchise is the consistency of approach in uniform and look and signage," he said. The company said later: "Oporto respects the multicultural nature of Australian society and therefore does not promote one religious expression over another." In the shopping centre where Oporto is located, Westfield management has erected a nativity scene.

The Oporto nativity scene had been hidden in a storeroom last night. The store's franchisee declined to comment.



Lorenz Jaeger's biography of Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) is a useful study of an unpleasant but influential figure. From the 1920s until his death, Adorno was the prime mover behind the aggregation of cultural and social iconoclasts known as the Frankfurt School. Together with his more down-to-earth co-organizer Max Horkheimer, who contributed family wealth to their enterprise, Adorno took his socially radical think tank, the Institute for Social Research, in 1934 from its interwar home in Frankfurt to New York and later Los Angeles.

In 1949, at the urging of Horkheimer, who was then rector at the University of Frankfurt, he returned to his native city to resume their research activities uncovering the bourgeois sources of "fascist" and "pseudo-democratic" pathologies. During their American wartime stay, the two friends also collaborated in the compilation of a bulky anthology of disquisitions dealing with the allegedly fascist mentality of the American population. This work, The Authoritarian Personality (1950), had far-ranging consequences for American educators and social reformers despite its turgid and preachy prose and the dubious proofs extracted by the authors from primitive interview techniques.....

After the war, Adorno praised the Soviet Union and the governments that it set up in Eastern Europe as an "anti-fascist necessity." Nonetheless, he made no effort to move to an "anti-fascist" place of refuge, and when he left his adopted country, which he scolded for its anti-Communist hysteria, he did so with documented reluctance. Moreover, notwithstanding his supposed loathing for bourgeois privilege, Adorno lived sumptuously to whatever extent his circumstances permitted. His "untimely death" (as his passing is described in Yale Book News) occurred while he was away from his wainscoted offices on a periodic visit to a resort near the Matterhorn. And for all his talk about the oppression of women in late capitalism, and despite his frumpy appearance (as revealed by the photo on the covers of both the German and English editions of this book), this feminist champion cheated persistently on his wife of many years, Gretel, who, if truth be known, looked less plain than he did......

But Jaeger also documents that Adorno expressed the same attitudes and emotions that he condemned in his fellow Germans. He too was disturbed by the amount of rubble that the Allied bombing left behind. Moreover, he exhibited profoundly bourgeois taste in literature and art, an unfashionable aversion to Negro jazz, and a 19th-century sensibility that kept creeping into his aesthetic judgments. J,ger depicts in his subject a cultivated man of learning who was at war with himself and whose internal conflict had a fateful impact on the lives of others....

What has been called "cultural Marxism" (inaccurately, given its lack of Marxist substance), and which flourishes in Europe and to a lesser extent here as political correctness, would be unthinkable without Adorno and the Frankfurt School. Thanks largely, albeit not exclusively, to their activities, bourgeois normality, belief in God, and patriotism have come to be linked in academic culture and among social reformers to a slippery slope leading to fascism. Marxism, which had previously been primarily concerned with economic revolution, was transformed through Frankfurt School guidance into an unrelenting war against patriarchy, Christianity, and traditional community. By means of their translated writings and the infusion of their attitudes and grievances into American professional psychology in the 1930s and into pop social science thereafter, Adorno and his circle made themselves dramatically felt in the New World. (Since this reception was far more enthusiastic than American conservatives would like to believe, one may have to speak here of a natural fit rather than a deception.)

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