Critical Comment

18. Aug, 2021

Today, in Australia, it is Viet Nam Veteran’s Day. It was originally designated Long Tan Day to commemorate the Battle of Long Tan on the 18th of August 1966. I am not a great supporter of this change of name; moreover I detest the term ‘veteran’. I see no reason why servicemen and women, who served in Viet Nam, or anywhere else for that matter, should merit a separate day. I consider Anzac Day sufficient enough national commemoration.  

I consider that my service in Viet Nam was despoiled and stained by the political machinations preceding, surrounding and subsequent to, the 30th of April 1975. On that day the communist armies of the north and their guerrilla proxy, the Viet Cong, entered and captured the southern capital, Saigon. The television images of a communist tank smashing through the gates of the presidential palace and American helicopters effecting the humiliating and panicked rooftop evacuation of the US Embassy are etched in my mind irrevocably.

Intellectually I well understand and appreciate the broader geopolitical reasons behind Australia’s involvement in what, historically, I still consider to be an extension of la guerre d'Indochine. It was, in my view, an inevitable war, a product of its time and circumstances. I make no apologies for my personal involvement.

My visceral feelings are naturally not so nuanced. They were shaped by the actual reality of the pathetic flotillas of human misery escaping the enemy we promised to protect them from. Suffused with a mélange of deep melancholy, compassion and guilt for those we abandoned, bitterness and anger defined my feelings.

Today, as we enter into Viet Nam Veterans Day 2021, our television screens are filled with images of the victorious Taliban entering Kabul, of panicked airport chaos and pathetic streams of people in a collective vein of terror rushing to escape the enemy we promised to protect them from.

Today my thoughts are with the innocents of Afghanistan who just wanted to get on with their lives; they will also be for those Afghani naivetés who, for the past twenty years, believed our promises: my empathy will be with those returned and those wounded Australian servicemen and women who believed that through their service they were making a difference and, as I attend my local cenotaph this morning, my prayers will be devoted to those that gave their lives in their service in Afghanistan together with the hundreds that have committed suicide consequent to their service.

Finally, my intellect and my viscera coalesce in unreserved contempt for our leaders that let this happen, again. I like to think that there is a special place in Hell reserved for them.     

……………………..

19. Jul, 2021

On Sunday, 18 July 2021, The Jakarta Post ran yet another heart-wrenching story about the Wuhan Virus in Indonesia, it included inter alia:

“The national COVID-19 task force reported 51,952 new confirmed cases on Saturday, bringing the cumulative confirmed tally to 2.8 million cases. One thousand ninety-two people died from the disease on Saturday, the second-highest daily fatalities after a record-high of 1,205 deaths on Friday.

However, both figures are believed to be higher due to inadequate testing and tracing efforts outside Jakarta.”[1] 


This is daily reality in Indonesia: Our next door neighbour, with a population of 270.20 million people whose health system is breaking down, who are desperately short of medical supplies, and whose hospitals are running out of oxygen.

Quite obviously, because of our own incompetence and decades of economic stupidity, Australia is unable to assist in providing medical supplies but there is much we could do to help logistically: food supplies, emergency accommodation, managerial and communications support and so forth. To date, all Australian governments are silent on this matter. The bleeding-heart brigade, progressives and chattering classes are predictably silent on the issue and our strategic thinkers are yet to have the matter raised on their various committee agendas.

Until then, our neighbours keep dying – for want of care and concern.

Let us turn then to a reality that grasps the tiny minds of our informed classes, those paragons of progressive equity.

A story in the last Weekend Australian [17-18 July] provides a clue: ‘One-sex lesbian events unlawful’.

According to the OZ, lesbians will be breaking the law if they exclude biological males who are transgender from social events. This follows a ruling by Sarah Bolt, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner who ruled lesbian events that exclude trans-women carry a “significant risk” of breaching legislation.

Ms Bolt refused to grant an exemption to allow the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance to exclude “biological men” from lesbian events.

According to the OZ Launceston lesbian Jessica Hoyle, who made the application on the alliance’s behalf, said:

“I want to exclude people with penises, because being a lesbian is about same-sex attraction. It’s not about same gendered attraction … There are many events that cater for the trans community in Tasmania that are all-inclusive.

This event was going to be just for lesbians who are samesex attracted.”

This nonsense was compounded by a group with the sinister moniker Transforming Tasmania arguing that the exclusion of trans-women from lesbian events was discriminatory. The Oz considers that this controversial discrimination ruling is set to become a national test case.[2]

Hurrah! Hooray Hetty!

Just consider. Several minority sexually deviant groups have got their collective knickers-in-knot over a deviants’ party. All of them being victims in today’s society, they naturally go to their local [Tasmanian] discrimination court.

The Discrimination Commissioner, one of seven in Australia – one for each state and one for good luck - applies the full weight of her [of course] intellect and that of her over-staffed Quango to the matter. I point out that the salary of said Discrimination Commissioner, which is hidden deeply in the Department of Justice Annual Report [see if you can find it], would be enough to feed great numbers of Indonesian families for a year. The associated costs of taking this nonsense to court would pay for heaven only knows how much hospital oxygen in Jakarta.    

But, it would seem, all for a good cause. Australians now have some resolution, some clarity, as to whether people with dicks can attend a ‘ladies only’ deviant party. Well, for the time being anyway.

Meantime, back on the island of Java, thousands are dying every day ..... about those shades of reality ....   

……………….



[1] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2021/07/18/conflicting-statements-brings-uncertainty-over-ppkm-darurat.html

[2] https://theaustralian.smedia.com.au/HTML5/default.aspx?href=NCAUS/2021/07/17

14. Jul, 2021

We have all variously heard and read about the contemporary, and decidedly illiberal, ‘cancel culture’ prevalent in our society; perhaps we might know someone who has been cancelled and denigrated or perhaps, been part of a group thus treated. It is a particularly pernicious disease in an open-society, a disease however most of us merely dismiss with the obligatory shaking of the head and much tut-tutting as we get on with our lives.

I opened my e.mail this morning to receive the news from the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation I support, that the ruling one-party state of Western Australia, supposedly a free, tolerant and integral component of Australia’s federal democracy has, in effect, cancelled Christianity. 

I cite in-Toto:

            "Hi John. You won’t believe this. The Albany Entertainment Centre has cancelled us. Why? Because our views are not the WA state government’s views 

Apparently the WA government won’t allow venues to host people who disagree with them. Welcome to China!

We asked for a copy of the policy on which they relied to make the decision. They said it was an “internal working document.”

When pressed, the Minister’s office sent us a copy of a short “policy” which consisted mostly of anti-ACL talking points. The tracking information showed it was last edited on the very day it was sent to us.

If the centre was run for a religious or political purpose that was incompatible with ACL, I’d totally understand. I’m not expecting the Pride Centre or an Islamic School to rent us their lecture room.

But this is a public venue supported by taxpayer funds. Albany ratepayers top up their coffers by about $400,000 every year. Yet they decline legitimate, paying customers.

The truth is, what they have done is illegal. Such a venue is not permitted under WA law to discriminate on the basis of political or religious conviction in the provision of goods, services or facilities (Equal Opportunity Act 1984, s 62).

That is, unless they exist for a political or religious purpose. And they do not.

So, WA friends, we’ll be in touch in the next few days to let you know how you can respond. I know many of you will want to make your voice heard. Keep an eye on your inbox!" 

 

This is most disgraceful state of affairs. Quite naturally I do not expect everyone to agree with my view of the world or to like the friends I choose to keep. But I do expect our society to allow me my weltanschaung, to be able to express my views freely and, equally, to associate freely with my friends when and where I chose to do so.

Most of you are doubtless long-tired of my continuing prognostications about the decline of our society, its values and its freedoms. Too bad about that. Remember Niemöller: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out...”

When will you remind your political masters and their politicised [including the blue uniformed gun-toting] apparatchiks that they are, in fact, your servants! You can continue to sit on your jacksies and take it or you can do something about it?  

Your call sport!

*****

24. Apr, 2021

As many of you know I am working on a major study of Christendom. To this end, early this morning in the quiet of my library I was writing a summary biography of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes [1588-1679].

Writing during the tumultuous years of the English Civil War, Hobbes is known for his seminal work on political philosophy, particularly his views that government should be ‘absolute’ in order to guarantee collective security and safety. His argument, in part, served as prototype for future totalitarianism viz. the surrender of personal liberties for the greater good of the state.

My morning deliberations on Mr Hobbes were interrupted by a call from my wife working in the adjoining study: “Come and have a look at what those crazies in Western Australia have done now!”  

She referred me to a breaking news story in The Australian:

Crazy Covid panic: one escape shuts down state: Two million plunged into lockdown, Anzac Day services cancelled after an outbreak at a WA hotel identified as ‘high risk’ more than two weeks ago.[1]

Yet again, by the hands of the Labor Premier of Western Australia, this country’s liberal democratic federation is traduced. Moreover, the lockdown amply illustrates, yet again, a knee-jerk reaction by a government bereft of sound policy and without the mechanisms to deal with a minor emergency. Far more insidiously however, the continual use of lockdowns indicates the natural totalitarian instincts of a certain stripe of politician whose first recourse to a problem is the use of absolute government power to solve it – the very term ‘lockdown’ says it all.     

His fellow crypto-totalitarian in Queensland has since gone out in sympathy and will quarantine anyone coming into Queensland from Western Australia.

What nonsense this all is!

There was a time when liberty loving Australians would have turfed both totalitarian-tossers into the parliamentary dunnies. Sadly, what mealy-mouthed and whinging-weaklings we have become. There will be no protest, no civil-disobedience – on the contrary, we will continue to cheer on our totally inept leaders as they continue to traduce our liberty in our vain hope that they know what they are doing - all in the name of keeping us safe!

Perhaps Hobbes understood human nature far better than his critics.

ENDS 

[1] https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics-live-news-australia-crazy-covid-panic-as-one-escape-shuts-down-parts-of-wa/news-story/121038779af019fcec7e1941250ab391?

 

13. Apr, 2021

Beginning on May 10, 1933, Nazi-dominated student groups carried out public burnings of books they claimed were “un-German.” The book burnings took place in 34 university towns and cities. Works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers ended up in the bonfires. The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

One would have to be a first-class nit to deny that intellectual intolerance and intellectual absurdity are but two of the defining pillars of contemporary society. For a trip into nonsensicality I take two recent examples to illustrate the parlous state of our belles-lettres. The first is an article in today’s Australian newspaper [13 April] and another is a news story of last month [March 2021].

The Australian today carried an exclusive story headlined: “Elite journal under fire over ‘racism’” and penned by Stephen Rice.[1] It concerns the publication of a peer-reviewed study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. This study, published last September, points to high levels of violent crime by Sudanese-born youths in Victoria. The publication of this study has however engendered a bitter row amongst the Australian fraternity of criminologists and lawyers, some of whom claim the study to be racist. 

The authors of the study are Dr Stephane Shepherd and Benjamin Spivak. Dr Shepherd is a Swinburne University Researcher; a Fulbright scholar, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, a member of the Eastern Regional Advisory Committee of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and author of dozens of academic papers on race and crime. He is also an African-Australian.

Dr Benjamin Spivak holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Ph.D. from Monash University. In his own words: I am a lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology. My research interests relate to measurement, causal inference and prediction applied to understanding problems in criminal justice. My research focuses on three areas - legal decision-making, risk assessment and cross-cultural differences in offending and victimization.[2]

Stripped to its essence, the authors’ article posits that higher rates of African-Australian youth imprisonment were most likely because of an increase in violent activity by some members of that group rather than because of police profiling.

Their study found there was a significantly higher rate of “crimes against the person” — such as robbery and assault — by South Sudanese-born youth compared with Australia-born youth. The authors explicitly noted however that “the overwhelming majority of Sudanese-Victorians are law-abiding” and their findings “should prompt concerted efforts to better address specific community needs”.

These conclusions and the study itself have, however, been condemned as being: “racist in terms of its methodological approach” by some academics and activists.

In an emotive and highly unprofessional rant, Melbourne Law School senior fellow (Indigenous programs) Amanda Porter demanded the editors and editorial board of the ANZJC “do something about the racist trollop (sic) that appears on the regular in your not-so academic journal”.[3]

Quite obviously the Shepherd/Spivak study failed the litmus test narrative of progressive public policy. The ‘debate’ will presumably continue in the similar, undignified, un-academic and vitriolic bullying style that we have come to expect from contemporary academia. I hold no expectation for a reasoned outcome.

Moving onto a slightly different perspective of political and cultural narratives is a story that did the rounds of the international media last month. It caught my attention at the time and has given me much food for thought.

To recapitulate, the story in essence is this. Those that watched President Biden’s Inauguration Ceremony might remember a young black school girl reciting a poem. The title of this poem was The Hill We Climb and it was composed by the reader herself, Amanda Gorman. The merits or otherwise of this poem are not the subject of this comment – its international publication is. The details of this farce were kindly provided to me by that ever reliable iconoclastic news agency, Russia Today.

For whatever reason the US publisher, Viking Books, took it into their corporate heads to publish this poem internationally. To produce a Catalan edition they contacted the Barcelona-based publisher Univers, to commission an appropriate translator. Univers commissioned Víctor Obiols, a renowned English-Catalan translator, because they considered him to be the best qualified. Obiols is well-known for translating the works of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde into Catalan.

However, after Obiols completed the translation, Viking Books contacted Univers and asked them to find a translator: “who is a woman and an activist, preferably of African American origin, instead”.[4]

Speaking to the Agence France Presse news agency, a clearly nonplussed Obiols confirmed: “They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably Black.”

He continued by observing that he was flabbergasted by the US publisher’s stance. 

“If I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, Black, an American of the 21st century, neither can I translate Homer because I am not a Greek of the eighth century BC. Or could not have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman,” he told the media.

Evidently Obiols is not the first European to be thus discriminated against on equally specious grounds. In Europe that particular ‘debate’ continues.

The immediate issues of concern emanating from these examples of imbecilic nonsense are straightforward. Has contemporary academia totally lost the ability to accept a narrative that deviates from popular fashion? What constitutes the appropriate authority for anyone to write about anything pertaining to another culture?

Given their pedigrees, I am quite certain that Drs Shepherd and Spivak deserve more than the irrational ranting dismissal issued to them by Dr Porter. Moreover, using the yardstick stipulated by Viking, the history of many past and present cultures might never have been documented.  What authority, for example, did the early Europeans colonists exercise in writing about their colonised subjects?  As ridiculous as this would appear, it is a real question if one extrapolates logically along Viking’s path. 

Sadly, all too few appreciate the seriousness of this growing imbecility in the halls of our academy. Most would read the story, tut tut, shake their heads in disbelief and file it away along with the statue toppling stories of last year. Popularly known as ‘Cancel Culture’, this anti-intellectual impetus is, in reality, a pernicious nihilism which represents a serious threat to the fundament of our civilisation.          

Thoroughly embedded in our tertiary education system and highly prevalent in our general education system, this post-modernist culture is call to the upcoming leaders of tomorrow to deny the legitimacy of our society. Piece by piece, edifice by edifice, icon by icon, tradition by tradition, line by line our history and our heritage is being dismantled – before our very eyes. And still we sit - inert, memorised and naked in fright to speak out.

How many times do we need to be reminded of the magnificent post-war words of the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. He was describing the cowardice of German intellectuals and clergy - including his own, despite spending seven years in concentration camps as a dissenter – in facilitating the Nazi rise to power and the subsequent horrors thereafter: 

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Pastor Martin Niemöller.

These oft quoted, underappreciated and rarely acted upon lines should serve as a constant call to action to all those who value that which is good about our civilisation – freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of worship and so forth.  

These freedoms, that we once took for granted, are under increasing pressure as our supposed ‘liberal progressive’ governments tighten the noose around our necks. On whose authority has this happened? Ours: because we chose not to speak out. We remained silent when we should have defended our birthright.  

Literature is, in my view, society’s expression of its soul. The more sophisticated and complex the society is the more sophisticated will its literature be. A free and vibrant society will produce a literature that records, challenges, questions and entertains.

Book burnings were a favourite pastime of the enemies of the open society. Books contain heresies to the authoritarian narrative. Today this metaphorical enthusiasm is manifest in censuring social media – and books. The great political philosopher Sir Karl Popper spent the best part of his lifetime deconstructing the political enemies of the open society. Books, open education and the encouraging of questioning minds were of paramount importance to him.

I have always detested the millenarian left because of their certainty in their cause and their willingness to use coercion to enforce their millenarian ideal. When I started university in 1972 as a young returned soldier I was horrified at the totally closed minds of the Viet Nam Moratorium Peaceniks. I use the term ‘totally’ with deliberation. At that young age they had swallowed in toto a complete world-view that brooked no questions, no dissent, not even a tiniest element of doubt. Such I thought were the enthusiasms of youth.

I confronted my first formal academic variation of this closed-mind-set in my first philosophy tutorial wherein I was insulted by the staff tutor for my military service. Modesty and a touch of embarrassment forebears further details. Suffice it be said that I gained requisite satisfaction.  

But this experience had a profound effect on my intellectual development. I learnt, within a few days of my first term, that academia was not all about nuanced study, considered discussion and the proverbial cut and thrust of robust and civilised debate. I realised that I was, to put it bluntly, within the enemy’s walls. I came to determine the distinct difference between having ones ideas challenged and ones weltanschauun tested as opposed to being indoctrinated and threatened. Since those far-away days and several years of formal study later, nothing has disavowed me of my dim view of progressive academia: Scratch a progressive deep enough and you will reveal a totalitarian at heart. Therein is not an individual but a corporate mind and therein a collective responsibility. It’s called passing the buck. Why? The corporate progressive mind holds that the Party, the Cause, the Movement is always right, whatever its machinations, its twists and turns and despite the vileness to which it steeps.

None of this of course is new – critics of dystopic and/or authoritarian politics have been saying this, more elegantly, since the Greeks. However it cannot be said enough. A society that has lost its public discussion, its art and its literature to the ‘Party’ has truly lost its soul. Our dreadful descent into the Abyss can and must be stopped.    

….and there was no one left to speak for me.

ENDS

1,855 Words



[1] https://theaustralian.smedia.com.au/HTML5/default.aspx?p

 [2] Home | Benjamin Spivak

[3] The Australian op.cit.

[4] https://www.rt.com/usa/517891-gorman-translator-black-poem/?u