Dear IPA Members,
There is nothing quite like a global pandemic to bring into sharp focus those things which really matter in this life. As swiftly as the world has been subsumed by Coronavirus, so has the ideological dross of radical post-modernism been temporarily tossed aside while the world focuses on the immediate crisis at hand. In a single, definitive stroke, the progressive social justice movement and all its trappings, has for the moment, been silenced.
This crisis has shown that many Australians employed in education, the media, corporate diversity departments, the law and government, have been fixated on the wrong issues altogether for a very long time. They have been fixated on things like gender, race, white male privilege, the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, social justice, safe spaces, trigger warnings, cultural appropriation, the gender pay-gap and climate change.
These individuals have been using our institutions and social media to silence those who either do not agree with them or believe that they are important. Their preoccupations have turned Australia into a battleground in a cultural conflict which has culminated in a ridiculous, demeaning and ultimately dangerous form of intellectual and moral harassment, and one which is damaging the causes it purports to advance. And Australian society has not only been indulging them, but even encouraging them.
Two years ago, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services mandated that on the first Wednesday of every month, everyone was compelled to use gender neutral pronouns such as ‘they’ and ‘them’ rather than ‘he’ and ‘she’. In these difficult days, it is encouraging to see the DHHS putting all its energies into managing a real health challenge, rather than an imagined one.
Similarly, while Melbourne City Council is currently rallying around small businesses threatened by increasingly draconian laws, we should remember that it was not so long ago that the Council floated a plan to rid local libraries of copies of Noddy, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine because some members of the Council believed their presence to be inimical to creating a ‘gender neutral environment.’
How trite this now all seems in the light of the prospect of mass unemployment and an economic downturn. No one waiting in the queues outside Centrelink is worrying about intersectionality, microaggressions or being misgendered once they eventually get to talk to someone about signing on.
This crisis it seems, has been a much-needed ideological cleanser. It is sorting out the good ideas from the bad, removing those which either don’t matter or that are in some way harmful to society such as identity politics. Identity politics, as we have seen, is a terrible idea because divides us rather than unities us. It denies us our individuality and forces us instead into groups based on immutable characteristics of race and gender. And this is a time when we need to be united.
Over the last few years, I have been talking a lot about Australian universities’ obsession with post-modernism and identity politics, especially in the Humanities departments. We have seen the outright hostility to Western Civilisation in the extraordinary refusal to teach a course on Western Civilisation, dismissing it as racist, imperialist, and outdated. As Greg Sheridan comments in today’s Australian;
Beyond popular culture is the deep academic conviction that all Western civilisation is inherently based on evil — racism, sexism, economic exploitation, colonialism — without any positive affirmation of the magnificent achievements of our own tradition.
The Humanities, as they currently stand, are woefully deficient in equipping students with the knowledge and understanding of how the real world actually works, because academics have stopped teaching them about the history of Western Civilisation and its great achievements. Because students have absolutely no concept of what has come before us, they will struggle to understand what is happening to us now.
The University of Sydney has taken this one step further, priding itself on its ‘Unlearn Campaign.’ Under the guise of promoting research and its role in changing the world, the university claims that such things as ‘modern medicine’ must be unlearned. Perhaps the university would well to re-learn modern medicine given the nature of the current crisis. In a similar vein, the university might like to refocus its attention on economics and mechanisms of the market, given that a leading researcher from its business school was heard to urge both students and society to unlearn the traditional idea of profit and loss in order to build a ‘sustainable future.’
The ‘Unlearn initiative’ is the exact opposite to curiosity, progress, the human thirst for knowledge and a desire to improve both our lot and the lot of others. Instead, it is promoting unlearning, unknowing and encouraging incuriousness, none of which prepare students for overcoming potential difficulties. It is entirely the wrong approach to take for combating a crisis.
Schools and universities are places where the values of Western Civilisation should be passed on. Instead, teachers and academics have been using their positions to create conformist and uncritical rejection of those values. These institutions are underpreparing young Australians for a crisis such as this, because they are creating generations of people who don’t understand these values and institutions. They do not understand where their freedoms have come from, nor can they recognise when they are under threat.
Daily, both Federal and State Governments announce tighter and tighter measures to contain Coronavirus. In Victoria, Daniel Andrews has put together a 500-strong Victoria Police coronavirus taskforce, ‘checking on thousands of people who have returned from overseas.’ He is moving quickly to introduce Stage 3 lockdown and seems determined to bring in more and more control. It is hard not to question why the most socialist of all Australia’s premiers is bringing in the most draconian measures at the greatest speed. Andrews is all about big government, not about small businesses. The latest news is that he is threatening to shut down much of the retail sector. He does not believe in dignity of work; it is the State that knows best. In Europe, countries like Italy and Spain, which have introduced the harshest measures, have all, in the past, succumbed to Fascism.
In the UK, where the entire nation is attempting to function under increasingly restrictive measures, Brendan O’Neill asks the question;
‘Are we allowed to ask yet if the immiseration of vast numbers of working-class people, the creation of a police state and the suspension of habeas corpus is the best way to tackle a virus? No? Please let me know when we are allowed to ask’.
What we risk in Australia, and indeed in Western democracies is that once this crisis resolves itself, which it will, the government will find justification for even more radical social change. By making government even more powerful, this will give the progressive voices which have been temporarily silenced, even more consolidated power. This is the entire premise of F. A Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. The Mises Institute says that;
‘What F.A. Hayek saw, and what most all his contemporaries missed, was that every step away from the free market and toward government planning represented a compromise of human freedom generally and a step toward a form of dictatorship–and this is true in all times and places. He demonstrated this against every claim that government control was really only a means of increasing social well-being. Hayek said that government planning would make society less liveable, more brutal, more despotic. Socialism in all its forms is contrary to freedom.
‘Capitalism, he wrote, is the only system of economics compatible with human dignity, prosperity, and liberty. To the extent we move away from that system, we empower the worst people in society to manage what they do not understand.’
We cannot afford to be complacent. When the world returns to normal, the same voices which have been decrying the evils of Western Civilisation will undoubtedly blame Capitalism or the patriarchy, or white male privilege.
This is why, now, more than ever, it is the time to talk about the values and institutions of Western Civilisation which were brought the shores of this country in 1788. It is the time to talk about the rule of law, liberal democracy, and freedom of religion, conscience and speech. Let us remember that our freedoms also extend to protection from state tyranny and governmental overreach, thanks largely to the Magna Carta of 1215, which enshrined immediately that kingship was limited; it had to operate according to the law; it was not above the law.
Over the centuries, Western Civilisation has been created with untold effort and suffering. It will meet this new challenge, as it has met all other challenges, by renewing itself and encouraging freedom of thought and discussion, reason and experiment.
Kind regards Bella