Posts Tagged society

Gay marriage musing

In response to the debate that I have been having with commenter “Greg”, beginning here and then moving here, I thought that I would do a quick thought exercise to explain why I do not necessarily support the reforms to the Marriage Act that are being advocated by Greg, Labor left, the Greens and various other such groups.

1. The “equality” paradigm

The way that the gay marriage lobby is trying to frame the debate is “marriage equality”. The use of “equality” to push their agenda is an obvious choice given where they are coming from — fighting for “equality” for groups including homosexuals is something that people on the left are used to doing, so framing the discussion this way allows gay marriage to easily form a part of their broader agenda.

I am not entirely convinced by the “equality” idea, however. “Equality” implies that there is some form of inequality currently being perpetuated through the marriage legislation. In terms of actual rights afforded, the current marriage laws to not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference as the gay marriage lobby claims. Anyone can currently get married — homosexual or not.

The real issue is not that homosexuals are being prevented from marrying, it is that the definition of “marriage” refers only to couples comprised of one man and one woman, and so does not encompass homosexual couples. Introducing same-sex marriage into the Marriage Act would not be ending discrimination, it would be redefining the idea of marriage and introducing a meaning that “marriage” has never before had.

This is where the conservative argument comes from — they place a huge amount of value in marriage as it is and they do not want to redefine it.

2. Placing a value on marriage

Bearing this in mind, the point that the gay marriage lobby will raise (as Greg did) is that it is discriminatory for society to place more value on heterosexual couples than on homosexual couples and that, in being denied the right to be a “married couple”, homosexual couples are being told that their relationship is not worth as much.

This argument relies on the premise that a relationship is inherently of higher value if it is registered as a “marriage” with the state than if this is not the case. This is where I take issue.

3. The alleged primacy of state marriage

I do not see how being married by the state makes a relationship more valuable. There are many couples who are not formally married but have lived together happily for decades and are “married” for all intents and purposes, as there are many couples in “sham” state marriages for some kind of benefit. I see the former as far more valuable than the latter.

I gave Greg the example of a Jewish couple that I know who decided not to be married by the state because they believe that God and not the government is the appropriate authority under which Jewish couples should marry, and I tend to agree with them on that.*

Greg was repeatedly mentioning the importance of marriage in society and seemed to believe that I was dismissing this by not placing value in state marriage. This is where we fundamentally differ on the issue — he is unable to distinguish “society” from the state, whereas I do not recognise the state as an entity with any legitimate place in marriage. When he saw that I did not want the Commonwealth to grant licenses to conduct marriages, he assumed that I meant that the States would grant these licenses instead and did not seem to grasp that I was arguing for these licenses to never be granted.

4. Gay marriage, marriage equality and marriage freedom

To summarise: the debate is about redefining marriage under the law, the argument for doing so rests on the idea that state approval gives a relationship higher value, however it is not legitimate for the state to be accepting or not accepting peoples’ relationships as valid. If you accept these premises, you should be able to understand why I am not particularly supportive of the idea of codifying same-sex marriage — doing so would only further entrench the idea that the state should be the entity that decides whether or not my relationships are valid and I fundamentally oppose that idea (clearly, it should be Facebook).

As usual in such debates, the two sides are talking past each other — one is fighting a rights issue and the other is fighting to defend an institution that is extremely important and meaningful to them. The unusual fact about this one is that there is a solution that would allow both sides to have what they want. Why would anyone want to fight for one that would only continue to be divisive?


*UPDATE: just a thought, but maybe the current value placed on state marriage is a remnant of the time when the state was thought to be the embodiment of a Sovereign that was appointed by God. Our current system does come from when the Henry VIII made himself the head of the Church of England so that he could have the power to marry and divorce instead of the Pope.

In a way, it’s a subtle means of not allowing Church to truly separate from State.

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Malcolm Turnbull on gay marriage: so near and yet so far

There has been a lot of attention on Turnbull’s recent Michael Kirby Lecture but I only just got around to reading it. Overall, it’s very hard to fault him – he systematically goes through the different arguments against legalising gay marriage and quite convincingly debunks them. Whatever your views on gay marriage, it is worth reading as food for thought.

HOWEVER, he did not quite follow his reasoning to the logical conclusion – a conclusion that I reached a while ago. And no, I am not saying “so near and yet so far” because he said that he wanted civil unions rather than pushing a bill on gay marriage at this time. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Reflections on gay marriage – Michael Kirby Lecture 2012 | Malcolm Turnbull MP.

So there is a clear distinction already between what constitutes a valid marriage in the eyes of the state and in the eyes of the Church.

Of course this distinction is more clear cut in countries where a marriage is recorded by a civil official at a registry office or town hall and then, subsequently, by a religious ceremony where one is conducted. I don’t doubt that explains why the legalisation of gay marriage has been less controversial there.

In Australia however ministers of religion are authorised to perform both the civil function, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the religious one on behalf of their denomination.

My point here is that the question as to whether same sex couples’ unions should be termed a marriage by the state is not one which calls for a religious answer. No denomination can be compelled to recognise any particular form of marriage – it is entirely up to them.

So here’s the question: if that is true (which it is), WHY IS THE STATE STILL TRYING TO DO JUST THAT? And why is Turnbull supporting it? So long as the state figures it should be defining the word “marriage”, there will be problems that will be unnecessarily divisive and create a lot of avoidable public outrage. Why not let people who get married define what “marriage” should mean for them?

He only briefly supports state-regulated marriage substantially once, like this:

Study after study has demonstrated that people are better off financially, healthier, happier if they are married and indeed, I repeat, if they are formally married as opposed to simply living together. [13]

And his footnote said this (my bold):

[13] There is widespread evidence that marriage leads to better mental health, greater wealth accumulation, more stable households and better well being of children raised in a household. A 1998 study by the RAND Corporation, for instance, found that the median household worth of married households was almost four times higher those who were never married, with a median wealth of U.S.$132,000 compared to $35,000. Lupton, J., & Smith J., (1999), “Marriage, Assets and Savings”, available online here. The study measured 7600 households containing a member born between 1934 and 1941 (so between 51-60 years old). A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found varying levels of serious psychological distress according to different the different categories of marital status. Among adults aged 18–44 years, 6 per cent of those who were divorced or separated experienced serious psychological distress compared with, 3.6% of those living with a partner, 2.5% of never married adults, and 1.9% of married adults. Schoenborn, C., (2004), “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999–2002”, available online here. The study also found married couples enjoyed much greater physical wellbeing…

Did you see what was wrong? Turnbull is a highly-educated and very intelligent person, so I am a little disappointed that he would be making such a basic mistake.

Those results are not causative – they do not necessarily show that getting married has any benefits at all. What they could just as easily indicate is that people who are generally more wealthy, and who have better mental and physical health are more likely to get married and, if married, are less likely to be divorced.

I would put my money on the latter being the case, rather than the former – I see no logical reason why the piece of paper proclaiming you to be “lawfully wedded” would make one iota of difference to your income or wellbeing, however I can definitely understand why a couple in good health and with steady incomes would be more likely to spend their lives together happily than a couple living paycheck to paycheck while battling psychological illness.

STATE MARRIAGE is a harmful institution. Legal interests should be attached to demonstrated co-dependency and not on a ceremony conducted by an official with a license. Marriage should be conducted by the clergy, or by some kind of communal leader, or whoever the hell else wants to do it – that is not something that the Federal Government needs to have anything to say about.

Turnbull is definitely on the right track, he just needs to take that extra leap.

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Women can’t have it all and neither can men

With extraordinary timing, just after last night’s post on high-powered career women, The Atlantic‘s July issue was released with a cover story addressing exactly that issue. In her essay, former director of policy planning for the US State Department Anne-Marie Slaughter  has given her treatise on why she left that dream job after just two years in order to be with her family and how society can change our expectations in order to better accommodate work-family balance.

I can’t do her argument justice, so please go and read the essay (it’s very important). There is, however, one point that I would like to focus on relating my post yesterday (my bold):

Magazine – Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – The Atlantic.

Still, the proposition that women can have high-powered careers as long as their husbands or partners are willing to share the parenting load equally (or disproportionately) assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them. In my experience, that is simply not the case.

This supposition is the issue. Slaughter does give evidence later that is closer to my perspective, however it does not seem to change her perception from what she has encountered in her “experience” (my bold):

To be sure, the women who do make it to the top are highly committed to their profession. On closer examination, however, it turns out that most of them have something else in common: they are genuine superwomen.

Seeking out a more balanced life is not a women’s issue; balance would be better for us all. Bronnie Ware, an Australian blogger who worked for years in palliative care and is the author of the 2011 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, writes that the regret she heard most often was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” The second-most-common regret was “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” She writes: “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.” …

What I glean from this type of thing is the harm that is genuinely being done by gender-normative assumptions — not just to women, but to us men as well. The assumption here is that men won’t care about being away from their family and will naturally just spend more time working.

It seems that people have been extremely reluctant to acknowledge the sacrifices that men at the top actually make in order to be there. It could be that this phenomenon that we’re seeing is not a case of society having created top-jobs that women can’t do because women care about family too much. Maybe it’s a case of society having created top jobs that are extremely difficult, and the women who were born into the egalitarian era are just beginning to discover how true this is.

I am a little offended by this idea that it is something reasonable to expect of men, but unreasonable to expect of women. Even Slaughter here has made the assumption that the men around her were not hurting just as much about the fact that they weren’t spending time with their family.

Maybe the difference was not that she had some kind of inherent need that they didn’t feel — maybe it’s simply that it is more socially acceptable for her to make the decision to sacrifice career for family because, while she may be seen as “betraying her feminist principles”, she will not face the stigma that the men would of being “weak”, “not dedicated enough”, or — dare I say — “girly”.

Of course, evolutionary psychologists would disagree with this idealised view that human nature is so malleable and would argue that men and women really are wired that way. Even accepting this as true, the furthest that this argument can go is to say that most women on average will be inherently more likely to want to sacrifice their careers for their families than most men. There would still be countless men and women who do not fit this characterisation.

Men have, of course, become much more involved parents over the past couple of decades, and that, too, suggests broad support for big changes in the way we balance work and family. It is noteworthy that both James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, and William Lynn, deputy secretary of defense, stepped down two years into the Obama administration so that they could spend more time with their children (for real).

Going forward, women would do well to frame work-family balance in terms of the broader social and economic issues that affect both women and men. After all, we have a new generation of young men who have been raised by full-time working mothers. Let us presume, as I do with my sons, that they will understand “supporting their families” to mean more than earning money.

I don’t see why this needs to be a “framing” issue. Why can’t we just accept that work-life balance is important for everyone? This idea that it’s a “feminist” fight immediately isolates anyone who does not define themselves that way. This is not about making work easier for women or men, it’s about strengthening families, improving peoples’ working lives and improving the wellbeing of parents and children.

And where are the Unions on this one? It seems a hell of a lot more important than keeping those damn foreigners from taking our jerbs.

That said, I will end with the point made here by Rod Dreher — who, as he describes in that post, is a man who sacrificed his career to spend more time with his family.

Slaughter is still hanging onto the 1960’s feminist dream that women can “have it all” and that is what her solutions are geared towards. Her solutions would definitely help with peoples’ work/family balance in general, however they would not allow women to “have it all”.

The unfortunate reality is that no one can ever have it all. It is impossible to do everything. There is no conceivable way that someone can work a 60-hour week and still have a huge amount of time with their families and there is no way that someone who works less than that can compare with someone who does work that much. At some point, everyone has to make a trade-off: some will choose their family, and some will choose their career. We can try to ease the conflicts as much as possible, but they will never go away completely.

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Why strengthening the state weakens humanity

I have just had to read through the entire ICJ decision on the Jurisdictional Immunities (Germany v Italy) case, including the mammoth dissent by Brazilian Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade, which was longer than the leading judgment and all of the other separate and dissenting opinions combined. I’ve been reading up on the guy a little and it sounds like he’s the ICJ version of Michael Kirby (anyone who has studied law in Australia would know what I mean).

I did come across one portion of his judgment that I thought would be worth reproducing. The case in general concerned judgments made in Italy against Germany for war crimes committed between 1943 and 1945. The issue was whether Italy had the right to put Germany on trial for war crimes or whether Germany had state immunity.

Trinidade thought they should, and he spent 88 pages constructing a legal system where the interests of humanity prevail over the interests of States and people subjected to massacres and slave labour would be entitled to justice in any legal jurisdiction. Fanciful? Maybe, but definitely compelling.

This is the best point that he made IMO, it concerns how the State creates a collective identity that dehumanises the individual to the point where atrocities like the ones committed by Nazi Germany can occur. These acts could never have been carried-out by individual people without the State structures giving them the physical means and resources, as well as the psychological impression that they were “doing their job” rather than committing acts for which they were accountable.

Dissenting opinion of Judge Cançado Trindade

XVII. The State-Centric Distorted Outlook in Face of the Imperative of Justice

172. The beginning of the personification of the State ⎯ in fact, of the modern theory of the State ⎯ in the domain of International Law took place, in the mid-XVIII century, with the work of E. de Vattel (Le Droit des gens ou Principes de la loi naturelle appliquée à la conduite et aux affaires des nations et des souverains, 1758), which was to have much repercussion in the international legal practice of his times. The emphasis on State personality and sovereignty led to the conception of an International Law applicable strictly to the relations among States (the jus inter gentes, rather than the jus gentium), that is, an inter-State legal order; it amounted to a reductionist outlook of the subjects of the law of nations, admitting only and exclusively the States as such.

173. The consequences of this State-centric distortion were to prove disastrous for human beings, as widely acknowledged in the mid-Xth century. In the heyday of the inter-State frenzy, individuals had been relegated to a secondary level. To G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), ⎯ apologist of the Prussian State, ⎯ for example, the individual was entirely subsumed under the State; society itself was likewise subordinated to the State. The State was an end in itself (Selbstzweck), and freedom could only be the one granted by the State itself. Hegel endorsed and justified the authoritarian and absolutely sovereign State; to him, the State should be stronger than society, and individuals could only pursue their interests within the sovereign State.

174. From the late XIXth century onwards, legal positivism wholly personified the State, endowing it with a “will of its own”, and reducing the rights of human beings to those which the State “conceded” to them. The consent of the “will” of the States (according to the voluntarist positivism) was erected into the alleged predominant criterion in International Law, denying jus standi to individuals, to human beings; this rendered difficult a proper understanding of the international community, and undermined International Law itself, reducing its dimension to that of a strictly inter-State law, no more above but rather among sovereign States. In fact, when the international legal order moved away from the universal vision of the so-called “founding fathers” of the law of nations (droit des gens ⎯ supra), successive atrocities were committed against human beings, against humankind.

175. Such succession of atrocities, ⎯ war crimes and crimes against humanity, ⎯ occurred amidst the myth of the all-powerful State, and even the social milieu was mobilized to that end. The criminal policies of the State ⎯ gradually taking shape from the outbreak of the I world war onwards ⎯ counted on “technical rationality” and bureaucratic organization; in face of the aforementioned crimes, without accountability, individuals became increasingly vulnerable, if not defenceless. It soon became clear that there was a great need for justice, not only for the victims of their crimes and their relatives, but for the social milieu as a whole; otherwise life would become unbearable, given the denial of the human person, her annihilation, perpetrated by those successive crimes of State.

176. It was at the time of the prevalence of the inter-State myopia that the practice on State immunity took shape and found its greatest development, discarding legal action on the part of individuals against what came to be regarded as sovereign “acts of State”. Yet, the individual’s submission to the “will” of the State was never convincing to all, and it soon became openly challenged by the more lucid doctrine. The idea of absolute State sovereignty, ⎯ which led to the irresponsibility and the alleged omnipotence of the State, not impeding the successive atrocities committed by it (or in its name) against human beings, ⎯ appeared with the passing of time entirely unfounded. The State ⎯ it is nowadays acknowledged ⎯ is responsible for all its acts ⎯ both jure gestionis and jure imperii ⎯ as well as for all its omissions. In case of (grave) violations of human rights, the direct access of the individuals concerned to the international jurisdiction is thus fully justified, to vindicate such rights, even against their own State.


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Good news: Israel promotes model health and Wire star heals Baltimore

I’m posting something to keep-up my good news doctrine, God knows I could use it. Today in particular, good news was not easy to come by.

Well, here’s one piece: Israel is breaking new ground by banning underweight models. I’m not normally one one for government regulations, but this one makes sense to me, mostly because encouraging people to have a disease in order to work in a certain industry does not seem like something that a healthy society would allow.

New Israeli Law Bans Underweight Models In Ads, Undisclosed Airbrushing.

JERUSALEM — A new Israeli law is trying to fight the spread of eating disorders by banning underweight models from local advertising and requiring publications to disclose when they use altered images to make women and men appear thinner.

The law, passed late Monday, appears to be the first attempt by any government to use legislation to take on a fashion industry accused of abetting eating disorders by idealizing extreme thinness. It could become a model for other countries grappling with the spread of anorexia and bulimia, particularly among young women.

The law’s supporters said they hoped it would encourage the use of healthy models in local advertising and heighten awareness of digital tricks that transform already thin women into illusory waifs.

Meanwhile, Kima from The Wire has been doing some amazing work in Baltimore since the show finished,

Best known as Detective Shakima “Kima” Greggs on The Wire, Sohn has dedicated her time since the show ended to supporting the city that supported her breakout HBO role. A victim of a traumatic childhood that included abuse, drugs, altercations with police, and poverty, Sohn decided that when The Wire ended she wanted to stay in Baltimore and help citizens avoid the problems she once faced.

Sohn founded ReWired for Change with Wire costars Wendell Pierce and Michael K. Williamsm setting a goal of cutting down on crime and violence in Baltimore by educating young people through the arts and mentoring programs. “I felt like I was trapped in this acting game going, ‘What is this all about? What is this all leading to?’” Sohn told NPR. “And in 2008, when I saw the kind of influence that a person who is in the public eye can have in the lives of those who have less, then I began to see, ‘Ah… this is the solution. This is what it was all leading to all this time.’ And once I embraced that, life came into perfect balance. And that’s what it’s all about.”

This is amazing news for a Wire fan like me. Not only did the show manage to give us incredible insights into parts of Baltimore that most of us will never know, while also being the best show of all time, it is having an enduring impact that may be helping to alleviate the awful poverty and crime that we got to know so well over the five seasons.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the Inquiry into the news media by Justice Raymond Finkelstein that is making waves in Australia. In the time that I have been reading it, everyone in the media has come out against it. And I mean everyone — from Andrew Bolt to the Green Left Weekly.

Many of these criticisms (including both Bolt and the GLW) stem from the claim that Finkelstein advocates imposing regulation on any blog with more than 15,000 hits per year. For some perspective, this blog received about 19,000 unique views in the last year (most of which would represent multiple “hits”) and that includes a good four-month period in which I was barely posting.

Other people to raise this as an issue include Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella, Institute for Public Affairs researcher Chris Berg, Sydney Institute head Gerard Henderson, influential political blogger Andrew Landeryou of VexNews and ABC’s Media Watch. Some even quoted the actual line in context, which I find absolutely baffling. Take a look here, pay attention to the sentence that comes after the one with the number “15,000” — which I have conveniently bolded for you:

If a publisher distributes more than 3000 copies of print per issue or a news internet site has a minimum of 15 000 hits per annum it should be subject to the jurisdiction of the News Media Council, but not otherwise. These numbers are arbitrary, but a line must be drawn somewhere.

I feel like I may need to draw your attention a little more, given how many people seem to have missed this, so here goes:


That means he is not recommending the number of 15,000 hits per day. 15,000 was just a random number that he made up.

There is no possible explanation for this except that one person skimming the report noticed the number and then everyone else in the media saw that somewhere and decided to make a huge deal about it without actually bothering to read the report. Ironically, this is exactly the kind of low journalistic standards that Finkelstein identifies as a problem in a report that  has been — unsurprisingly — blown completely out of proportion. I guess the press don’t have the attention-span to read through 334 pages anymore.

What is particularly ironic is that Media Watch also made the same error — aren’t they supposed to be the ones picking things like this up?

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A change for some good news

I am currently reading a book about positive psychology called Flourish by Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology. I came across through a review of an essay collection, edited by John Brockman, called  This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking. One of the concepts excerpted by reviewer Maria Popova was Seligman’s “PERMA” theory, which I found intriguing – enough to do some more research and then buy his latest book for my Kindle.

This Will Make You Smarter’: A New Way to Think About Thinking – Maria Popova – Health – The Atlantic.

Science and public policy have traditionally been focused solely on remediating the disabling conditions, but PERMA suggests that this is insufficient. If we want global well-being, we should also measure and try to build PERMA. The very same principal seems to be true in your own life: if you wish to flourish personally, getting rid of depression, anxiety, and anger and getting rich is not enough, you also need to build PERMA directly.

Just FYI, PERMA stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning and Achievement; which, according to Seligman, are the five pillars of wellbeing. The book is a self-help book to an extent, but it is very different from other self-help books that I have partially read (I can never seem to make it to the end of them…). The biggest difference is probably Seligman himself: he is not some self-help guru who has become famous through inspirational speeches about “taking CONTROL of your OWN life” or anything like that, he is a very highly respected professor of psychology at an Ivy League university and has been since before he started dabbling in positive psychology.

The result of this is a stark difference between Seligman and regular self-help gurus. For example, when Seligman claims that a certain technique improves wellbeing, he goes into extensive detail about the evidence for his claim, including not only personal anecdotes and case studies but actual randomised placebo-controlled psychological studies, which are referred to in his footnotes. There are other differences too – for instance, he has footnotes; and he considers actual policy implications of his theories; and he does not ever include sentences like:

“You can achieve AMAZING RESULTS in just ONE MONTH using the three-step system of Activation, Motivation and Vacation.”

i.e. His acronyms do not all sound like sales pitches and he uses capital letters the way God/The Queen intended.

One thing that I have gained from the book is the idea that I should encourage more positive emotions in things that I do. Looking over this blog since Saturday, I have written about:

  • The growing popularity of armed intervention.
  • The lack of technical literacy in homophobic British aristocrats.
  • The little-reported war crimes trial of an African warlord who enslaved children.
  • The Conservative argument for gay marriage and how this is being warped by the Catholic Church in America.
  • Andrew Bolt attacking Bob Katter over a homophobic add.
  • Rush Limbaugh losing sponsors for sexist comments and how Judaism interprets the contraception debate.
  • How the Treasurer of my country seems like a paranoid conspiracist.
  • How another African warlord is being turned into a perverse pop icon by people arguing one way or the other based on a stupid video or a stupid Tumblr and not bothering to actually learn anything about the guy in question.

Now, there is not a lot there that’s positive – even the things that are positive are because of something negative (i.e. positive results from Limbaugh’s abhorrent comments). As a result, I am now making a commitment to find at least one piece of good news for every two pieces of bad news, just to make Major Karnage a slightly happier place (hey, it’s a start).

So what’s the good news for today? Well, you just read it!

… nah, I’m not going to just cop-out like that. Here’s a baby reciting Shakespeare:

(via HuffPo)

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Australia kicking American ass on the gay rights debate

Aside from being British ex-pats, Andrew Sullivan and I do not have much in common – he is gay, middle-aged Catholic, living in the US and extremely successful as a writer-cum-blogger; I am straight, mid-20s, Jewish, living in Australia and pretty much unsuccessful as a writer-cum-blogger. That said, it is remarkable how much we seem to see eye-to-eye on issues that aren’t Israel.

Of course, most of what Sullivan does these days is link to other people’s writing – which is how I find a lot of interesting things to read, but means that there isn’t quite as much of this kind of thing as I’d like:

They Cannot Even Speak Our Name – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

This is a church now intent on erasing from visibility a small minority of human beings, while waging a campaign to keep them as second class citizens in their own countries and as subhuman “objectively disordered” beings in their own church. They cannot even speak our name. Because were they to see us as the human beings we are, if they had to confront the actual experienced reality of our lives, if they actually had a conversation with us, and engaged the problem rather than dismissing it as “madness”, their pretense would be exposed.

The leaders of the current Catholic hierarchy are the Pharisees of our time. They are the people Jesus came to liberate us from. And he does. And he will.

I have not seen a more damning indictment of the way the Catholic Church is pretending that there are no gay people in its ranks (ironically, this is the same stance taken by the Iranian President).

What is amazing is how different the debate seems to be in Australia – where Catholics compose the biggest single religious group – versus both the UK and the US. Take Rush Limbaugh for instance – while yesterday I reported that he is losing sponsors and may be going out of business for sexism, many others have noted that he doesn’t have a great record on gay rights either. In stark contrast, Alan Jones, the closest thing Australia has to Limbaugh, is known to be gay himself (if not particularly publicly).

Similarly, Australia’s top sensationalist rightwing columnist, Andrew Bolt, just came out with a vehement condemnation of homophobic advertising by “Australia Party” founder Bob Katter in the Queensland elections:

Katter disgraces himself | Herald Sun Andrew Bolt Blog.

It’s fair enough to raise the issue of gay marriage in the context of a state election, despite it being essentially a federal matter. There’s no law against irrelevance, after all, and Newman’s inconsistency goes to his character.

But this ad crosses way, way over the line.

First, why freight the same sex marriage debate with pictures of gay men being physically intimate? The intention is plain and foul: to appeal to the yuck factor with homophobes. Would we illustrate a defence of traditional marriage with a couple of porn stars engaging in foreplay?

Second, why show a gay couple as a beautiful young man and an older and plainer one? Again, the intention seems plain: to link gay marriage or gay relationships generally to pedophilia – or at least to gay predators. Would we illustrate an argument on the sanctity of marriage by showing a 40-year-old groom with a teen bride?

Third, what’s with the creepy pixellation on the picture of the gays? The area being covered is a man’s chest, for goodness sake. Again, the intention is plain and foul: to make even the sight of a gay man’s chest seem sinister. To hint at the illicit and disgusting.

Fourth, what’s with the footage of Newman folding a skirt, after asking in this context: “How well do you really know Campbell Newman”? This time the intention is slightly less clear, even if the malice isn’t. Is this meant to snear at gays as sissies? Or at Campbell as a closet gay – or even crossdresser?

Disgraceful stuff.

I have always had a feeling that most of what Bolt writes is more his cultivating a character than actually speaking from the heart (although unlike Anne Summers, I have no doubt that he is genuinely very Conservative), but occasionally he uses his pedestal to do something that he believes in. Yes, this can be tearing down climate change advocates, but it can also be this kind of thing.

Either way, Bill O’Reilly would not be caught dead condemning someone for being Conservative enough to run homophobic ads like that one. Note: I use the term “Conservative” with a bolded and capitalised “c” because there is nothing remotely conservative about homophobia. This is obviously something that is recognised by Australia’s conservatives, but Britain, America and the Catholic clergy seem to be off the mark somewhat.

For the record, my views on gay marriage were mostly laid-out in this post. I’ll end by citing another of Sullivan’s finer moments on this issue, where he explains exactly why the way the Santorum-style Conservatives are, in fact, more radicals than most who claim to be “progressives” (although I have a lot of issues with that label as well). He really says it better than I could:

Santorum Exposes The Real Republican Party – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

What’s fascinating to me about Santorum’s outburst yesterday was not its content, but its candor. In fact, one of Santorum’s advantages in this race, especially against Romney, is that we can see exactly where he stands. There can be no absolute separation of church and state, let alone a desire to keep it so; and in their necessary interactions, the church must always prevail, or it is a violation of the First Amendment, and an attack on religious freedom. The church’s teachings are also, according to theoconservatism, integral to the founding of the United States. Since constitutional rights are endowed from the Creator, and the Creator is the Judeo-Christian one, the notion of a neutral public square, embraced by liberals and those once called conservatives, is an attack on America. America is a special nation because of this unique founding on the Judeo-Christian God. It must therefore always be guided by God’s will, and that will is self-evident to anyone, Catholic or Protestant, atheist or Mormon, Jew or Muslim, from natural law.

Hence the notion that America could countenance abortion or same-sex marriage is anathema to Santorum and to theoconservatism. It can only be explained as the work of Satan, so alien is it to the principles of Judeo-Christian America. Hence the resort to constitutional amendments to ban both: total resolutions of these issues for ever must reflect what theocons believe was in the Founders’ hearts and minds.

This has long been the theocon argument; it was the crux of what I identified as the core Republican problem in “The Conservative Soul”. It is not social conservatism, as lazy pundits call it. It is a radical theocratically-based attack on modern liberal democracy; and on modernity as a whole. It would conserve nothing. It would require massive social upheaval, for example, to criminalize all abortion or keep all gay couples from having any publicly acknowledged rights or status. Then think of trying to get women back out of the workplace or contraception banned – natural, logical steps from this way of thinking. This massive change is radical, not conservative. It regards the evolution of American society these past few decades as literally the work of the Father of Lies, not the aggregate reflection of a changing society. It is at its essence a neo-Francoite version of America, an America that was not the pinnacle of Enlightenment thought, but an America designed to destroy what the theocons regard as the catastrophe of the Enlightenment.

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Is this the real reason people like me don’t like the #Kony campaign?

I’m inclined to say no, but I have a nagging feeling…

Think Twice Before Donating to Kony 2012, the Charitable Meme du Jour.

Okay, to be perfectly honest, I was skeptical before I even pressed play, since no less than 15 of my Facebook friends had posted about the video, beseeching everyone to “stop tweeting” and pay attention to the video’s 30 minute message. Fine, I thought, clicking on the video and wondering why the people who usually bombarded me with cat memes and status updates about getting high and eating McDonalds were suddenly fervent supporters of Ugandan children.

Visible children | Chris Blattman.

Invisible Children, as many readers may know, is less a film than a social movement in the US. Three young filmmakers set out to make a movie about the Sudan. They didn’t find their war in the Sudan, though. They found it in northern Uganda. Their movie did more to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army and the war in northern Uganda to US audiences, especially Congress, than any other advocacy organization on the planet. That deserves credit.

But why oh why, I have to ask, does it have to be in ways like this:

Last week I bemoaned the new ‘abduct yourself’ campaign and film. Many asked why, including their Mission Director. Here’s what I wrote back:

“Well, to be truthful, the hipster tie and cowboy hat was a little much. But there are more substantive things to be said about the new film.”

Should I Donate Money to Kony 2012 or Not? | VICE.

Criticism #5: Invisible Children is staffed by douchebags.

Now when I first watched the Kony 2012 video, there was a horrible pang of self-knowledge as I finally grasped quite how shallow I am. I found it impossible to completely overlook the smug indie-ness of it all. It reminded me of a manipulative technology advert, or the Kings of Leon video where they party with black families, or the 30 Seconds to Mars video where all the kids talk about how Jared Leto’s music saved their lives. I mean, watch the first few seconds of this again. It’s pompous twaddle with no relevance to fucking anything.

However, the central message – stop this cunt Kony killing and raping innocent children in their thousands – is a very powerful one. So I looked beyond my snobbery.

But, maybe I was wrong to. Chris Blattman, who’s an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale, wrote this blog about Invisible Children, effectively just calling them twats. He starts by dissing their “hipster tie” and cowboy hats, before moving on to accuse them of being post-colonialists.


So, now I’m in a bit of a quandary. I’m worried that the real reason I went to seek out the downsides of the Kony 2012 phenomenon was simply because I’m a snob who enjoys bursting people’s bubbles, and because I find the promotional film they made for it embarrassingly produced. What a horrible reason that would be to ignore a charity.

The film Kony 2012 began because the filmmakers went to Uganda and met a young boy so traumatised by his experiences that he was contemplating suicide. Confronted with the grotesque reality of the atrocities, the Western filmmakers did what I hope I’d do, and resolved to help. No matter what. With that in mind, does it matter if they get paid well? Does it matter if they massage the facts? Does it matter that their charity isn’t completely accountable? Does is matter that they’re naive prats who think it’s the white man’s job to save Africa? Or is that all just pompous hypothesising by Westerners with enough freedom, information and education to look down on a simple, kind act?

Isn’t it better to just stop criticising and start helping children in need? Or is that the kind of blind interventionist attitude that throws countries like Afghanistan into very, very long wars?

I don’t bloody know. Soz.

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