Australian author Tim Winton argues that misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma. Photograph: Lynn Webb
In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight
TIM WINTON Mon 9 Apr 2018 The Guardian
I don’t have any grand theory about masculinity. But I know a bit about boys. Partly because I’m at the beach and in the water a lot.
As a surfer you spend a lot of time bobbing about, waiting for something to happen. So eventually, you get talking. Or you listen to others talking. And I spend my work days alone, in a room with people who don’t exist, so these maritime conversations make up the bulk of my social life. And most of the people in the water are younger than me, some by 50 years or more.
I like the teasing and the joking that goes on, the shy asymmetrical conversations, the fitful moments of mutual bewilderment and curiosity. A lot of the time I’m just watching and listening. With affection. Indulgence. Amusement. Often puzzled, sometimes horrified. Interested, but careful, of course, not to appear too interested. And the wonderful thing about getting older – something many women will understand – is that after a certain age you become invisible. And for me, after years of being much too visible for my own comfort, this late life waterborne obscurity is a gift.
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
True, the blokes around me in the water are there, like me, for respite, to escape complexity and responsibility for an hour or two, to save themselves from going mad in their working lives, but their dignified silence in response to misogynistic trash talk allows other messages, other poisonous postures to flourish. Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. We’re left with values that are residual, fuzzy, accidental or sniggeringly conspiratorial.
We’ve scraped our culture bare of ritual pathways to adulthood. There are lots of reasons for having clear-felled and burnt our own traditions since the 1960s, and some of them are very good reasons. But I’m not sure what we’ve replaced them with. We’ve left our young people to fend for themselves. We retain a kind of indulgent, patronising, approval of rites of passage in other cultures, including those of our first peoples, but the poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding.
What are we left with? The sly first beer your uncle slips you. The 18th birthday party where the keg is the icon. Maybe the B&S ball, if you live in the bush. First drink, first root, first bog-lap in your mum’s Corolla. Call me a snob, but that strikes me as pretty thin stuff. This, surely, is cultural impoverishment. And in such a prosperous country. To my mind, that’s salt rising to the surface, poisoning the future.
In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And that’s dangerous.
Toxic masculinity is a burden to men. I’m not for a moment suggesting men and women suffer equally from misogyny, because that’s clearly and fundamentally not true. And nobody needs to hear me mansplaining on the subject of the patriarchy. But I think we forget or simply don’t notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny. It narrows their lives. Distorts them. And that sort of damage radiates; it travels, just as trauma is embedded and travels and metastasizes in families. Slavery should have taught us that. The Stolen Generations are still teaching us. Misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma.
A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds. When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.
Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny? Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance? I hope so. Because liberation – a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal – isn’t just desirable, it’s desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and clearly, and most clearly of all, in our politics.
Children are born wild. And that’s beautiful, it’s wondrous, regardless of gender. Even when they’re feral creatures, kids are reservoirs of tenderness and empathy. But some do turn into savages. And sadly most of those are boys. They’re trained into it. Because of neglect or indulgence. And when we meet them in the street, and have them in our classrooms, and haul them into the courts, we recoil from them in horror and disgust. Our detention centres and jails are heaving with them. These wild colonial boys, they’re a terror to Australia. Real and imagined. But I worry about our revulsion for them, our desire to banish them from consciousness for their noncompliance, their mistakes, or their faithful adherence to the scripts that have been written for them.
Boys need help. And, yes, men need fixing – I’m mindful of that. Males arrive in our community on the coattails of an almost endless chain of unexamined privilege. I don’t deny that for a second. But patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if they’re the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.
But before we even get to that point, we have to acknowledge the awkward, implacable fact of their existence, especially those who most offend our sensibilities. We should resist our instinct or our ideological desire to cross the street to avoid them, our impulse to shut them down and shut them out and finally lock them up. We need to have higher expectations of them. Provide better modelling for them.
But before any of that is possible we need to attend to them. Yes, boys need their unexamined privilege curtailed. Just as they need certain proscribed privileges and behaviours made available to them. But the first step is to notice them. To find them worthy of our interest. As subjects, not objects. How else can we hope to take responsibility for them? And it’s men who need to step up and finally take their full share of that responsibility.
Too many Australians today do not appreciate how their country has been shaped by the Bible in myriad indelible ways
Roy Williams The Australian 31 March 2018
It’s worth recalling this Easter that the Bible is by far the most consequential book in Australian history. One hundred copies arrived on the First Fleet, and every subsequent vessel brought lots more.
Serious Bible-reading probably peaked here in about 1880, but there was a still a well-thumbed copy in nearly every home until the 1970s. That decade saw the start of a steep decline in Australia of Christianity’s heft and influence, at least measured in terms of churchgoing believers as a proportion of the population.
Even so, in 1976-77, The Good News Bible sold a quarter of a million copies, a record at the time for any new title. Kel Richards’s The Aussie Bible sold 100,000 copies as recently as the early 2000s.
There remains a strong market in Australia not only for the Bible but Christian books in general. The flourishing Koorong chain of stores, and equivalent Catholic outlets, are proof enough.
Yet most of our “mainstream” bookshops offer a woefully thin selection of religious titles. Why?
The underlying reason seems to be a perception that the Good Book and its offshoots are irrelevant nowadays to anyone bar “people of faith”.
Sydney-based historian Meredith Lake challenges this canard in her superbly engaging book The Bible in Australia.
Put aside — if you dare — ultimate metaphysical truth.
There are, Lake contends, several other reasons why any thinking citizen should take the Bible seriously. For a start, “the world in general remains highly religious”, and Christianity is the most practised faith across the globe.
As far as Australian public-policy discourse is concerned, most would also agree with Lake that “a confident, robust pluralism requires tolerance of religious voices, including Christian ones in all their diversity”.
But she insists there is more at stake than mere tolerance, for “an intelligent pluralism requires good historical memory”.
Too many Australians today do not appreciate how their country has been shaped by the Bible in myriad indelible ways. As Lake observes, “it has a history here that, while complicated, is difficult to outrun”. She posits three main ways of regarding the Bible — each for good and ill — and provides convincing, engrossing examples.
First, it has been a “globalising” force.
“European imperialism introduced the Bible to Australia” with traumatic consequences for the indigenous population, she observes. The legal fiction of terra nullius was based on a quasi-Christian idea of John Locke’s. Genesis 1:28 (King James Version) enjoined human beings to “replenish the earth, and subdue it”. In the eyes of most British colonists, non-agrarian indigenous peoples had not done so, so the land they occupied was ripe for the taking.
It was not until the High Court’s Mabo decision in 1992 — based, in significant part, on Thomist notions of natural law (cf. Romans 2:14-15), to say nothing of Jesus’s Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) — that a better, more authentically Christian view held sway.
Indigenous Christians had long pointed to verses such as Proverbs 22:28 (“Do not move an everlasting boundary stone”).
Lake reminds us that the Bible has also been a globalising force in Australia as a basis for encouraging immigration on a large scale. As far back as the 1830s, powerful figures such as John Dunmore Lang invoked the story of Israel as a model for populating the antipodean “land of milk and honey” (cf. Deuteronomy 31:20, Genesis 12:1-2). Catholic historians including Edmund Campion have shown that the church facilitated the nation-changing waves of European and Southeast Asian immigration after World War II.
Lake’s second way of assessing the Bible’s influence is as a “cultural” force.
Aside from its ubiquitous presence in everyday speech (“lamb to the slaughter”, “writing on the wall” and so on), she emphasises its role as an inspiration to local artists in all genres. Henry Handel Richardson, Arthur Boyd, Paul Kelly, Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas — these and many other creative giants, a lot of them unbelievers, could recognise a masterpiece when they encountered it.
But it is in the Bible’s third guise, as a “theological” force, that its influence has been most profound. For almost two centuries after 1788, a good number of our key opinion-makers — in politics, business, science, journalism, education, you name it — believed the Bible to be nothing less than the self-revelatory Word of God, a text “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). Accordingly, in Lake’s expression, “it was the unrivalled starting point for knowledge, the framework for understanding the world and its workings”.
Ranging widely, Lake demonstrates that the theological Bible has been, as often as not, a force of “dynamic altruism”. (The phrase is historian Alan Atkinson’s.)
The NSW Church Act of 1836, for instance, later copied in other colonies, established the principle of equal treatment for all Christian denominations. This reflected governor Richard Bourke’s vision of a people “united in one bond of peace” (see Ephesians 4:3).
In the longer term, despite outbreaks of sectarianism, religious equality helped foster a much greater degree of socio-economic equality here than in Britain.
Likewise, the movements in the late 19th century towards votes for women and Federation were energised disproportionately by devout Christians. A favourite verse among champions of both causes was Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation.”
It is to be remembered, too, that in those days leadership of the trade unions and the Australian Labor Party was dominated by earnest Protestant men.
Perhaps Lake’s best historical examples are in the field of race relations, a strength of her work. From the earliest decades of frontier violence against the indigenous, through the citizenship and land rights campaigns of the 20th century, to recent debates over refugees, the most rigorous pleas for generous treatment of darker-skinned people have been made by conscientious Christians.
Typically their arguments have been based on scripture, one passage in particular.
According to Acts 17:26, “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (KJV).
Secular Australian bookshops should give this book the prominence it deserves.
Roy Williams’s books include God, Actually.
The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History By Meredith Lake NewSouth, 439pp, $39.99
A New Story for an Old Land: 200 Years of the Bible Society in Australia
John Harris ABC Religion and Ethics 7 Mar 2017
As the Bible seemingly drifts into irrelevance in our increasingly secular society, the Bible Society remains convinced of the need to put more Bibles into people’s hands, minds and hearts.CREDIT: MIKDAM / GETTY IMAGES
Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong
Maurice Newman 27 September 2016 The Australian
When your news and views come from a tightly controlled, left-wing media echo chamber, it may come as a bit of a shock to learn that in the July election almost 600,000 voters gave their first preference to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.
You may also be surprised to know that still deluded conservatives remain disenchanted with the media’s favourite Liberal, Malcolm Turnbull, for his epic fail as Prime Minister, especially when compared with the increasingly respected leader he deposed.
Perhaps when media outlets saturate us with “appropriate” thoughts and “acceptable” speech, and nonconformists are banished from television, radio and print, it’s easy to miss what is happening on the uneducated side of the tracks.
After all, members of the better educated and morally superior political class use a compliant media to shelter us from the dangerous, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, welfare-reforming, climate-change denying bigots who inhabit the outer suburbs and countryside — the people whom Hillary Clinton calls “the deplorables”.
They must be vilified without debate, lest too many of us waver on the virtues of bigger governments, central planning, more bloated bureaucracies, higher taxes, unaffordable welfare, a “carbon-free” economy, more regulations, open borders, gender-free and values-free schools and same-sex marriage; the sort of agenda that finds favour at the UN.
Yet history is solid with evidence that this agenda will never deliver the promised human dignity, prosperity and liberty. Only free and open societies with small governments can do that.
Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong. Their wealth and income growth is stagnating and their living standards are threatened. They see their taxes wasted on expensive, ill-conceived social programs. They live with migrants who refuse to integrate. They resent having government in their lives on everything from home renovations to recreational fishing, from penalty rates to free speech.
Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground” is now a stark reality.
The terms “people’s representative” and “public servant” have become a parody. In today’s world we are the servants and, if it suits, we are brushed aside with callous indifference.
Like the Labor government’s disregard for the enormous emotional and financial hurt suffered when, overnight, it shut down live cattle exports on the strength of a television show.
Or like the NSW parliament passing laws banning greyhound racing in the state. There was no remorse for the ruined lives of thousands of innocent people, many of whom won’t recover. Talk of compensation is a travesty.
Or like the victims neighbouring Williamtown and Oakey air force bases, made ill from toxic contamination of groundwater. Around the world it’s known chemical agents used in airport fire drills cause cancer, neurological disease and reproductive disorders, yet the Australian Department of Defence simply denies responsibility. The powerless are hopelessly trapped between health risks and valueless properties.
Similar disdain is shown for those living near coal-seam gas fields and wind turbines. The authorities know of the health and financial impacts but defend operators by bending rules and ignoring guidelines.
If governments believe the ends justify the means, people don’t matter.
When Ernst & Young research finds one in eight Australians can’t meet their electricity bills, rather than show compassion for the poor and the elderly, governments push ruthlessly ahead with inefficient and expensive renewable energy projects.
This newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell reveals in his book, Making Headlines, how Kevin Rudd, when prime minister, brazenly attempted to use state power to investigate “the relationship between my paper and him”. Rudd’s successor, Julia Gillard, wanted to establish a media watchdog to effectively gag journalists.
None of this is fantasy and it explains why people are losing confidence in the democratic system. Australians feel increasingly marginalised and unrepresented. They are tired of spin and being lied to. They know that data is often withheld or manipulated.
As they struggle to make ends meet, they watch helplessly as the established political class shamelessly abuses its many privileges.
It appears its sole purpose in life is to rule, not to govern. This adds weight to the insightful contention by the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott that Australia is in desperate need of a national purpose.
It’s no wonder, to paraphrase American author Don Fredrick, that a growing number of Australians no longer want a tune-up at the same old garage. They want a new engine installed by experts — and they are increasingly of the view that the current crop of state and federal mechanics lacks the skills and experience to do the job.
One Nation may not be the answer, but its garage does offer a new engine.
This is Australia’s version of the Trump phenomenon. Like Donald Trump, Hanson is a non-establishment political disrupter. However, unlike Trump, who may soon occupy the White House, Hanson won’t inhabit the Lodge.
This leaves Australia’s establishment and the central planners very much in control. It means we will remain firmly on our current bigger-government path, financed by higher taxes and creative accounting.
Nobel laureate economist FA Hayek observes in his book The Road to Serfdom: “The more planners improvise, the greater the disturbance to normal business. Everyone suffers. People feel rightly that ‘planners’ can’t get things done.”
But he argues that, ironically, in a crisis the risk is that rather than wind back the role of government, people automatically turn to someone strong who demands obedience and uses coercion to achieve objectives.
Australia is now on that road to tyranny and, with another global recession in prospect and nearly 50 per cent of voters already dependent on government, the incentive is to vote for more government, not less.
The left-wing media echo-chamber will be an enthusiastic cheerleader.
It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.
By Chris Mitchell The Australian 26 September 2016
How to walk a mile in another’s shoes? That is the question great reporters seek to answer when they interview their subjects.
In a time when there has never been more media but it is light years wide and only atoms deep, there is little reward for doing what great newspapers seek to do: provide their readers with genuine understanding of issues and people’s views and motives.
This is a shouty, shallow and callow media age in which young Lefty tyros are rewarded for sharp opinions and violently executed tweets. Their opponents in the right-wing blogosphere too easily drift into hate and conspiracy over genuine inquiry.
So on a range of issues the Left and Right yell at each other in what psychologists refer to as “different emotional languages”, like a husband who really cannot understand what his wife is saying about why their marriage is going awry.
I got that feeling very strongly last Tuesday morning when I heard Andrew Bolt being interviewed by Fran Kelly about Tuesday night’s very interesting program with Linda Burney on Aboriginal recognition. Kelly was perplexed Bolt seemed not to agree with all the received Radio National wisdoms she was trying to get him to concede.
And yet the thinkers behind recognition, people such as Noel Pearson, have always known Andrew — with his ability to articulate the honestly held and genuine concerns of his readers — was the biggest danger to any potential referendum, even if it was first proposed by Andrew’s confidante Tony Abbott.
Just as with same-sex marriage and Muslim immigration the megaphones of the Left show no understanding of, or even empathy for, the great middle ground of Australian public opinion, which is where these issues will be decided.
Those in the maximalist camp on Recognition give every indication of preferring a loss to a win on slightly less ambitious terms. Wiser heads in the movement know proponents who argue for a treaty now would be smarter to take it one step at a time.
Still, I had real admiration for Bolt, who showed tremendous courage to expose himself to a full tilt ABC ideological crusade with newly elected federal Labor MP Burney. The Twittersphere was a feral sewer about him that night and next day.
Having been into the ABC’s Ultimo fortress in inner Sydney several times lately I can say the pursed-lipped tut-tutting is almost overpowering when a critic of the corporation crosses the threshold. Good on Bolt for doing it I reckon.
It was also gutsy of diminutive Burney to front a couple of conservative, and physical, giants in Bolt and Liberal Party federal MP Cory Bernardi in the latter’s Adelaide electoral office.
It is unlikely Bolt or Burney will ever persuade each other but viewers may have sensed an increased recognition on the part of each of the participants of the other’s genuine passion.
An Essential Media Poll published in The Guardian on Wednesday highlighted this sort of hyper partisanship and the inability of many in journalism even to understand how their own country feels about issues.
Given what has happened in Europe since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the nation’s borders to Syrian refugees a year ago it should have been no surprise to The Guardian or the ABC that half the nation wanted a ban on Muslim immigration.
The poll showed 49 per cent supporting a ban and only 40 per cent opposing. John Barron, hosting The Drum on ABC TV, seemed shocked that even large numbers of Greens and Labor voters supported such a ban.
It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.
The ideological and media divide is just as wide for same-sex marriage. The sheer brutality of the Left’s reaction to any Christian spokesperson either opposing change or supporting the plebiscite promised by the Coalition elected less than three months ago is vile.
This is not just a challenge for journalism. It is also a problem for the body politic.
If journalists don’t understand how their audiences feel and the media and politics become ever more sharply partisan, how will reformers ever bring about social, economic and political change?
This Balkanisation of social attitudes and the subsequent prioritising of opinion over reporting that seeks to explore and understand is making Western countries increasingly difficult to govern. Even something seemingly uncontestable such as repair of the federal budget now elicits sharply partisan divides among journalists and politicians.
I support recognition but would never think a referendum should even be held if a proposition was so ambitious it was guaranteed to fail.
A libertarian on same-sex marriage, I would nevertheless defend to the death the freedom of Christians, let alone Muslims and Jews, to stick to their religious convictions.
I think a ban on Muslim immigration would be the most dangerous thing the country could do if it really is interested in preventing young men from self-radicalising online.
After all, teenagers feeling so alienated from mainstream society today that they seek solace in the websites of Islamic State would only feel more like outsiders were all Muslim immigration banned. But it should sure as hell be obvious to any thinking journalist why in the face of so many attacks on Western targets during the past two years many Australians would be attracted to such a proposition.
If we try to walk a mile in another’s shoes, we might begin to see why Aboriginal kids would think it unfair to suggest they should just be happy to forget about their heritage and history and again accept what is being offered them. But we might also understand why Bolt believes people today should not be atoning to people many generations and multiple ethnicities away from the brutalities of white settlement.
We might understand the complexities of race from the position of the other person, as Stan Grant has so eloquently tried to explain.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari pledged to respect China’s position on the South China Sea at an election campaign press conference he held with a Chinese political donor who had previously paid his legal bills.
He has also urged Australia to drop its opposition to China’s air defence zone in the contested region.
The comments, reported in the Chinese media, conflict with Labor’s official position on the issue which is that Australia should oppose China’s stance and authorise our navy and airforce to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.
Experts say the ultimate aim of Chinese soft power is to shift Australians toward’s China’s position on the South China Sea. On Wednesday, outgoing US Ambassador to Australia John Berry warned of growing interference by countries such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and urged Australia to increase transparency around political donations.
Senator Cory Bernardi on Wednesday labelled Senator Dastyari the “Manchurian candidate” after he admitted in the Senate that he was wrong to ask an Australian-Chinese donor, Top Education Institute’s Minshen Zhu, to pay an expenses bill of $1670 for him when he exceeded publicly funded travel entitlements. Senator Dastyari told the Senate he had donated a similar amount to charity.
Labor has taken a much stronger position on the South China Sea than the Coalition. After China rejected The Hague’s ruling against its claims to sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea, Labor’s previous defence spokesman Stephen Conroy accused China of aggressive bullying and urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to authorise the Navy to join the US and sail over the areas China claims.
Now it can be revealed that on June 17 in the lead-up to the July election this year Senator Dastyari assured the Chinese community he would respect China’s stance on the South China Sea, according to articles in the Chinese media.
“The South China Sea is China’s own affair. On this issue, Australia should remain neutral and respect China’s decision,” he said.
Mr Huang has previously paid a legal bill for Senator Dastyari.
Senator Dastyari urged Australia to drop its opposition to China’s “Air Defence Identification Zone” (ADIZ) over contested islands in the East China Sea, according to an article from 2014 – a stance which saw Julie Bishop publicly rebuked while on a trip to China by the nation’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“The Australian government must abandon its hostile stance on the ADIZ,” Senator Dastyari is quoted as saying.
Further, a staffer to Senator Dastyari, Paul Han, who resigned from his office to run for a Senate position in NSW for the Labor Party in the recent election, effectively echoed the Chinese government’s position on the South China Sea in a statement he sent out to the Chinese community in July which was then reported in Chinese media.
“[The dispute] in the South China Sea should be settled between neighbouring countries through friendly consultations. External interventions will not solve the issue and will only complicate the issue.
“The Australia government should keep a neutral stance on this issue and urge neighbouring countries in the South China Sea to solve the differences between these countries by friendly consultation.”
Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, has previously told The Australian Financial Review that the ultimate aim of Chinese soft power and donations was to shift Australia’s government away from the US and make us less likely to oppose China in the South China Sea.
“The long-term goal is to make Australia less likely to oppose China in regional confrontations,” he said.
In a statement to The Financial Review Senator Dastyari said he supported Labor’s position on the South China Sea.
“There is no difference between my position and Bill Shorten’s position on the South China Sea – the best outcome is one where the rule of law is recognised. That was also the position of Senator Conroy when he was previously the shadow defence minister.”
He said he did not agree with Mr Han. “Paul’s comments are in his own capacity as a Senate candidate. They are not my views.”
Ambassador Berry said he was worried countries which did not value a free press were increasingly involved in media in Western countries.
“They do not share a core value of freedom of the press and yet somehow they’re getting involved in the United States in terms of acquiring papers and acquiring television and playing roles that we have to be careful of,” he said at a National Press Club address.
“If that money directly is coming from the Russian government and being funnelled through a Russian-American then we might have some issues … nothing is ever hurt by increased transparency and increased sunlight and disclosure.”
Australia requires a radically new approach in waging the war on drugs.
Despite the Government’s best efforts, both international and domestic statistics demonstrate that Australia is currently awash with illegal narcotics and that Australians have globally the highest or close to the highest per capita illicit drug usage across several categories including cannabis, opioids, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy.
This is demonstrated by the Australian Crime Commission’s recent illicit drugs report which stated that Australia, in FY 14, recorded the highest number of illicit drug related arrests (in excess of 112,000), the highest number of drug seizures and the largest amount of drugs seized.
According to the ACC, sophisticated organised criminals are at the centre of the Australian illicit drug market.
Moreover, 42% of Australians, according to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, have used illicit drugs during their lives demonstrating that Australia has an entrenched illicit drug culture.
Disturbingly, the toxicity of the current supply of illicit substances across several categories has never been stronger.
Long-term cognitive, psychological and physical damage, the deterioration of social capital and the lost labour productivity resulting from illicit drug use is both real and undeniable.
The current ice epidemic sweeping the nation has devastated the lives of many Australians including in several rural, remote and very remote communities.
On any possible objective measure, Australia’s current approach to the war on drugs is an example of gross public policy failure.
Billions are being consumed in drug law enforcement, tens of thousands of traffickers and users are languishing in Australian jails, violent crime is being waged on Australian streets and precious health care resources are being consumed dealing with the consequences of illicit drug use.
Australia’s current policy posture projects weakness to international criminal narcotics syndicates in Asia and South America.
We are seen as a soft target and therefore illegal drugs flood the country.
Despite the issue not dominating the national conservation, it is incumbent on policy makers to investigate alternative policy solutions that best provide pathways to resolving the current crisis.
The collective harm that currently arises from illicit drug use discredits the drug legalisation community’s argument that an individual’s personal use should not be the concern of the Government as it does not cause harm to others.
Developments in neuroscience and psychology demonstrate that, as social animals, an individual’s consumption of illicit drugs can significantly influence on behaviour of others.
The alternative is to consider radically different policy frameworks such as Singapore’s, which has a comprehensive approach to meeting its openly-stated policy objective of having a ‘drug free’ Singapore.
The Singapore model includes a multi-pronged strategy consisting of strong preventative education in schools, mandatory drug rehabilitation for first and second time caught users involving family and community networks as well as the mandatory use of the death penalty with a reverse onus of proof for individuals caught with a prohibitive substance above a legislatively prescribed weight. Singapore’s policy approach is brutal, but it works.
Singapore enjoys one of the lowest per capita rates of illicit drug use in the world, its streets are safe, organised drug crime syndicates do not have a stronghold and, because of its projection of resolute strength, Singapore’s use of the death penalty is sparing.
The effectiveness of Singapore’s policy approach over two decades has resulted in the halving of arrest rates from approximately 6,000 to 3,000 annually as well as the rate of recidivism from 60 percent to 30 percent.
Given the seriousness of Australia’s illicit drug crisis, examination and potential adoption of the Singapore model should be considered by policy makers, including the re‑introduction of the death penalty.
Australians must be willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the current crisis and be accepting of tough unconventional measures coupled with determined and unwavering leadership.
He declined a request to give examples, citing operational reasons, but revealed many on the list were from prominent families and included provincial mayors and police generals and military figures.
The extraordinary development comes a day after Mr Duterte issued a “shoot on sight” order for Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera and his son Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa after three mayoral staffers were caught with ice, known as shabu in the Philippines.
The Radyo Inquirer said that the mayor surrendered on Tuesday after police shot dead six bodyguards during an early morning raid at the heavily fortified family compound.
Authorities have vowed to hunt down and kill his son, who vanished weeks ago after learning Duterte was coming after him.
Kerwin is said to have undergone plastic surgery while on the run in a desperate bid to elude capture.
Father and son are being investigated for allegedly protecting drug traffickers. Espinosa is the first local executive linked to the narcotics trade under the Duterte administration, according to The Philippine Star.
The officials about to be unmasked in the “executive kill list” can consider themselves dead men walking unless they turn themselves in and confess.
‘I’M OKAY WITH YOU KILLING MY SON’
Espinosa, who was not present at the raid on his home, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday before the expiration of a 24-hour ultimatum given by Mr Duterte.
He reportedly met with the president at Malacañang Palace before presenting himself to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa.
Chief Dela Rosa paraded Espinosa at a press conference last night, telling reporters the order to shoot on sight was still active for his son, who is the subject of a massive manhunt.
“Kerwin, you better surrender or die,” he said in a message to the younger Espinosa.
Chief Dela Rosa said Espinosa had admitted to him that Kerwin was involved in drug dealing and was in business with convicted drug trafficker Peter Co — an inmate at the maximum security New Bilibid Prison.
The top cop told reporters that he had twice asked Espinosa “if it would be okay if police killed Kerwin if he tried to resist arresting officers”.
“Rehab is no longer an option,” Mr Duterte told a cheering audience in Davao City.
“So those of you in your neighbourhood, feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have a gun. You have my support.”
In another well-received speech, he told the crowd: “In an arrest, you must overcome the resistance of the criminal. You must really overcome it. And if he fights, and he fights to death, you can kill him.
“Then I’ll give you a medal.”
Activist group Human Rights Watch says 600 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed in street executions since May 10.
The murders have occurred in several parts of the country including Manila, Bulacan, Cebu, Rizal, Abra, Bataan, Pangasinan and Cavite.
Mr Duterte has dismissed the images as “melodramatic”.
“International drug control agencies need to make clear to President Roderigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable ‘crime control,’ but instead a government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights,” Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said a statement yesterday.
A former mayor of Davao, on Mindanao, he is credited with creating one of the safest cities in the country with his tough-on-crime approach, although critics have denounced his vigilante-style methods.
In a recent speech, Mr Duterte summed up his stance: “If you destroy my country, I will kill you. If you destroy our children, I will kill you. If I am asked by anybody, including the Commission on Human Rights, I do not know you”.
Not only legal and human rights organisations, but ordinary Filipinos who voted for him are alarmed by what they see as a war on drugs, that is also a war on poor people.
A taxi driver, Bobby, says he voted for Mr Duterte, but told me:
“We have courts for a reason. You can’t let cops be judge, jury and executioner.”
The local media refer to these as vigilante killings, often aimed at silencing potential informers. But according to Linus, not all of them deploy the “salvage job” approach.
“They can’t be bothered wrapping them in plastic. They just shoot them and say there was a shoot-out,” he said.
Once again we are speeding through the traffic, heavy for this time of night. This is actually the most dangerous part of the job, as usually the press and police photographers arrive after the killings and there is not much risk.
But the rush to get to a crime scene and document it before police cordon it off and remove the body and the evidence, is the riskiest part, as I soon discover.
Changing lanes in light rain, a taxi brakes hard in front of us and suddenly we are fishtailing and nearly slam into buildings on the sidewalk.
At that point, it is after 3:00am and back at the station I decide to call it a night, leaving the photographers waiting for the next macabre scene, as the bodies in Mr Duterte’s drugs war keep piling up.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday in the southern city of Davao, Mr Duterte is also quoted as saying that he wanted to forge closer relations with China, and that he was open to direct talks over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has taken one of its claims to a court of arbitration at the Hague.
Mr Duterte’s record as the crime-crushing mayor of the southern city of Davao, once notorious for its lawlessness, has earned him the moniker The Punisher.
“What I will do is urge Congress to restore death penalty by hanging,” Mr Duterte told reporters. The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006.
Duterte: From ‘Punisher’ to president
Born in 1945 into a political family but with a more modest background than many Philippine politicians
Married twice but now single, he says he has several girlfriends
A lawyer, he became vice-mayor of Davao in 1986 and mayor in 1988. He has also previously held a seat in congress
Built a reputation fighting crime, militancy and corruption. He has promised to continue his tough stance as president, but has offered few specific policies
Well known for incendiary comments, such as saying he would kill thousands of criminals without trial
“If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organised crime. You heard that? Shoot to kill for every organised crime,” he is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
Rights groups say hundreds of criminals were killed by so-called “death squads” in Davao during Mr Duterte’s stewardship of the city. In 2015, Human Rights Watch described Mr Duterte as the “death squad mayor” for his strong-arm tactics in Davao.
Whether Mr Duterte is able to persuade Congress to back such policies remains to be seen.
Last week his spokesman put forward a series of proposals such as a ban on alcohol in public places and a “nationwide curfew” for children.
Mr Duterte was not afraid of courting controversy throughout his election campaign. He vowed to give himself and members of the security forces immunity from prosecution after leaving office, saying: “Pardon given to Rodrigo Duterte for the crime of multiple murder, signed Rodrigo Duterte.”
Duterte in quotes
On vowing to kill criminals
“Forget the laws on human rights… You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you. I’ll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”
On the rape of a female missionary
“I saw her face and I thought, son of a bitch. what a pity… I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first.”
On the Pope’s visit holding up traffic
“We were affected by the traffic. It took us five hours… I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again’.”
On taking Viagra
“I was separated from my wife. I’m not impotent. What am I supposed to do? Let this hang forever? When I take Viagra, it stands up.”
Many criticise using the death penalty against those in the drug trade, but our strategy has saved thousands from addiction
Drug abuse blights modern societies.
That is why many governments are focused on tackling addiction, preventing drug-related crimes and ultimately protecting their populations.
Singapore’s tough stand and use of strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade, including capital punishment, have sometimes come under criticism.
The comment by Patrick Gallahue and Rick Lines of the International Harm Reduction Association prompted by the trial of a drug trafficker, Yong Vui Kong, and the imposition of the death penalty on him, is a recent instance.
Singapore pursues a comprehensive national strategy to combat the scourge of drugs, comprising a high-profile public education campaign, treatment and rehabilitation of drug offenders, as well as strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade.
Public education against drug abuse starts in schools.
For abusers, our approach is to try hard to wean them off drugs and deter them from relapsing. They are given two chances in a drug rehabilitation centre.
If they go through counselling, kick their drug habit and return to society with useful skills, they will not have any criminal record.
Those who are still addicted go to prison, where they are put on general rehabilitation programmes to help them reintegrate into the community.
Strong community support against drug abuse has been critical to our fight against drugs.
Singapore society resolutely rejects drug abuse.
Several voluntary welfare organisations run halfway houses to help recovering addicts adjust back into society.
Many employers also come forward to offer reformed drug addicts employment opportunities.
Drug traffickers are a major part of the problem on the supply side.
They make drugs available in our communities and profit from the human misery they help create.
This is why tough laws and penalties are needed, including capital punishment for trafficking in significant amounts of the most harmful drugs.
This sends a strong deterrent signal to would-be traffickers.
But unfortunately, attracted by the lucrative payoffs, some still traffic in drugs knowing full well the penalty if they get caught.
With all these efforts, Singapore has one of the lowest prevalence of drug abuse worldwide, even though it has not been entirely eliminated.
Over two decades, the number of drug abusers arrested each year has declined by two-thirds, from over 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,000 last year.
Fewer than two in 10 abusers released from prison or drug rehabilitation centres relapse within two years.
We do not have traffickers pushing drugs openly in the streets, nor do we need to run needle exchange centres.
Because of our strict laws, Singapore does not have to contend with major drug syndicates linked to organised crime, unlike some other countries.
According to the 2008 World Drug Report by the United Nations office on drugs and crime 8.2% of the UK population are cannabis abusers; in Singapore it is 0.005%. For ecstasy, the figures are 1.8% for the UK and 0.003% for Singapore; and for opiates – such as heroin, opium and morphine – 0.9% for the UK and 0.005% for Singapore.
Singapore’s use of capital punishment has come under criticism.
However, contrary to the assertions of anti-death penalty campaigners like Gallahue and Lines, Singapore laws that specify the death penalty for certain drug offences do not contravene international law.
Notably, at the United Nations general assembly in 2008, 46 countries, including some of the world’s largest democracies, voted against a draft resolution proposing a moratorium on the death penalty. Another 34 countries abstained.
In the recent case of Yong Vui Kong, the court of appeal acknowledged that the mandatory death penalty is constitutional, and the high court expressly found that Yong Vui Kong knew he was carrying the drugs.
Every society strikes its own balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of society.
Capital punishment is an integral part of our successful comprehensive anti-drug strategy.
Our tough stance against drugs has saved tens of thousands of lives from the drug menace.
It is therefore not surprising that the majority of Singaporeans continue to support the death penalty. ”
Given we are eyeballs-deep in the US presidential election cycle, now seems a particularly appropriate time to share some observations on the topic of political propaganda.
As a naturally curious fellow, some years ago—during the Clinton vs. Bush Senior contest—I became interested in the language and techniques used in political campaigning. So much so that I dedicated my daily study period to the topic for the better part of a week.
Since it will be impossible to escape the rhetorical onslaught for the next few months, I thought I might be able to shed some light on what goes on in the battle for your subconscious.
As these insights come from the well-worn pages of playbooks of every politician around the world, I think they are pretty much timeless and cross all borders.
At the core of what I learned in my studies is that the stock and trade of the propagandist revolves around trying to simplify issues, no matter how complex, into easily understood concepts that tap into the existing attitudes and emotions of the target audience.
As an aside, since this topic touches on politics, I may inadvertently gore your ox. For the record, I view most politicians and political parties with disdain, though my disdain is particularly elevated for politicians espousing policies that interfere with my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
With that brief introduction, here are just some of the techniques you can watch for as the election season gains steam.
1. Use stereotypes.
This technique has probably been in active use since humans lived in caves. Successfully drape the opponent in the cloak of a stereotype that triggers a negative image, and you’ve done a good day’s work as a propagandist.
Depending on which side of the political spectrum you swing to, you might trot out old favorites such as “rich fat cat,” or “friend of Wall Street,” or “big-government socialist,” or any one of many handy sterotypes. These stereotypes allow you to instantly tap into powerful underlying prejudices and emotions.
And, for the record, it is a well-documented fact that when we humans are emotionally worked up, we become much more suspectible to follow-on political messaging.
2. Name substitution.
The propagandist will try to label the opponent with an unflattering, and memorable, term. If that is successful, the label will involuntarily come to mind at the sight of the opponent. Donald Trump is the reigning champion of this technique, using name substitution like a two-by-four against his opponents.
Every time Elizabeth Warren’s name comes up, my mind automatically substitutes her name with Pocahontas and I have to smile. On the other side of the contest, the Hillary camp has been trying to stick Trump with the “bully” label. I expect to see a lot more of that.
Out of a mass of complex facts, the propagandist selects only those that are suitable for his or her purpose. You wouldn’t expect Trump to mention his past bankruptcies, or Hillary her long list of crimes.
There is, actually, an instance where Trump might want to mention his bankruptcies. Folks in the influence business—including trial lawyers—use a technique called “inoculation” where, knowing your opponent is going to come after you on a point, you bring it up first and therefore diffuse it.
“My opponent, Crooked Hillary, is probably going to mention the fact that I have had some businesses go bankrupt many years ago. She’s right.
“When you’re involved in the rough and tumble world of business, sometimes things just aren’t going to work out, and so you have to do what you have to do to protect your employees and buy some time to pay your debts.
But here’s the important thing to remember. I’ve run businesses—big businesses—ever since I was 19 years old. And Crooked Hillary? She’s a lawyer and never ran a single business. Not once. And that’s the problem with American politics… too many lawyers and not enough business folks!”
4. Downright lying.
The “big lie” has always been an important part of propaganda.
Remember the woman who came forward to tell Congress about Iraqi soldiers raping and hacking their way through a maternity ward in Kuwait as part of the campaign to get the US to invade? The politicians got emotionally involved in the story and so, per my earlier comments, were made more susceptible to the idea of invading Iraq.
Turned out the woman was the daughter of a high-ranking Kuwaiti official who had been enlisted by a PR firm, and her story was completely fabricated.
Baseless nonsense dreamed up by soulless PR cretins, and nothing more.
If you repeat a statement often enough, it will become ingrained in the minds of your target audience.
For example, the myth propagated by the Democrats that the rich need to pay their “fair share” despite the fact that the top 10% of income earners pay 70% of all federal income taxes.
On the flip side, the Republications constantly repeat the mantra that Democrats are all in favor of “big government” despite the reality that the size of the government has continued to grow in size under Republican and Democrat administrations alike.
The clever propagandist rarely engages in a substantive debate over the issues, but instead favors bold assertions to support his thesis. This is logical because the essence of propaganda is to present only one side of the picture and deliberately obfuscate or bury facts to the contrary.
We are told Donald Trump is a bigot, but for the life of me, I can’t find any examples. Unless you think his call for enforcing immigration laws bigoted.
We are told that police target black men for summary execution, a meme that has contributed mightily to the recent outbreak of violence against the police. In time, that will also result in the police keeping their hands in their pockets and avoiding neighborhoods where they aren’t wanted. At which point the real mayhem will begin.
It doesn’t matter that the assertion is not factually true, what does matter is that it fits the narrative that the majority of the white population, especially fat cats like Donald Trump, are racists.
7. Identify an enemy that taps into deeply held prejudices.
It is particularly helpful to the politicians not to just be “for” something, but to be against some real or imagined enemy who is supposedly frustrating the will of his audience. This serves to deflect any opposing views while strengthening “in group” feelings. Some of the campaigners for Brexit used the influx of illegal immigrants very effectively in this regard. As has Donald Trump.
8. Appeal to authority.
The authority may be religious or some respected political figure. In the case of the Democrats, you’ll increasingly see references to Bill Clinton, who is apparently remembered fondly by some. By trotting out Bill, Hillary hopes the voters will overlook her many faults.
Knowing this is coming, the Republicans have done a pretty spiffy job of tarnishing Bill Clinton’s reputation—which wasn’t real hard—with exposés on the Clinton Foundation and his proclivity for women other than his wife. (For the record, I almost made a snarky comment, but refrained.)
9. Peer pressure.
One of the most powerful influence techniques is summed up in the phrase, “Everyone else is doing it.” Being a herd animal, it is very hard for us as individuals to go against the crowd. In the Brexit campaign, the media tried to paint the “Leave” folks as malcontents on the fringe.
In the US, to self-identify as a Trump supporter is—if you believe the Democrats and the media they control (which is, like, all the media)—you are some sort of gun-hoarding racist nutjob.
In what might be viewed as either good news or bad, the most fundamental limitation of propaganda is that almost everyone develops a more or less rigid set of beliefs and attitudes early in life and, except in trivial matters, clings to those beliefs.
Thus, the real task of the propagandist is to tap into those attitudes and attempt, often with deliberate lies, to demonstrate that the propaganda accurately reflects the established views of the audience.
Here is an example. On first hearing that Trump proposed to build a wall across the border with Mexico, my reaction was incredulous and very negative. What a dumbass idea.
However, when I heard Trump describe his wall, stressing that the wall would have a “big door, a very, very big door” for people that fulfilled the legal requirements for immigration to pass through, my opposition was muted.
I still don’t think it’s a practical idea, or even a good idea, but by his clever rhetoric—mentally painting the picture of a big door where people who followed the rules could enter—Trump was able to get me to view the idea of the wall in a different light. To wit, he’s not anti-immigration. Just anti-illegal immigration.
Some Concluding Observations
I doubt Trump will win the election. Not only does he have the entire liberal establishment lined up against him, but the propagandists have had great success in turning the larger ethnic communities against him.
And in what may be a first, even the leadership of his own political party continues to go to great lengths to discredit him.
This is not to say that Hillary and the Democrats will be able to credibly marshall an effective propaganda attack on Trump that will sway his constituents.
For starters, that constituency views “Hillary” not just as a political opponent, but an icon for everything that is wrong with the political class. They are not budging even one iota come election day.
Which makes this a battle for the so-called independents. And that’s where the propagandists will be aiming the big guns.
The Democrats tried to turn women against Trump by painting him as a misogynist. However, a master of the game, Trump countered by pushing forward the women the media had pointed to as “proof” of his misogyny who, in no uncertain terms, stated that the reporter had made up the whole story.
So, what scab can the propagandists (successfully) pick to ensure Trump doesn’t attract the independents who are uneasy about the direction America has taken? Well, for sure, Hillary can’t claim he’s corrupt or a crook, you know, because of the whole rocks-and-glass-houses thing.
So, I expect she’ll play the usual “fat cat” card and double down with the bully thing. That way when he berates her on the national stage, especially in the upcoming debates, she’ll do the equivalent of an “I told you so! Look at how he treats poor me.”
I think Trump is probably smart enough to figure all this out and be prepared.
Regardless, at the end of the day it’s going to boil down to demographics. Who has the bulk of the voting public in their camp?
If Trump is on the right side of the demographics, the side that fondly remembers the idea of America and wants to preserve it, versus those who embrace the brave new world of political correctness, multiculturalism, and populist economics, he’s got a chance.
If not, he will be toast and those of you who make America your home will have to accept that the country is going to continue slipping down the slippery slope. And not just under Madam President, but under whichever politically correct construct gets elected after her eight-year term ends.
Who knows, maybe by then the president will be introduced to audiences as “Ze President”?
So, any hints from the demographic data on who might win?
A useful gauge of what to expect from the 2016 race is to look back at the 2012 presidential election.
In 2012, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by the comfortable margin of 332 to 206 electoral votes (to win the presidency, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes). In the popular vote, Obama beat Romney by a difference of about five million votes.
Historically, women make up 53% of presidential voters and men make up 47%. In the 2016 election, it is likely that the gender makeup will stay constant, which will favor Hillary Clinton. According to the Gallup Poll, 70% of women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. That kind of gender gap could deliver the White House to Clinton.
On the other end of the scale, Donald Trump has the support of white men who distrust Clinton.
Trump may like to think he can up his chances in the presidential stakes by appealing to discontented white voters who will constitute an estimated 71% of the voting population in the 2016 elections. But the last presidential election results show otherwise. Even though the Republicans won white votes by huge margins in 2012, Mitt Romney still lost.
What carried Barack Obama into the White House were minority votes. He won 93% of African-American voters, 71% of Latino voters, and 73% of Asian voters.
The minority electorate carries even greater weight in 2016—with 38% of Americans constituting minorities, as opposed to 28% in 2012.
Furthermore, almost two million more Latino voters are expected to turn up for the 2016 elections than in 2012.
Therefore, Trump will need minority votes if he is to have a chance of winning the White House. An impossibility if one accepts the premise put forward by some political analysts that 84% of nonwhite voters won’t vote for him.
Based on the demographics, I’m prepared to bet that it’s unlikely that Donald Trump can win the popular vote for the United States presidency in 2016.
Then again, everyone thought Brexit would fail, so there’s that.
I will close by saying that there are a couple of scenarios that could change the tide. One is that Trump absolutely dominates in the upcoming presidential debates.
The other is that Hillary gets indicted.
Regardless, I’ll be watching the election results as they come in from a comfortable seat in the Bad Brothers Wine Experience. Which, given the prospects for a Clinton presidency, seems a fine place to be.
The Gayby Baby documentary’s screening at schools caused a stir.
The Daily Telegraph
By Kevin Donnelly
July 21, 2016
WHAT parents have to realise is there is nothing new or unusual about the controversy surrounding the allegation that Cheltenham Girls’ High has banned gender specific terms such as girls and boys in favour of gender-neutral language.
A second example of adopting a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) agenda is Newtown High School of the Performing Arts allowing students to wear either girls or boys uniforms regardless of gender. Add the furore surrounding the lesbian-inspired Gayby Baby film being shown in schools and the Safe Schools Coalition program and it’s clear that there is a concerted campaign by LGBTI advocates to force their radical agenda on schools.
And those enforcing a cultural left agenda on students, like La Trobe University’s Roz Ward, responsible for the Safe Schools program, make no secret of the ideology underpinning their long march through the education system. In a speech at the 2015 Marxism Conference, Ward argues, “LGBTI oppression and heteronormativity are woven into the fabric of capitalism” and “it will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people”.
In the same speech, titled The Role Of The Left For LGBTI Rights, Ward goes on to argue “Marxism offers both the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordinary new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today”.
Welcome to the world of gender theory. A world, as argued by the Gender Fairy story, where primary-school children can choose the gender they want to be as “only you know whether you are a boy or a girl. No one can tell you”.
A world where students are asked to sing: “You don’t have to be a certain way just because you have a penis, you don’t have to be a certain way just because you have a vagina”.
And it’s been happening for years. As detailed in my 2004 book Why Our Schools Are Failing, cultural-left academics, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Association for the Teachers of English are long-term advocates of the LGBTI agenda.
The 1995 AATE journal is dedicated to promoting a cultural-left view of gender and sexuality.
One paper calls on English teachers to explore “alternative versions of masculinity”, while another warns against “the various ways in which gender categories are tied to an oppressive binary structure for organising the social and cultural practices of adolescent boys and girls.”
The AEU’s 2001 policy argues that either/or categories like male and female are not natural or normal and that “all curriculum must be written in non-heterosexist language”.
The AEU’s policy goes on to argue that any discussion about LGBTI issues must “be positive in its approach” and “homosexuality and bisexuality need to normalised”.
Ignored is that according to one of the largest national surveys of Australians, about 98 per cent self-identify as heterosexual and babies, with the odd exception, are born with either male or female chromosomes.
Fast forward to the NSW’s Teachers Federation’s LGBTI policies and it’s clear little has changed. The Federation supports the Safe Schools program and anyone arguing for the primacy of male/female relationships is guilty of “heterosexism”.
Anyone committed to the belief there are two genders is guilty of promoting “fear and hatred of lesbians and gay men” and the belief “other types of sexualities or gender identities are unhealthy, unnatural and a threat to society”.
Ignored, compared to many other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, India (where gay sex illegal) and African nations such as Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe, is that Australia is a tolerant and open society. Football clubs have gay pride matches, many of our elite sports men and women have no problem ‘‘outing’’ themselves and the Gay/Lesbian mardi gras is widely accepted.
What LGBTI advocates have to accept is parents are their children’s primary teachers and caregivers and imposing a politically correct, radical LGBTI agenda on schools is more about indoctrination than education.
Dr Kevin Donnelly was co-chair of the National Curriculum Review and is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University.
The myth itself has been a comforting and even inspiring story that has underpinned the so-called Toledo Principles regarding religious tolerance in our time. It has buttressed the belief that Islam was a higher civilisation than that of medieval Europe in the eighth to 12th centuries and that the destruction of this enlightened and sophisticated Andalusia should be lamented.
“Focus Today” video with Prof. Fernandez-Morera here
The great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, a century ago, saw it that way. US President Barack Obama and The Economist magazine have both very recently cited Muslim Andalusia as evidence that Islam has been a religion of peace and tolerance. In short, the myth of Andalusia has been a beacon of hope for working with Islam in today’s world with a common commitment to civilised norms.
As someone who has long taken this vision for granted, it came as a considerable shock to me to discover that the conventional wisdom is quite unfounded. In The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, Fernandez-Morera systematically refutes the beguiling fable. The picture he draws is starkly different from the conventional one, troubling in what it reveals and compelling in its arguments.
If we are to satisfactorily resolve current disputes about Islamophobia and the future of Islam as a world religion, this book is required reading. International reviewers have greeted it as a desperately needed corrective to delusion and propaganda. That will invite pushback from those who either remain committed to the myth or believe it is too important a beacon to allow it to be extinguished.
However, Fernandez-Morera argues trenchantly that we must shake off the sense of the superiority of Islam to medieval European culture. He makes the point, for example, that, given Islam’s antipathy to graphic art and music, had Europe been Islamised in the 8th century, we would never have had Gregorian chant, orchestral music or opera. No Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Verdi. No Caravaggio, Michelangelo or Titian. Ponder that, at least as a thought experiment.
He shows that the Muslim invaders of Spain in the 8th century did not arrive as a higher civilisation conquering Visigothic barbarians. They arrived as barbarians intruding on a strongly Romanised, Catholic and materially sophisticated culture. As other scholarship has shown, the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries were barbarian invaders every bit as much as the Germans or Bulgars in Europe. They plundered, enslaved and sacked from the Middle East across North Africa and eastwards to Central Asia and India. As the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun would put it in the 14th century, war in the name of religion was integral to Islam.
Secondly, Fernandez-Morera argues that Islam was not the vehicle through which classical Greek learning was preserved, as is so often claimed. It was chiefly Constantinople that archived and protected the patrimony of Greek antiquity, philosophical, medical and mathematical. The Arabs acquired all this through Greek Christian scholars translating the classics for them. Greeks from the east and Christians in the west later revived such learning for themselves. Meanwhile, the rise of Islam had disrupted the flow of trade and ideas between the Greek east and the Latin west, thus harming rather than fertilising European civilisation.
Even these background theses will strike many readers as controversial, but they are only the beginning. The real thrust of Fernandez-Morera’s critique of the myth of Andalusia is that Islam in Spain, far from setting a high bar of tolerance, was characterised by plunder, domination, the harsh application of sharia law, the persecution of Christians or Jews who openly avowed their non-Muslim beliefs, and the violent suppression of ‘‘heresies’’ and apostasy within the Muslim community.
He also points out that the Christian and Jewish communities tended towards dogmatism, enclosure against the other religions and the fierce persecution of both heretics and apostates. Andalusia has been extolled as a convivencia, he remarks, but in reality it was what he dubs a precaria co-existencia between the three monotheistic religions that eventually disintegrated.
Chapter four, The Myth of Umayyad Tolerance: Inquisitions, Beheadings, Impalings and Crucifixions, and chapter five, Women in Islamic Spain: Female Circumcision, Stoning, Veils and Sexual Slavery, reveal what has been airbrushed from history. The Moroccan Muslim feminist Fatema Mernissi and others have laboured to argue that the sexual slaves in Andalusian harems were somehow ‘‘free’’ women. Fernandez-Morera draws attention to the considerably greater freedom of women in Christian Spain, by contrast, in terms of everyday outdoor work and access to political power.
The myth of Andalusia has been based on neglect of primary sources and selective adulation of worldly Muslim rulers, as if they were representative of the clerical ulema and Muslim masses. In fact, as Fernandez-Morera shows, both mullahs and masses tended to bigotry and anti-Semitism. There were anti-Semitic pogroms every bit as violent and irrational as those in Christian Europe. And many Christians were expelled from Muslim Spain.
Among the many shocks to my settled beliefs in reading this book was learning of the atrocities committed, publicly and privately, by Muslim rulers I had long seen as models of enlightened despotism, notably Abd al-Rahman I (731-788) and his descendant two centuries later Abd al-Rahman III.Both committed abhorrent deeds of torture and murder.
Far more shocking is Fernandez-Morera’s documentation of the harsh sharia law in Spain under the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, something endorsed even by the celebrated 12th-century philosopher from Cordoba, Averroes (Ibn Rushd). It was neither pluralist nor ‘‘secular’’. It offers no model at all for what we might want or do now in civil society.
I learned things reading this book that I wish were not true, but the documentation is voluminous and compelling. There are occasional errors of fact and some surprising omissions — no discussion, for example, of the great library of Cordoba or of its other public amenities in the 10 century — but the overall impact is profound. His book will surely run into hostility, but Fernandez-Morera is a formidable scholar.
The classic works of Patricia Crone or John Wansbrough on the origins of Islam are the best comparison with what Fernandez-Morera has achieved. They demonstrated that the Koran as a canonical text dates from long after the traditional death of Mohammed and the hadiths (sayings attributed to Mohammed) were overwhelmingly just made up by storytellers long after he was gone.
In Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Crone argued that the traditional story of Mecca as a great spice-trading centre where Mohammed founded Islam from whole cloth (‘‘revelations’’) does not stand up to scrutiny. The actual history of early Islam and the traditional religious account of it diverge radically. Yet this extraordinary finding has never sunk in. It is, understandably, resisted strenuously by Muslim believers and an academic establishment that makes a living out of writing about that traditional story.
Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam and books like it are vital works. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is one of these books. Rather than accepting conventional or politically correct views about either Islamic Spain or the rise of Islam ‘‘in the full light of history’’, read these probing works of historical scholarship.
We do need the ‘‘cultural secularism’’ that Menocal and others think they can point to in Muslim Andalusia. We do need to find a way for those who still adhere to the old religions to live in reasonable harmony. We should want a tolerant, cosmopolitan order here and abroad. What we cannot do any longer is take Muslim rule in Spain as our model for accomplishing that laudable goal. We need to invent something new. There is no Andalusian golden age to emulate.
Fernandez-Morera is clearly irritated and annoyed by recurring failures of Anglophone scholars to acquaint themselves with Spanish and French language scholarship on medieval Spain when writing about medieval Spain. He is clearly irritated by the failure of many such scholars to use the available Muslim and Christian sources; by their preciousness about using the word Spain (which, as he points out, many Muslim writers happily used); by their presenting medieval (particularly Muslim-ruled) Spain as some sort of golden age of multicultural co-existence; he is irritated by the notion that the invasion by Arab-led mainly Berber armies somehow raised the cultural level ofVisigothic Spain; he is irritated by the dismissive treatment of Christian resistance to Muslim rule; he is irritated by the positive, even glowing, treatment of Muslim conquest and rule.
One way to tell he is so irritated–apart from simply reading the text–is his habit of starting chapters with quotes from noted scholars which the chapter then presents evidence clearly contradicting. There is no doubt about who his scholarly jeremiad is aimed at: he tells you in general in his Introduction and then by quoting from specific scholars at the start of chapters. Nostrawpersons allowed; they are hardly necessary, when so many large targets present themselves so clearly.
The irritation clearly helped motivate writing the book, and it does add a certain spice or zest to the reading, but it in no way detracts from the scholarly value of the book, which is very extensively footnoted–reading the footnotes is an education in itself–and filled with quotes from Christian, Muslim and Jewish sources. (The book is a particularly informative entree into the Jewish communities of medieval Spain.) He may push some arguments a bit far, as this sympathetic reviewer suggests, but effective rebuttals would have to be at least as well supported in the evidence.
Fernandez-Morera is also quite cutting about some obvious, and persistent hypocrisies–such as turning the Christian calendar into “Common Era” but being very respectful of the (equally religious) Muslim calendar. Or being dismissive of wider Christian connections but respectful of Islamic ones.
Really, it was jihad
It is startling to read claims by contemporary scholars stating or implying that jihad was not a significant motivating factor in the original Muslim conquest of most of the Iberian peninsula by Arab-Berber armies. Fernandez-Morera points out that the nice, sanitised, “inner struggle” contemporary Western construing of jihad is not actually supported by the Muslim or Christian chronicles. He is not above a bit of pointed irony in doing so:
Now, it is certainly possible that, for centuries, the medieval Muslim scholars who interpreted the sacred Islamic texts, as well as Muslim military leaders (including perhaps Muhammad himself when he led his armies into battle against infidels unwilling to submit), misunderstood (unlike today’s experts in Islamic studies) the primarily peaceful and “defensive” meaning of “jihad” and that, as a result of this mistake, Muslim armies erroneously went and, always defensively, conquered half the known world. (Chapter 1)
Moreover, when the texts of the Maliki school of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) which dominated inal-Andalus are consulted:
… they talk of war against infidels–a Sacred Combat, or Holy War, or Holy Struggle or whatever other name one may choose to give this religiously mandated war against infidels. … Thus what many Islamic studies academics call today “little jihad,” as opposed to “greater jihad” (the “spiritual” one), turns out to be the only jihad examined in Maliki religious treatises and actually practised in Islamic Spain. (Chapter 1)
I started reading The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise while I was finishing Perfect Soldiers, veteran journalist Terry McDermott’s book about the 9/11 hijackers. It was striking, even startling, to come across the same rhetoric from Islamic sources across a gap of over 1300 years; one contemporary, the other from early periods of Islamic conquest. Notably:
This willingness to die is found, for example, in the words of the Islamic Caliphate’s Arab commander Khalid Ibn Walid in 633, ordering the Persians to submit to Islam, or else: “Otherwise you are bound to meet a people who love death as much as you love life.” (Chapter 1)
Fernandez-Morera cites or quotes a series of Maliki and other medieval Islamic sources emphasising jihad as fighting the infidel who do not convert or submit, citing Medinan suras, noting that Bukhari’s collection of hadith elevated such jihad to a key obligation on free Muslim males after believing in Allah and His Prophet.
Fernandez-Morera also notes some controversy about how late in Islam the notion of inner struggle jihad and defensive jihad may have arisen. In Destiny Disrupted, Tamin Ansary dates the promotion of “inner jihad” as the “greater jihad” to Sufis during the Abbasid period, (p.107) though, as he also points out, some Sufi orders effectively became warrior orders (p.167). (Moreover, the original connection to Muhammad is via a statement of one of his companions of doubtful authenticity and apparently fails to appear in any of the six authoritative collections of hadith.) Fernandez-Morera is quite right to insist that the notion of Crusade (a late, and terminating, development in Christianity which required Papal authorisation) is quite different from jihad (a universal obligation on free Muslim males operating from the origins of Islam).
The original Muslim invasions included tabi’un, in charge of establishing proper Islamic rule and the first mosques. As with the invasions of Sassanid Persia, it included burning of captured books of philosophy and logic. The evidence of the religious motives are extensive, including from archaeology:
Coins minted in North Africa shortly before the invasion of Spain call upon the protection of Allah for jihad. (Chapter 1).
The notion of separate political and religious motives does not really apply, and the Islamic histories themselves are clear on the religious motives for conquest. Muslim chronicles mention the destruction of churches–usually in triumphal terms and often to celebrate their being turned into mosques (Chapter 1). Southern Spain has no churches built prior to the Catholic reconquest (Chapter 2).
The speed of the Islamic conquest (less than 10 years) was, as Fernandez-Morera points out, not that historically remarkable and was aided by deep divisions with the elite of the Visigothic kingdom. He uses the Arab conquest of Persia to illustrate the common patterns in both conquests at the opposite ends of the Mediterranean-Middle Eastern region. The willingness to offer protection for (humbling) submission as an alternative to war and death or enslavement was part of the conquest strategy. (The Mongols would later offer a very similar choice; most conquerors offer some version of it–with Islam, it is sanctified and incorporated as the default mode for dealing with non-believers.)
Without denying its weaknesses and oppression of Jews and heretics, Fernandez-Morera seeks to rehabilitate the Visigothic kingdom, arguing that the Islamic conquest saw the destruction of a nascent civilisation built on Roman, Germanic and Christian foundations. He notes that:
Spain was under Roman control and influence longer than any Western land outside of Italy and produced more Latin writers and emperors than any other Roman province. … the Visigoths were the most Romanized of all the peoples took over the Latin Roman Empire … (Chapter 2).
A civilisation that was legally innovative, included ruling queens and the establishment of which was much less disruptive than the subsequent Muslim conquest. Muslim sources refer to the wealth and splendour of the society they conquered (even if the major measure of the wealth was the acquired loot).
Fernandez-Morera points out how deeply implausible the notion is that an Arab-led army mainly of Berber nomads somehow raised the cultural level of a urban civilisation drawing on Roman and Classical heritage. Especially given that much of the cultural sophistication the Arab elite had acquired had come from their Iranian and Christian-Greek subjects. He is somewhat caustic on the notion that the Islamic world “preserved” the heritage of Greek thought, given that the Greek-Roman Empire never lost it and it was Islamic conquests and piracy that profoundly disrupted the previous connections across the Mediterranean (Chapter 2).
Fernandez-Morera shares my dislike of the “Byzantine” formulation for people who regarded themselves as Romans and were called such by their contemporaries:
… the term Byzantine Empire was invented in 1557 by the German scholar Hieronymous Wolf, who as a Protestant would not have been sympathetic to Eastern (or Orthodox) Christians. to indicate that these culturally Greek people of the Eastern Roman Empire were not Romans, and somehow not even Greek …
Eighteenth century Enlightenment scholars such as Montesquieu, who despised Orthodox Christianity perhaps even more than Roman Catholicism, adopted the term, thereby emphasizing that these presumably retrograde Christian Greeks had nothing in common with those pagan Greeks admired by the Enlightenment. (Chapter 2).
About the other
One of Fernandez-Morera’s continuing themes is how the juxtaposition of Muslims with Christians and Jews led to great concern (particularly among religious scholars, clerics, priests and rabbis) with not having defections among the faithful to the blandishments of other faiths. One of the strongest responses to living with other religious communities was to more strongly define what differentiated them.
In the case of the Jewish communities, that led to strong efforts against the non-rabbinical Karaites, who were pushed into marginal status. The rabbis clearly had an interest in encouraging hostility to those who denied their authority, but it is also clear that their success was partly based on their success in portraying the Karaites as being a path to defection from the Jewish community (Chapter 6).
But there were similar concerns, and analogous responses, within the Christian and Muslim communities. Except, of course, the Muslims were the ruling community, so Islamic law, administered by the ulama, the religious scholars, ruled all. The existence of significant Christian and Jewish communities tended to elevate the role of the ulama:
As several Spanish and French scholars have pointed out, in no other place within the Islamic empire was the influence of Islamic clerics on daily life as strong as in al-Anadalus. (Chapter 3)
Al-Andalus was dominated by the Maliki school of fiqh, which took decisions by early Rashiduncaliphs as sources of law, particularly Umar. Including the Pact or Condition of Umar. Andalusian Maliki jurisprudence was intolerant of adherents of other Islamic schools of jurisprudence, let alone non-Muslims:
… the practice of Islam in Spain was much more rigorous than in the East. If anything, the presence of large Catholic populations to the north and in their midst, along with the conversion to Islam of many of their earlier inhabitants, seems to have exacerbated the Andalusian clerics’ zeal in adhering to Maliki teachings. In other words, far from being conducive to tolerance, living close to Christians exacerbated Islamism in al-Andalus. (Chapter 3).
Andalusian Maliki fiqh forbade musical instruments and singing. The ban was less than entirely successful, but was a major impediment to the development of a musical culture. Strict purity concerns also got in the way of interactions as the founder of the school:
… forbade using the water left over by a Christian, or using for ablutions anything a Christian had touched, or eating food left over by a Christian. (Chapter 3)
These and other food purity rules meant that “breaking bread together” was not a practical option between a devout Muslim and a Christian. As I have noted before, it is not morality that buttresses the role of clerics as gatekeepers of righteousness, but moral taboos.
Just because three different religious communities lived in the same cities and under the same rulerships did not mean there was much in the way of mixing, beyond that useful for commerce. The public celebration of non-Muslim religious festivals was banned, for example. Living in different areas was a practical solution to the religious barriers to mixing:
… “fear of the “other” as a source of influence and possible conversion, the three religions’ marked differences in worship and purification practices, and the religious laws’ exclusionary dictates and warnings against socializing with other groups made living even in the same block difficult at best. (Chapter 3)
As the Reconquista proceeded, Muslim clerics issued fatwa calling on Muslims to leave Christian-ruled areas. The pressure on Christians in particular was such that the last Andalusian state, theEmirate of Granada, largely became a Christian-free state (Chapter 7). (Catholic Spain would, of course, eventually expel all its open Jews and Muslims.) The last Emir of Granada, in the treaty of surrender, insisted on a provision that no Jew would have authority over any Muslim or collect any taxes from them (Chapter 3). Fernandez-Morera notes that the Muwatta, a key source of Maliki fiqh in particular, says that:
Zakat is imposed on the Muslims to purify them and to be given back to the poor, whereas jizya is imposed on the people of the Book to humble them. (Chapter 1)
Yet there is this persistent myth of Andalusian convivencia. Particularly under the Umayyad‘s, there was considerable repression internally and regular raids and attacks externally:
The celebrated Umayyads actually elevated religious and political persecutions, inquisitions, beheadings, impalings, and crucifixions to heights unequaled by any other set of rulers before or after in Spain. (Chapter 4)
Something Fernandez-Morera establishes from both Muslims and Catholic sources. The implications are not all that encouraging for simplistic multiculturalism:
… multicultural and pluralistic al-Andalus was plagued with religious, racial, political, and social conflicts, so that the most successful rulers must apply brutal and terrifying force to keep the place from disintegrating, as in fact it ultimately did. ….
In contrast, the relatively more ethnically and religiously unified Catholic kingdoms did not present the same problems for their rulers and therefore did not encourage the same drastic solutions. (Chapter 4).
And (to continue the story beyond where Fernandez-Morera takes it), having completed theReconquista, the eventual response of the Catholic kingdoms of Spain and Portugal was to use forced conversions and expulsions to re-create such unity.
Status of women
It is no surprise that concern for clear differentiation between the faithful and other faiths fell particularly strongly on women. Indeed, the higher the status of the Muslim woman (status which derived from the key man in her life), the more strict the requirements of separating differentiation.
The cultural and other activities of Andalusian women cited by those keen on pushing theconvivencia narrative were either slave girls (or, in the case of celebrated love poetry, largely aboutslave girls) or otherwise restricted to the private sphere. While, as one would expect in apolygynous society where stealing infidel womenwas sanctified, sexual slavery was rife. So rife, that (along with the aforementioned expulsions) there is very little Arab or Berber genetic imprint in the present-day Spanish population. Conversely, the situation of Catholic women in Catholic Spain was markedly better than that of even high status Muslim women in al-Andalus(Chapter 5).
Submission and domination
As for the dhimmi system for Christians and Jews, which is presented as enlightened toleration under the convivencia model:
The system of “protection” then, was in reality, a system of exploitation and subjugation. (Chapter 7).
With Muslim historians emphasising that the various conditions and requirements were structured to humiliate Jews and Christians. Nor can we look elsewhere for this alleged Andalusian tolerance:
There was no more a culture of tolerance in what remained of the Christian community in Islamic Spain than there was in the Muslim or Jewish communities (Chapter 7).
An issue which preceded the Muslim conquest. Upon the conversion of King Recared (r.588-601) to Catholicism (589), Visigothic law persecuted Arianism and Judaism, aiming for the extinction of both. In this it did not succeed, but it did alienate the Jewish community enough that the invading Muslims successfully used them as allies against the Christians. Fernandez-Morera notes various parallels in the exclusionary laws and rules of Christians, Muslims and Jews (Chapter 7).
Andalusian Muslim society was a stratified one:
Arabs were at the top of the social scale, with Berbers in the middle, followed by freed white Muslim slaves who had becomemawali; the muladis, further divided into first-generation converts and the rest, occupied a lower echelon, above that of only dhimmis and slaves. (Chapter 7)
With the muladis being a recurring source of unrest and revolt.
Something which clearly particularly irritates Fernandez-Morera is how Islamic imperialism in Spain often gets remarkably favourable treatment by Anglophone scholars, while Catholic resistance is ignored or belittled. As he notes:
… the relative scholarly neglect of the Christian sources on the Islamic conquest as testimonies of the Christians’ loss–a neglect of the vision de los vencides (“the views or testimonies of the defeated”) not present, for example, in studies of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. (Chapter 7)
The implication is clear: these people should be grateful to the tolerant Muslim authorities for so graciously allowing them to practice their religion. Never mind the lowly status Christian dhimmis and even muladis occupied in Muslim society; the harsh restrictions they lived under; the extortion and humiliation they suffered through their special “taxes” (the jizya); the destruction of their ancient churches … or even harsher punishments Christians faced for violating Islamic laws. Those punishments included drastic measures such as ethnic cleansing … The punishments also included, as we have seen repeatedly, executions of the most painful and public forms.
Such was the spirit of Islamic Spain’s “convivencia“, which Norman Roth hails as “one of the many things that made Spain great, and which the rest of Europe could have learned from it to its profit”. (Chapter 7)
Fernandez-Morera brings the threads together in the Epilogue, including the central thesis of the book:
Few periods in history have been more misrepresented than that of Islamic Spain.
A misrepresentation that wildly over-praised Islamic tolerance and treats the achievements of Visigothic Spain, and subjugation of Christians and Jews, remarkably dismissively. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is at once an informative corrective to much historical misrepresentation and a worrying documentation of scholarship going systematically wrong.
In his Introduction, Fernandez-Morera wrestles with why this persistent scholarly mythologising has occurred. He raises various possibilities–including the significant flows of Muslim oil money into funding academic activity. With associated pressures:
Doubtlessly, professional self-preservation as well as political correctness and economics as well as political correctness and economics have affected academic research in certain fields of study in contrast to the fearlessness demonstrated by professors when unmasking horrors in such dangerous areas of investigation as Christian Europe (the burning of witches! colonialism!) and Catholic Spain (the ubiquitous Spanish Inquisition!). Islamic Spain is no exception to the rule. University presses do not want to get in trouble presenting an Islamic domination of even centuries ago as anything but a positive event, and academic specialists would rather not portray negatively a subject that constitutes their bread and butter. In addition, fear of the accusation of “Islamophobia” has paralyzed many academic researchers. (Introduction)
The farce over the Yale University Press published work on the Mohammad cartoons sans cartoons provides him with an excellent illustrative example. It is not surprising that the Introduction also includes a strong plea to focus on where the evidence leads us, while being aware of the context of what we use as evidence.
There is also, as Fernandez-Morera points out, something of a prejudice against religious motives as explanations:
Failing to take seriously the religious factor in Islamic conquests is characteristic of a certain type of materialist Western historiography which finds it uncomfortable to accept that war and the willingness to kill and die in its can be the result of someone’s religious faith–an obstacle to understanding that may reflect the role played by religious faith in the lives of many academic historians. (Introduction)
And even more so in other humanities and social sciences.
There is, of course, something of a tradition in Anglophone writings to be down on Catholic Spain; a tradition kept alive, at least in the popular mind, by the tales of Gloriana and theSpanish Armada. After noting the “stakeholder” problem, Fernandez-Morera suggests that:
Or perhaps since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment the critical construction of a diverse, tolerant and happy Islamic Spain has been part of an effort to sell a particular cultural agenda (Introduction).
Perhaps indeed. Moreover:
In the past few decades, this ideological mission has morphed into “presentism,” an academically sponsored effort to narrate the past in terms of the present and thereby reinterpret to serve contemporary “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” and “peace” studies, which necessitates rejecting as retrograde, chauvinistic or, worse, “conservative” any view of the past that may conflict with the progressive agenda. (Introduction)
Envy demands that there is always a winner and a loser
July 09, 2014 Tim Challies challies.com
I have written about envy before and have referred to it as “the lost sin.”
Envy is a sin I am prone to, though I feel like it is one of those sins I have battled hard against and, as I’ve battled, experienced a lot of God’s grace.
It is not nearly as prevalent in my life as it once was.
Recently, though, I felt it threatening to rear its ugly head again and spent a bit of time reflecting on it.
Here are three brief observations about envy.
ENVY IS COMPETITIVE
I am a competitive person and I believe it is this competitive streak that allows envy to make its presence felt in my life. Envy is a sin that makes me feel resentment or anger or sadness because another person has something or another person is something that I want for myself. Envy makes me aware that another person has some advantage, some good thing, that I want for myself. And there’s more: Envy makes me want that other person not to have it. This means that there are at least three evil components to envy: the deep discontent that comes when I see that another person has what I want; the desire to have it for myself; and the desire for it to be taken from him.
Do you see it? Envy always competes. Envy demands that there is always a winner and a loser. And envy almost always suggests that I, the envious person, am the loser.
ENVY ALWAYS WINS
Envy always wins, and if envy wins, I lose. Here’s the thing about envy: If I get that thing I want, I lose, because it will only generate pride and idolatry within me. I will win that competition I have created, and become proud of myself. Envy promises that if I only get that thing I want, I will finally be satisfied, I will finally be content. But that is a lie. If I get that thing, I will only grow proud. I lose.
On the other hand, if I do not get what I want, if I lose that competition, I am prone to sink into depression or despair. Envy promises that if I do not get that thing I want, my life is not worth living because I am a failure. Again, I lose.
In both cases, I lose and envy wins. Envy always wins, unless I put that sin to death.
Envy divides people who ought to be allies. Envy drives people apart who ought to be able to work closely together. Envy is clever in that it will cause me to compare myself to people who are a lot like me, not people who are unlike me. I am unlikely to envy the sports superstar or the famous musician because the distance between them and me is too great. Instead, I am likely to envy the pastor who is right down the street from me but who has a bigger congregation or nicer building; I am likely to envy the writer whose books or blog are more popular than mine. Where I should be able to work with these people based on similar interests and similar desires, envy will instead drive me away from them. Envy will make them my competitors and my enemies rather than my allies and co-laborers.
What’s the cure for envy? I can’t say it better than Charles Spurgeon: “The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of the divine presence, worshiping God and communing with Him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet. The fear of God casts out envy of men.”