It was one of the most pitiful sights I’ve seen for a long time. Former Rugby League player, State of Origin and Australian representative, Glenn Lazarus was sitting in front of the TV cameras trying to look hurt and demanding that Tony Abbott apologise for his remarks about a “feral” Senate, and this coming from someone who doesn’t seem to demur from accepting the sobriquet of “the brick with eyes”. I know it has been cleaned up in recent times but can you imagine the insults the poor man would have had to endure over a long career in rugby league? Come on, Glenn! Elite rugby league players aren’t sooks.
It seems common place now for people in public life, particularly politicians, to want to call foul and affect offense rather than debate issues.
And what is the issue in this case? Well one issue is that a Senate comprising some members who were elected with miniscule votes are thwarting the Government’s efforts to restore some fiscal responsibility to the nation’s finances which is one of the major platforms for which they were elected. And the second issue is that the fiscal restoration is being impeded by Labour, who not only caused the problem in the first place, but refuse to allow budget cuts, even though some were cuts they proposed implementing themselves when in government. Now isn’t that something worthy of a discussion?
And take for example the debate on closing remote aboriginal communities as suggested by Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett. Tony Abbott gave tacit support to the suggestion but in the course of doing so suggested that living in remote communities was a “lifestyle choice” for some indigenous people. The opposition and those ensconced in the Aboriginal Industry immediately threw their arms up in horror and demanded an apology on behalf of indigenous people. Thus the debate was avoided.
Well what is the debate? The debate should be about whether the Australian taxpayer should contribute almost $100,000 for each person who lives in such communities. Particularly when very few of these communities are making any really progress in “closing the gap”. Despite this largesse the majority of the people living in these communities are failing with respect to health, educational and employment outcomes. Isn’t this a legitimate discussion that must be held? I as much as anybody want to see the lot of indigenous Australians improve. But here we are spending an inordinate amount of money seemingly to no avail. And what is this seeming imperative that some (in fact a very small minority of indigenous people) need to live “on country”? These issues need to be debated and no amount of faux offense and political correctness should stop us exploring this vexed problem.(Refer my blog essay Cultural Conflicts posted 27/1/2015)
Let us then take the issue of radical Islam. When commenting on recent atrocities committed in Western countries some are reluctant to link these acts of terrorism with Islam. The ABC and the American President seem to bend over backwards to avoid linking these appalling acts with Islam. To be sure most Muslims who live in Western countries are peaceful folk who wouldn’t dream of assaulting their fellow citizens. But it is quite clear the perpetrators of these vile acts are not Buddhists, Hindus or Jainists, they are predominantly Muslim. Yet when this is raised some Muslims take offence and those of us who might want to encourage the debate are labelled Islamophobic.
Is it not a legitimate question, considering its impact on our society, what role Islam plays in this process? Would it not be useful to understand why many of the adherents to this belief can live peacefully within our midst whilst a minority element feel compelled to overthrow our liberal traditions and impose a mediaeval, cruel and illiberal system of law on us?
Or take the issue of climate change.
Let me state my own position first lest you think I am pushing a particular bandwagon. I am pretty certain that there is something happening to our climate. I have been associated with research which shows reasonably conclusively that, for example stream flows on the eastern seaboard of Australia have been diminishing since the 1950’s. We are now experiencing more cyclones in the west and less in the east. Rainfall patterns have changed, and so on.
Now to my mind the two unresolved questions about climate change are:
- Are the observed phenomena a permanent shift or are they cyclical? (There is considerable evidence of similar changes in the past.)
- How much of these changes can be attributed to human activity and not to other natural processes?
Now it is almost impossible to have these debates because unless you support the notion that climate change is human induced and will assume catastrophic dimensions you are labelled a “denier” (like those misguided folk who deny the historical authenticity of the Jewish holocaust under the Nazis). Now I know I am not the most intelligent of people and perhaps am not up to date with all the scientific literature, but I am not a Luddite, and I would welcome an informed debate on these questions and not to be silenced with a condescending remark that suggests “the science is settled” which implies that I am just ignorant.
In a previous essay I quoted a newspaper article which reported:
The West Australian Police Commissioner, Karl O’Callaghan released crime statistics that showed high levels of involvement by Aboriginal youth. He was subsequently accused by the head of the Aboriginal Legal Service of inciting racial hatred.
If we are ever going to solve the problems of the world we need to be acquainted with the facts. Confronted by this knowledge reasonable people will want to know why this is occurring. And most reasonable people would concede that this is not so much a problem of Aboriginality, but a societal problem and a problem with our justice system. But I can’t see any benefit in suppressing the facts on the basis it might offend somebody.
What is the problem? Well obviously it is the undue numbers of indigenous youth coming before the courts and then subsequently being incarcerated. Should we turn a blind eye to this because again somebody confects offense? Of course not! This is a serious issue to be confronted and not swept under the carpet. We don’t want to see young indigenous people involved in crime. We need to devise programs and interventions that might help them take a more positive role in society. If it is a fact that young indigenous people are appearing before the courts in undue numbers, shouldn’t we know about this? If in order not to offend anybody, we suppress this information, how does that help?
You probably know where I am going here (particularly if you have read many of my blog essays). Taking offense is a manipulative strategy that helps people get their way. It is also an indicator of psychological immaturity.
There are many other examples I could give you where people choose to take offense rather than have their dysfunctional world views confronted. I don’t think it is helpful when we choose silly notions of political correctness over robust debate and disclosure of indisputable fact. Can I just make a plea for such people to spare us the affected outrage and faux offense and engage in rational debate.(Refer my blog essay Let Me Ask Again, “Who Has Got the Problem?” posted 1/11/2014)
I rather enjoyed (and fully support) the comment made by Bruno Bertolo to a previous blog in suggesting how to respond to such emotive manipulation:
“I find that offensive!”
“Well so what?”