Tricks In Neoliberal Culture #001: Affirming Values Through Compliments

Say you’re a ne’er-do-well with a need or desire to pass yourself off as a bleeding heart. Say you don’t have enough time on your hands to do the actual work of a bleeding heart. Perhaps you’re too busy on account of maintaining a cocaine habit, or just sleeping in, or some-such.

Only, you’ve got a start-up, or a spokesperson gig that brings you work, fame and/or fortune, and it all rises or falls based on your standing.

Do not worry. Other people do this work all the time; capitalise on their labour. You just have to find a way to take credit, without appearing to take credit, all while minimising the expenditure of your resources.

This is where compliments come in, and they work at all scales.

Example 1

“Wow. Those cancer researchers do a great job. People really need to be more aware of how cancer effects people!”

Sounds twee, doesn’t it? Likeably twee though, and lets face it, it’s easy to portray anyone criticising such sentiment as being cruel. It’s also a bit of a non-sequitur; it doesn’t follow from the great job cancer researchers really are doing, that people need to be more aware of the social impact of cancer.

Hell, everyone knows someone who’s been “touched by cancer”.

But people don’t pay attention to this kind of detail. You can even put it in the same paragraph and people won’t notice.

“Wow. Those cancer researchers do a great job. People really need to be more aware of how cancer effects people! Everyone knows someone who’s been touched by cancer! Did you know that?”

Being a layabout spokesperson for cancerishness stuff is as easy as that. If someone points out the flaws in the argument, then simply call them cruel and fall back on the crowd to defend you.

It’s vitally important that you place these details well beyond reproach, because these details actually relate to what you’re going to do, and you don’t want your actions being scrutinised.

“Cancer researchers work hard. To draw attention to how bad cancer is, we’re having an iced-genital challenge. Just record yourself icing your genitals, nominate someone else with warmer genitals than yourself, maybe send some money to our cancer awareness campaign, and all will be good!”

Bucket_of_Ice Place genitals here, and send me your cancer dollars
(Photo Source CC: Nautical9)

Thing is, after getting your not-for-profit up and running, you’re not going to send that money on to fund cancer research. Oh no, you only send those boffins compliments. You? You fund cancer awareness. Who is doing the cancer awareness work that you will be funding? Why that would be you!

Compliment cancer research + patronise cancer-induced suffering with “awareness” shite = profit.

Well, not literally. By “profit” I mean “expenses” like business lunches (that you like to eat), travel (to where you want to go), employing people (such as yourself and your fuck buddies), and so on. All to make people aware of cancer, the effects of which have been experienced in at least some capacity by… everyone.

If exploiting people’s gullibility makes you feel poorly, just remember that thanks to this, you can probably afford to buy yourself a pony. If you still feel poorly after buying a pony, then you’re shark bait – use the pony as a decoy when predators arrive and then harden the fuck up.

Example 2

Okay, so maybe your career as a spokesperson or thingy-thing-doer or whatnot isn’t at the kind of level where you can just up and establish a not-for-profit and market the shit out of yourself The Cause. Do not worry; I said this was doable at all scales.

Don’t ever let it be said that Ayn Rand didn’t collect social security. Also, if government money is available for a cause, fucking aim for it. (Depending on where you live, this trick may instead mean taking money from corporate PR departments – the point is, never think of where the money comes from or what it’s supposed to be for).

Whatever your situation may be, if you’re at least worth spit, there are always organisations with money floating around, looking for spokespersons for causes. The most sincere (and hence the most exploitable) of these look to outsiders, rather than their founders, to do the awareness-making and speaky-speak.

Often, they want someone to look as if they’re from outside the establishment because it gives a (false) appearance of independence. Tiny Tim can sell Scrooge’s good intentions better than Scrooge can.

The best place to prowl for these lush gigs is around performance artists. These needn’t be major recording artists, although it could be – you could work your way up to that if you’re evil enough. Again, this is doable at all scales.

As with the first example, you want to compliment others while minimising your workload. Essentially, this just means being a part of the crowd, while nominally, also being on stage.

Open mic sessions, spread between more established performers, are great for this. Become a regular at such gigs!

Write super-sanctimonious shit. It doesn’t have to be good, just be earnest. Nobody notices your artifice, or at least, if they do, they don’t want to be the only one who’s calling you on your shit – that’s a one way trip to lonely-town. You’ll get away with it – this is the easy bit.

The two important things that you do not want to fuck up, are; being louder in your praise of other artists than everyone else is, and not praising the wrong kind of shit.

If you want a gig as an anti-racism spokesperson, it doesn’t matter if on some level, your own performance is implicitly racist or patronising because most people at stage performances do not do deep thinking, and the ones that do don’t get listened to because they’re too quiet. It will matter however, if you give a huge fucking applause to a KKK slam poet; you’ll be the one sad fuck in the crowd who’s cheering them on. You’ll be the one pathetic twonk in the scene who cheered on that bonehead that one time.

Don’t be that twonk.

No, what you want to do is wait until that exploitable Social Justice Warrior who’s been fighting racism all their life, comes on to stage to slam, rhyme and free-verse about it, and then hit them with a “YES! YES! YES!”

Pick some affirmations that are short, abrupt, preferably monosyllabic, infinitely repeatable, don’t require thought, and then blast them out. Stand up while you’re hollering if you can.

Do not be bothered with any of that foot-rumbling crap, or that clicky-shit they do at slams in Melbourne. You’ll just blend-in if you resort to that. SEIZE PEOPLE’S ATTENTION! Take attention from the artist who has fought against racism all their life, and focus it on you, but don’t appear to be greedy while you are doing it; “YOU ARE BRILLIANT! I LOVE IT! SO TRUE! YOUR WORDS! SO WISE! INSPIRATIONAL!”

Be careful with “inspirational” though – the audience surely won’t know, but artists may cotton on to your motives when you use this word. If that happens, and the artist criticises you, take advantage; you can just feign innocence to make them look both bad, and bad to work with. Eliminate the competition with a smile.

All of this will work even better, if you’re looking for an anti-racism gig, if the artist you are exploiting is a person of colour and if you are white. Seriously.

Why? Because you’ll probably have a mostly white audience who on some level want the continued comfort of white people being in charge of any and all discussions of racism; people recruiting speakers from the arts use the audience as barometer. The disposition of the audience is also likely true of any number of advocacy bodies looking to recruit anti-racist spokespersons as well, or at least, this is mostly true of most of the well funded ones.

And if you fail, so what? You’re just some person who doesn’t like racism. You can’t be faulted for that, right? Again – feign innocence.

It’s not like this takes much effort anyway. If you don’t win the first time around, you may as well safely sit back, relax and have a beer, and maybe buy one for the new POC friend you’re mooching cred from.

You can go back to hating Jews and feminists after you’re done, which nobody is going to call you on unless you’re silly enough to make it an integral part of your shtick.

The thing with a low-investment, high-payoff scam like this, is that you can effortlessly repeat it over and over and over again. It’s mutable as well; it works just as well for disability advocacy, asylum-seeker advocacy, victims-of-crime advocacy…

If you’re a high functioning sociopath, all advocacy is potential self-advocacy, and don’t you go forgetting that, John Galt!

Observations

Go and attend some free public events centred around do-gooders and artsy types. Make observations. Particularly, watch the people who give the most compliments.

What labour do they actually perform?

What do they get out of the event?

How do they hide their exploits, if any, from being detected?

What values are they affirming through their compliments, and what signs do they actually show of living up to these values (Google is your friend)?

~ Bruce

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Tricks In Neoliberal Culture #000: The Beginning

I have this new series of posts lined up, which as you can probably tell, will fall under the title ‘Tricks In Neoliberal Culture’. Jaded political types will have some idea what I’m on about, while the less wonky may very well scratch their heads.

“What the fuck is neoliberalism? Can it help me?”

Well, if you’re a self-made Übermensch, dependent on no-one, then yes, neoliberalism can help you. The basic, unvarnished truth of neoliberalism is that it advocates for the freedom of the powerful to take away the freedom of the poor. The result, when people operate under this scheme, is a condensation of power at the top, while people at the bottom claw their way over each other instead of cooperating.

If this all seems a bit unfair, just remind yourself that sociopaths have rights too, and then proceed to be tolerant to a fault. Easy. Now you’re on-board with neoliberalism.

But what about the history of neoliberalism? Don’t worry about that. Aside from acknowledging the fact that neoliberalism really took off in the 70s, you really don’t want to go into history. People will only point out pesky things like misreadings of Adam Smith, and historical burst-bust cycles resulting from failed economic doctrines that don’t account for the actual irrationality of markets.

Remember: Unrestrained markets are good for the powerful to freely take freedom from the less powerful, and hence good for everyone. You don’t want to be contradicted on this when you’re pushing your boot down on someone else’s shoulder. Insist at all points that markets are rational.

You are an Übermensch (or a John Galt, or an Atlas – take your pick)!

How do you survive in this brave new neoliberal world?

Start-ups! Risky investment! Self-positioning! Marketing! Marketing! Marketing!

But most important of all, thou must learn to shank thy neighbour! That’s where the tricks come in.

Now to be fair, even communists have done their fair share of shanking over the years, and they may even shank with what is broadly the same cut.

However, tricks done within neoliberal culture, even the same tricks, are just done with so much more flair. Consider the difference between being stabbed amidst Las Vegas neon, versus being stabbed amidst Soviet Bloc brutalism.

Details on tricks will be forthcoming.

~ Bruce

Easy gambit…

crazytroll Imagine you’re a part of an Internet clique, and some individual has called you a “bully”. Leave the substantive details of your past arguments, and even the particulars of your accuser’s case, to one side.

Just a little reflection shows there’s a way of demonstrating that you’re only engaging in a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ style political banter. A way that won’t be falsified.

You have to retort of course, in the first instance, that it is indeed banter you’re engaging in. Yet not to the extent that you’re merely pretending the gadfly; you’ll want to maintain that there’s a substantive critique underneath your ’bullying’ (not that you need to articulate it clearly).

“Rough and tumble”; “rhetorical flair”; “panache”; “pugilism’” and so on – the point is to illustrate that what’s being misinterpreted as “bullying” is in fact normal, at least in your circles, and preferably at large in public discourse. This shouldn’t be too hard (easy gambit!), given that it is in fact reasonable to expect some degree of emoting, satire, ridicule and questioning of character in any contentious matter of public debate.

Remember – you aren’t beyond the pale, or out of the norm, it’s that your accuser has unrealistic expectations. This is easy enough to state, and easy enough to follow through upon.

If the allegations against you don’t acknowledge your clique, it’s likely that they will be implicated, at least by inference. It’s safe to assume such a wide ranging smear even if it hasn’t been stated – it is after all, an example of high character to defend your friends’ honour.

Try this on for size…

‘You’re trying to marginalise our perspective from the public square by using false accusations!’

It also helps to counter-accuse your opponent of autocracy, of being like Pol Pot, and of whatever else gets the job done. Admittedly, this can sometimes be overdone – the job at this point is to position yourself as an open minded freedom fighter. You’re taking a stand for your people.

The full extent of your recriminations come later.

If all has gone well, by this point you’ve established that your people are being accused as well, if that wasn’t already clear. Now, it follows that if what they’re being accused of were true, then surely you wouldn’t want them to do it to you.

This is where you mock your opponent’s false-martyrdom by placing yourself in the role of potential victim.

‘Hey, my lot argue like this all the time. When someone makes a joke at my expense, I just ignore it and laugh, and then we all know that the joke’s finished. I don’t go and whine and make accusations about ‘bullying’ like you do. You need to ignore it and get thick skin like me.’

You need to follow through on claims like this by presenting a gambit with a largely pre-determined outcome – perhaps you could hold a contest for the best insult to your person, from one of your friends. Perhaps you can think of something similar.

When you’ve decided upon your gambit, be sure to trot out a self-deprecating example or two of ‘rough and tumble’ banter, showing just how light-hearted and open-minded you really are…

‘Maybe I’ll draw an MS-Paint picture of myself; it’ll have me being decapitated, with someone sticking a stainless steel cactus up my bum. Ha!’

Even if in fact you have thin skin, concerns you’ll suddenly be set upon by your friends are ill-founded. Banter sends the agreed upon signal; when you laugh, the joke’s over, so that’s the end – no more. With an act of self-deprecation, you give the signal to your clique to stop before the gambit has even begun.

Of course, nobody can prove this signalling, which means it can’t be counted against you. It’s not like there’s a formal code book of in-group social cues for your enemies to refer to.

In the absence of such proof, your display of an invitation to experience said “bullying” first-hand, shows not only that you consider it normal, but that you’re a role model, and a figure of political stamina. (This despite the fact that very few people, if any, are going to take you up on your offer.)

Moreover, you’ve shown that the spectre of supposed “bullying” does not in fact inhibit you from exercising your right to free expression. Now if that doesn’t show that the accusation levelled against you is fatuous, nothing will.

After you’ve exonerated yourself, all that remains is to capitalise on the gambit – to expose your accuser of being a tyrant and a fraud. Recriminations should abound.

‘Professional victim!’; ‘Anti-free-expression!’; ‘Political correctness gone mad!’; ‘Thingy-Nazi-Stasi’ or any number of other epithets and charges are in order, the doubling-down on any prior references to totalitarianism being a given. All that is left to do is bask in the appreciation of your fellow members of the oppressed, which likely involves the freedom fighting subscribers to YouTube and Reddit – the most oppressed of the oppressed.

~ Bruce

…assuming the mantle.

I didn’t get it, and I haven’t got it for most of the time. I’m only just getting it – the faux-masculine shibboleths that I’m expected to observe, in order to be ‘one of the guys’.

Especially the degradation of women as rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong…

I’m nobody’s knight in shining armour (I think this will be the last time I repeat this for some time), and I don’t believe in chivalry towards women – chivalry, as opposed to decency, assumes that women are frail objects to be protected like delicate porcelain in a world they’re not equipped to deal with. Women are no such thing.

I’ve got an interest in this. If pseudo, and actual misogyny, are used as defining criteria for what it is to be masculine, then I consider that an imposture. I don’t want that group identity lumbered on me, and moreover, I’m willing, if imposed upon, to fight for my stake in masculine culture to the exclusion of other men.

Gentlemen, if you’re going to make an asshole out of yourself in the first instance, I’m not going to take much notice when you make squeals of indignation, when you get a little comeuppance. That is unless, I find it justifiable, useful, and entertaining, to laugh at you.

Seriously though, some men really shit me. The things that some of you expect me to take on board as normal, or healthy, or unappealing-but-otherwise-not-rebarbative.

[Trigger warning: There isn’t anything explicit beyond this point, but the subject matter is rather dark, delving into the dank, unsanitary world of misogyny, as it does].

***

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Phraseology for the nervous wonk

Ever had to interview someone politically charged, controversial and intimidating? Do your pals expect you to adhere to a particular political standard? Do you wish to sit amidst controversy all while being kept safe from criticism?

Do these thoughts make you quiver with a nervous smile?

Allow me to furnish you with a few turns of phrase one can use to help defuse such anxieties.

 

Etiquette…

‘You’re obviously very intelligent…’: Translates approximately to ‘please don’t make me look like a fool, I’ll flatter you if you flatter me’. Try to under-emphasise the implicit ‘…but’, so as not to lose the desired effect. May leave a substance of a nutty flavour on your tongue, or the tip of your nose.

‘People say…’: Not to be used as a weasel-word. Do not use with anything inflammatory, or people will want to know who ‘people’ are. This is only a throw-away line used to draw attention away from the fact one was out drinking with the wonks, instead of obsessively researching their article/essay/interview/etc (see ‘fetish’ below).

‘That’s a [any logical fallacy, preferably in latin]…’: To be delivered with the utmost sarcasm when addressing those who loathe analytic philosophers, scientists, engineers, rationalists, et al. Also helpful in the company of friends when the group doesn’t want to admit they feel they’ve been ‘pwned’ in an Internet debate. A morale booster.

‘They’re tone deaf…’: Means exactly, ‘you don’t think they realise that was an in-joke? Oh shit…’

‘Everyone knows…’: Means exactly, ‘I slept in, don’t ask me…’

‘X isn’t a team player’: Translates to ‘X fact-checked my stuff after I published it’. It’s a wise tactic to deploy such a rumor when sympathising with other victims of such ‘fetishized’ behaviour. A bonding strategy.


Culture wars…

‘I have sympathy with the concerns behind the Sokal hoax, but Sokal and Bricmont should have submitted their epistemic criticisms to a peer-reviewed journal.’: All you’ll ever need to know about the Sokal Hoax. Nobody you want to meet will know any more than this.

‘They have a fetish for error checking. They don’t see the bigger picture.’: Which is polite code for, ‘Fuck! They know stuff! Don’t let them work near us! We’ll look bad.’

‘The history wars in Australia, like the science wars…’: They are the same, apparently. Otherwise, if this weren’t true, Australian academics would look a lot less cosmopolitan.

‘Culture war Group X is just like Group Y’: Translates to ‘our group is better than Culture War Group X, or Culture War Group Y, so we didn’t need to read any of their shit.’ Further justification for spending time drinking with fellow wonks.


Oz Politics…

‘Well, I’m not ideologically opposed to a mining tax…’: In using this phrase, one wants to emphasise the non-existent ‘…but’ before the point of accidentally committing to anything. No, you do support a mining tax; you’re not any kind of opposed to it. It’s just that the rabid dude with the misogynistic Juliar placard gives you an incentive to sound uneasy about what are your true convictions. It’s either that, or finding a bucket of water to help shoo the spittle-flecked rage zombie away from your car.

‘Kids are smart. They can see through stuff. I’m an atheist/secular christian/modern Muslim/etc, but why not teach creationism in public school science classes if they’re curious?’: This isn’t advocacy for creationism – don’t worry about that. It’s not like you want alchemy taking up time in chemistry classes, climate denialism eating away the hours in Earth Science, or astrology cluttering up SOSE either. The approach is a delaying tactic. It’s a conditional statement. You can always at some later point, claim that the kids aren’t curious, and that way everyone else looks more confrontational and unreasonable than you; both the people who opposed it up-front, and those making creationist demands once The Science of The Flintstones isn’t delivered.

‘I was for the ALP conscience vote over marriage equality.’: Be a person of conscience while also not comitting yourself! No anxiety there. Nobody will notice. Honest.

…relatedly…

‘We need to be bi-partisan about this.’: It may be a white-hot issue where one side is clearly, as a matter of fact, in the wrong, but never underestimate how much time bi-partisanship can save for you to catch up on lost sleep. Let the consensus builders on the ground labour over the details. You’ve got a bender to sleep off.

‘Well, I’m glad you have such an ability to read people’s minds’. Now, you’re supposed to be sarcastic about this. Your expressed concern is that you don’t like people making baseless accusations about motive. Your actual concern is that the person you’re dealing with may know something you don’t. If you passive-aggressively have at them in small cuts, and if you can get others in on the act, perhaps you can wear your opponent down before they get the chance to show how they’re more cluey than you. All of this, while you appear to be acting responsibly. Nice, huh? (Trust me, nobody will realise you’re an asshole for this).

 

Terminology…

‘Secularism’: How religious people are suppressed. To be shunned.

‘Secular Christian’: Someone causing cognitive dissonance best projected back at them.

‘Fundamentalist Christian’: A target, if you’re going to criticise religion, best suited to your ability. A replacement for Stephen Fielding needs to be established for precisely this purpose, but preferably not in a position to start fights this time around. One doesn’t want to have to deal with interested parties with inflamed emotions.

‘Muslims’: All alike. In a good way of course. Flatter them without considering what you’re actually implying by flattering them. Awkward to ask the opinions of – use the smallest possible sample of their opinions. Avoid the accurate polling of. Avoid any polling of. Just say things you guess will sound nice. Pretend to listen when they speak (they’re used to it).

‘Islamophobia’: Something nobody is ever entirely sure what anyone else means by it, yet still something not to be accused of. Play it safe by not disagreeing with anyone using the term. Nod your head when you hear it. Pretend to understand.

‘Jains’: Objects used to show how religion isn’t violent, despite such use implying that non-Jain religion is more violent. Emphasise the former, ignore the implications. Like Muslims, don’t actually ask for their opinions – just talk about them in their absence.

‘Agnostics’: Approachable, non-confrontational, respectful, open-minded atheists.

‘Atheists’: Close-minded scum. Best dismissed. Do not admit you are one (see ‘agnostic’).

‘New Atheists’: What Guy Rundle said. Never disagree with this definition.

‘Deists’: Something from history books you don’t want to read.

‘Equal time’: A media strategy to be avoided in matters of uncontroversial fact, except when you don’t want scary people calling you close-minded, and sending you dead cats in the mail.

‘Science’: To be rallied for, until someone calls you an imperialist. Then rail against.

‘Statistics’: A great way to debunk misconceptions about asylum seekers, amongst other things, up until the point where you’re accused of being ‘reductionist’. See ‘science’.

‘Reductionist’: Shit involving numbers and squiggly lines, but not feelings. See ‘science’.

‘Fetish’: When someone does something you don’t like, once, it’s annoying. Any more than once, and its a fetish – to be written off as such.

‘Left-wing’: A grouping best not defined until you want someone excommunicated.

‘Right-wing’: The grouping of people you disagree with, including disagreeable people who call themselves ‘left-wing’.

‘Libertarian’: A sin-bin for people kicked out of, or not wanting to be, in either the left or right-wing.

‘Civil libertarian’: Someone who fights for equal rights. Alternatively, a scapegoat for the Global Financial Crisis when one is intimidated by more radical wonks.

‘Free-market fundamentalist / liberal absolutist’: Normally of the far right-wing, but when convenient, a term applicable to ‘civil libertarians’, irrespective of their actual views.

‘Non-political person’: A political person, only when they can’t hear you talking about them. Someone to be humoured in-person.

‘The status quo’: Something not to be criticised in the proximity of ‘non-political persons’.

‘Foreign correspondent’: Someone having earned the right of entry to more wine bars than you.

‘Ethics’: Either the name of a nit-picking department, or a field of study it is polite to suggest people, of all persuasions, are equally good at.

‘Homophobia’: Hating, or desiring to repress gay, lesbian or bisexual people. Unless done by the right kinds of religion, or done in the name of thinking of the children.

‘Misogyny’: Something other groups do more than your own. You were only kidding.

‘Racism’: A conventional word there’s little confusion about, leaving little room for colourful interpretation, or equivocation. Avoid using when you anticipate having to defend an accusation. Instead choose something more exotic and vague so you can never be wrong, or called upon to present evidence.

‘Social Justice’: When your lecturer’s, or favourite radical columnist’s enemies, get their comeuppance. Alternatively, only when not contradicting this, when the disadvantaged get a leg-up in life.

‘Multiculturalism’: The only model ever devised to help people from different backgrounds get along. Only one version of this model exists. Somehow, somewhere, someone smarter than you must know what this one model is, and what it means, and you defer to them in all things multicultural, except when making accusations. Any attempts at the nuanced discussion of, are to be viewed with suspicion, and interpreted as categorical attacks upon. Invoke liberally in defence of your views, and the views of others agreeing with you.

‘Orientalism’: When people represent the interests, aspirations and cultures of the East, and the Middle East, without consultation with the media and/or persons of these cultures. Except when saying something patronising about them. Don’t be an ‘orientalist’; be patronising.

‘Media literacy’: Something you always have the good fortune to be at the pinnacle of. A continuum by which to judge everyone else.

‘Dog-whistling’: Something a political journalism goddess like Annabel Crabb would infer only after observing a politician long enough to couch their rhetoric in the relevant contextual details. Something you allege to conveniently dismiss people smarter than you, out of hand. Anything can be dog-whistling. ‘Some Christians like ice-cream.’ – Why that’s code for people to marginalise Christians! Egad!

‘Annabel Crabb’: The lady whose effigy sits atop your Christmas tree. *Sigh*

‘Hipster’: People other than you, who ironically believe they were listening to Daft Punk before you. Have a substantial cross-over with political wonkdom on Venn diagrams of inner-city types. Used Venn diagrams before they were popular with mathematicians, including John Venn.

‘Irony’: Anomie.

‘Sarcasm’: Any form of snark not unintentionally ‘ironic’.

‘Camp’: Kitsch.

‘Kitsch’: Camp.

 

Conclusion

Now you may have noticed this advice puts you in a position to contribute approximately zero new analysis to the political scene. Screw that. The point is that you don’t come across as a trouble maker (even if you are one). This is good for your career, and it’s your career that matters, isn’t it?

Of course, after you’ve established a niche, you may need to break from it once you’ve tapped all it has to offer, in order to go on to greener pastures. If this happens, consider that you would have by then, put yourself in a wonderful position to capitalise on a conversion narrative, decrying all of the above.

Some think-tank would want you, somewhere. It’s all good.

Relax, and don’t take things too seriously. Merry Christmas.

~ Bruce

The virtue of paying attention (to theological ethicists)…

Sometimes us Gnu Atheists, secular fundamentalists, and religious fifth columnists can be dismissive, even totalitarian when the need arises.

Not that we’ve come to power quite yet, or that we’re necessarily restricted to anti-theistic dictatorship when we do (the dwindling Christian minority can still spout its nonsense in public, and we can allow this to continue), it’s possibly time for a change in the mode of engagement. The Enemy is beaten.

Before the First Atheist International secures its first English-speaking nation at the Global Atheist Convention in 2012, it’d probably be worth considering the baby we risk throwing out with the bath water. It’s time – the first time – for us to truly consider what sophisticated theologians have been saying, without our snickering, and without ridicule.

It’s time, now that we have the time, and that victory is already assured, that we consider these things in a scholarly manner.

Consider gay marriage. We’ve been shutting down that particular discussion for decades now, by calling opponents ‘homophobes’ without any consideration of their actual position. Terrible for sure, but necessary for the revolution, at least up until now.

We’ve won the debate. Public sympathy is now irreversibly against the church in this matter. It’s now safe for us to consider the more sophisticated ethical arguments against gay marriage without fear of a loss of hegemony.

“It is significant that everywhere the issue has been debated it begins on the issue of fairness and justice and with majority support but that soon changes when people realise that there are deeper issues involved. After their legislature experimented with same-sex marriage, the people of California voted against the revisionist concept of marriage.” – Emphasis added.

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

There are deeper issues involved, and the revisionist concept of marriage, our revisionist concept of marriage, doesn’t account for them. You don’t have to be religious to note that if we assume power, and follow through by riding roughshod over these deeper issues, it could mean disaster! It could turn out to be just another facet, in possibly yet another failed secular revolution! We don’t want that.

“Changing the law so that marriage includes same-sex unions would be a change to what marriage means. Currently marriage involves a comprehensive union between a man and a woman, and norms of permanence and exclusivity. Marriage has a place in the law because a relationship between a man and a woman is the kind of relationship that may produce children. Marriage is linked to children, for the sake of children, protecting their identity and their nurture by a mother and a father.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

Think of the children! You’d never had heard of it, or come across the idea during the past two decades of discussions of revisionist marriage, if you hadn’t bothered to take down your blinkers – to pay attention to what sophisticated, scholarly, religious ethicists had been telling you all along.

Think of the children! You’d never had heard of it!

Clearly revising the definition of marriage opens up all sorts of terrible possibilities. First we’d let the gays marry – couples who can’t produce their own offspring naturally – and then we’d have to grant the right of marriage to barren heterosexuals as well. Why it’s a slippery slope!

And you just know that secular fundamentalist ethicists have never considered the ramifications of giving IVF and adoption in combination with marriage, to straight couples. I really feel like we’ve dodged a bullet here. We really weren’t prepared for this!

“If children happen to be in a same-sex household they will always have come from outside that relationship, either through an earlier relationship or through the use of some other biological parent and technology.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

You see, it is just the same as with all of the heterosexual couples with reproductive problems the state has conscientiously been barring from marriage all along!

“If the law were to be changed so that marriage included same-sex relationships [or heterosexual couples with reproductive problems], then marriage would no longer be about children. It would be about adults only.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

The state wouldn’t be thinking about the children anymore! Fellow ultra-secularists, I implore you to reconsider, whichever future your goodwill for gays and the infertile may lead you to, do you want it to be one where the state isn’t looking out for our precious, vulnerable younglings?

“Given the marital relationship’s natural orientation to children, it is not surprising that, according to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every indicator of wellbeing when reared by their wedded biological parents. “

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

Never mind that the first study Benson et. al. cite in support of this, is a largely interpretative meta-analysis by the ‘independent’ Witherspoon Institute, isn’t peer-reviewed, is funded by the Templeton Foundation, and when statistical, is purely correlatory; worrying about such matters would be both prejudicial and reductionist. How often in the past have we secular fundamentalists stonewalled discussion by being prejudicial and reductionist, in addition to our use of ridicule and ad hominem? As necessary as it was then, it’s no longer a useful strategy. We need to change.

Never mind that the second study cited by Benson et. al., in as far as it addresses the issue of non-biological parents, concerns non-biological parents married to, or in defacto relationships with, biological parents, not at all considering married adoptive parents, or the use of IVF; such nitpicking would be missing the spirit of the concern. Sampling the population be damned, it takes only a little imagination to see these concerns as applying to gay (and infertile) couples as well. Don’t let statistical scientism prejudice your imagination!

Again, we’ve already won. Religion is an endangered species in Australian politics. We can finally afford to listen, and listen we should; we were all heading for disaster!

“In a liberal democracy, others can form other types of relationships; but ‘marriage’ is a term reserved for a particular kind of relationship that brings with it obligations to others beyond the two parties. Marriage is shared obligation for children.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

In other words, dear gay marriage advocates; think of the children because gay and reproductively challenged parents won’t, and nor will the state if we change the definition of marriage!

Finally, it all seems so… clear!

Honestly, I’m glad I took the time to delve through the cited material and the expressed argument, because in twenty odd years of watching this discussion unfurl, I’ve never seen anyone present a case quite like this. Think of the children! It never sprung to mind!

Never again will I write off an instance of theological ethics as unscholarly from such a piddling detail as the drawing of conclusions not supported by the cited research – this prejudices imagination! Why those pesky, unimaginative sceptics often marginalise alternative medicine in precisely the same way!

Never again will I dismiss the accumulated wisdom of tradition, like the long-established practice of barring non-reproductive heterosexual couples from the institution of marriage. There are rational reasons why traditions become entrenched, and change doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

The major difficulty I have in all of this, is how in light of my own secular totalitarianism, and that of my peers in the movement, I’m going to justify all of this while we send the theological ethicists off to the gulag political margins. I guess it’ll have to be a carefully crafted plagiarism that hides the original source, and the hypocrisy of using it.

We just can’t get by without this wisdom!

~ Bruce

Rob Smith: New Atheists ruin Home Economics curriculum

I’m going to head back to more subterranean parts of the blogosphere for the time being, down with the gnomes who tinker with the cogs and daemons that keep things working on the surface. This blog however, will continue in my absence for at least one post.

Rob Smith has returned!

I haven’t seen Rob for a few months, and he hasn’t submitted a post to Thinkers’ Podium since 2009, apparently due to personal/spiritual reasons (which he tells me he’ll blog about in future).

If I wasn’t so preoccupied I’d be writing something about Michael Ruse’s latest, wisest effulgence yet. (Why does effulgence, being such a nice word, conjure imagery of extruded effluent?)

Rob has agreed to write something on the topic, in a manner he promises, will be different to what I may expect. A curious promise.

Enough of my blather, here he is.

New Atheists ruin Home Economics  curriculum

By

Rob Smith

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