WAR ON A WORD


Since he retired from the leadership of the Army, our esteemed “Australian of the Year” General David Morrison has shifted his theatre of operations from the defence of the nation to the defence of “diversity”. His new enemy is “discrimination” in all its hydra-headed forms. With the gallant General on watch, toilers in the field of gender redefinition, multicultural “inclusion” and the rest of the ever shifting fixations of the Left can surely sleep easier in their beds.

In the course of his campaigning General Morrison recently issued the hold-the-front-page announcement that he is giving up using the word “guys”. He didn’t seem to have a very clear idea of why, to judge by his waffly explanation, except that he thinks he’s striking a blow against “exclusion” of some sort. "Exclusive language, gender-based language or inappropriate language, has as much a deleterious or disadvantaged effect as something where you're saying something blatantly inappropriate to another human being," he burbled into an ABC microphone, before declaring that he himself is trying to give up saying “guys” and has removed the word “from my lexicon as best I can.” (Surely it can’t be that hard. How long has he been saying it? “Guys” in its present sense only became widespread in Australia a decade ago.) One pictures the General telling himself over and over again: “I must not say guys, I mean that word,” perhaps giving himself a little punishment every time the proscribed noun slips out. You can hear him asking his wife, “Who are those guys on Australian Story, Gayle – oops” (self-inflicted pinch) “those persons?” as they enjoy the national broadcaster together on one of their evenings when he is not out at some right-on function lecturing us non-Australians of the Year on the benefits of diversity. As he told the assembled worthies of “Diversity Council Australia”, the “workplace diversity advisor” of which he is chairman, sorry, chair, when launching a video guide to approved non-exclusive speech (the selfsame gathering where he revealed the pruning of his lexicon): “… it's a proven fact that more inclusive [and] more diverse workforces create real diversity of thinking and are more productive, more effective."

This sounds more like an economic than a social justice argument but whatever it’s supposed to be or mean it illustrates that as a verbiage generator this very model of a modern Lieutenant General is gold-plated. And of course the Left loves verbiage. Usually though it doesn’t love generals and caricatures them in Dr Strangelove fashion as sinister manipulators of the industrial-fascist war machine itching to nuke someone. General Morrison is clearly an exception. The Aussie Left adores him (otherwise he wouldn’t be Australian of the Year): at the ABC he is said to be regarded as “a great bloke”. And, like a man running to catch a bus, he has exerted himself since retiring from the armed forces to climb on board the fast-moving bandwagon of the anti-discrimination industry with its eclectic repertoire of obsessions. He has learned to talk the talk. While opposing the use of “guys”, he told reporters, he was “not trying to become the ‘language police’.” This is pure Leftist double-speak, since it is perfectly obvious that he is.

General Morrison must know full well that while “guy” in the singular is male, in the plural it is not “gender-based” but super-inclusive. It is what waiters call you in restaurants whether you’re a mixed group or not. I’ve heard mothers summon their children with it – “Come on guys, time to go” – and in domestic situations it can even include the cat or budgie, like those “My Family” figures you see on cars. In Safe Schools classrooms it would certainly be prescribed instead of “Boys and Girls”, which as we all know is conducive to bullying and not conducive to a required fluidity of identity. It has replaced “Ladies and Gentlemen” in addressing the audience at less formal public occasions and may well have found its way into welcomes to country (“You whitefellas invade our land, but on this occasion, guys, for the opening of the new CSIRO facility, make yourselves at home. That will be $500”).

In fact, it is the very inclusiveness of “guys” that is the real reason for the opposition to it. Feminist influence is never far away from any lobby group with “diversity” in its title and feminists hate being included in a masculine word. Look how they’ve managed to get “his” as a collective pronoun (“each citizen must do his duty”) effectively banned in favour of the clumsy “their”. Similarly, says the Diversity Council, women feel “excluded” when they are bracketed with men as “guys”. This is nonsense. Women, particularly younger women, use the term among their friends of either sex every day. No, the ones who don’t like it are not women in general but the coven of feminists self-appointed to speak on their behalf, who have now found a champion in what would once have been considered the unlikely person of a retired army general.

Yet there is a reason for objecting to “guys” and a number of other words and it has nothing to do with the General’s. “Guys” is a self-conscious copying of American usage not found in traditional Australian (or British) speech. There is an irony here. Leftist writers and educators are usually to be heard bemoaning the displacement of elements of Australian culture by American “imports” but they have done nothing to impede the Americanisation of ordinary speech. Apart from its infatuation with Obama or Sanders, the Left loathes America and yet it is perfectly observable that it adopts American speech habits just the same as everyone else. The list of these has been getting longer for years, from back in the days when universities acquired “campuses”.  Football crowds no longer exhort their teams to victory with the demotic “Carn ..!” but yell the American “Go!” “Your” ABC regularly employs American-use transitives such as protest a decision or appeal a judicial sentence (the latter invariably symbolised on television news by an image of a gavel as used in American but not Australian courts). “Railway station” has given way to “train station” even in official transport notices. “Guy” itself, in the singular, has replaced “bloke” and the posher “chap”. And so on.

I know that language must evolve and that no particular period has a monopoly of “correct” usage and, yes, just think of the cultural enrichment new usages bring, but even so is it not strange that these days we are all for the preservation of traditional “culture” except when it’s our own? Though many people seem neither to notice nor to care, you might expect the usually very vocal group for whom the thought of, say, Aboriginal culture disappearing under the weight of national homogeneity is tantamount to genocide to leap to the defence of threatened linguistic elements of Australian speech. Current indications are that you will expect in vain, probably because the generations of Australians who didn’t say “guys” don’t fit the Leftist paradigm of victimhood.

So here’s a task worthy of an Australian of the Year. Throw away the Diversity Council’s grievance manual “Building Inclusion through the power of language”, tell them to find another “chair” and seek to build national inclusion through encouraging us to stick to the language we inherited. By all means give up “guys” but give up some other words and constructions too, before we are completely absorbed under the onslaught of TV and Hollywood into one international wodge of speakers of globalised English with hardly even our accents to distinguish us. You don’t need to be a language policeman. Just set an example.

8 June 2016


END OF THE AFFAIR



Britain’s engagement with Europe is heading for the rocks.

 Britain’s days in the European Union are numbered, whatever the result of next month’s “Brexit” referendum.

British withdrawal will annoy, apart from the British government itself, our own foreign minister, who has informed the United Kingdom that Australia would “prefer” it stayed on in the EU. In this she is simply echoing her master’s voice, since a preference for supranational conglomerates lording it over individual nations is part of the package deal of opinions held by the leftish liberal establishment to which Malcolm Turnbull belongs

We might liken the EU debate in Britain to the republic debate in Australia. Voters rejected a republic in the last referendum, but the result was close, as it seems it will be with Brexit. Yet no one believes the possibility of an Australian republic has gone away. It still simmers, and could flare up to the point that no number of nostalgic visits by King Charles III to Timbertop or future royal babies blinking from the cover of the Women’s Weekly can reverse it.
So it will be with Britain and the EU. If David Cameron and his “Remain” buddies, in motley alliance with high finance and the anti-nationalists of the Guardian Left and the BBC, get their way and the referendum opts for staying in the EU, it will not be a final answer. Relations between Britain and the EU can only get worse, as the EU pushes its legislative ambitions deeper into the domestic affairs of its member nations, further restricting the already limited say national governments have in the running of their own countries. If, after 43 years of Britain in the EU, so many Britons wish to be out of it, how many more will come to this view after a few more years of increasing EU meddling? The referendum itself is proof of this dissatisfaction. The British economy is doing better than EU states, yet the better it does the more Britain’s net EU contributions go up, currently to about around $8.5 billion a year. Brexit supporters point out how much more usefully this money could be spent at home.
You can understand why European togetherness seemed a good idea back in the days of the Cold War, with Europe a huddle of smaller nations stuck between a grim and threatening USSR and the mighty if not universally loved USA. But the USSR is gone now and it was NATO, not the EU, that saw Europe through the Cold War. In a globalised world the notion of a “third bloc” is out of date.
Yet the EU programme towards greater integration grinds on regardless. Except on the Left, this doesn’t go down well in Britain, even in these days of muted patriotism. There are still many Britons who take a pride in their country and its constitutional record. Some of the crowds who celebrated the ninetieth birthday of the Queen last month will have noted the irony that as long as Britain is in the EU she is not really a sovereign at all. She, like them, is a citizen of a European superstate in gestation (she’s also Australia’s EU citizen head of state: there’s a nice thought for lovers of multiculturalism if not republicans). The EU was sold to the British as a “common market” but its subsequent conduct has brought home to voters what was always intended, that trade was only a first step to a united states of Europe.
For all the jibes of the “Remain” lobby, opponents of the EU can’t all be little Englanders and in 2016 there can be few nostalgics for empire among them or old codgers still fighting the Battle of Britain. Many “Brexiteers” have grown up with Britain part of the EU. That they should be dissatisfied with the EU is in part the EU’s own fault. While its market component declines its bureaucratic aggrandisement becomes more shameless. EU regulations intrude into every Briton’s lives – one more level of government to be funded by the taxpayer, and a level of government that, unlike national and local administration, the taxpayer can’t vote out of office.
It is this so-called democratic deficit that will drive Britain out of the EU, either next month or in the foreseeable future. Britain is the only major country in the EU in which the accountability of government is non-negotiable. Since 1660 no Briton has known any form of government except democracy. In continental Europe the democratic deficit weighs less, because democracy, especially in the last century, has not been the norm. Germany, Italy, and Spain have all been governed by dictatorships, and France under De Gaulle was hardly an example of democracy in full flower. European citizens with a tradition of being pushed around by dictators are less likely to notice, or object to, the high-handedness of unelected Brussels commissars. For the British it goes against the grain. David Cameron’s strategy is to play it down, and talk up the alleged benefits of EU membership and the frightful things he says will happen to the British economy if Britain leaves.
Nothing foreseeable will make the EU more popular in Britain. And as its capacity as a market for British exports shrinks, the EU will come to be seen more as a hugely expensive millstone, a solid platinum trough for the snouts of an army of apparatchiks – for what in return? For a treaty that allows Britons to travel around Europe without visas? They were able to do that without an EU before the First World War. More seriously, for a treaty that inter alia ties Britain’s hands in regulating unprecedented immigration and obliges a trading nation not to enter into bilateral trade agreements with countries such as India and China where economies are growing, and even with Australia and the rest of the “old Commonwealth” with which Britain once traded to much mutual advantage.
If Britain doesn’t vote on 23 June to leave the EU the tide of anti-EU sentiment cannot but swell. Politicians with prime ministerial potential such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have staked their careers on British withdrawal. If the referendum decides in favour of staying, they and the millions of other people who will have voted to leave will manage to ensure that every subsequent EU crisis and jurisdictional pretension becomes a rallying point in a continuing campaign for Brexit, until a national majority demands that Britain renounce its EU membership. Other EU nations may well follow. The tide against the EU is also the tide of history.
14 May 2016
Published in The Spectator Australia

RACISM, "AUSTRALIAN STYLE"


 The Left loves accusing people of racism. But what does it actually mean?

I never quite know what is meant by “racism” and yet along with “sexism” and “homophobia”, etymological bastards all three of them, it must be the most frequently bandied epithet in the Left’s lexicon. Does it mean noticing the difference between people of different national types, as in being able to recognise that if there’s a Scandinavian in the room it’s probably the blonde chap over there and if there’s a Sicilian it’s presumably the dark-haired lady with him?

Yes, according to white liberal bien-pensants. To distinguish between one race and another as a description of individuals is “racist”. That’s why if someone’s attacked in the street by an assailant of distinctive ethnic appearance you can be sure ethnicity will not be mentioned by those news media that pride themselves on being correct in these matters. The police too, knowing which side their bread is buttered on, fall over themselves to issue descriptions in which racial appearance will not be an identifying element, unless the attacker is white, in which case it will be included so that you don’t racistically jump to the conclusion that the suspect is yet another newcomer to our shores.

All this beating about the bush applies only until the blonde chap from Scandinavia or the dark-eyed lady from Sicily turn against the bien-pensants and threaten their comfortable security. (Unlikely, you’ll say, but I use that example to show I’m not racist, in the same way that airport officials will advertise their non-racist credentials by strip searching anyone except the passenger who actually looks as though he might have a bomb in his intimate apparel.)

When Lefties get a fright the coy anonymity is instantly binned. We know this thanks to two youthful Melbourne gangs. When those gangs ran riot during Melbourne’s Moomba festival, they made the mistake of terrifying “ordinary families” having an evening out. Some of the terrified were doubtless readers of the Melbourne Age or ABC viewers – the kind of members of the respectable middle class for whom “racism” is something only rednecks indulge in. And all at once the silence was broken.

Police officers are timid when dealing with ethnic-based gangs because they fear being accused of racism,” intoned the Age reproachfully. You don’t say, and who pray has been doing the accusing up till now, or constantly implying it by harping on about the evils of “racial profiling” in the force? Why, the selfsame Age and its soul sisters now shouting the gangs’ Somali and South Pacific origins from the housetops. Talk about an irony bypass.

It therefore seems that to observe a racial difference between individuals is or isn’t “racist” depending on where one stands vis-à-vis the individuals whose race is or is not of relevance. As a definition of racism that’s a bit elusive. What then about old-fashioned racism, racial discrimination as it used to be called, that is, regarding someone as inferior because of their race and sneering at them or not giving them a job? Well, that’s mostly illegal now and scarcely encountered, at least in public. Even our esteemed Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, whose job depends on keeping racism going (“commissioner” sounds as though it’s his function to commission it – “tenders are now being invited for screaming abuse at asylum seekers”) admits that “great progress” has been made in getting rid of old-fashioned racism, as he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013:

Decades ago, it may have been commonly assumed that some races were superior to others; few would have batted an eyelid at racial abuse in public places. Today, things are much different. Old attitudes have largely given way to more progressive sensibilities.

Good to hear. Although it appears to have escaped Tim’s notice that some non-Anglos in our community are as yet untouched by “progressive sensibilities” and have a tendency to see themselves as superior to other races. Some folk – how can one put it? – from the Asian subcontinent – no, not rational and enlightened like Tim – have been known to show or express a certain disdain for people of other nationalities. I realise it’s probably racist even to hint at such a thing, and besides, racism of that kind is not really part of the “old attitudes” Tim is talking about. He means the old attitudes of ordinary Australians. It’s not racism if it’s not practised by the Anglo majority.

Tim’s SMH article was called “How best to tackle racism, Australian style” so he is probably the best person to define what racism, Australian style is. Launching his recent book I’m Not Racist But… (doesn’t that But make you feel guilty already?) he announced that, in spite of the “great progress” earlier referred to, “[o]rganised racist extremism appears to be revitalised, not unrelated to the emergence of cyber-racism” (by which I suppose he means nutters on the Internet). He cites some examples. “Anxieties about Islamist extremism have … fed a rise in the harassment of Muslim and Arab Australians.” Dear me, harassment. Well at least it’s not murder, a Muslim specialty. And, sorry Tim, but the “anxieties” about extremism are well grounded; to categorise them as racism is plain wrong. It’s not racist to be opposed to a culture some of whose exponents have made it clear they will kill or subjugate you if they can. It’s self-defence.

“At the same time,” Tim told his book launch, “there has been a marked increase in reports of anti-Semitism, along with signs of growing anti-Chinese sentiment.” Since anti-semitism is pretty well a preserve of Leftists, and it’s Leftists who installed Tim and his Human Rights employers in their sinecures in the first place, he’d do well not to tick them off too loudly. As to “anti-Chinese sentiment”, does it occur to him that where you hear examples of that – and you do, mainly in prosperous suburbs – it’s not on account of some generalised dislike of Chinese, which would be racial discrimination pure and simple, but because people feel that the districts in which they live and have grown up are being “taken over” and becoming alien to them? Most people prefer to live among people who speak their language at least. If that’s racism it’s also human nature, and Tim’s “ongoing challenge of building racial tolerance and cultural harmony” is not going to change that.

It says a lot about the absence of real racial discrimination from Australian life that in order to keep the anti-racist establishment going, racism has had to be redefined to cover perfectly natural human emotions that do not spring from any sense of smug superiority towards other people.


23 April 2016
Published in The Spectator Australia