On munching onions and climate science

Our former Prime Minister is or has been over in London addressing an unscientific think tank called the Global Warming Policy Foundation . You may read everything he had to say here. This bit hasn’t been highlighted in the media:

Just a few years ago, history was supposed to have ended in the triumph of the Western liberal order. Yet far from becoming universal, Western values are less and less accepted even in the West itself. We still more or less accept that every human being is born with innate dignity; with rights, certainly, but we’re less sure about the corresponding duties.

We still accept the golden rule of human conduct: to treat others as we would have them treat us – or to use the Gospel formula to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” – but we’re running on empty.

In Britain and Australia, scarcely 50 per cent describe themselves as Christian, down from 90 per cent a generation back. For decades, we’ve been losing our religious faith but we’re fast losing our religious knowledge too. We’re less a post-Christian society than a non-Christian, or even an anti- Christian one. It hasn’t left us less susceptible to dogma, though, because we still need things to believe in and causes to fight for; it’s just that believers can now be found for almost anything and everything.

Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West. Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia – that have forgotten the scriptures about man created “in the image and likeness of God” and charged with “subduing the earth and all its creatures” – could have made such a religion out of it.

Um, there is of course Pope Francis, whose views rather contrast with the onion-muncher:

Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that climate change is real and mainly “a result of human activity.”

The problem is urgent. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”  We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably.  “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.”  On a larger scale, our leaders must be held to account. “Those who will have to suffer the consequences . . . will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.”

Solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and we must hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  Faith can guide us. “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  

The problems are big and urgent. But hope remains if we act in honesty and love.  “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home . . . Truly, much can be done!”

I fear that the good word on Mr Abbott lately is pretty much as Eleanor Robertson put it last year:

Not a jot of cosmic humility, religious or otherwise, is detectable in anything I have read or heard Abbott write or say. He doesn’t speak in these terms, even obliquely; I wonder if he fears death. It’s this, I think, that people find weirdest about him: how can you trust the judgement of a man so utterly immune to the animating psychic horrors of the human condition? As the woman from the focus group pointed out, everything he says is tainted, even his experience of something as quotidian as the weather. Abbott contains an absence, a conspicuous and upsetting lack, and as long as he hangs around Australian politics, he’s going to make us all stare straight into the void.

So far as his pronouncements on climate change in London go — and they are crashingly unoriginal — see in rebuttal the Eureka Prize winning site Skeptical Science and on the Sydney Morning Herald site Five charts that show Tony Abbott is the one who has lost sight of the science. This is one of them:

image.imgtype.articleLeadwide.620x0

Advertisements

I fear Donald Trump really is mad…

Unwise, for sure. Now the “other guy” in North Korea is not the full quid either, to be sure. Trouble is, between them these charlies are threatening us all! This is the worst scene I can recall since the Cuban crisis in the early 1960s. And here is something Kennedy had to say.

Kennedy, in his memoirs, wrote about the seven lessons he learned during the crisis, number six being, “Don’t humiliate your opponent,” which is, of course, a central face issue. And, as Ting-Toomey put it, “By understanding the face-honoring process intuitively, intellectually, and diplomatically, the two statesmen learned to honor and give face mutually in the eyes of their salient referents and in the arena of international diplomacy.”

That’s from a 2004 article by Sarah Rosenberg. It’s pretty much a commonplace among those of us who have ever conducted cross-cultural relationships, personal, business, educational or political. Trump just seems to have no idea! He has obviously not grasped the significance of face, especially among Koreans — wherever in the peninsula they live.

wessex2a

That’s me 27 years ago visiting Wollongong with a group of Korean and Mainland Chinese from my class at Wessex College of English in Sydney. It was in that year that I began to learn about face. These students were good teachers.

How it played out for me later you may partly get from a professional post: On welfare issues with Korean-Australian students.

This post has become very long. Written over two days, it has four distinct sections.

— The first part is my immediate response to questions being asked about possible cultural factors in the tragedy that occurred at Virginia Tech. It should be noted that I do not aim to “explain” that tragedy.
— Then I present some other posts I have found that take up the same or similar questions. The most significant one comes from a Korean-American pastor.
— In the third section you may read further thoughts based on my own observation of Korean and Korean-Australian students in Australia.
— I conclude with reflections on the need to have a perspective shaped by something more than monoculturalism.

****

In the past fifteen years I have both at school and in the tuition sector had quite a bit of contact with parents and students in the Korean community. Before that (1990-1991) I learned something of Korean culture and attitudes from young adults studying English at a Sydney language college. Some of the conversations at that college went into some depth. There were some very thoughtful people in the groups I had then, many of whom were very keen to share, at times very personally and very deeply. I was interested as I had known virtually nothing about Koreans before that. What I learned stood me in good stead later on.

That someone in Donald Trump’s position seems not to have a clue about such matters ought to concern all of us. Indeed, he seems to deliberately cultivate his ignorance, preferring rather the stage show of one of his revival meetings to a mature engagement with the problem North Korea presents. That at least is how it seems to me, and it scares me more than I can say! I cannot recall anything quite like it before, not even from Reagan at his “Evil Empire” best, or George W Bush in full “Axis of Evil” mode.

la-na-trump-rallies-20160312

Donald Trump pursuing an Emmy or Academy Award for worst performance as President of the United States.

Tell us, when will these things happen?

Well!

Signs of the End of the Age

Matthew 24:3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 24:4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many.24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 24:7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 24:8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains.

1474654589546Trump-United-Nations

See Comment: Why Trump’s threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea is extraordinary — even for him

President Trump took to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and, in his maiden speech there, called the leader of North Korea “Rocket Man,” decried “loser terrorists” and said certain parts of the world are “in fact, going to hell.”

But Trump’s perhaps oddly chosen colloquialisms masked what was a pretty astounding escalation of his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea. Just to be clear: The president of the United States threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map.

I’m really a conservative…

But hardly anyone else is, least of all the creatures that infest the Murdoch press so much. I say that after almost spoiling my lunch here at City Diggers (appropriately conservative venue) by reading the latest column by Andrew Bolt in which to me the great mystery is whether he is in any genuine sense any kind of Christian, deeply and intellectually that is — apart from using it as a chess-piece in a cliched rant directed against clearly sane people like Waleed Aly and annoying but misunderstood folk like Yasmin Abdel-Magied. (Best comment on her, by the way, comes from fellow ex-SBHS alumnus and well-known writer of letters to the editor Burt Candy on Facebook the other day: “My father died on the Thai-Burma railway as a Japanese POW and I know he wouldn’t have been offended by Yasmin using the ‘Lest We Forget’ to remind us that there are still wars across the world that are killing innocents. However he would have condemned her being forced out of Australia for it. He didn’t die to support cruel bigotry”). But it’s part of Bolt’s schtick to throw into his tired argument her name, Waleed’s, and the ABC, which apparently spends all its resources on vilifying Christians — on Compass for example, or by broadcasting Songs of Praise every Sunday. Meantime, I wonder just how much of the Nicene Creed Mr Bolt actually subscribes to hand-on-heart. I would guess not much.

But back to my being a conservative. All my genuinely Left friends over the last 50 years or so have known what a sceptic I am when it comes to The Revolution! When it comes to the classic locus of conservatism I am rather more Edmund Burke than Tom Paine, and always have been, despite my views on individual issues often producing a profile like So I tried ABC’s “Vote Compass”.

The overview of my political leanings came out thus:

Screenshot - 17_05_2016 , 8_28_55 AM

Not too surprising.

But then I subscribed to Quadrant back in the 60s, when it was half-way decent. I ever rejected the siren-call of Marxism. If from anywhere, my political core came from my parents and especially from my maternal grandfather Roy Christison, who if anything was a Dickensian and judging from many a thing he told me something of an agnostic in his later years. As am I really. Have a look at these posts from November 2008 and this one from the year before:

I began life as a resident of The Shire and continued as such for my first quarter-century. I was, so far as I was political at all, a supporter of the Liberal Party in early adulthood. I was a religious conservative. I even subscribed to Quadrant, though I would venture to suggest the Quadrant of the 1960s bore small resemblance to the Quadrant of today. I supported, at first, the Vietnam War.

In due course I changed my mind about the Vietnam War, but always felt the extreme left’s take on it was hyperbolic and in its own way bigoted. The treatment of soldiers returning from that war in the early 70s was disgraceful. As I went into my teaching career I began to see through the conservative religion to the pit of absurdity at its heart, leading to a considerable (but useful) period in the wilderness in that regard. I became involved, in a small way, in the Teachers’ Federation and came to see the value and necessity of the trade union movement.

In 1972 I voted for Whitlam. Since then I have tended to favour Labor, the sadly dying Democrats, or The Greens, or, on occasion, Independents.

I have learned much from some left-wing, even Marxist or neo-Marxist, writers without ever being or even wanting to be a Marxist. Like Bruce I read Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies (or some of it), and Orwell, and S I Hayakawa’s Language in Thought and Action. Take just one quote from Popper:

Liberalism and state-interference are not opposed to each other. On the contrary, any kind of freedom is clearly impossible unless it is guaranteed by the state. A certain amount of state control in education, for instance, is necessary, if the young are to be protected from a neglect which would make them unable to defend their freedom, and the state should see that all education facilities are available to everybody. But too much state control in educational matters is a fatal danger to freedom, since it must lead to indoctrination. As already indicated, the important and difficult question of the limitations of freedom cannot be solved by a cut and dried formula. And the fact that there will always be borderline cases must be welcomed, for without the stimulus of political problems and political struggles of this kind, the citizen’s readiness to fight for their freedom would soon disappear, and with it, their freedom. (Viewed in this light, the alleged clash between freedom and security, that is, a security guaranteed by the state, turns out to be a chimera. For there is no freedom if it is not secured by the state; and conversely, only a state which is controlled by free citizens can offer them any reasonable security at all.)

I have, partly through linguistics and English Studies, taken on since then much from postmodern and postcolonial sources — generally speaking so long as they can write like human beings, which many of them cannot. So my thinking may even be described by some as conservative. It is certainly not terribly profound or original. However, given all the above I found myself increasing alienated by what has in the past decade or two masqueraded as conservatism, a set of increasingly fevered and unreasonable right-wing fetishes starting with the kiss of that spider woman Thatcher — though it has to be said of her that she was a very progressive figure in her day on the subject of global warming, but then she was after all really a scientist.

In 1984-5 I found myself working full time for the then Liberal Party candidate for Sydney, not that I ever voted for him. That was when the Howard career really began with his first stint as leader, stalling soon after, but reviving to take him to power in 1996. I saw at that time the forces at work, viewed from my desk in a Glebe bookshop, or fielded by telephone. I saw, met, spoke to, or at least heard of many of the players at that time. I saw the beginning of the trajectory that has delivered the Liberal Party now in the wilderness. At the centre of it all has been John Howard. (Yes, I had taken time out of teaching.)

That potted background leads to an excellent letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Liberals must return to tradition of decency, diversity and tolerance

It’s hard to see the Liberal Party re-establishing itself as a credible force without it reconnecting with a significant part of its one-time base: the small-l, compassionate tradition that was for so long such an important part of the party’s make-up, allowing it to operate as a “broad church” of anti-Labor tendencies. They used to call it the Whig tradition.

It was a tendency that recognised an obligation on government to look after those less able to deal with the world than others more fortunate; a tendency that saw people as people, rather than as economic units.

It used to be in the Liberal Party, too, that members were able to vote against their party if it came to a matter of real conscience. It was tolerated, and the party was proud of it as one of the most important distinctions between it and the ALP. It was a key reason for them naming themselves Liberals.

These days, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would do well to have a look at the Liberals for misleading advertising, for liberal they ain’t.

One of the most poisonous trends throughout the Howard era has been the crushing of the small-l tradition in the party with the at-times systematic elimination of MPs and strains through the organisational wing.

Even with a handful of moderates surviving idiosyncratically, they are nothing like the force they were supposed to be in the Menzian Liberal Party. And when they do survive, they are there more often as numbers manipulators than as forces for altruism.

The Howard Liberal Party, fashioned by him and for him by the likes of Michael Kroger and Peter Costello, made people such as Petro Georgiou, Judi Moylan and Bruce Baird nothing more than an accidental ginger group.

It became, with them, a matter of note when this ginger group took stands against the party and the leader, when it should be something almost normal: an important check and balance within the party.

The Liberals used to be proud that they tolerated dissent. Now, they punish it as vindictively as the ALP, except that vengeance within the Liberals is often behind the back, not up front.

The Liberals’ liberal tendency should be an indispensable component of the party. That’s where the party’s compassion is: its humanity. Without it, they will forever recede into more of an intolerant right-wing rump undeserving of broad support from the electorate.

Paul Ellercamp Gymea

Also from The Shire, you may note.

The worst thing they could do would be to elect Tony Abbott as leader; when I saw him extolling his “people skills” on TV last night I almost fell off my chair!…

But the problem with Abbott is deeper than that; in fact he is part of the problem being a product of the rot that set in after 1985. I can’t help thinking Paul Keating was being mischievous in proposing Julie Bishop; let’s face it, he hardly wishes the Liberal Party well. I would also reject Brendan Nelson who has displayed an amazing talent for following all the worst advice he can find, in my opinion….

So. The trouble is there are virtually none of the loudmouth conservatives here or overseas that I can take seriously. After all, I find the case for human-influenced climate change compelling, which makes me a warmist! If I were still teaching I would gladly avail myself of the resources offered by Safe Schools! I plan to vote YES, assuming that silly postal survey turns out to be even legal. (We don’t know that yet.) And so on…

I am a conservative out of sorts with almost all the fetishes that pass for conservatism in today’s world! I suspect I am far from alone.

Poem of the day: W H Auden

Now what makes me think again of this poem, which has haunted me ever since I first read it at Sydney University when I was 16?

dc486ebc06a88a3a57f98f313a98dd46.600x386x1

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939

by W.H. Auden

 

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.