There’s a colloquial term used by Antarctic researchers called ‘MOOP’, or Man Out Of Phase. It relates to the body’s natural circadian rhythms being out of sync during three months of unrelenting darkness in winter, and the alternative three months of summer sun. You may have experienced low-level MOOP on a Monday morning when you’re at work, feeling disorientated, unmotivated, delirious and questioning every life choice you’ve ever made that’s lead to this point in your life.
The thing with MOOP is it’s very easy to fix, and the body fixes itself naturally when the usual daylight / night time patterns commence. The body’s circadian rhythm starts kicking in again, and you go back into phase.
It’s funny to say MOOP. MOOP. It’s a funny sounding word, with very real consequences, and thankfully very easy to fix. MOOP. You’ll be thinking it in your head long after you’ve finished reading this article. MOOP. Man Out Of Phase.
For all the funniness about MOOP, what happens when a society becomes out of phase?
Sounds like a strange thing to say, right? But it is. Our culture – our Western culture is defined by many rhythms. Patterns. Occurrences. Cultural patterns. Biological occurrences and truths. I’m sure you could rattle off a few cultural or religious patterns we have in Australia – Christmas, Easter, New Years Eve, Australia Day, Anzac Day, Labour Day. Days that have deep significance historically to Australia, our cultural identity and the patterns of our society. Many of us know that Christmas relates to the birth of Jesus, that Australia Day commemorates British colonisation of Australia and Labour Day recognises the importance of the labour movement in fighting for better working conditions.
These days represent significant events. Significant culturally for western culture, and significant events in the development of our great nation. I want to emphasise that these events are significant, and for some these events may bring up painful triggers. Australia Day, for example, is recognised by some as a day of invasion, dispossession and the start of some horrible ills against aboriginal Australians. Australia Day is also a recognition of all the wonderful things brought by England and through the tradition of enlightenment – the Westminster System, democracy, railways and beer in a bottle.
These days, occurrences and events keep us anchored. They help us remember, and they give us an identity to forge ahead in life. They form part of our sense of wellbeing, security and culture.
What we are seeing, however, is our great Australian society quickly becoming ‘MOOP’. We are quickly becoming adrift from these defining remembrances, occurrences and observances. Original meanings of events are being drowned out, replaced or deliberately forgotten. Almost all notions of Jesus have been removed from Christmas and Easter, replaced instead by the gods of consumerism and consumption. Australia Day is being attacked, with over-reaching local councils especially deliberately throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
The result of being culturally MOOP results in society being disorientated, unattached, unsure of its identity and grasping at straws. Tonight is Halloween. All the shops are decked with gaudy inflatable pumpkins, faux-spider webs and irritatingly garish ghouls. Shelf-packers at my local shops are dressed as zombies, bloodied morticians and characters from terribly twee horror movies. ABC is having a Halloween fright week on the kids channel, catalogues are encouraging us to stock up for trick-or-treating. It’s the most ridiculous ‘event’ ever, and it’s a symptom of a culture out of phase. I’m not opposed to Halloween. I’m opposed to these traditions of zero relevance to Australian culture of society elevated to a place of almost reverence. Forcing a celebration of something that isn’t culturally significant, doesn’t remember something that adds to our understanding of the world or helps us reflect on what it means to be part of this great country. It’s a symptom of a society that doesn’t know who it is, and is having her age-old cultural traditions deliberately forgotten, and replaced with something of zero cultural significance, relevance or observance.
Since WW2, Australians became accustomed to immigrants and refugees, mostly from Europe. I’m sure many of these ‘New Australians’ were treated terribly, and probably suffered at the hands of racists. I recall stories from my dads family, who were accepted as refugees and resettled in Australia. They had some pretty mediocre times. Through this experience, however, Australia learned to be accepting. We learned a little bit about these different cultures – Italians, Greeks, Balts. I’m sure many had a rough start here in Australia, but they made their way. On a baseline level, however, these cultures had a common theme with the western / British culture of Australia. This connection, however lose, was a baseline cultural acceptance of Christianity. Be it protestant, Roman Catholic or Orthodox, there were baseline understandings, even if the outworking looked different. Baseline understandings on what Christmas and Easter was. Baseline understanding and acceptance of a day of rest. Baseline understandings of personal responsibility, liberty and democracy. It took a few decades, but we learned to accept, get along, work, marry, laugh and celebrate with each other. If these groups were to ‘re-tribe’ to their original groups in Australia i.e. all the Greeks live in their own group, all the Italians live in their own group etc, they would still fit in with Australia as a whole. Why? Because of those baseline understandings that these groups have in relation to the significance of events such as Christmas.
I’ve mentioned this before, but cultures that forget their identity quickly perish. They become absorbed by the dominant culture around them, or collapse under their own deliberate forgetfulness. One of the reasons that the Jewish culture has continued for over 4000 years is they have been following the same calendar, traditions, observances and rites every year since the exodus from Egypt. The same observances – every week, year, seven years, fifty years. The same food, prayers, observances, scriptures, at the same time, over 4000 times.
If we follow this cultural MOOP through to possible eventualities, what do we find? I foresee a few possibilities.
The first may be spiralling into a death-roll of consumerism. Almost every ‘event’ now has been reduced to a celebration of consumption, rather than an opportunity for remembrance and reverence. Christmas will continue to be an opportunity for hyper-consumption. Easter will continue to be about eggs. Australia Day will become a forgotten embarrassment, not a day for thanksgiving and reflection. Days of non-significance – mothers and father’s day for example, will become just another opportunity to consume.
The second possibility could be the emergence of a more dominant culture. A culture that is also very old, very ridged and from the outside, very uncompromising. A culture that does not share the same baseline expectations, understandings, festivals and traditions. A culture, an ideology that focuses on submission. However right or wrong this ideology is, it is very focused on it’s end goal, and how to achieve that through everyday submission. When a culture forgets why we celebrate Christmas, when a culture forgets the birth of enlightenment, when a culture forgets the fight for individual liberty, it is easily overcome by an ideology demanding total submission.
I don’t want this essay to sound like a call for a Christian theocracy. It’s absolutely not. It’s not a call to return to strict societal roles. It’s not a call to return to the 1950’s. It’s a warning. A reminder. We have a rich cultural heritage. Imperfect, sometimes violent, sometimes unfair. We also have rich reminders though, these things I have mentioned before.
So here’s the question. Are you going to succumb to cultural MOOP? Are you going to allow yourself to continue to be culturally and historically disorientated? Will you allow your history be forgotten, amputated, corrupted? Or will you remember the whys of western culture? The hows of how we got here? The whats that our ancestors had to do to get to this point?
What are you going to do to remember, respect, preserve and continue?
We hear a lot about political correctness. You’ve probably heard people say things like ‘oh, that’s not politically correct’, or ‘that wasn’t a very politically correct thing to say’. It pervades almost every area of our lives – in some areas more than others.
You’ve probably also heard the saying ‘manners maketh the man’. I know I certainly heard it growing up. Manners were drummed into me from a very early age. Things like standing when an elder entered the room, opening the door for a lady, taking my hat off inside, table manners, conversational manners – I could go on. I suspect for many in my demographic this was the case. I’ve recounted a story before of a family friend, a doctor and true gentleman who referred to my grandmother always as ‘Mrs Vidins’, in the most respectful, humble way. His manners were always impeccable.
I’m sure you’ve come across people who have fantastic manners. The inverse is probably true too. I’ve certainly met people who come across as disgusting pigs – foul mouthed, disrespectful boors.
Political correctness is the idea that you are restrained by an outward force – a cultural norm, a policy, a coercive power. It coerces you to not say something, or do something, in the name of ‘offending’ someone, regardless of the truth or accuracy of the message. You may have bitten your tongue sometimes because you were worried, or feared about the repercussions of your words. I’ll give some examples. You might have wanted to question the effectiveness of our past, or current refugee processes, but didn’t because you were concerned about being called a racist. You may have wanted to raise your thoughts on same-sex marriage, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled a homophobe. Perhaps you had questions on the millions of dollars that were being spent on our indigenous brothers and sisters, without any identifiable increases in health, education, workplace participation or decreases in violence and abuse, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled as a hater.
It’s important to pause at this stage, because I’m sure some will think I’m pointing the finger at progressive, or left-wing political correctness. If you’re thinking that, you’re correct, I am. I’ve noticed the most intolerance has come from the left in our present age. It comes in the form of bullying, of the threat of legal action (s18c, anyone?), of having your businesses targeted (refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding). It even comes in the form of opposing a whole nation (the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement). We see our politicians take a politically correct line when talking about terrorism. How often have you heard a prominent politician say a terrorist atrocity undertaken by a Muslim in the name of Allah has nothing to do with Islam? It’s like saying a drunk driver hitting and killing someone on the road has nothing to do with alcohol. Are all Muslims terrorists? OF COURSE NOT! Are all drunks likely to get behind the wheel and be a danger on the road? OF COURSE NOT! Political correctness is that outside force preventing you from speaking the truth, asking a question or voicing a concern because it may cause an offence, be taken the wrong way or cause a retaliation. It’s external.
Manners, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The total opposite, in fact.
Manners come from a place of inner strength, a place of confidence. Manners isn’t cowardice, oh no. Manners, which goes hand in hand with self-restraint, comes from a place of steadfast conviction. Manners give you the confidence to articulate, not as a reaction, but as a confident position of concrete values. Manners comes from a place of seeking to understand first, to inquire, to test and to challenge, wanting the best, even if that means discomfort during the process.
Manners is an absolute inner process that regulates, analyses, tests and speaks from a place of conviction, with conviction. It comes from a place of respect – self-respect first, then respect for others. Manners is the practice of holding back, not out of fear of retaliation, but from understanding there is no point in an argument for the sake of an argument.
Political correctness is a fear that your words, or some actions will have dire ramifications either directly, or from a third party. Political correctness is suppressing the truth out of fear of retaliation. Despite what some argue, there are truths. There are universal truths. Biological truths. Scientific truths. Spiritual truths. Truths that have real implications for here, and the hereafter.
Manners always seeks the best, even when there is disagreement. It’s the dignified silence in the face of howled insults. Manners is the confidence of truth, spoken in earnest respect. It’s not a cowered, timid mumble. It’s not a brash bulldozer of anger.
Political correctness seeks to crush. It seeks to paint over truth with lies. It seeks to silence. It hates dissent. It fears the thinker. It scoffs at the one confident in truth. Political correctness employs all means necessary – shame, legislation, violence to silence and intimidate anything outside the ‘correct’ narrative. It uses name calling, lies, gross distortions and hatred to plough over and rip up. Political correctness hates free speech, free thought and debate. Intolerance is its mandate, coercion is its goal. It does it for power, for powers sake. It is never satisfied with enough.
Manners seeks to edify the individual. It seeks to understand, it seeks the truth, it proclaims what is right. Manners is the respectful debate of ideas. It’s the safe harbour where ideas flourish, where the individual is nourished. Manners come from a place of confidence, it extends the hand of respect. Manners doesn’t compromise the truth, and confidently invites others to seek it.
Let me tell you this. We need more people with manners, across the spectrum of ideas, ideals and thoughts. We absolutely need less political correctness. Next time you have a choice when it comes to the truth, what will you do? Will you cower to political correctness, or will you use your manners to confidently proclaim what is right?
Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. Have you found that? Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. Yelling out. Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me: She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’ She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call. I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.
Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.
If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.
2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.
I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.
2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets should be ‘redistributed’.
2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.
2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.
So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.
So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!
It’s not because I like him. In fact, I think he’s a loud, shoot from the hip bore.
It’s not because I think he subscribes to any religion, save perhaps for the mighty dollar.
It’s not because I think he’s a particular moral man.
It’s not because I really understand his policy platform.
I’m not secretly happy because I dislike the Clinton clan. Truth be told, I think that family reeks of corruption and power for powers sake. Their numerous FBI investigations speak for themselves.
It’s not because of my own political ideology, my rightish libertarian leanings or my worldview.
It’s not because I think Trump is necessarily be a good or bad candidate.
It’s not because I’m a racist, a bigot, a something-ophobe, a Klan member or a fascist.
The reason why I’m secretly happy about Trump winning is because of this:
I’m secretly happy, because for too long, I’ve personally felt that there’s a group of people who loudly and proudly proclaim they are better than me.
I’m secretly happy because for too long, I’ve personally felt that I’ve been making tolerance after tolerance, and I wonder if it’s to the detriment of a pluralistic, classically liberal society. I wonder why our betters keep putting Western civilisation down and we dare not be proud of what has come from Western civilisation.
I’m secretly happy because for too long, loud and proud groups have proclaimed that some deeply held values of mine are both inappropriate, and deeply held values should be excluded from the public debate.
I’m secretly happy because the ‘media’ and a large swathe of the supposed enlightened end of town made a blood sport of demonising anyone with a contrary view to them. I’m secretly happy, because for me, this vote represents a big ‘up yours’ to anyone who’s ever said my views are something-phobic, or something-ist.
I’m secretly happy, because up until 24 or so hours ago, ‘the media’ had promised the world that Clinton would be president, and Trump would have absolutely no hope. I think it’s comical that mountains of sneer were heaped on people who dared vote Trump. I think it’s comical that they were called a raft of -isms and -phobics, but those ‘deplorables’ (to quote Clinton) gave a rats enough to care about the country they live in, work in and love to get out there and vote. It’s like those voters gave the middle finger salute to all those who were holier than thou.
I’m secretly happy, because by all respects, Trump was never meant to win. He’s the outsider even in his own party. He’s the outsider of ‘the establishment’. He’s a brawler, he’s rude, he’s brash. He’s got a truckload of mongrel in him.
I expect some friends and associates will bring up Trump’s stellar record with women and all the horrible things he’s said about Mexicans/Muslims/Gays/Blacks (and I’m waiting for the out-of context quotes here), and they’d be right. Like I said at the start, I’m under no illusion he’s some bastion of morality.
I’m secretly happy, because a swathe of polite, kind, community minded people I know darn’t speak their mind politically, in fear of being shut down, shut out or branded an -ist or a -phobic. To me, Trump winning is like that secret wink in your eye, when you know there’s others who think the same as you, and it’s okay to have a different opinion from our elites.
I’m not a fan of either candidate, but I’m glad Trump won.
I’ve got a stack of friends that have wide ranging opinions on both candidates, and I totally get, understand and respect their point of view. I understand where they’re coming from, I understand their fears, their anger and their frustrations. I don’t begrudge them, and I appreciate having their opinions, however much I disagree, in my life.
Just keep this a secret though – if anyone was to find out that I’m secretly happy Trump won, they’d brand me something-ist or phobic-ist.
Danny was the odd kid out in class. He had ADD, he couldn’t play sport to save his life, his mother had recently shacked up with a new man. Being the eldest, he took up the mantle of looking out for his younger brothers.
Steve was an outsider. He was from a non-English speaking background, didn’t have his dad around growing up and both wrestled and accepted his mothers’ view on faith.
Grant changed schools a bit. By the time he finished school, he’d been to 5 schools across two states. Sure, he’d met some mates, some good mates, but never really felt popular.
I’ll tell you about Danny, Steve and Grant. They are all me. Let me turn the story around, and change the perspective:
I grew up in the confines of my parents loving marriage, that also produced my two amazing brothers. My dad went through a trial or two – he was laid off in the coal mines and managed to carve out a landscaping business to support his wife and boys. Sadly, he contracted cancer and was dead just after his 33rd birthday.
I started school at the local state school. My mother re-married a man who I am proud know, a man that supported us the best way he could (and did a solid job of it), a man who always followed the call of his very strong convictions, even when they were unpopular.
My parents (meaning my mum and step-dad) somehow managed to send me to one of the best schools in the district. I don’t know how they did it, but I know it would have been a sacrifice for them. It was there that I was diagnosed with ADD, and despite my best efforts, was never really one of the sporty boys. I can’t say why I moved schools after that, but I did, and was equally happy in all of them. I found a few good mates (the benefits of being an introvert), and some of them I am proud to still call mates decades later (geeze, I’m showing my age!).
Why do I tell you these stories?
I’ve noticed a creeping word in our lexicon. Privilege. You see it more in America, but it’s creeping up here.
Privilege. What is it? It’s a benefit you derive really by the luck of the draw of your birth.
Privilege. It’s also becoming an insult, a put down, a slur. It creeps into conversations as a shut down or shut out. For example, someone like me (who happens to be Anglo-Saxon, straight and Christian) can’t have an idea, opinion or suggestion on someone’s life or experience that is different to mine. For example, I can’t say ‘he got the job because he worked hard for it’ because that would mean I am privileged and supporting a system that uplifts men (and by implication, pushes down people who aren’t men).
This idea of privilege manifests itself in other ways. You may have heard examples of some teachers saying parents shouldn’t read to their children at night, because this is promoting privilege (because some children don’t get read to at night, and this reinforces an unfair system).
Essentially, the idea of ‘privilege’ gets used to say that all my success in life is because I was born into a system that fully supports me and will do whatever it can to ensure I succeed. It also says that people who are different than me (for example, minorities) are born into a system that actively discriminates against them, and will do whatever it can to keep them down.
It says I got the job, because I’m a white, straight man. It says I got the promotion for the same reason. It says I don’t get pulled up by the police because I don’t have coloured skin. It says I don’t get stopped at the airport for bag checks because I don’t look like a terrorist.
Some people use the phrase ‘you got that (whatever) because of your privilege’. For the people that say that, here’s what I think.
My privilege (and make no mistake, I’ve been privileged with plenty) isn’t a ticket to an easy life. It’s a set of expectations. A set of expectations whose results yield rich dividends. A set of expectations that is open to everyone. Everyone.
My privilege expects me to work. There’s no two ways about it. My privilege expects I get up every day, dress appropriately and work.
My privilege expects me to be present in my family. It expects me to be a husband and father who is loving, present, who leads with integrity.
My privilege expects me to look after my family. It expects me to work out problems in my family with my family. It expects me to make future plans, to discipline my children in love, to listen to my wife.
My privilege expects me to show my peers, colleagues and managers with respect. It expects me to respect the delegations and decisions my workplace entrusts to me. It expects me to be a good steward of the resources entrusted to me.
My privilege expects me to respect those who have delegated authority. It expects me to comply with lawful directions in a respectful and honest way. My privilege expects me to obey the road rules. It expects me to be a participative citizen, interested in my community, my state and my nation.
My privilege expects me to be respectful to my fellow citizens. It expects me to listen to differing points of view, ideologies, cultures and ideals, even when I find them offensive.
My privilege expects me to have consequences for not meeting my expectations. Very real, very tangible consequences.
I mentioned the story of Danny, Steve and Grant above. Danny, Steve and Grant could have all been victims of circumstances. Medicated, minorities, single-parent households, austere upbringings, but I’m not a victim.
I’ve been blessed with privilege, but I’ve been blessed with something much more onerous. Expectations. Expectations that I meet and don’t meet every day of my life. Expectations I put on myself, expectations others put on me.
From time to time, you’ll hear people saying you (or me) have gotten an easy life because of our privilege. You’ll hear this loud and clear with ‘victim’ groups who both act like all their problems are someone elses fault (read: yours) and they have no agency in changing their lives.
I’ve benefitted from my privilege, but here’s the rub. If I start failing in my expectations, that privilege is going to evaporate, and quickly. Stop turning put at my job? No amount of privilege will keep me employed. Tune out to my family? Eventually they’ll get the picture that I want to be elsewhere, and they will probably make the first move. Start breaking the road rules, or not complying with the various laws that govern my life? You can bet your bottom dollar that before too long, no amount of privilege will keep me on the right side of the law.
Privilege only works because the privileged keep on practicing self-discipline, and keep meeting the expectations they have for themselves – good expectations, but expectations never the less.
The next time someone accuses, or even casually mentions that you’re privileged, ask them what expectations they put on themselves to better their life. Ask what responsibilities they are taking on board – not who’s supporting them, not who’s keeping them down, but what disciplines they are putting in their life, then tell them to stop practicing privilege.
A good associate recently shared a picture on Facebook explaining that out Australia’s ASX200 companies, only 23 ‘head honchos’ were women. Funnily enough, 26 are men called Peter. Thankfully, I’m not any of them, because I have trouble organising even myself, let alone an ASX200 company.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has self declared himself as the ‘Minister for Women’. Predictably, feminist groups have scoffed (for want of a better word!) at his self-title and have been able to find multiple examples of how Abbot and the Liberal Party have missed the mark when it comes to women’s issues. A recent example of this is in Queensland, where the LNP Women held their annual International Womens Day conference at the Tattersails Club, which, to the un-initiated, has a strict men-only membership policy.
Nice own goal, conservatives!
In Australia, it is illegal to discriminate against a women in hiring, promotion, healthcare, education, access to bank loans and credit, driving, voting, working, not working, having children, not having children – the list goes on, yet, we have a self proclaimed ‘Minister for Woman’.
I want to stop at this point and address a possible objection. How can I, a married, white, employed, hetrosexual man presume to know what it’s like to be a woman, or understand the problems women face. To all those who might want to drop the ‘privilege’ bomb – I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman, but I’m still entitled to an opinion. So don’t go yelling down on me (just yet!).
We have Ministers for Defence. Education. Health. Transportation. Science (again!). Social services. The list goes on. Things that the State need to be involved in. Then we have a ‘Minister for Woman’.
To me, the fact that we have a self-described ‘Minister for Woman’ is an insult to women. I’d say this regardless of who this person was – I’d say it if it was Bill Shorten or Christine Milne or any other Australian Federal or State politician saying it. To me it infantises women and takes agency out of the choices they already have. We have a minister for defence to organise our defence forces. We have a minister for social services to organise our welfare services. We have a minister for transport. We have a minister for the environment, who, I’m sure does something really important too. We have ministers to organise, direct, manage, develop policies and deliver outcomes for those they are responsible for.
The title ‘Minister for Women’ suggests to me that women can’t organise themselves. It suggests that they have little agency over their life, a lack of choices and huge barriers to overcome. It tells me that they need someone to direct their lives.
I think we can ALL agree that in most things, women can go pound for pound with men. I think we can agree, fairly pragmatically, that men are better than women at some things – men have a physique more suited to heavier work and roles that require physical dexterity. Similarly, there are jobs that women excel over men and seem to choose over other roles. Can both men and women do the same jobs? For the most part, OF COURSE! Can women make EXCELLENT CEO’s – you betcha! Can men make great nurses? Yup! Can women hold their own in the police? I’ve got no doubts about it.
It is my firm belief that women have agency, choice and the capability to make choices for themselves. Are there some difficulties that women still need to hurdle? Without a doubt. Is it the government’s responsibility to get involved in a private organisation on what they can and can’t do? I don’t think so.
If the government HAD to have a Minister for Women, here’s what I’d probably suggest:
– Targeting new arrivals in Australia that women have the right to a full education, to marry (or not marry) who they choose, to not have their genitals mutilated, to choose a career that they want. At the risk of sounding terrible, there are some cultures that do not hold the same egalitarian values as mainstream Australia. I think education changes lives.
– Women, especially teenagers, who find themselves pregnant (hint teenagers: best way to avoid this is keep it in your pants) are supported to continue their education, gain a qualification and find work without discrimination. A life on parenting payment is no life for yourself, or your children. Whilst we have a Child Support system in place, it’s far from perfect (take it from me). The barriers for women training for employment, entering employment and being able to have a family friendly workplace is an issue for many women.
– Making sure there are no legislative barriers to prevent women working, having pay equality based on skills and not gender, accessing healthcare, credit, or anything else that a man has
– The government staying out of peoples lives and letting them make the decisions they want to make, not the decisions the government wants to make.
I think the Government (and the self declared Minister for Women) needs to remove barriers for women, not create more. I think legislatively (and please, correct me if I’m wrong), women have all the rights men do. Some private organisations, religious groups and cultural organisations are still very ‘man heavy’. There’s still a stack of groups, organisations, even professions that are women heavy (think teaching, nursing and the blessed C.W.A.). Is it the Government’s role to legislate what a group of private individuals do? If the organisation isn’t receiving government funding, I think they have every right to say what happens in their private group. There’s nothing stopping men, or women from starting their own sister (brother!) organisation of like-minded individuals.
Finally, it’s an insult to men if women have their own minister. The immediate argument against this is that the vast majority of ministers in Australian Federal and State governments are men. I’m not buying this argument. Men are over-represented in senior roles within government and business. They are also over-represented in gaols, poor mental health outcomes and very sadly, suicide. Where’s the minister for men in these situations?
I’m a firm believer in making your own choices. You make the best decision you can for yourself and your family (if you’ve got one). We need to remove barriers to inclusion, participation, employment, promotion and study, not put in place targets, quotas and requirements for one group over another.
Women and men are equal. Each gender faces their own issues. Each has their own positives, negatives, biases and predjudices. You can’t legislate against that. It’s time we worked together for the best outcome, not the token outcome.