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?
I expect many of you read my recent post about Rethinking Infidelity. In fact, many people have – it’s turned out to be one of my most popular posts yet (excluding the one about the dance concert, which I’ve promised never to talk about again).
As is her want, my mother, St. Rosemary, often gives me helpful hints on my blog. With the recent blog about Rethinking Infidelity, she said it all with her eyes and disapproving look – the title was too suggestive and smutty. I get that and respect that, mum. I thought I’d make up for it by putting words in St. Rosemary’s mouth. For those of you who have both the privilege and pleasure of knowing this fine lady will truly appreciate what I have to say. So readers, welcome to Marriage, according to St. Rosemary: Marriage as a Garden.
Marriage as a Garden
By St. Rosemary
One does not need to look far these days to see the crumbling state of both marriage and gardens. Since all those Greeks and Italians came to Australia after the White Australia Policy sadly fell apart, gardens in increasing number turned from the ideal to concrete rendered monstrosities, replete with those tawdry concrete statues in lewd poses. Of course, things only got worse when those Slavs came, with their grape-vines and their smoking sheds. I would talk about those Arabs, but in this current climate, I’ll leave that for much braver writers. Foreigners aside, marriage is much like a garden. When I say garden, I mean a proper one, not one of those Japanese ones full of rocks and minature trees. Why, stunting a trees natural growth is hardly normal or natural! I mean a proper English one, where tea and conversation can be enjoyed in equal measure.
Marriage, like a garden, is truly a labour of love.
Many people, especially the Chinese, believe that a garden is merely a functional aspect of the home, perfect for planting all manner of fruit and vegetables. Indeed, the practicalities of marriage are often enjoyable, as are the fruits of a garden. In my own marriage, I have seen many wonderful fruits. Just thinking about it makes me smile! There’s Philip, my favorite fruit. Thomas my kind, caring and altruistic fruit. Matthew, who didn’t technically come from my vine, but is a delight never the less. There’s sweet Benjamin who is such a darling when he’s asleep, Annie who brings me such joy. Finally, of course Peter, who, apart from his quick wit, roguishly handsome good looks and devastatingly charming disposition manages to remain humble.
Practicalities aside, marriage, like a garden, can bring a bouquet of joys to all who behold it. I’ve learned a great deal about marriage from gardening. One thing I’ve learned about gardening is that it’s something you need to do together. Now I’m sure many of you will scoff at this stage:
“But St. Rosemary, we’ve seen you and Ivica garden together, and it’s far from harmonious!”
To answer the critics, yes, sometimes it is hard working with someone who isn’t ‘from your own’, and let’s not beat around the bush, those Croats do have a reputation for short tempers! Of course, in the heat of the moment, it’s sometimes easy to lose track of what you are trying to achieve – a beautiful garden (and marriage). So when times get tough, don’t give up, press in!
Gardening, like marriage, requires you to have the right skills, the right tools, the willingness to experiment and a whole lot of patience. Why, I remember planting some natives once – boy was that a mistake! They are right when they say give those natives an inch and they’ll want all your land! It really gave me an insight into the hardships that Captain Cook would of faced all those years ago, when he landed in this now beautiful country of ours!
So I hear you asking “St. Rosemary, what are these tools you speak of?”
Well, I thought you’d never ask!
Seeds (or seedlings). You can’t expect to grow a rose garden if you plant weeds. Your marriage is exactly the same. You can’t expect to grow something beautiful if all you’ve sown is weeds (or natives). Good seeds will bear good fruit. Planting love, kindness, respect, understanding will produce the most beautiful fruit in your marriage.
Pruning and weeding. Sometimes in marriage, like with gardening, things truly just get on top of you. The business of life, sickness, distractions and even selfishness can let the weeds of discontent take over you marriage. Sometimes, you will need to get deep into the soil and get rid of the weeds choking your marriage. This can be hard! Some things can get stuck in your yard and seemingly never get out – such as an old piano or water tank, and despite YEARS of encouragement, it just stays there, gathering rust! So sometimes, you just need to hire a trailer and cart out all the rubbish in your yard. Hard work – yes! Worth it? Definitley! Then you can go back and plant proper plants again.
Sunlight. Every child in school learns the amazing process of photosynthesis. To be honest, I’ve forgotten most of that evolution nonsense, save for the knowledge that every garden, and every marriage, needs a lot of warmth. Simple, loving warmth. The light of the sun and the warmth of its rays bring life to a garden. Your marriage too will need warmth. Tenderness. Hugs. The intimacy of knowing your spouse is right there with you, regardless of what is happening.
Water. Water is the lifeblood of a garden. Water in a marriage is the communication you share. Starve a garden of water and it will quickly die. Starve a marriage of communication and it will quickly wilt. Be cautious, however! What happens if you blast seedlings or young plants with water? They rip through the garden, tearing it from the soil, ruining it! So some advice for wives – when your husband gets home, don’t burden him with your day, or the million things on your mind. Allow him to settle in, fix him a cup of tea, enquire about his day and allow him to feel relaxed before you burden him with your day. Remember, he’s been at work all day – the last thing on his mind is having to solve all your problems! Water, like communication, is all a matter of timing.
Fertiliser. Every garden relishes in extra nutrients. Your grass becomes greener. Your flowers become brighter. Trees become stronger and more hardy. Weeds are held at bay. Your marriage needs nutrients and fertilising, too, and it needs it regularly, too. Find out what really nourishes your spouse. It might be regular dates, going fishing, initiating conversation, watching football, loving touches, watching shows about fishing, organising domestic activities, chatting about that time you went fishing, being more involved with your children or a holiday where you plan on watching football and going fishing. What ever it is, find out what your partner needs and nourish them! It’s what turns a garden, and a marriage, into a true delight.
Sometimes, gardening can be hard yakka. Marriage too can push you to the limits. Missed communications, sickness, family pressures, unmatched expectations, parenting, financial strains and the rigors of modern life can really take a toll on a marriage.
Over the years, I’ve sowed much time and effort into both my garden and my marriage. I’ve sewn in tears, in joy, in heartache and in love, and probably everything in between. I know, however, that through all these years, I’ve had someone who’s been gardening with me. Someone who’s helped me pull out heavy weeds. Someone who’s laid down new turf when I’ve sprayed weed killer all over the lawn. Someone who I wholeheartedly agree with and wholeheartedly disagree with. Someone who’s supported me and who’s accepted my love in return. So Ivica, thank you for gardening with me. We’ve truly created something beautiful, something we can both take joy in and something we love.
Image from http://www.southernbrideandgroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Couple-Kissing-in-Garden.jpg
My grandparents met in a displaced persons camp (what we now know as a refugee camp) in Germany. Their papers state ‘Fallingbostel Regional Processing Centre, Germany’. My grandad is named VIDINS, Arvids, born 21/5/1914. He is married. He is 34. He speaks no English, some German, no Russian and is fluent in German. His educational level is a primary grade to year 6, with no secondary education and four years of technical training. He is classed as ‘not Jewish’. He has no relatives or friends listed in Australia. He has no funds to avail himself of when arriving in Australia. He is travelling with is wife, Olga Vidins who is 26 and his newborn son Vidvuds. He has been in Germany since 19/9/1944. His reason for being in Germany states ‘forced evacuation’. He is accepted for resettlement to Australia on the 15th June 1948, some years after the war ended.
My grandmother tells me that when in Fallingbostel, they could have stayed in Europe, gone to the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia. They wanted to escape Europe as they were scared to death of the spread of communism. Canada was not an option (although many Latvians did choose Canada) as my grandad would have had to go there for a year before he could be reunited with his wife and son. So they decided to come to Australia.
From what I understand, they were required to do some type of indentured work, regardless of the persons skill or capability. My grandparents first arrived in Perth, then were settled in Bathurst, NSW. Going from continental Europe to Bathurst would have been a terrible culture shock for anyone I guess. They would have been encamped with people all over Europe who had resettled after the war. Bathurst sounded like a hot, inhospitable, foreign place. The work was arduous. My grandparents spoke little to no English. They had no friends or family.
From Bathurst, they settled in the Southern Highlands where they started to integrate into Australian life. After that, they made Wollongong their home, where they have called their home since.
In the early days, they were called all sorts of names. Balts (a derogatory name for people of the Baltic states), Nazis, Communists, Fascists.
In recent years, war, famine, genocide and persecution has seen a huge increase in the number of refugees worldwide. The situation for the refugee in a camp would seem hopeless.
I think you would be hard pressed to find an Australian who does not have a soft spot for the refugee, stuck in a camp. For the family devastated by war. For the widow, the orphan. The father who can’t put a meal on the table for his family. The mother who has lost her children. The child who will grow up never knowing his parents. I truly believe that Australian’s love standing up for the underdog.
Australia has a set number of people it accepts as refugees every year. The ‘usual’ process, as I understand, is that a person registers as a refugee with the UNHCR and usually settles in a refugee camp. By all accounts, this is a long, unpleasant and often dangerous process. A country will then, hopefully, select the person or family to come as part of their humanitarian intake. In Australia, once a person is settled, they may have options for their family who is ‘back home’ or still in a refugee to come here as part of a family reunification program.
We have, however, an unprecedented number of people who are bypassing this process. Flying from their own country, through a raft of other countries, then paying a people smuggler to board some unworthy vessel to make an unsafe journey across the ocean to Australian territorial waters. The trend seems to be to get rid of any formal form of identification on their way.
Not for one minute do I want to say these people are not genuine refugees. I’m not saying that they may not have a genuine claim to asylum here in Australia. I’m not for one minute saying or suggesting that their life ‘back home’ has been marred by war, violence or persecution. But for me, honestly, it seems these people are hell-bent and, based on some reports, even feel entitled to life in Australia. If news reports are to be believed, the average ‘irregular maritime entry’ via a people smuggler costs the asylum seeker anywhere between $7000 – $10000 a pop. That’s after making their way, usually via air travel, using passports and papers, though a number of other countries, to Indonesia.
To me, this seems unfair.
Unfair to the people who are stuck in those God-awful camps. Stuck fearing for their lives as militia raid them, bombs drop overhead, food is scavenged from weekly UN food drops.
Unfair to people, like my grandparents, who waited years in a cold refugee camp in Germany, away from their family, their friends, their homeland.
That is why I personally find it hard to accept people that pay people smugglers, (after flying through a number of countries with passports and papers) to board a rickety boat, destroy their identities, riot and burn down Australian Government buildings and holiday back in their homeland after getting permanent residency or citizenship here in Australia.
Does that mean I don’t accept refugees? Not at all. I’m the proud grandson of refugees. It would be fantastic if, as Australians, we had the capacity (in all senses of the word) to support those less fortunate. I thank the Lord daily for being born in this magnificent country. However, Australia owes its responsibility to its people and its sovereign territory. The Australian Government has a responsibility to look after its own.
What are the solutions? I have a few ideas myself, all of which are probably politically and practically ‘red buttons’. Really though, why can’t newly arrived refugees engage in nation building? The Snowy Hydro scheme was built mostly by immigrant workers. There is a multitude of nation building projects that our newly welcomed refugees could be involved in. Roads. Rail. Construction. The NBN. Ports. Airports. Mines. Honest, hardworking project designed to give real skills, an education, English language skills, cultural appropriation could all be involved. I’m certainly no expert, but I’d rather my tax dollars be spent both giving skills and nation building, then repairing burned down immigration camps or welfare payments years after resettlement.
There is no doubt that there are pockets of racism in Australia. From Australians, from newly arrived Australians. From second generation immigrants. From conflicts from the ‘old countries’. What ever way you put it, racism is not on. For me, racism is not confronting ugly parts of someone’s culture. Racism isn’t police targeting a group of people with strong links to the criminal underworld. Racism isn’t preventing people coming to Australia with proven links to anti-Australian groups. Racism isn’t confronting things like female genital mutilation, honour killings or cultural misogyny. These are things that Australian’s need to discuss and confront. This is not racism.
What is racism? Racism is calling the Sikh a ‘towel head’. It’s pulling of the Muslim woman’s headscarf. It’s calling the African a nigger. It’s not employing the man with the foreign sounding surname, even though his skills and experience are greater then the more western applicant. In my book, being a racist is being a prick to someone because they don’t look like you. That goes both ways.
I love Australia. I love our multicultural heritage. In my family, I have British, Welsh, Latvian, Croatian and Scottish descendants. My neighbours are from Lebanon, the Philippians, India, Pakistan, all though Africa, Korea, China and the Middle East. There are a few Aussies there, too 😉 . I love I can enjoy pasta on Mondays, curry on Tuesdays, meat & veg on Wednesdays, tacos on Thursdays, BBQ on Fridays, kebabs on Saturday and a roast on Sunday. I love that I can learn about the stories of those around me. I love that my country is young and free, that I can worship without persecution, that I know my free speech is protected, that we have a generous program of aid and humanity. Could we do better? Of course, but that’s not to denigrate the great work we already do.
I hope and pray our new Australians value this country and values the same way I do. I hope they bring new cuisine, a spirit of openness and a desire to give back to this great country. I hope too that I can see past the superficial and see the person, the individual, the story of those coming here.