Friday 30 June 2023

Bending Us Towards Compulsory Virtue.

Bending Us To Their Will: It is in the “bending” that the trouble starts. Those convinced that the arc of history is sending humanity in quite the wrong direction, often feel a strong moral obligation to wrench it back on track. For such people “live and let live” is a dangerous principle – not least because it means leaving all manner of “incorrect world-views” to flourish unchallenged and uncorrected.

WHAT A TIME IT WAS! Back in the day. Around the time Fran Wilde’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality was making its fractious way through Parliament. A time of passionate – and often deeply divisive – debate.

Many of the country’s largest institutions: the trade unions, the churches, political parties, sporting bodies; were split. It was interesting though, because those in favour of liberalising the law did not seem to be as quite as angry as those who opposed it.

Some reformers even managed to retain a sense of humour. I remember a tough-as-nails old trade unionist who didn’t care who knew that he belonged to the “live and let live” faction.

He would tell his fellow unionists: “I don’t care what people get up to in their own bedrooms.” Before adding with a wink: “Just so long as they don’t make it compulsory!”

Forty years ago, people laughed out loud.

Forty years on, however, it is possible to locate in the unionist’s bon mot the ideological fissures that have, over the decades, widened to the point of unbridgeability.

At the heart of the liberal impulse lies a revulsion against the tendency of empowered majorities to despise, isolate, condemn and punish refractory minorities. The liberal refuses to locate moral certainty in the judgemental multitude. Though an individual may find him or herself quite alone in their personal convictions, it is nevertheless entirely possible that those convictions are correct. Belief, providing it does not actively, deliberately, and without just cause, seek to impose restrictions upon others, is to be tolerated – not persecuted. Similarly, to prohibit actions which do no harm to others cannot be morally justified.

The thing about the liberal temperament is that, for some on the left, it comes across as just a little too relaxed. Getting the angry masses to march behind a banner inscribed with the words Leben und leben lassen (Live and let live) is a lot harder than mobilising them behind the more active slogans of progressive radicals and revolutionaries.

The very term “progressive” embodies movement. Progressives are people with a purpose. People determined to, in the splendid metaphor of Dr Martin Luther King, bend the arc of history towards justice.

Unfortunately, it is in the “bending” that the trouble starts. Those convinced that the arc of history is sending humanity in quite the wrong direction, often feel a strong moral obligation to wrench it back on track. For such people “live and let live” is a dangerous principle – not least because it means leaving all manner of “incorrect world-views” to flourish unchallenged and uncorrected.

So long as evil thoughts do not father evil deeds, a complacent liberalism seems happy to leave the Devil alone. For the revolutionary Left, however, that’s the problem. The Devil has never been content to just sit on his hands and think evil thoughts. Lucifer, Satan, the Devil: Patriarchy, Capitalism, White Supremacy; all of them prefer their brainchildren alive and kicking in the real world. If the Liberals aren’t willing to fight against these evil things, then it’s safe to assume they’re fighting for them.

This is what explains the unusually high heat in the political kitchens of the 2020s. It is no longer enough to take up arms against a specific evil: labour exploitation, racial persecution, sexual discrimination; and defeat it. The struggle for justice must be continuous.

While evil ideas and practices grow strong in the dark interstices of contemporary society, justice-seekers can accept no respite. To those still in possession of the wrong beliefs, it is no longer morally acceptable to apply the principle of “live and let live”. To argue that beliefs do not lead to actions flies in the face of all historical experience. If we are not to live in a worse world, then the struggle for a better one must be constant.

When Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill became law, many liberals cracked open a bottle of bubbly and toasted a job well done. The “Blackmailer’s Charter” was gone. People could be who they were without fear of legal persecution. Conservative New Zealanders didn’t have to like gays, but they were now required to tolerate them.

Live and let live.

“No!”, shout the moral Jacobins, “Not good enough! Not while homophobia and transphobia destroy lives. Not while heteronormative privilege endures!”

Bending us towards compulsory virtue.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 30 June 2023.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

You know what, many of the worlds problems would disappear if the right, particularly the religious right of whatever stripe would just learn to mind their own damn business about what people do with their wedding tackle. They're supposed to be the parties of small government, yet they insist on controlling people's bodies with minute attention to detail. I hope to God that the saying "When America sneezes we catch a cold" does not apply to the absolutely illiberal nonsense being done in the Bible about at the moment.

God help us, about the only thing I agree with libertarians on is that people should be allowed to do whatever the hell they like in the bedroom as long as – as the old bloke said – it's not compulsory. I have numerous Internet acquaintances who are gay and trans, and all they want to do really is get on with their lives. They're not aching to convert you, you should have no worries about "dropping the soap" – live and let live as Chris said.

David George said...

Let's stop pretending that this woke BS is being driven by reasonable people.
"Live and let live" was never going to be "good enough" was it Chris

How long ago was it that Georgina Beyer was elected to public office? Almost thirty years ago now but, apparently, we're all raging "transphobes" or something. Mind you Georgina didn't go around claiming to be a woman or wanting to indoctrinate little kids or mutilate their genitals or castrate them or chemically sterilise them or cut off their breasts.

Again we see the absurd overreach in the name of "social justice" - and the hysterical reaction when sanity prevails - finally the US supreme court has ruled that "affirmative action" is in breach of the constitution. I don't know what took them so long (the law suit by Asian American students was the catalyst) it was clearly dodgy from the get-go.

“Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

It is hard to overstate how seismic this judgement is. Not just Harvard but almost every university in the country has been engaging in unconstitutional activity for years.

And not just the universities. Just think of the numerous sectors in American life that have followed the same criteria and priorities as the universities."

About time we looked at the carve out for affirmative action in our (so called) Bill of Rights.

John Hurley said...

Watching Paddy Gower on Trans I was struck by how one-sided his sides POV was. It suggests a horror at the status quo and the past a mad rush to the future.

I was convinced by 2 boys in my class at high school. I observed those two boys and no way at all were they putting it on; it was a force from within. Later I read something in Time Magazine which said it was biological (I forget the details). If two males want to marry, it is such an odd thing that self-evidently they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to.

Recently I watched a Spacelink launch on Youtube the engineer acknowledged Pride month and that SpaceX sent a float “if we are going to populate space we need a diverse population”. On countdown he said “Ignition. Go F’n Go Starlink”. I recalled the fat man in undies twerking in front of children in New York [?] or Seattle.

I’ve always thought Pridemonth was OTT but can’t really say why.

Jon Haidt says we have built in taste receptors for social behaviours.

To use Isaiah Berlin’s two concepts of liberty: negative liberty means people can do as they wish as long as they don’t impinge on others but positive liberty (ability to do) can morph into misguided ends.

In essence we are to accept the young man who wants to be a woman. As with gay marriage self-evidently some individuals want to do this with mixed results.

No one minds if a gay man is in the changing sheds, they just have to act straight. Trans however, want to take male bodies into female spaces and make the females do the adjusting.
So much of what is being argued is motte and bailey. argument.

Bailey is Paddy Gower; motte is Mohan Dutta of Care – Massey.

Was thinking today about things Jesus said noting 3 flights a day from China because to me that means “5 stories all over Christchurch” and Mrs J at Cromwell heard that Chinese want “to buy all the land from Arrowtown to Cromwell.

I don’t think there is an equivalence but I note that for one portion “great shall be the reward to thine property portfolio and thy salary overfloweth”.

larry said...

Wot! ... no comments! ... yet?

Does this signify trepidation that any critical observations will fall prey to the malicious idealogical pushback ... ills of the 2020's ... that you have so eloquently conveyed?

Speak up.

John Hurley said...

Nietzsche: God is dead and we have killed him; what shall we replace him with?
He didn't mean it literally but all those empty churches anchored people; now the sky is the limit.

The progressive desire for constant social improvement runs up against human nature because all we are designed for is to make copies of ourselves; that is the basis of morality.

That includes within a society and within a nation.

By that we tolerate trans people but they will never achieve woman status. If they have "body dysmorphia" they are "unwhole". That fat man twerking in underpants at the pride parade may be demonstrating tolerance to some but triggers disgust in others by the above metric.

As for the racism taboo (within the context of mass-migration), it depends on whether you really believe you will be better off. Eric Kaufmann demonstrates that it is immigration at the national level that leads to populism. Voices such as Michael Reddell and Kerry Mc Donald "The high rate of immigration is a national disaster. It is lowering the present and future living standards of New Zealanders by serious adverse economic, social and environmental consequences." are being silenced by the MSM progressives/ domestic business interests (Resene paints) and academics (Professor Paul Spoonley)

Tom Hunter said...

For sixty years, ever since the Counter-Culture revolution of the 1960's, the Left have hidden their controlling impulses behind the smokescreen of liberalisation of laws on sex and drugs.

"Our Left-wing Government doesn't want to know and control what goes on in your bedrooms, not like those nasty conservatives".

Which was true enough. The problem is that now when you step out of your bedroom a Left-Wing government (and all too many Right-wing governments, see British Tories for example) absolutely want to know and control every other thing you do in your life.

What food you eat (meat's bad for the climate). What you cook it on (gas stoves out). What car you drive (EV's only, maybe a hybrid - for a while), or even whether you should have a car at all. What industry you work in (forget those well-paid blue-collar jobs in Oil & Gas, says The Captain). What job you do. And on and on and on...

I'd like to think this is coming to a rational end, but given the history of Leftist movements, with their lack of built-in self-limiting features, I suspect it will only end in a crash.

Brendan McNeill said...

For the Commissars imposing the new State defined orthodoxy under which we now live, error has no rights.

Remember when they said "love is love" and "your neigbours gay marriage wouldn't affect you"? But remember, when it does "you bigots had it comming".

Odysseus said...

Yes, "progressivism" almost invariably leads to authoritarianism. Even the Nazis positioned themselves as socially progressive in the 1930s. I do not trust "progressives". Live and let live is the basis of civilization.

Shane McDowall said...

God is dead.

Marx is dead.

And I'm not feeling too good myself.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Affirmative action in the US AFAIK affects only something like 10 to 15,000 students per year. Out of approximately 18 million students in tertiary education in the US. That's about .08%. And the only reason it's been dubbed unconstitutional is the fact that the Supreme Court is full of rabid, catholic, extreme rightists. People who I might say lied by omission or implication when they were interviewed for the job. People who take presents from billionaires while they are trying cases involving them. I realise the extreme right doesn't mind a bit of corruption David, but I would have thought you might object? Are you really that extreme? I guess you must be – you don't seem to object to anything else the extreme right does, particularly around freedom of speech.
Funny Brendan, gay marriage hasn't affected me in the slightest. I would love to hear some evidence of how it affected you. Apart from perhaps a bit of name-calling because you patiently don't approve of it. That's just people using their freedom of speech, right?

David George said...

The oppression and cancellation is real and frightening, moreso that giant corporations endorse and participate in it.

Comment from Canadian climate activist and politician, former acting leader of the BC Ecosocialists party and leader of the Green Party in British Columbia Stuart Parker:

"In my 36 years as a climate activist, no conservative who has disagreed with me on climate has ever tried to destroy my career, my home, my relationship, my friendships, my social media accounts, my radio shows, my podcasts or my recreational activities.

People working in the fossil fuel industry who feel my efforts are destroying their employment prospects, people who think climate change is a hoax, a fraud I am helping to perpetrate, people who falsely believe I receive money from shadowy European interests: none of these people have felt entitled to go after my ability to earn a living or have a romantic partner.

In my 3 years of opposing genderwang, dozens, likely hundreds of progressives, many of whom I considered comrades or friends, have felt it totally appropriate to engage in unapologetic concerted public efforts to destroy these things, to even come after my fortnightly tabletop Runequest games and try to stop those.

In a social partition of contemporary North America, I would rather be in a conservative society, even if it were significantly more on fire, because I wouldn't feel unsafe disagreeing with my neighbours."

Tom Hunter said...

That's about .08%.
Even if those figures are correct (citation needed) so what. A vastly smaller percentage of people are executed each year but that doesn't mean the death penalty should not be opposed. Screwing Asian-Americans in favour of African-Americans is morally and ethically wrong).

And now here we go with all the US Left talking points being repeated across the blogosphere, courtesy of ... Jacobin, Pro-Publica, Politico, Huffington Post,??

..the Supreme Court is full of rabid, catholic, extreme rightists.

So says a rabid atheist, Far Lefter who falls only slightly short of a Stalinist in worshipping State Power - as long it's going after his "extreme, Far Right" enemies.
In this case it's an especially stupid slur. The words of the majority justices don't read like those of a "rabid" person, certainly not like someone who uses the word "rabid". The "catholic" argument is a hangover from the Dobbs decision and entirely inapplicable here. And the "Extreme Right" typically want more State Coercion over what people can say and do, not less.

Tom Hunter said...

Lefty Talking Point 2:

People who I might say lied by omission or implication when they were interviewed for the job
Heh, Bang that Drum, Bomber:

“THEY LIED”, scream the left, both here and in the USA, as they lambast the four latest GOP-nominated justices to get on the Supreme’s bench.

There’s a couple of problems with that, starting with the fact that if Supreme Court decisions were buried in the aspic of precedent and stare decisis, then terrible rulings like Plessy v. Ferguson (segregation), or merely legally weak ones like Bowers v. Hardwick (gay sex), Baker v. Nelson (gay marriage), Wolf v. Colorado, and many others, would never have been reversed.

The second problem is the usual double standards of the Left, in this situation something called The Ginsburg Rules. These were crafted up in 1993 by none other than one Senator Joe Biden for the purpose of protecting Clinton’s SCOTUS nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from being questioned too closely about her radical past positions on various legal issues. There was also the Model Code of Judicial Conduct:

Canon 5 of the Model Code, among others, forbids judges or judicial candidates from indicating how they will rule on issues likely to come before the courts or making any statement that would create the appearance they are not impartial. This rule is critical to an independent judiciary. Justices must remain open-minded when an actual case comes before them. They must not even hint how they would rule.

It all worked like a charm:

Sen. Leahy asked about the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Ginsburg responded simply: “I prefer not to address a question like that.” Leahy pressed for her interpretation of Supreme Court precedent on the subject, but Ginsburg again demurred: “I would prefer to await a particular case.”
… “Sen. Thurmond, that is the kind of question that a judge cannot answer at-large.”
…“Anything I say could be taken as a hint or a forecast on how I would treat a classification that is going to be in question before a court.” In fact, she exercised the Rule to avoid answering any questions relating to sexual orientation: “I cannot say one word on that subject that would not violate what I said had to be my rule about no hints, no forecasts, no previews.”

I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that just two years later, confronted with Bush's nomination of Roberts, several Democrat Senators had stated that they weren’t going to follow the Ginsburg Rules or Canon 5 when it came to GOP nominated Justices.

But tell me again about hypocrisy and double standards.

Tom Hunter said...

People who take presents from billionaires while they are trying cases involving them.

What I love about this one is that Justice Alito, having been contacted by Pro-Publica and knowing a cherry-picked hit job was on the way, responded to their questions not to them but by writing his response in the WSJ where he comprehensively demolished their snide little accusations.

As this legal scholar said:

ProPublica styles itself as "an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force." Let me translate "moral force" for you: ambushing conservatives with misleading accounts of dated accusations that, at worst, concerned good faith attempts to comply with the rules. I've lost count of the number of times that wild accusations against Justice Thomas have fallen apart. I think the only upshot of this breathless reporting is that the public has become tired/bored/numb to this "moral force."

Which is why the Pro-Publica piece later landed with a splash and was not seen again. Haha.

As another law professor noted:

As The Wall Street Journal notes: “Regarding ethics, the [ProPublica] story flatly asserts that Justice Alito violated disclosure rules, but he did not. At the time of the trip, the Justices were authoritatively advised that such ‘personal hospitality’ wasn’t reportable.

“Ray Randolph, a federal appellate judge who was on both trips, says he asked the judiciary’s disclosure office whether to report the trip on his 2005 form. Backed by his notes taken at the time, Judge Randolph said he was told he did not have to disclose.”

But Alito did disclose it, not in paperwork for the files, but in front of a large audience.

“As it happens, the fishing trip isn’t even a ProPublica scoop. Justice Alito was so intent on concealing the trip,” the paper jokes, “that he told a large audience of lawyers and journalists about it at a Federalist Society dinner in 2009.”

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"where he comprehensively demolished their snide little accusations."

What I love about this one is ... No he didn't. He just weaselled around.

As this legal expert wrote:

“These Supreme Court justices just don’t get it. The rest of us will likely go our entire lives never flying on a private jet, yet Justices Alito and Thomas both seem to incorrectly believe they can accept these lavish gifts without it reflecting on the integrity of the Court. It doesn’t matter if a billionaire is your friend or not; if you’re letting them pamper you, it’s going to undermine your credibility and the rule of law in every case in which they have an interest.
“It’s wholly implausible that Justice Alito was unaware of Paul Singer’s connection to cases before the Court or that he doesn’t know how to read the disclosure laws he’s obligated to follow. His brazen prebuttal makes it clear he thinks he’s above the law, and it’s no surprise that his decisions, like Dobbs, have devastated the public’s faith in the Court. "

Of course the Supreme Court doesn't have any formal code of ethics, (although in theory they are subject to the same rules as any other federal judges they do tend to ignore them) and the Supreme Court justices are on the whole fighting tooth and nail against imposing one.

“that he told a large audience of lawyers and journalists about it at a Federalist Society dinner in 2009.”

You realise what the Federalist Society is right? A group of extreme rightists who "suggest" extreme right judges for appointments by extreme right presidents, and who themselves are almost certainly corrupt. I doubt if he would have mentioned it in any other company. But I suspect he felt quite safe doing it here, because most of them would do the same.

Tom Hunter said...

Ah, a quick Google informs me that this comment comes from the so called Alliance for Justice. I might have guessed. Basically the Extreme Leftist version of the Federalist Society, but with less intellectual grunt, as the writer, one Rakim Brooks - not a judge or law professor but a mere "public interest appellate lawyer", which means he's more loudmouth public activist for the Left than lawyer - amply demonstrates. Couldn't they have got Lawrence Tribe?

In any case it appears that Brooks either didn't read Alito's piece or did read it and, having nothing legal or factual to respond to the detail, simply continued with the Four-Leg-Good-Two-Legs-Bad morality diatribe.

In case you also missed it here's the key argument from Alito to which Brooks has no response except repeating the original slur:

To ensure that I am not required to recuse, multiple members of my staff carefully check the names of the parties in each case and any other entities listed in the corporate disclosure statement required by our rules. See Supreme Court Rule 29.6. Mr. Singer was not listed as a party in any of the cases listed by ProPublica. Nor did his name appear in any of the corporate disclosure statements or the certiorari petitions or briefs in opposition to certiorari. In the one case in which review was granted, Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd., No. 12-842, Mr. Singer’s name did not appear in either the certiorari petition, the brief in opposition, or the merits briefs. Because his name did not appear in these filings, I was unaware of his connection with any of the listed entities, and I had no good reason to be aware of that.

And given his minimal interactions with Singer over the years where they have sometimes crossed paths at the same events, there was no reason for concern there either.

As for your other point:
You realise what the Federalist Society is right? A group of extreme rightists who "suggest" extreme right judges.... and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I'm sure you quite deliberately missed the point I made which was not who Alito felt comfortable revealing this too, but that he revealed it publicly long ago, showing that Pro-Publica not only don't have a scoop but that they just threw it out there hoping to imply that it was a dirty little secret as part of their "ethics" narrative. Pathetic.

All this is simply the US Left blowing smoke and trying to bully the Supremes because of Dobbs and some other decisions that they've lost recently, nothing more. As they and the Democrat Party are currently demonstrating with the Biden family, they couldn't care less about ethics. And I see that total idiot AOC currently demanding that Chief Justice Roberts be subpoenaed by the Senate to testify about all this and more. Apparently she doesn't know that the Supreme Court doesn't answer to the politicians, by design.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" but that he revealed it publicly long ago,"

Didn't miss it at all thank you Tom. Of course he was happy to reveal it, this is essentially nothing to stop them doing it except perhaps bad publicity. And he quickly jumped in because he knew the story was coming out wanted to get in first. He refused to comment to the publication about the story after they offered to hold it until he had, and haven't read the story when he jumped in with his statement.

He is also a proven liar, he lied to get the job – and I wouldn't believe a word he says about his relationship with Singer. He's just desperate.

And he was directly involved in a case about a hedge fund which Singer headed. Of course he claims he didn't know – but I suspect that by the time you're jumping onto people's private jets you probably know a a reasonable amount about them, particularly as the connection was widely reported at the time. Either he or his staff should have known – and of course it's a certainty all of them did, no matter how much they might deny it. If they didn't they were incompetent and that should preclude him from being a Supreme Court judge – although of course Trump didn't care about competence.
It's ironic that he went to the WSJ given that they had previously published this story.

Rather than the left trying to bully the Supremes and blowing smoke, it all points to a pattern of corruption in the Trump appointed judiciary, and an arrogance beyond belief that they think that they've done nothing wrong.
Can't help thinking also that if this was a liberal judge conservatives would be screaming their heads off rather than trying to excuse it.