Once upon a time, a fully realised person was something one became. Entailing education, observation, experimentation, and sometimes humiliation, “coming of age” was hard work. When the project succeeded, we developed a gradually richer understanding of what it means to be human and what constitutes a fruitful life. This ongoing project was halted only by death. Maturity was the result of accumulated experience (some of it dire) and much trial and error (both comical and tragic), helping explain why wisdom, as opposed to intelligence, was mostly the preserve of the old. We admired the “self-made man”, because character was a creation — one constructed often at great cost. Many a “character-building” adventure, such as joining the Army, was a trial by fire.
These days, discussion of “character” is largely relegated to fiction workshops and film reviews. Instead, we relentlessly address “identity”, a hollowed-out concept now reduced to membership of the groups into which we were involuntarily born — thereby removing all choice about who we are. Rejecting the passé “character building” paradigm, we now inform children that their selves emerge from the womb fully formed. Their sole mission is to tell us what those selves already are. Self is a prefabricated house to which only its owner has a key. – Lionel Shriver
I further submit: throwing kids who just got here on their own investigative devices — refusing to be of any assistance aside from “affirming” whatever they whimsically claim to be; folding our arms and charging, “So who are you? Only you know” — is child abuse. – Lionel Shriver
We haven’t given these young people a job. Contemporary education strenuously seeks to assure students they’re already wonderful. Teachers are increasingly terrified of imposing any standards that all their wards will not readily meet, so everyone gets a gold star. The Virginia school district of the once-renowned Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology now aims for “equal outcomes for every student, without exception”. A pedagogical emphasis on student “self-esteem” became dislocated from “esteem for doing something” decades ago. Why should any of these kids get out of bed? No wonder they’re depressed.
Minors don’t know anything, which is not their fault. We didn’t know anything at their age, either (and may not still), though we thought we did — and being disabused of callow, hastily conceived views and coming to appreciate the extent of our ignorance is a prerequisite for proper education. Yet we now encourage young people to look inward for their answers and to trust that their marvellous natures will extemporaneously reveal themselves. With no experience to speak of and no guidance from adults, all that many kids will find when gawking at their navels is pyjama fluff. – Lionel Shriver
There’s nothing shameful about being an empty vessel when you haven’t done anything and nothing much has happened to you yet. Telling children, “Of course you don’t know who you are! Growing up is hard, full of false starts, and all about making something of yourself. Don’t worry, we’ll give you lots of help” is a great deal more consoling than the model of the ready-meal self. We demand toddlers determine whether they’re “girls or boys or something in-between” before they have fully registered what a girl or boy is, much less “something in-between”. Placing the total onus for figuring out how to negotiate being alive on people who haven’t been given the user’s manual is a form of abandonment.
Adults have an obligation to advise, comfort, and inform — to provide the social context that children have none of the resources to infer and to help form expectations of what comes next. Instead, we’re throwing kids helplessly on their primitive imaginations. – Lionel Shriver
This notion of the pre-made self is asocial, if not anti-social. It separates personhood from lineage, heritage, culture, history, and even family. You are already everything you were ever meant to be, never mind where, what and whom you come from. But seeing selfhood as floating in a vacuum is a recipe for loneliness, vagueness, insecurity and anxiety.
By contrast, a self constructed brick by brick over a lifetime has everything to do with other people. The undertaking involves the assembly of tastes and enthusiasms, the formation of friendships and institutional affiliations, participation in joint projects, and the development of perceptions not simply of one’s interior nature but of the outside world. Character that is rooted in ties to other people is likely to be more solid and enduring. The elderly are most in danger of desolation when they’ve outlived their friends and relatives. Who I am partially comprises decades-long friendships, my colleagues, my fierce devotion to my younger brother, a complex allegiance to two different Anglophone countries, and a rich cultural inheritance from my predecessors.
In my teens, we employed the word “identity” quite differently. We thought having an “identity” meant not only being at home in our own skins, but also having at least a hazy notion of what we wanted to do with our lives. It meant connecting with the likeminded (I found kindred spirits in my junior-high Debate Club). An “identity” was fashioned less from race or sexual orientation than from the discovery of which albums we loved, which novels we ritually reread because they spoke to us, which causes we supported, which subjects interested us, and which didn’t. It meant figuring out what we were good at (I was good at maths, but in second-year calculus I hit a wall) and what we couldn’t stand (me, team sports). – Lionel Shriver
We were as self-involved in our determination to be individuals as Gen Z, but that particularity was commonly assembled from the cultural smorgasbord of other people and what they’d thought and made: Kurt Vonnegut or William Faulkner, Catch-22 or The Winds of War, Simon and Garfunkel or Iron Butterfly, hostile or gung-ho positions on Vietnam. Naturally this is a version of identity subject to change. That’s the point. It’s supposed to change. I no longer listen to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
The self is not found but made, because meaning is made. Rather than be unearthed like buried treasure, meaning is laboriously created, often by doing hard things. – Lionel Shriver
Of course, in constantly reforming and refining who we are, we can lose aspects of ourselves from earlier drafts that we should have kept. I no longer dance alone for hours in the sitting room, and I miss that abandon. For years I crafted ceramic figure sculpture, and I’m not sure that substituting journalism as my primary side-line to fiction writing constituted an improvement. Towards the very end of our lives, many of us will drop pretty much every paragraph we ever added, and we’ll go from novel to pamphlet. – Lionel Shriver
Clearly, some aspects of character, of self, are determined from the off. I’d never have become a nuclear physicist no matter how hard I tried. But the conventional “nature versus nurture” opposition still eliminates agency: you act mindlessly as whatever you were born as, or you are submissively acted upon. Where on this nature-nurture continuum does the object of all this theorising have a say in the outcome? – Lionel Shriver
Following the modern script, 14-year-olds have learned never to say, “I’ve decided to be trans”, because all my friends are trans and I feel left out, but always, “I’ve discovered that I am trans”. This passive, powerless version of self has implications. We’re telling young people that what they see is what they get — that they already are what they will ever be. How disheartening. What a bore. Whatever is there to look forward to? Many victims of this formulation of existence, which apparently requires little of them besides all that being, must reach inside themselves and come up empty-handed. – Lionel Shriver
By withholding the assurance, “Don’t worry about not knowing who you are; you’re just not grown up yet, and neither are we, because growing up isn’t over at 18 or 21 but is something you do your whole life through”, we are cultivating self-hatred, disillusionment, bewilderment, frustration, and fury. Young women often turn their despair inward — hence the high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and cutting. Young men are more apt to project the barrenness of their interior lives onto the rest of the world and take their disappointment out on everyone else. – Lionel Shriver
An authentic sense of self commonly involves not thinking about who you are, because you’re too busy doing something else. It is inextricably linked to, if not synonymous with, a sense of meaning. Nihilism, an oxymoronic belief in the impossibility of believing anything, can prove literally lethal. Young men who feel no personal sense of purpose are inclined to perceive that nothing else has a purpose, either. They don’t just hate themselves; they hate everybody. In telling people who’ve been on the planet for about ten minutes that they already know who they are, and that they’re already wonderful, we’re inciting that malign, sometimes homicidal nihilism. Because they don’t feel wonderful. They’re not undertaking any project but, according to the adults, inertly embody a completed project, which means the status quo is as good as it gets — and the status quo isn’t, subjectively, very good.
Transgenderism may have grown so alluring to contemporary minors not only because it promises a new “identity”, but because it promises a process. Transforming from caterpillar to butterfly entails a complex sequence of social interventions and medical procedures that must be terribly engrossing. Transitioning is a project. Everyone needs a project. Embracing the trans label gifts the self with direction, with a task to accomplish. Ironically, the contagion expresses an inchoate yearning for the cast-off paradigm whereby character is built.
We should stop telling children that they’re the “experts on their own lives” and repudiate a static model of selfhood as a fait accompli at birth. Sure, some inborn essence is particular to every person, but it’s a spark; it’s not a fire. We could stand to return to the language of forming character and making a life for yourself, while urging teachers to exercise the guidance they’ve been encouraged to forsake.
As we age, we’re not only that unique essence in the cradle, but the consequence of what we’ve read, watched, and witnessed; whom we’ve loved and what losses we’ve suffered; what mistakes we’ve made and which we’ve corrected; where we’ve lived and travelled and what skills we’ve acquired; not only what we’ve made of ourselves but what we’ve made outside of ourselves; most of all, what we’ve done. That is an exciting, active version of “identity” whose work is never finished, full of choice, enlivened by agency, if admittedly freighted with responsibility and therefore a little frightening. But it at least provides young people something to do, other than mass murder or gruesome elective surgery. – Lionel Shriver
The pretence that we are each of one ethnicity only will not serve us well. It is encouraging racism by the government always choosing to describe people as Maori whenever bad outcomes are being discussed.
We need good and accurate information if we want race and ethnicity to play a reduced role in determining the future of a child in New Zealand.
Or we could focus on improving outcomes for all who are being held back by others and by societal choices, knowing and appreciating that this will benefit disproportionately those who identify at least in part as Maori. – Hilary Calvert
- Dreary, despondent headlines about pollution and climate change are the norm. But they are not painting a full or accurate picture.
- While Earth is still no Garden of Eden, many countries are making serious efforts to become clean and green. The results are scientifically notable but underreported by the media.
- Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource. In a world filled with bad news, that’s a fact worth celebrating. – Cameron English
Most people undoubtedly accept that climate change, air pollution, and deforestation are very real problems we ought to take seriously. What fewer of us seem to realize, however, is that the world has taken these issues seriously and made significant progress toward solving them as a result. This observation leads us to an important but oft-overlooked conclusion: Economic growth and technological innovation are making our planet a cleaner, safer place to live. – Cameron English
One of the best ways to bring a nation out of grinding poverty is to boost its agricultural productivity. The introduction of high-yielding crop varieties during the Green Revolution, led by plant pathologist Norman Borlaug, nicely illustrated how this phenomenon works. According to a July 2021 study, enhanced crops developed between 1965 and 2010 increased food production by more than 40%, saving the world a whopping $83 trillion. Addressing the environmental impact of agriculture, the authors didn’t mince words:
Our paper also sheds light on a concern, often expressed in the literature, that agricultural productivity improvements would pull additional land into agriculture at the expense of forests and other environmentally valuable land uses. We find evidence to the contrary… the Green Revolution tended to reduce the amount of land devoted to agriculture.” – Cameron English
Of course, climate change is the elephant in the room. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased in recent decades, which has led the WHO and others to warn about the looming public health impacts of heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters caused by global warming. Even here, though, the disaster projections that so often make headlines are out of step with the evidence.
For one thing, improved infrastructure (such as widespread air conditioning) has helped prevent a lot of weather-related mortality. Deaths due to natural disasters more broadly have also plummeted: A century ago, natural disasters commonly killed more than a million people annually. Today, that figure hovers somewhere between10,000 and 20,000 deaths per year.
Recent research has shown that fossil fuels have generated far fewer GHG emissions than projected by commonly used climate models, a divergence that “is going to only get larger in coming decades,” climate researcher Roger Pielke, Jr. explainedin November 2020. This means that the worst-case climate scenario grows “increasingly implausible with every passing year,” climatologists Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peters argued that same year in the journal Nature. These results led the New York Times to report in October 2022:
“Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years.“ [Emphasis added] – Cameron English
Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource. We have always faced serious threats to our well-being, but we’re also very good at developing long-term solutions to those problems. In a world filled with bad news, that’s a fact worth celebrating. – Cameron English
Since I bought my eco dream car in late 2020, in a deluded Thunbergian frenzy, it has spent more time off the road than on it, beached at the dealership for months at a time on account of innumerable electrical calamities, while I galumph around in the big diesel “courtesy cars” they send me under the terms of the warranty. – Giles Coren
And if the government really does ban new wet fuel cars after 2030, then we will eventually have to go back to horses. Because the electric vehicle industry is no readier to get a family home from Cornwall at Christmas time (as I was trying to do) than it is to fly us all to Jupiter. The cars are useless, the infrastructure is not there and you’re honestly better off walking. Even on the really long journeys. In fact, especially on the long journeys. The short ones they can just about manage. It’s no wonder Tesla shares are down 71 per cent. It’s all a huge fraud. And, for me, it’s over. – Giles Coren
There are, of course, plus sides to electric ownership. Such as the camaraderie when we encounter each other, tired and weeping at yet another service station with only two chargers, one of which still has the “this fault has been reported” sign on it from when you were here last August, and the other is of the measly 3kWh variety, which means you will have to spend the night in a Travelodge while your stupid drum lazily inhales enough juice to get home.
Together, in the benighted charging zone, we leccy drivers laugh about what fools we are and drool over the diesel hatchbacks nonchalantly filling up across the way (“imagine getting to a fuel station and knowing for sure you will be able to refuel!”) and talk in the hour-long queue at Exeter services about the petrol car we will buy as soon as we get home. – Giles Coren
And then, as I inched off the dual carriageway at our turnoff, begging it to make the last mile, children weeping at the scary noises coming from both car and father: “Gearbox fault detected.” CLUNK. WHIRRR. CRACK.
And dead. Nothing. Poached elephant. I called Jaguar Assist (there is a button in the roof that does it directly — most useful feature on the car) who told me they could have a mechanic there in four hours (who would laugh and say, “Can’t help you, pal. You’ve got a software issue there. I’m just a car mechanic. And this isn’t a car, it’s a laptop on wheels.”)
So Esther and the kids headed for home across the sleety wastes, a vision of post-apocalyptic misery like something out of Cormac McCarthy, while I saw out 2022 waiting for a tow-truck. Again.
But don’t let that put you off. I see in the paper that electric car sales are at record levels and production is struggling to keep up with demand. So why not buy mine? It’s clean as a whistle and boasts super-low mileage. After all, it’s hardly been driven. – Giles Coren
As the self-satisfied laptop class never tires of telling us, misinformation is the kind of ‘wrong’ information that supposedly dumb people share online – usually something they’ve picked up from some scary populist. Disinformation, meanwhile, occurs when someone – a government official, say – knowingly disseminates something false, to sow confusion and discord, demoralise a target population or harm a political opponent. – Jenny Holland
As soon as the affirmative-care model came under rigorous expert scrutiny, its problems were there for all to see.
However, pushing back against this insanity will require more than just support from credentialed doctors like Hilary Cass. After all, a frequent tactic of trans activists like Levine is to co-opt the language of credentials and science.
We must instead simply trust our own judgement and common sense. When presented in plain English, the lunacy of ‘gender-affirming care’ is clear for all to see. It means pumping people (including children) with synthetic cross-sex hormones and cutting off healthy breasts, penises and testicles. I don’t need a doctor to tell me this is a dangerous course of action.
It is totally legitimate to question the wholesale acceptance and widespread celebration of such radical procedures, especially those performed on minors. It certainly doesn’t constitute ‘misinformation’, as Levine would have us believe. In fact, Levine’s attempt to discredit opposition to gender-affirming care is itself an example of disinformation from a government actor.
Governments, media outlets and tech companies talk constantly about the dangers posed by ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’. But it is clear that these are just the latest rhetorical tools in an attempt to control what the masses think. And what’s more, it is the same people who complain about these problems who are often the biggest culprits. – Jenny Holland
We’re witnessing the Californication of a Prince. The old bantering, streaking fun Harry who later signed up for military service has been replaced by a self-pitying celeb who squeals with glee when he gets a text message from Beyonce. Warring royals once marshalled armies and battled it out in muddy fields; now they write tear-stained tell-alls about their hurt feelings. God help us. – Brendan O’Neill
Pushing your brother is normal; making your brother a spectacle before the world is not. Harry has betrayed William in a way that will likely deepen their rift considerably. I reckon every man who has a brother is feeling for Will right now. – Brendan O’Neill
For all of us who scribble for publication, at however low a level, all activities other than writing take on at most a secondary importance. Even meals, necessary as they no doubt are, can come to seem unwanted interruptions of the real business of life, which is writing. We are apt to forget that reading in general, and of our work in particular, is not of the same importance to 99.99 percent of the population, including that part of it that has great power over our lives, as it is to us. It is a humbling thought (humbling, that is, for scribblers) that in many small towns it is easier to find an electronic cigarette or have oneself tattooed than to buy a book.– Theodore Dalrymple
I have long thought that entertainment, or rather the ubiquity of entertainment, is one of the greatest causes of boredom in the modern world. And boredom is itself a much underestimated state of mind in the production of human misconduct and therefore of misery.
The reason that too great a proportion of entertainment in a person’s life leads to boredom (though it is not easy always to decide whether the chicken of boredom comes before the egg of entertainment) is that reality can rarely complete with it for raw stimulation and excitement. Reality, the real world, moves very slowly by comparison with the world as depicted in entertainment, but people for the moment have still to enter the real world from time to time; they cannot lead wholly virtual lives.
When they enter the real world, therefore, they find it dull and boring by comparison with their entertainments; it takes mental discipline and training to find the real world of interest in an age of distraction. – Theodore Dalrymple
We’re sold this dream that marriage equals perfect happiness and conflict-free living. Too many of us haven’t seen our parents practise conflict resolution. In my case my parents divorced when I was young and for a long time in my early married years whenever my husband and I had a disagreement my immediate reaction was – marriage not working, we’re not compatible.
I know when I separated, I thought I didn’t like my husband any more. It was while we were apart that I began to appreciate who he was. I saw him caring for our children with different eyes. I began to appreciate what having two loving parents meant to our children. I began to look at my husband with fresh eyes or maybe it was old eyes, the eyes that had made me want to marry him. – Victoria Carter
Before you call time-out think about the cost of two homes, legal fees gobbling up your savings and the emotional and financial impact on your children. Talk to anyone in a long marriage and they’ll tell you about its richness and rewarding qualities and how it’s helped each partner be happier and more whole. – Victoria Carter
Here, laid bare, is the intolerance and priggishness of people who probably think of themselves as liberal yet can’t tolerate any departure from approved groupthink. – Karl du Fresne
There’s a lesson here: think carefully before you befriend a writer. They can be a spiteful, duplicitous and disputatious lot, and you can never be sure the friendship won’t come back to bite you. – Karl du Fresne
Of course, people generally don’t respond well to being embarrassed and exposed in public. And in the ensuing years, I’ve learned something about truth: It’s way more complicated than it seems when we’re young. There isn’t just one truth, our truth — the other people who inhabit our story have their truths as well. – Patti Davis
Years ago, someone asked me what I would say to my younger self if I could. Without hesitating I answered: “That’s easy. I’d have said, ‘Be quiet.’” Not forever. But until I could stand back and look at things through a wider lens. Until I understood that words have consequences, and they last a really long time. – Patti Davis
Silence gives you room, it gives you distance, and it lets you look at your experiences more completely, without the temptation to even the score. – Patti Davis
I’ve learned something else about truth: Not every truth has to be told to the entire world. People are always going to be curious about famous families, and often the stories from those families can resonate with others, give them insight into their own situations, even transcend time since fame flutters at the edges of eternity.
But not everything needs to be shared, a truth that silence can teach. Harry seems to have operated on the dictum that “Silence is not an option.” I would, respectfully, suggest to him that it is. – Patti Davis
While the term “gender identity” has exploded in popularity as a way for transgender individuals to express the feeling of “misalignment” with their bodies, a group of scientists says that there is no empirical evidence for its existence in biology.
According to an international group of over 100 clinicians and researchers, there is currently no biological evidence for “gender identity” and no laboratory test that can distinguish a trans-identified person from a non-trans-identified person. Despite this, the belief in “gender identity” is used as the basis for medically transitioning thousands of children and adolescents.
“The assumption of the core biological underpinning for ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender dysphoria’ remains an unproven theory: while biology likely plays a role in gender nonconformity, currently, there is no brain, blood, or other objective test that distinguishes a trans-identified from a non-trans identified person once confounding factors such as sexual orientation are controlled for,” (emphasis original) said the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine (SEGM) in an article debunking false and unproven assumptions used to medically transition children. – Christina Buttons
One of the myths is that “gender identity,” which underlies gender dysphoria, is a biological trait, according to the article. There is evidence that roughly 60–90% of children who identify as transgender but do not socially or medically transition will no longer identify as transgender in adulthood, and many will grow up to be gay adults. – Christina Buttons
Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Quentin Van Meter has said that there is “zero point zero zero” evidence that the concepts of “gender fluidity” and “gender identity” have any scientific basis.
Manhattan Institute fellow Leor Sapir says the motivation for attempting to prove that “gender identity” is an “innate, immutable trait” is for political and legal reasons. – Christina Buttons
What they want is a government to come in and turn things around and be able to get things done and that’s really why I think we’ve been having some success. – Christopher Luxon
It creates bureaucracy. It doesn’t create localism. It doesn’t create devolution. Those are big principles for the National Party that we hold dear to. – Christopher Luxon
We’ve had a government flat on the accelerator with massive stimulus spending – a billion dollars more a week, we’ve had a constrained economy with very little immigration, actually meaningful immigration, coming into the country and we’ve had a Reserve Bank that was printing an awful amount of money for a long period of time and actually creating massive asset price inflation and has only just recently taken the foot off the accelerator on to the brake.
But you’ve still got the Government going flat out on the accelerator, the Reserve Bank’s pumping the brakes real hard and the economy’s still very constrained, so you know that’s been the reality of it and I do say it’s been huge economic mismanagement. – Christopher Luxon
I’m more convinced a year into this job, two years into this place in Parliament, that we’re totally, utterly, completely going in the wrong direction. We need a big turnaround, and we need to be able to go get things done for the New Zealand people and that’s what we’re going to work hard to do. – Christopher Luxon
There has to be a better way of improving Maori literacy than jamming it down our throats whilst mangling the English language in the process. – Wendy Geus
In the story of Harry and Meghan, we see an uncomfortable truth. Not about the royal family or the state of modern Britain – but about the state of anti-racism, a once radical movement that has been warped beyond all recognition. It has become a plaything of some of the most privileged people imaginable – a means to demonise any criticism and burnish their moral status.
Where the old anti-racism was radical, brave and fought from the bottom-up, this new ‘anti-racism’ is hectoring, pompous, even aristocratic. No wonder our prince has taken to it so effortlessly. – Tom Slater
Our monopoly soviet health system has all the wrong incentives. All the school dental nurses go on holiday because the children are not customers who have a choice. It’s the school dentist or nothing. – Richard Prebble
The country is wrapped in the red tape of costly regulations.
Government departments regard the production of new laws and regulations to be a core function. Hundreds of civil servants spent their time producing new regulations.
There is not one civil servant whose job description is to stop unnecessary regulation. – Richard Prebble
What about a Regulatory Review Department whose task is to recommend regulations that should be repealed?
Every new spending proposal cannot go to cabinet until it has a treasury report. What if every proposed new regulation had to be assessed by the Regulatory Review Department? New regulations are supposed to have a cost/benefit review. The review is done by the proposing department. The departments never say “this regulation will cost far more than any possible benefit”.
What if before a department can propose a new regulation it has to find two existing regulations to repeal? – Richard Prebble
Let me declare myself. I am an orthodox Christian who welcomes criticism and satire, even ridicule of my faith. I welcome them because they sharpen my own thinking and they give me an opportunity to talk about what I believe.
Hate speech legislation will kill so much of what I enjoy. It will coerce self-censorship and encourage me and nearly everyone else to be a hypocrite, indeed it is remarkably close to making hypocrisy compulsory. And it does that because perpetrators are infatuated by the cult of diversity, inclusion and equity (DIE) and muddled about human rights. And in that fog of muddle and infatuation there is no fresh Nor ’wester permitted to clear the air. – Bruce Logan
Understanding “self-evident” is critical. It is peculiar to Western civilisation’s belief in humanity’s connection to the transcendent. For example, our dignity and consequently understanding of freedom, which we all claim to possess, is given to us by God and not by the state.
Self-evident rights include the right to religious belief and expression, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of movement, freedom to assemble together and probably freedom to buy and sell. Once recognised they create the duty for the state to let people get on with them. Their definition does not depend on what the state says.
Then there are other “rights”; the right to education, the right to warm and dry housing, and most recently the right to be able to choose one’s gender. However, these are not rights, they are claims that must be delivered by the state and paid for by the taxpayer. – Bruce Logan
Progressives assert that hate speech legislation will enhance freedom when it will do exactly the opposite. They think that hate speech legislation will give us free “profanely sacred” choice. They assume that protecting one’s chosen identity is the self-evident good; equality for all after all. Hate speech, although without clear definition offends the Progressive’s dignity. Opposition is heretical. – Bruce Logan
Religion configures culture and for that reason it must always be open to satire and criticism. Race, ethnic or national origin are morally neutral. Hate speech legislation will give them political identity and power by default. Instead of ameliorating racism it will intensify it, identifying race or ethnicity above citizenship. Legislation censoring speech is an expansive industry because its foundation is political.
The desire for hate speech legislation in the present cultural context is deeply ironic. It is a critical tool for those who are in the process of wanting to establish a civil religion to replace a de-Christianised morality. Its focus is to place the new identity culture beyond criticism.
The irony is implicit because the progressive notion of human dignity is parasitic. Dignity, for the progressive, rests on a tautology. I have dignity because I’m human; I’m human therefore I have dignity. – Bruce Logan
Faith in the authoritarian state’s declaration of dignity replaces the freedom we enjoy and taught to us by the biblical notion of dignity. Hate speech legislation is simply an alternative way for the state to say that truth and consequently freedom begins and ends here. It is a necessary step in the development of a civil religion to reinforce the cult of “Diversity and Inclusion”.
The consequence is to make criticism of the rising civil religion too dangerous. We already have its avant-garde entrenching the cancel culture of its shock troops in the universities, media and virtue signalling commerce. In the wake of hate speech legislation dissenting debate will become impossible for everyone, but especially for a Christian whose understanding of dignity and morality absolutely confronts the progressive underpinning of the civil religion. – Bruce Logan
We live in an age of suspicion to a degree that I don’t remember from my youth—though I admit that my memory is fallible, and I may be mistaken in this. Perhaps we are no more suspicious of the motives of those with whom we disagree than ever we were, and we always thought that those who disagreed with us were not merely wrong, but evil.
Whatever the case may be, it’s now difficult to discuss anything contentious without the discussion swiftly descending into an examination of the motives of the opponents, as if the truth of what anyone said were dependent on his reasons for saying it: reasons which are themselves usually a matter of conjecture rather than of ascertainable truth.
I doubt that anyone is, or has ever been, entirely free from the temptation to resort to the ad hominem in argument, but name-calling is now a pervasive rhetorical device, especially in discussion of whatever touches on cherished political beliefs but which, on the face of it, should be a matter of objective fact rather than political viewpoint. – Theodore Dalrymple
One suspects that it’s belief that determines the evidence rather than the evidence that determines belief. – Theodore Dalrymple
Once motives rather than evidence and argument are made the focus of disagreement, one enters a labyrinth from which exit is rare. – Theodore Dalrymple
What is true today may be false tomorrow, without anyone having committed an error, let alone fraud. Human psychology isn’t like the trajectory of a planet, which is a natural fact unaffected by observation: it’s reflexive. For example, how I react to something depends on my expectations, and my expectations depend on a very complex number of factors. But psychology as a study seems often to treat the human mind as if it were the solar system, to all intents and purposes unchanging. – Theodore Dalrymple
The end can sometimes justify the means, but often it can’t: it all depends. And what it depends on is that great intangible, judgment. Most people prefer absolutely clear-cut principles that they think can assure them in advance of always being right, whereas judgment, being variable and uncertain, will often lead them into error or wickedness. Nevertheless, life requires judgment and not just principle. – Theodore Dalrymple
What has really happened is that belief in biological sex has been redefined as bigotry. Standing up for women’s sex-based rights has been rebranded as transphobia. So Rowling’s perfectly normal views, which are likely shared by most people out there, can be talked about as hate crimes when they are nothing of the kind.
This is deeply authoritarian too, this cynical repackaging of dissent as ‘phobia’. Let’s not forget what a phobia is — a malady of the mind, an irrational way of thinking. This echoes Stalin’s antics too, when problematic people were likewise written off as mad and consumed by spite. Rowling has nothing to be ashamed of, but her intolerant erasers do. – Brendan O’Neill
It must be discombobulating for those, here and in China, or even say Victoria or Western Australia, who fully accepted their government’s then-line that there was no cost too high in the pursuit of zero Covid, to experiencing the current position of those same governments. I know the likes of Michael Baker finds it very confusing.
To the rest of us, it proves one thing. The management of Covid-19, particularly once vaccines were available, was as much a political decision as anything else. Politicians were fond of declaring they were just following the science, but they weren’t especially.
The science didn’t change that much. What changed was the political calculus. Once it was clear that scaring the bejesus out of people and locking them down was no longer politically profitable, politicians quickly moved on to playing down the virus and normalising it.
All this underlines that there wasn’t only one way of doing things. We had choices, particularly once vaccines became available in early 2021. And particularly in this country the second half of 2021 could have been very different if alternative but equally valid political choices had been made to those that were. – Steven Joyce
There are those of course who think we should forget about going over the entrails of the Covid response. They think it is pointless to look in the rearview mirror. Except that it isn’t the rearview mirror.
We are still living with the impact of the decisions made during the pandemic and the huge financial cost of those will be with us for years to come. The billions lost through quantitative easing could have bought a bunch of new hospitals or paid for a fair few water pipes.
The decision, unique to New Zealand, to shut down massive transport projects during lockdowns has now likely cost billions of dollars and years in delays, as reported just prior to Christmas. The massive fiscal burden has only been reduced by an inflation-driven rise in the tax take, which adds to the cost of living squeeze on kiwi families.
And then there is the human toll. There seems little doubt that some of the anti-social behaviour we are seeing and our falling education performance are a result of people being told that what society previously signalled was important didn’t turn out to be so important during that long 2021 lockdown – like going to school.
In bestowing a knighthood on the Director-General of Health so quickly, the government appears to have already passed judgement on its own performance. The rest of us should be more thoughtful. As our changing attitude to Covid risk in the last year shows, it is possible to make different choices with fewer long-term costs in calmer, more rational times. This, surely, is a lesson we should take from the last two years. – Steven Joyce
Stanford University has published, to much-deserved derision, a kind of index of prohibited words, that is to say words that could possibly cause anyone, even animals, distress. Of course, if you treat people as eggshells, eggshells is what they will become, especially if they derive some kind of benefit, financial or other, from their fragility.
The university has almost as many administrators as students, in the way that the Bolivian navy had admirals; and in the absences of any other or higher purpose, administrators do not administer, they manufacture administration. They do so both to give themselves things to do and, if possible, to create a need for even more of their kind. A director of something or other soon needs a deputy director; he or she then needs an assistant deputy director, and he or she needs a personal assistant who will soon be so overwhelmed by work that he or she will need a deputy also. And all this, of course, requires the hard work of the human resources department, to ensure that the appointed persons are demographically representative of the general population—only more so, some groups needing special protection like endangered species.
One can just imagine the very hard work, so-called, by the committee that produced the list of prohibited words—breakfast meetings, hastily snatched lunches, and so forth, all to convince them that they were engaged upon something worthwhile and important. In the modern managerial world, no distinction is drawn, alas, between activity and work. – Theodore Dalrymple
Every day the language policing gets more and more ludicrous, but this example, from the School of Social Work of the University of Southern California, takes the cake. I can no longer say that “my field is evolutionary biology” because that is racist language. The connection, as outlined in the official letter below from the USC group, is that enslaved people went “into the field” in the antebellum South. That makes the word “field” off limits. But farmers were going into the field long before that!
Now the recommended verbiage is “my practicum is evolutionary biology.” At that point people will say “Whaaaat???” And, as several readers note below, the words “field work” for biologists is also unacceptable; I suppose the alternative is “ecological work in the great outdoors”. – Jerry Coyne
The thing that strikes me is that someone had to see the world “field” as racist, and then take action to expunge it from USC’s language. You have to be sniffing around very hard for offense to do something like that. And I suspect that their goal, in fact, isn’t any of the ones they state, but simply to assert power. How bizarre that these initiatives actually work in today’s America! – Jerry Coyne
There are good cases to be made for changing some language, but this isn’t one of them. – Jerry Coyne
I could not do now, the sort of jobs I’ve done in the past because New Zealand has become so prissy and so specific. I hate the term woke, but there’s an element of truth to it. I just wouldn’t bow down to that now. I’m just a bloke and I’m just calling it as I see it. – Paul Henry
You can avoid saying anything that may vaguely upset anyone, but then what you’re doing is avoiding saying anything at all — and you’re just becoming another script reader. – Paul Henry
Seriously, people, I get no pleasure from calling out wokeness (even using that word gets me excoriated), for along with that comes opprobrium from the ideologically pure. Even worse: I feel awful that academia, and especially biology, is being distorted and corrupted by ideologues.
One of the examples I used at the Stanford free-speech conference was the inability of people to recognize that, biologically, there are only two sexes in humans. Just two. In our species sex is effectively binary, with only a tiny handful of people who are “intersex” (these exceptions constitute about 0.018% of the species, or about one person in 5600). Sex is not gender, for the latter is a true social construct because there are far more sex roles or sexual identities than two, although even gender is bimodal, with most people identifying as traditional male or female. A frequency plot of sex would look like two huge lines, each about 50% of the population, with one of the lines at “male” and the other at “female”, and a few almost invisible blips between those lines. A frequency distribution of gender would look more like a bactrian (the two-humped camel), with more intermediates. But the humps would be high. – Jerry Coyne
I believed it was self-evident that sexual dimorphism lies at the heart of female oppression, and that it is the foundation for feminism — yet it is now controversial to claim that the oppression of women is sex-based. It contradicts the idea that women are not oppressed because they are female (many now consider it neither necessary nor sufficient to be female to be a woman) but on the basis of an internal gender identity. I have never understood how such oppression could work but felt that saying so would cause pain. So I remained silent and continued to read New Scientist, sure that the truth would clarify the conversation and heal the hurt.
Unfortunately, “the truth” has done no such thing, and New Scientist is no longer the safe haven it once was. I did not realise how much of my sanity relied on its recognition of the existence and importance of two sexes in humans until articles began to appear which seemed to deny this entirely. – Octavia Sheepshanks
After reading one article in which miscarried male foetuses were given a sex (“boys”) but the women who had suffered miscarriages were not (“pregnant people”) I wrote a long and passionate letter to the editor about how it had made me feel (not good). I received no reply, and I began to wonder if my strong belief in the significance of sexual dimorphism in humans was inaccurate and hateful after all. This was the most popular weekly science publication in the world, and it was reporting science as it was. I must be the problem.
Then I encountered the most befuddling article yet. A new form of contraception “for people” had been discovered. After a minor brain adjustment, I established from the sentence “a gel that is applied inside the vagina has been shown to block sperm injected into female sheep”, that this was a new contraception for women. The article was so strange to read that I sought out the original journal article to witness this bizarre wording in situ. When I read the first sentence of the abstract, “Many women would prefer a nonhormonal, on-demand contraceptive that does not have the side effects of existing methods”, I was astonished. Science had not changed; New Scientist had. It had lied to me. (Gaslighting is an overused accusation but resonates here. I intend to avoid one-sided love affairs with magazines in future.) – Octavia Sheepshanks
There is nothing trans-inclusive about pretending humans are a hermaphroditic species. If we were, trans people wouldn’t exist. Perhaps New Scientist, if it wants to include trans people in future(for example, trans men in a study on female contraception) could do so by writing about them? Just a suggestion! Accuracy does not have to mean using the words “women” and “men” — “males” and “females” would include those with all gender identities, including non-binary people.
The alteration of scientific studies to avoid naming the demographic previously known as “women” has serious consequences for anyone female. – Octavia Sheepshanks
Miscarried male foetuses are given a sex and make it into the headline, but the only mention of the women suffering these miscarriages is indirect: “stressful events may activate non-conscious evolved mechanisms in pregnant people to spontaneously abort fetuses that have less chance of thriving in tough environments”.
Presumably, anyone female has these “non-conscious evolved mechanisms” if they exist. – Octavia Sheepshanks
I look forward to a day when I have a place to read about the physical and social implications of research into women’s bodies and health, without limitation. In the meantime, I note that New Scientist remains happy to acknowledge gonochorism in other animals; it recently rejoiced over a study of female robins that discredited the sexist theory that only male robins sing. Maybe I’ll support the liberation of female songbirds until I can read about my own species. In fact, if there’s a rally for feminist robins, I’ll be there with a placard the size of my thumbnail, desperately seeking a new safe haven of sanity. – Octavia Sheepshanks
The respectful compromise would be to introduce a form of legal self-identification for gender identity for trans people while clarifying that this does not change someone’s sex for the purposes of the Equality Act. A clear distinction between gender identity and biological sex in law would balance the legitimate rights of trans people and those of women, protecting both groups against discrimination but establishing beyond doubt that it is lawful to provide female-only services for women as a matter of privacy, dignity and safety. But in Scotland and Westminster, self-described progressive politicians have proved too gutless to advocate balance and compromise. It is marginalised women – in prison, in domestic abuse services, and who require intimate care as a result of disability – who will bear the consequences of their cowardice. – The Observer
Harry and Meghan have gone to the right place. America laps up the celebrity milk that curdles in British stomachs, and the milk they are providing is perfectly flavoured for contemporary taste – sappy, vulnerable victimhood coupled with humourless ultra-sensitivity to the slightest reference to race.
This phase of public puritanism is relatively recent and the older royals will have made jokes they would not make today. Harry and Meghan are milking the zeitgeist for all it is worth in the celebrity market and they are making a fortune. – John Roughan
Is that how this Shakespearean tragedy ends, with a boring Duke and a botoxed Duchess living out their days in California while the British monarchy, modernized by Charles III, celebrates the enduring reign of William V and looks forward to George VII? Possibly. – John Roughan
The dying Stuff fleet of newspapers, purchased for the excessive price of one dollar and now fighting for survival, willingly prostituted itself to the government bribe in return for the taxpayer’s unwitting subsidy in numerous different forms, but mainly ridiculously unnecessary full-page government Department advertising and bogus news stories reflecting government policy. The government did this on the pretence of helping sustain the print media but in fact solely to sustain their own political support. Thus the Herald’s competent cartoonists during the disgraceful bribery time were pretty much confined to non-political topics, albeit no longer. Stuff on the other hand, couldn’t afford cartoonists and run ridiculously pointless humourless efforts that have absolutely nothing to say. – Sir Bob Jones
The buying of the print media, so cleverly summed up by Garrick’s cartoon, was nothing less than political corruption of a scale hitherto unknown in New Zealand. – Sir Bob Jones
Since Labour’s arrival in power in 2017 many billions of dollars have been spent on major infrastructure projects. The Government’s Wellbeing Budget 2022 advises it plans to spend a further $61.9 billion on infrastructure investment over the next five years.
In spite of Cabinet directions that Treasury should provide Cabinet regular reports on the performance of all significant investments, not a single major projects performance report has been provided by Treasury or reviewed by Cabinet in the last five years.
According to Treasury’s website, reporting on the performance of major government projects was discontinued in 2017 “due to changes in ministerial priorities.” The verbal version of this provided to us in 2020 was “Ministers have no appetite for this type of report”.
These reports are not supposed to be optional though, for Ministers to decide whether they want them or not. The reports provide important performance mitigation and public accountability functions. – Grant Avery
Large infrastructure projects are notoriously poor performers. The average government infrastructure project globally runs over budget by 40% and projects in New Zealand have been found in a high-profile performance survey to under-deliver their promised benefits by more than 50%.
Transparent reporting on the performance of projects is widely known to mitigate these issues.
Why are Treasury not complying with Cabinet’s directions on investment performance reporting? Why is Government not demanding this accountability? And why is the Auditor General not holding Treasury and Government to account for the absence of these reports? – Grant Avery
I was very, very resolute in what I wanted to do with my life and my career, to the point that the school called in various counsellors and my parents to have a meeting because they thought that, my aspirations were thoroughly unachievable and I should go and work at Tiwai Aluminium Smelter as fitter turner, because I was good with my hands – Peter Beck
I wanted to be able to build the rockets, because there was no way I could go to university and learn how to build rockets, and the engine bolting systems and construction systems and all those kinds of things. –
I figured the best way would be to have the hand skills to do that first. So that’s what I went and did. I ultimately ended up at Industrial Research, which is now Callaghan Innovation or the old DSIR. –
Engineering is cool, but the thing I like about space the most is just the sheer impact you can have on so many people.
“If you build a bridge in a city, the people use that bridge, and it obviously has a tremendous impact on that population group.
“But the wonderful thing about space is you can put literally a little box of electronics on orbit, and it can affect millions, tens of millions, even billions of people, whether it’s providing communication services or weather services or imagery, or whatever. – Peter Beck
I’m very sensitive to aesthetics. So if you look at Rocket Lab, whether it be launch vehicles or any kind of branding or materials, we really care about … we have a saying here, ‘we make beautiful things’….whether it be a rocket or spreadsheet. That’s one of the key elements of the success of the company and the reason why our stuff works, we take the time to make it functional, but also beautiful. – Peter Beck
I have tremendous admiration for an astronaut. I know every nut and bolt there is on the launch vehicle and I also know the risks with space flight, there’s not a lot of margin in the vehicle. And it takes tremendous courage.
When you know too much about something, then it depletes your courage. So, I would be the worst astronaut you can imagine. I’d be looking for wires on every single bolt.
Astronauts just have this amazing ability to turn all that off, focus on the mission at hand, and go and execute it. Some of us are made to do that, some of us aren’t – I’m not. – Peter Beck
In New Zealand … we don’t tend to think big enough. If you’re going to go and do something, it’s no more painful to do something really big than it is to do something really small.
If you’re building a company, you might as well just go and do the really big thing, and just go for it. And if it all doesn’t work, then well at least you had a crack and no harm, no foul.
So choose the thing that you’re really passionate about, then make it big are the pieces of advice that I would give to people.
You’re on this planet for an excruciatingly short amount of time. Choose something that you want to do, and something that you believe is going to have an impact.
At the end of the day … the question that ultimately you reflect back on is ‘well, what did I get done? What did I do with my life? What impact did I have?’
And nobody ever measures impact by the size of their house, or what kind of flashy car they’ve got or anything like that. The true way to measure impact is ‘what did I do for the world?’
Following your passion, and keeping that as a North Star is what I always challenge everybody to do, because ultimately that’s how you define how successful your time on this planet was. – Peter Beck
If a law is objectively evil, but backed by the majority, then the law cannot be questioned. Democracy grants legitimacy to the whims of the majority.
How this plays out in the United States is best answered by those who have a deeper understanding than some itinerant tourist, but in our own land the tyranny of the majority remains a central challenge to those who believe in the sovereignty of the individual. – Damien Grant
A king, de Tocqueville writes, only has physical power, but the majority has both the force and the power of morality to enforce its will on the minority.
He saw the perils of democracy. Sadly, we have perfected them. – Damien Grant
I really don’t have a lot of stomach for this. Most Māori are working and law-abiding like most non-Māori and the constant racial identification of people only feeds resentment and division.
BUT if the Prime Minister wants to crow about what she has achieved for Māori let’s look at what she hasn’t achieved for Māori. – Lindsay Mitchell
If this is the Prime Minister’s idea of achieving for Māori, then she is even more self-delusional than I’d previously entertained.
And if she is returned on this record then we are all deeply in trouble. All of us together. – Lindsay Mitchell
So perhaps New Zealand should adopt its own astrology calendar and make it the Year of the Farmer, a year-long — and beyond — celebration of the country’s food-producing champions. – Sally Rae
Let us not forget what side our bread is buttered on and how it was farming — not our previously greatly-lauded tourism sector — which kept the economy ticking through the global uncertainty and disruption of Covid. – Sally Rae
As well as a celebration of our food producers, may 2023 bring more co-operation, collaboration, communication and common bloody sense when it comes to the relationship between the Government and our rural sector.
2022 was another year of angst and frustration for farming folk, with more protests organised by farming advocacy group Groundswell New Zealand, in response to the raft of regulations. – Sally Rae
Solutions require collaboration — carrots, not canes — and regulations must be achievable, and involve proper consultation, proposals not solely dreamed up by city-based bureaucrats who have never set their squeaky-clean feet on a rural property and do not know a Hereford from a hogget.
Some recognition from the Beehive of the importance of the sector and acknowledgement of the hard mahi that goes on daily in the milking sheds, sheep yards, grain fields and processing plants around the country would not go astray.
Pride must be restored in being a farmer, otherwise there will be no incentive for the next generation — or even some of the current generation — to farm the land.
The urban sprawl — and a plethora of pine trees — will continue on some of the world’s best food-producing soils and New Zealand will be much the poorer for it, increasingly importing products from countries with far less stringent animal welfare controls. – Sally Rae
So bugger the bunny. Let’s make 2023 the Year of the Farmer; remember synthetic is just a fancy word for plastic, so clothe your families and clad your homes in natural, sustainable products, and support — and salute — your local food producers who are outstanding in their field year-round. Literally. – Sally Rae