Fingers in paints, in paints we brought… It’s Human Rights Day! Let’s celebrate, Australia!

It’s been 69 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Australia does not really celebrate its involvement in the creation of the Declaration.  William Hodgson is all but unknown to most Australians.  I’ve sometimes wondered why Australians aren’t taught about the role we’ve played on the global stage — some kind of cultural cringe, maybe.  Hodgson was on the drafting committee that was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and Doc Evatt was the President of the United Nations General Assembly at the time of its adoption.

Even detractors of the Declaration have to recognise its importance.  In the period immediately following the Second World War, there was a desperate need to recognise a universal humanity that would provide a moral basis to international law.  And the document reflects the aspirations of elites at the time.

But good intentions only get you so far.  International Human Rights Day is a good opportunity to be intellectually serious about human rights as a moral and a legal concept, and to defend Australia’s approach to the legal recognition of human rights.

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Got a big plan, this mindset maybe its right… the Politics of Mindfulness

Focus on your breath.  In and out.  Be genuinely curious about your breath.  Your mind is like a puppy.  It will wander and you will gently pick it up and place it back on the mat.  Focus on your breath.  Focus on your breath.  Return to the present moment.  Mindfulness might be able to cure AIDS.

Mindfulness is a meditative practice for white people who are disconnected from culture and meaning.  For a few minutes per day, you can indulge your current experiences by focusing your attention on yourself.  Be curious about yourself.  Notice yourself.  But do it uncritically.  Einstein maybe did the same thing.

It’s important to know that there are Studies.  You might not be able to understand the Studies, but they definitely exist.  And they’re definitely good Studies.  And there is definitely no evidence against spending money on mindfulness retreats.

The focus on the self as an atomic, self-formed object has clearly resulted in its adoption by two very different groups.  The New Age, anti-authoritarians on the one side, and executive management types on the other.  For all its claims to being scientific, mindfulness is an inherently political practice and it should be critiqued as such.

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A bunch of stereotypes all in my head… No votes and the Stolen Generation

‘Every child deserves a mum and a dad.’  ‘Every child has a right to their biological parents.’ ‘What about the children?’  ‘What about the rights of the child?’

I kept hearing this rhetoric repeated again and again by the No campaign.  Biological family was inalienable, a birthright with which the State should not interfere, an entitlement beyond the reach of social engineering.

Even as a conservative myself, I find this position a bit basic.  It’s certainly not historically how our society has operated.  For all the dodgy studies trying to convince us that there is something essential that a person gets through a relationship with a biological mother and biological father, there is the obvious preference that people have stability and certainty.  People will love each other and bring children into their family units; it would be preferable that this unit be as stable as possible regardless of the gendered accidents of the people involved.

Australia has not had the greatest history of protecting families.  Even recently, rules have changed on family visas making it harder to reunite families in Australia.

But perhaps the worst example of this attitude towards families was the genocidal attack on Australia’s Indigenous culture through what would become known as the Stolen Generations.  For all this rhetoric about the need to preserve family units, we should expect that the loudest voices behind the No campaign are also the most outspoken about the atrocity of forcibly destroying family units.

Lol no.

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Quick Post: A note on translation and procrastination

Procrastination, gentle reader, makes me productive in every way except the ways in which I ought to be.

I’m not joking.  I have three books that I need to read by tomorrow, an essay with a deadline that is rapidly approaching, a stack of audio that I should edit, I need to clean out my bedroom, and a shortlist of job applications I need to submit… but the weather is inviting, and there’s a nice cafe down the road, and I have three new books that I’d like to pour over, and there are some movies I’d like to watch at the cinema.  I want to write short stories and then delete them so that nobody can see how bad they are.  I bought some letter paper a few weeks ago, but it’s too large for writing letters, so I might draw on those instead.  And I love reading essays.  I want to be a better essayist, but I keep succumbing to the self-doubt that I’m dull and turgid.  Maybe I’m the only person left who still gets excited by essays.  I want to print out old literary essays on cheap pamphlet paper and slip them into friends’ letter boxes, leave them on colleagues’ desks, tuck them into books at the library for complete strangers to discover.

Of course, I’m not actually going to do this because I haven’t completely lost my biscuits yet.

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I stay alone, skipped a stone, from the known to the unknown… It’s hard to be right wing, let me tell you, Internets

It’s scary to be conservative during the marriage debate in Australia, Internet.  At any time, without warning, somebody could jump out of the bushes and cover us with glitter.  It’s a horrifying thought and I live in constant fear.

And the ridicule!  I dare not express any opinion that contradicts the completely unreasonable belief that people ought not to be subject to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.  If a doctor expresses the belief that gay patients should be subject to conversion therapy, who knows what the Left might do?  Perhaps they might report this act to the authorities for being a breach of professional standards?  Who can know?

Clearly, every conservative now lives in fear of ridicule and humiliation.  It’s completely unfair.  It’s completely unbalanced.  Sure, the Left lives in fear that we will literally kill them — either by running them down with cars or by stripping them of healthcare and food — but there can be no justification for political discrimination.

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Are we dreaming the same dream? Of money, guns, and gasoline?… Centrism and the Media

Quand une guerre éclate, les gens disent : « Ça ne durera pas, c’est trop bête. » Et sans doute une guerre est certainement trop bête, mais cela ne l’empêche pas de durer. La bêtise insiste toujours.

When a war breaks out, people say: ‘It won’t last – it is too stupid!’ And, of course, war certainly is too stupid, but that does not prevent it from lasting. Stupidity always insists.

(Camus, La Peste, 1947)

I don’t believe that the current world is significantly worse than any other period in history.  As a conservative, I always think that we are in some kind of degenerate state but I don’t believe that this degenerate state is worse than any other.

The churn in Western democracies at the moment is questioning a lot of wisdom which we have not, on a grand scale, questioned for a while.  We have a moment to reexamine the received wisdom that many people — far too many — accept entirely without challenge.  We have intuitions about democracy, freedom of speech, and liberty that, on closer reflection, do little but support tired power structures in society.  And I say this from the conservative end of politics, reflecting on the incredible expansion of the market that has filled the void where traditional state authority used to be.

But it is rare that so many people are invited and encouraged to challenge liberalism, centrism, and even democracy to engage in a discussion about what sort of a society we want and how we can go about realising that society.

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Quick Post: Historicity of Jesus

The Guardian published an article by Simon Gathercole about whether there was an historical Jesus.  The article is depressingly terrible and it’s annoyed me for a full day.

We should start with who Gathercole is.  He is an outstanding theologian who is pushing the development of several areas of inquiry about early Christianity.  When we talk about wanting Richard Dawkins to engage with serious theology, we’re talking about people like Gathercole.

But that doesn’t mean Gathercole isn’t sometimes afflicted by bouts of sloppy thinking, as evidenced by the Guardian article.

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