28 November, 2022
In 1967, 55 years ago, a referendum was held in Australia to allow a change to the Constitution that would remove the last impediment to the recognition of our aboriginal people as full citizens. Australians are slow to accept constitutional changes: we have held 44 referenda since federation, but only eight of them returned a positive result. Yet the 1967 referendum succeeded dramatically – 90.77% voted YES. It was an extraordinary outcome. It’s a matter of lasting pride to me that I was among those 90% of the voting public who voted in favour.
Of course 1967 was the era of student revolution worldwide. Young people were in ferment. Demonstrations demanding change were frequent and often violent. Everywhere policies were changed and governments fell in response to passionate radicalism. Some will remember the old cry: ‘one two three four / we don’t want your ***ing war!’
So was the 1967 constitutional change just a consequence of youthful zeal? Of course not. A 90% YES vote can only be explained by a huge cross-generational shift in thinking. Those of us who were young at the time agreed with the shift, but we hadn’t initiated it. It was the fruit of many years of reflection, of the good intentions of a society that wanted to be just and fair.
Half a century later this has mostly been forgotten. In our modern pessimistic world few can imagine, few could even bring themselves to believe, that their grandparents actually felt strongly about the aboriginal cause. Isn’t it common knowledge that my generation were vicious racists? Hey, Whitlam didn’t even become Prime Minister till 1972! How could we have done anything half-decent before his visionary leadership woke us all up?
But the fact is that we did. And you can meet many older people (if you try) who went to school with aboriginal mates and played sport with them. They’ll often tell you now that things have changed since those times, and that mutual suspicion has gradually squeezed out friendship. The two communities are actually growing further apart, not closer together as we hoped they would. That was just a dream some of us had.
Throughout the years of my early schooling I can recall no ill will towards aboriginals. Those who taught us about them did so with respect, warmth and not a little sadness. We all knew that we had taken their land, but we also knew that, in the cities at least, their dispossession had been complete and that there was no way back – especially at a time when immigration into Australia was further enriching the mix and changing our understanding of what it meant to be Australian. From the 50s onwards ‘New Australians’ were living side by side with us, and with the oldest Australians of all; our agreed common goal was integration.
Since these exciting events two generations ago relations between the ethnic groups have actually worsened. Millions have been spent, millions have been wasted (or worse), interracial discord has grown more bitter, aboriginals continue to feel neglected, and poorer ‘white’ people are becoming increasingly resentful of financial advantages going to fellow citizens who ‘identify’ as aboriginal. Aboriginal elders are very concerned by the growing number of people who assert aboriginality on the basis of the most tenuous family links (or none at all), for they know that their whole community could suffer reputational damage from false claims.
In 1971, four years after the constitutional change, Neville Bonner became Australia’s first indigenous member of parliament. He was initially appointed to replace Queensland Senator Annabelle Rankin (who had resigned) but was subsequently elected in his own right and served for many years as a courageous voice for aboriginal rights. He was both a social conservative and a civil rights activist, a brave individualist who would cross the floor if he had to, putting principles before party loyalty.
Bonner was the first of many. There are now 10 aboriginal members of the Australian Parliament, amounting to 4.5% of the total number in both chambers. This roughly corresponds to the proportion of the population who claimed aboriginal status in the last Census. Is there really a need for an additional race-based Voice in the governance of our nation? Isn’t it now time to acknowledge that we are a multiracial society, that the blood and DNA of the all the nations on earth have been blended here? If we do finally accept that, we surely must conclude that all pensions, benefits, privileges, and grants of any kind should be dispensed solely on the basis of need, without regard to race or background.
WRITING OPINION PIECES
Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.(Ecclesiastes xii.12)
There was a time when ‘opinion pieces’ occasionally changed readers’ minds, but those days may have passed. If you finished reading what I wrote above, you probably by and large agreed with me. If not, you might have skimmed it and possibly unsubscribed as well. Fair enough I suppose. But generally, whether we’re conservatives or liberals (and I use both terms traditionally) we write for the converted, and avoid contrary opinions. I was forcefully struck by the vehemence shown towards opinions I’ve expressed in this newsletter on such things as the innocence of Cardinal Pell, the danger of Covid (relative to other, graver problems afflicting the world), the possibility that Climate Change may not turn out to be quite the existential threat it is commonly thought to be, the smug narcissism of the wealthy secular West, and the bullying tactics of The Woke. I never resort to ‘hate speech’, because I don’t hate anybody, but I have no doubt that hate would be imputed to me by some for expressing views that are contrary to the accepted narrative.
I have long suspected that Woke opinions about such things as Climate Change have taken on the nature of religious beliefs and show all the fervour of spiritual zeal. One of the indicators of this is humourlessness and a complete insensitivity to irony. One does not make jokes about religion, even secular religion, and expect to get away with it.
I conclude that opinion pieces will achieve nothing. Former Rabbi Eugenio Zolli wrote: ‘…it is not possible to pierce the mystery of the religious living, the religious conscience of another, with the sword of logic’. If that’s true, persuasion based on argument from evidence will be of no avail in changing people’s minds, for their devotion to ‘their’ subjective truth is impermeable. Do not trample on their dreams. And above all do not laugh at them. Rather the only way through, if there is a way, lies in the direction of gentle nudging, looking for such common ground that exists (often not much!), and trying to point to a better way in the manner of an ally rather than an opponent.
With best wishes to all our readers,
JOHN HALDANE SPEAKS IN HOBART
Eminent Scottish philosopher Prof John Haldane spoke on Religious art and religious understanding (an illustrated introduction to art as a medium of philosophical/theological reflection) in Hobart at 6.00 pm on Thursday 10 November.
It was a remarkably fine address, well illustrated with examples of Christian art from antiquity to modern times. The whole presentation was filmed and will be uploaded to our YouTube channel soon.
THE ACADEMIC TALIBAN ARE COMING FOR US!
Attempts to cancel the disciplined study of history rage on. This piece by Frank Furedi analyses attacks on James Sweet, President of the American Historical Association, for his reasoned and courteous opposition to ‘presentism’, the notion that history should be read backwards, and that past actions can be interpreted only by the ‘values’ of the present.
‘THE CREATIVE SPIRITUAL ENERGY OF HISTORY’
This article by Charles Klamut is nearly ten years old, but remains a powerful analysis of the thinking of Christopher Dawson on the links between Christianity and culture. The author notes that he was first inspired by Dawson through the lectures of Prof Jim Gaston, a member of our Dawson Centre advisory board!
ADVICE FOR LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Enjoy this piece from W H Auden who died in 1973 but was remarkably prescient! –
Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.
Thou shalt not be on friendly terms
With guys in advertising firms,
Nor speak with such
As read the Bible for its prose,
Nor, above all, make love to those
Who wash too much.
Thou shalt not live within thy means
Nor on plain water and raw greens.
If thou must choose
Between the chances, choose the odd;
Read The New Yorker, trust in God;
And take short views.
(Thanks to Prof Barry Spurr for this handy reference)
‘A SEX WAR IS COMING’
Have you ever heard of AWFLs – Affluent White Female Liberals? They sound like America’s answer to TEALs. This article by Mary Harrington points to an emerging crisis in human relations that may have escaped your notice so far.
‘SYNODALITY’ AND REFORM IN THE CHURCH
Larry Chapp recommends cautious assessment:
…one can readily discern which metric a putative ‘reform’ of the Church is adopting.
Is it Christocentric and cruciform thus calling us to look at all of the Church’s doctrines, disciplines, and moral norms in a contemplative stance of radical openness to that Christ, or is it a looking away from Christ, or an eclipse of Christ made invisible and occluded by a false ideology?
True reform always consists in a doubling-down on the call to sanctity and holiness. True reform always begins with a return to the saints and the Doctors of the Church. True reform points toward the Gospels and to Christ as the only true norm. True reform seeks a recuperative healing via the path of discalced holiness grounded in Christ. True reform ‘listens’ to all of the above and does not simply stick its finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
I would humbly submit to you that any synodal process in the Church that advertises itself as a ‘Church on the move’ away from stasis and toward some vague spirit of listening to the whisperings of modernity is a process that is not christologically grounded in any of the ways mentioned. It is a process instead which is grounded in a different ‘christ’ altogether.
SUMMER SCHOOLS JANUARY 2023
We are pleased to report that all our summer schools are going ahead in January. Numbers are down and we have had many requests for online classes but feel unable to accommodate them, for two principal reasons. The first is that online lecturing can only work if it is polished and professional, which demands fulltime technical support; poorly produced online chats are worse than useless. The second is that the move by institutions away from face-to-face teaching towards online teaching alone is pedagogically disastrous. We shall stick to traditional practice and hope that in the brave new world of the Great Re-set there will still be wandering scholars willing to travel to learn!
16 – 20 January
THE WESTERN TRADITION: AN OVERVIEW OF 2000 YEARS OF HISTORY, LITERATURE, PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY AND ART.
23 – 27 January
NEW TESTAMENT GREEK: AN INTENSIVE INTRODUCTORY COURSE FOR BEGINNERS.
‘The Holy Church has cultivated and kept in highest honour the source texts of this wisdom, and especially the Greek and Latin languages, as if they were a sort of golden robe clothing Wisdom itself.’ (Pope John XXIII)
9 – 13 January
MEDIEVAL AND LATER LATIN: A READING COURSE IN SACRED AND SECULAR POETRY AND PROSE FOR PEOPLE WITH SOME PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE LANGUAGE.
‘The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety. We must not hold in low esteem these traditions of our fathers which were our glory for centuries. (Pope Paul VI)
Each school extends from Monday to Friday inclusive. Bookings can be made directly by email or on Eventbrite.