REVIEW: Kim Carr, A Letter to Generation Next: Why Labor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASean Jacobs reviews Kim Carr’s, A Letter to Generation Next: Why Labor, Melbourne University Press, 2013:

Australian Senator Kim Carr’s A Letter to Generation Next: Why Labor is a rare addition the shallow pool of books encouraging young Australians to be more involved in politics. Carr – a federal Senator for Victoria since 1993 – clearly sees much more of a role for government in his appeal for the next generation to join the Australian Labor Party’s cause.

The role of government, Carr recalls in George Black’s words from the New South Wales Chamber in 1891, is to ‘make and unmake social conditions.’ The barometer of progress within these pages is not individual enterprise but the state – ‘intervening’, ‘meddling’, ‘agitating’ and challenging ‘the entrenched conservatism in Australian politics.’

Carr’s appetite for the redistribution of wealth is undisguised, alongside a distrust of capitalism and a desire to pummel the status quo. Driving these views is a deep attachment to social democratic instincts that; are interventionist and not utopian; respects the power of science and technology (to harness for social and economic innovation); rejects nostalgia and scaremongering; and challenges privilege and inequality.

Appealing to young Australians to be more involved in the political process is commendable. But the interventionist recruitment theme does little to attract younger Australians who see sense in the cultural maintenance of Australia’s institutions, or view politics as more than simply an exercise in redistribution.

Additionally, for an instinctively liberal younger generation, doused by consumer and career options, a run at politics is unlikely on the cards. So when Carr writes that ‘Australia needs more agitators meddling and interfering with the status quo,’ and then asks, ‘Are you up for the job?’ many young Aussie hands are likely to stay down.

A fundamental question to ask is why the loathing of the status quo? As a western liberal democracy, Australia has clearly prospered over its relatively short history. There is certainly much to reflect sensibly and proudly upon in Australia – from a thriving Westminster system and rule of law to an opportunity society built on free enterprise. Continue reading

Journeys in a Vanishing World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASean Jacobs reviews Theodore Dalrymple’s, The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World, Monday Books, 2012:

‘The most decisive thing that’s happened in my political lifetime,’ said John Howard in a 2009 interview, ‘is the collapse of Soviet imperialism. It dwarfs anything else.’ This is significant from Howard, whose political life covers nearly half a century.

His observation, however, is lost on a generation of younger Australians. Certainly, oppressive regimes exist today but are fewer in number, while command and control economics have been trounced by liberal market capitalism and globalisation. For anyone under forty the idea of growing up on a planet of rivalling superpowers with conflicting ideologies is no doubt strange.

Tearing around New Zealand on a recent trip I found time to wade through Theodore Dalrymple’s The Wilder Shores of Marx. Dalrymple first published this back in 1991 after visiting the heights and ruins of communism in Albania, North Korea, Romania, Vietnam and Cuba. With usual wit and insight, he elucidates both the absurdity and grimness of life under the banner of Marxist-Leninism. Continue reading

Book Review: Demonic by Ann Coulter

Bill-MuehlenbergBill Muehlenberg reviews Ann Coulter's most recent book:

 Ann Coulter knows all about the culture wars. She has been involved with them for decades now. She is a seasoned warrior in these battles, and she knows very well the nature and tactics of the adversary. She has written a number of best sellers on these themes, and her newest volume offers more of the same.

Coulter is both a Christian and a conservative. Thus she is not afraid to draw upon biblical truths as she dissects the liberal mind and its radical agendas. She ties in the violent mob reactions against Jesus, based as they were on the demonic, with the way all radical leftist regimes and movements also utilise the mob for their purposes.

She draws heavily upon a 1896 volume by French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon. His book, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, was the first study on the mass mind, and the way in which mob violence operates. It provides a nice backdrop for analysing contemporary leftist coercive utopians.

Of course the grand example of leftist agitation and utilisation of the mob is the French Revolution. Coulter spends several chapters discussing it in some detail. As she correctly notes, “To understand liberals, one must understand the French Revolution.”

 

Liberals – or leftists – of today can trace their lineage straight back to the radicalism of the late eighteenth century. All the tricks of the trade we find so characteristic of today’s radical left were present in this bloody revolution. The bloodshed, violence and demonic mob activity has been chronicled plenty of times before, but Coulter offers a nice summary.

Anything associated with the old order was targeted by the mobs, but anything having to do with the church was especially focused on. Priests, nuns and lay people were massacred in large numbers, while churches were destroyed and one sacrilege after another was carried out.

Some of the gruesome descriptions of what the mobs did to ordinary men, women and children are almost too hard to stomach. Rape, torture, mutilation, and hideous forms of killing were the norm. If one had to illustrate the actions of the demonic, surely this was it. It seemed there were not enough guillotines to keep up with all the carnage and slaughter.

And all the while the crowds were cheering this on. The Jacobin program of “de-Christianization” was especially ferocious and repellent. Indeed, “the word ‘vandalisme’ had to be invented to describe” their actions as they desecrated churches, looted Christian properties, and destroyed sacred art. The revolutionaries sought to “completely destroy Christianity and replace it with a religion of the state”.

Anything associated with Christianity was open to attack. Citizens were even forced to drop their Christian names. A new Revolutionary Calendar was established, with the months renamed, and even clocks were redesigned in decimal time.

If all this sounds somewhat familiar, it should. We see the same sort of  thing happening today all over the Western world, and much of Coulter’s book is about documenting these moves by the leftwing secularists to wipe out the Christian faith and Christian morality.

She also rightly contrasts the French Revolution with the American Revolution. American history “is the exact opposite of the French Revolution and their wretched masses guillotining the aristocracy and clergy. . . . The American Revolution was a movement based on ideas, painstakingly argued by serious men in the process of creating what would become the freest, most prosperous nation in world history. The French Revolution was a revolt of the mob.”

Indeed, “it was the progenitor of the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution, Hitler’s Nazi party, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s slaughter, and America’s periodic mob uprisings.” She notes many obvious points of difference. “Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, the date our written demand for independence from Britain based on ‘Nature’s God’ was released to the world. The French celebrate Bastille Day,” a day of violence, mayhem and mob action.

The American revolutionary symbol is the Liberty Bell, while the French symbol is the “national razor” – the guillotine. The closest thing to mob action the Americans experienced was the Boston Tea Party. As Coulter reminds us, there were “no beheadings, disembowelings, or defilement of corpses – or any corpses at all”.

Her book offers case after case of leftist mob mayhem in modern day America. She looks at many keys issues in today’s culture wars, such as race relations, the economy, national security, and so on. She contrasts the conservative penchant for conserving and preserving, and the leftist addiction to radical change and destruction.

She correctly notes that “The history of liberalism consists of replacing things that work with things that sounded good on paper.” Indeed, “Liberals never bother to ask whether there might have been a reason for a thousand-years-old convention such as marriage. They don’t care. Their approach is to rip out society’s foundations without considering whether they serve any purpose.”

As with all of Coulter’s writings, her latest book is a grab-bag of memorable quotes. One really hates to describe what she is writing about, and instead simply offer plentiful quotes. Here are a few more: “Liberals are constantly pushing for the Rousseauian approach to governance in defiance of our history and Constitution. They not only believe there is a ‘general will,’ they are sure their policies express it. Instead of allowing ordinary people to have more control over their lives, Democrats produce inflexible, universal plans, sublimely confident of their ability to build a perfect system.”

Free speech is certainly under attack from the lefties: “Liberals supported free speech until they realized, years later, how bad speech is for them and began demanding hate crimes legislation, speech codes, and sexual harassment laws restricting speech.”

Moreover, “Following their totalitarian forebears, liberals went from punishing acts to punishing thoughts and motives in the blink of an eye. In lieu of class crimes and counterrevolutionaries, American liberals have given us ‘hate crimes,’ ‘disparate impact’ rules, ‘sexists,’ and ‘bigots.’ Acts are irrelevant; your motives are on trial. You are presumed guilty and acquittals are rare.”

Much more can be said about – and quoted from in – this invaluable new book. Once again Coulter takes no prisoners as she dissects the foolishness – indeed, dangerousness – of the radical left. With razor-sharp insight and humour she does an admirable job of showing us why the radical left agenda should be avoided like the plague.

Along with Mark Steyn, Ann Coulter is probably the best conservative writer on the scene today. Anything she writes is gold, and is well worth getting, digesting and passing on. Three cheers for Ann Coulter.

Bill Muehlenberg is a Melbourne based author who lectures part time in ethics, theology and philosophy. He has an interactive blogsite called CultureWatch http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/

Book Review: The Forgotten People

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Charles Everist reviews the newly-republished The Forgotten People,  first published in 1943, that brought together the a series of Menzies' radio broadcasts:

The Victorian Division of the Liberal Party now sheds light on our forgotten Prime Minister and the forgotten people he stood up for.

Sir Robert Menzies famously spoke about the ‘forgotten people’ of Australia. Who would have believed the towering figure over twentieth century Australian politics, would himself be far from today’s minds.

After reading through this latest work, I felt immediately compelled to share the importance and current relevance of Menzies’ most famous composition. The relevance today is exemplified by Tony Abbott revisiting the spirit of The Forgotten People in the face of economic planning, a philosophical opposition to liberal and conservative thought, as too the social hindrances young and old continue to face.

The Forgotten People and Other Studies in Democracy, first published in 1943 brought together the series of weekly radio broadcasts that Menzies delivered set against the backdrop of an Australia at war in 1942. The broadcasts explored the principles upon which a post-war Australia needed to be constructed and are today seen as the foremost statements of Australian liberal philosophy. Whilst many of his speeches focussed upon the demands faced by his country in the face of a global conflict, many of the subjects Menzies elucidated still are relevant to a modern society. Freedom of speech, worship, fear, problems of censorship, alcohol, the function of the opposition and government, education, the law and the importance of cheerfulness, all are issues that have carried forward to this day and into the future.

The problems that alcohol brought in the 1940s have morphed into a frightful and repulsive use of drugs amongst my own cohort, who have a falsified belief that they have no where better to spend their money. The pressures faced by university students, faced with expensive and protracted costs were something that Menzies long did seek to abolish and would no doubt be horrified to see happening years after his administration. Moreover, we are constantly more and more aware of the grief and exhaustion that depression begets our families, something that Menzies warned long before Patrick McGaury.

The republished issue of Menzies’ works, launched at the Victorian Liberal State Council and available through the party, features an introductory essay written by David Kemp and a forward given by Sir Robert’s daughter, Heather Henderson. Together they highlight the insignificance of uninformed criticisms of Menzies as well as the reformulation for present generations of “what the Liberal Party stands for and why”. Kemp remarks that the time has come “to assert the positive case for Menzies’ achievements against the continuing efforts of his philosophical opponents to diminish him”. The essay delves into Menzies’ leadership during the war as Prime Minister and whilst in opposition, the forces behind his resignation, his ideologies as opposed to Alfred Deakin’s and the establishment a new party to “revive liberal thought”.

Interdispersed amongst the pages is a collection of photos of Menzies throughout his public life and many more belonging to the Menzies family private collection. Images of his meetings with powerful leaders such as Churchill and JFK are interestingly contrasted against the gentle portraits of himself and Australia’s children as well as his own children and grandchildren. The most poignant image of the lot would have to be that of Sir Robert with two Aboriginal children at Weipa in 1958. Sitting down, the children are resting on his lap, his face gentle and caring, and his arms hugging their sides. Yet both children have an overwhelming fear stretched across their face, not of Sir Robert, but of something much deeper. Whilst he did not mention the plight of Aborigines specifically in his broadcasts, this photo serves an important reminder of his compassion to the most forgotten of all Australians.

The republishing of Menzies’ philosophical constitution has certainly instilled in me a passion for liberal designs and ideas. Menzies shows that the liberal approach was not only the best means to put right the violent struggles of his day, but those which carry through the Australian generations. This book is a must for all liberals, not just to glance over, but to digest, grasp and take Menzies’ philosophy once again to the Australian people.

Charles is a first year politics student at Melbourne University, a member of the Melbourne University Liberal Club and the Victorian Young Liberals.