On Charities (and Solicitation)

Why I’m tired of explaining I’m broke every time I go to my local station.

To charities, and those who work for them soliciting donations on the street or on the phone,

The way in which you operate is manipulative and ethically dubious. Perhaps it is effective on the gullible and the vulnerable, but the effect on nine out of ten people is to bring the institution of charitable organizations (all charitable organizations) a great deal of disrespect and disrepute. In the long run I see this leading to a decline in support and donations1.

Ostensibly you are the representatives, the public face of the charities which employ you. In practice, you are salesmen and saleswomen – a universal symbol of deceit and one of the least respected professions in our society.  Your technique is thoroughly aggressive, albeit ‘hidden’ behind a veneer of friendliness and enthusiasm stretched so tight as to be transparent. We all know the methodology – it is the same at every charity.

It first takes advantage of our social mores and innate politeness: when somebody stands directly in front of us and begins talking, we listen and respond. So you ask a series of questions which demand an answer: “how are you today?”, “Lovely! And what do you do for work?” etc., leaving no opportunity to opt out of the conversation. Of course, our social mores and innate kindness tell us that it is impolite to stand in front of somebody and begin talking: you invite them to converse. Nonetheless, now that you are standing in front of somebody, talking, their politeness will keep them there until you stop, so you make sure to leave no pauses for thirty seconds to a minute, by which time you’ve explained the dire circumstances of somebody or other, elicited their sympathy, and made them feel as though they are now in the middle of a conversation and cannot leave.

Once you stop, they might tell you that they don’t like donating to charities without first doing their research or they might tell you that they can’t actually afford it (and save you some time). But you stick to the script. Do not ask open ended questions. Do not stop talking unless you have asked a closed question’s which can only be answered “Yes” or “No” and as soon as that word leaves their mouth resume talking. And of course, ask questions which no polite person ought to say “No” to, like, “Would you like to help make children who are dying of cancer happy?”, but which have a double meaning. ‘Yes of course I would like to improve the circumstance of so-and-so’, your target answers. ‘I’m so glad you’d like to donate!’ you respond.

By now you’ve been having a “conversation” with this person for about five minutes, implied repeatedly that only a monster wouldn’t want to help and that ‘helping’ means ‘donating’, and prompted them to agree to the explicit and obvious meaning whilst reluctantly conceding you the implicit and not at all obvious meaning. I assume they usually donate, once you’ve got them this far.

This is obviously problematic, incredibly rude, and doubly so for being delivered with the unwavering smile of a used-car-salesmen (which by the 20th or 30th backpacker who stops you to talk about homelessness or disease begins to look like the grin of a hyena). But that’s not the real problem. The problem is how this changes the public’s relationship to charity, and how it changes the way we donate to charity. The fact is that this essentially randomizes people’s donations – they go to whichever organization is being represented by the huckster who hoodwinks them. It should go to the organization which they believe to be the most effective or whose cause they care the most about.

People should take time to research charities, find out if they’re effective, find out where the money goes, and donate accordingly, not just cornered on the street and talked at until they cave and hand over their credit card details.

There is a government commission responsible for keeping data on Not-For-Profits and charities but it’s not super user friendly, and I would like to see a straight-forward overview of major charities analyzed by multiple factors. I’d like to know more about the five or six charities I regularly get stopped by at my local station.

 

Footnotes:
1. It may be that a lack of or decline in donations was the motivation for this to begin with. I do not know how we have come to be in this situation. Perhaps you have been forced to take these actions to avoid extinction. If somebody could enlighten me I’d be happy to listen.

Viva la Resistance

Last night I dreamt that the police were massacring people in the streets and I fled to the safety of some dive bar. The words of a grieving mother in America struck a chord with me today: “Once I bury this baby, I’m ready…This means war.” I have asked myself so many times, just when will we be ready to fight back? As peaceful people, we’re obviously hesitant to declare war, but the cold hard truth of the matter is that the war is already in full-swing. It’s not for us to declare. All that’s left to us is defence.

As a man of peace, I will continue to agitate for a cease-fire. But as a man of ethics, when peaceful people are being abused by the authorities, my duty is most certainly not to the letter of the law.

6,000 are dead in the Philippines, as President Duterte continues to encourage a genocide against drug users. In America, the police take and innocent life every day, and yet the popular backlash is apparently against ‘political correctness’. I feel unwell.

The terrible irony, everywhere, is that good people are forever hesitant to spill blood, no matter how many casualties they suffer. But the morally corrupt kill without mercy.

Extraordinary situations sometimes call for extraordinary reactions. That the most powerful governments in the Western world have declared war on drug users is an extraordinary circumstance. That the police in the United States regularly commit cold blooded murder, that they often get away with it, that coloured people have real cause to fear for their lives when interacting with police is an extraordinary circumstance. These circumstances demand action. They require organized resistance and they require that the resistance be intelligent and effective.

The fact is, police are not special. They do not have any right to behave as they do, arresting peaceful people, harassing civilians. The fact is that civilians are justified in using force against police if they’re endangering lives, in the same way police use force when a civilian is endangering lives. They’re just people, and a shiny badge doesn’t entitle them to act like thugs and it doesn’t make them untouchable. For whatever reason, this is a fact that is difficult for people, but it is an important fact. People need to unlearn the police worship they long ago internalized.

I take no pleasure in taking this stance. When I was 15 there might have been some appeal to being ‘radical’, but adults should understand that the word radical is relative. Sanity is radical in an insane world. Everything I’ve written here is perfectly reasonable; it’s the context which is radical, radically unjust.

I suppose I’m just trying to put some thoughts down on paper, here. I’ll turn this into a longer and more lucid piece in the coming weeks.

I’ll leave you with just a couple of thoughts…

To my Australian readers: please treat people who are struggling with addiction with the kindness and respect they deserve.

And to anybody who uses drugs in the Philippines: arm yourself to the teeth. Your body, your mind, your life, these are yours. Don’t let anybody take them from you.

Peace.

PC Thugs and Whatnot

I’m going to clarify a couple of things very quickly and simply before I offer a more in depth analysis. If you’ve been reading my stuff over the last year or so, you might have noticed that the subject is very often discourse itself. Importantly, when I write about the discourse of a particular issue, my primary interest is in how the conversation is being conducted and not in supporting one side or another. This is a source of very much confusion, for when I object to the way a criticism is being made people will invariably infer that I am siding with the group being criticized and that I believe there is no criticism to be made at all. This inference is wrong.

With that in mind, I obviously need to explicitly correct a couple of inferences of this kind before we proceed. For clarity, I will do this point  for point.

I do not believe there is a single, ideologically coherent group of people called ‘the Left’. That is why I often object to arguments which speak in such broad and sweeping terms.

  • This does not mean that I don’t believe the criticism applies to anyone.
  • This does mean that I feel the target of the criticism has not been adequately identified. This does mean that I feel the use of such a broad term as ‘the Left’ tends to claim a broader relevance for the criticism than it actually deserves.

I believe that the term ‘Political Correctness’ is often abused, and that people like Donald Trump and the ‘alt-right’ use it as a bogeyman to drum up support.

  • This does not mean I don’t believe that overly sensitive standards of speech are a problem. This does not mean I think that people always express or ‘enforce’ their standards of speech in a healthy, reasonable, and justified way; I do believe there is a very toxic culture of call-outs, accusations of bigotry, and hostility towards opposing views.
  • This does mean that I recognize that what people refer to as ‘Political Correctness’ is, as I allude to above, simply a set of beliefs about what speech is frowned upon and what the appropriate response to such speech; and that all social and political groupings have such a set of beliefs, not just young, college liberals.

I think the issue is probably overstated and over-prioritized. Most people who care greatly about the PC issue argue that it is a pervasive problem with ‘Leftists. The implication is that something like half the population can be neatly categorized as simply ‘Leftist’, and that pretty much everyone who fits into that category is part of the “PC brigade”.

  • This does not mean that I don’t think it’s a problem at all. It doesn’t even mean I don’t think the group is large. It might be. I don’t know – that’s  the problem.
  • This does mean I would like to see some evidence for these bombastic claims. And I’d like to emphasize that the following is a fact, not an opinion: every article I’ve read, every person I’ve talked to, every online discussion I’ve read; in all of the very many opinions I’ve read to the effect that ‘ALL leftists are PC thugs, and there are lots of leftists indeed’, there has never been one iota of evidence to back the claim up. Only opinion, hyperbole, anecdotes. “It’s obvious!” is the general retort, but that is, of course, anecdotal.
  • This does mean, on a related note, that since I think there is a real problem, I would like to see an appropriate response; and an appropriate response would obviously be grounded in facts. That is why I would like to see a more sober analysis of the extent of the problem.

Having corrected those misunderstandings, I hope we can now proceed with a far better chance of mutual understanding.

As I said at the outset, much of my writing in the last year or so has been about discourse itself. I have my own opinions, and fall on one side or another of plenty of issues, but it has been my firm belief for some time now that something must be done about the state of discourse in general, and I tend to prioritize this over my own opinion as a matter of great importance. What use is having an opinion if it’s impossible to have a rational conversation? So I get annoyed when I feel that language is being used ineffectively or –far worse- in ways that obscure the truth, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Language is abused in discussions of politics more than anywhere else, and the consequences are far more serious than you might initially think. I’m not being a pedant. I don’t care which antonym of ‘your’ or ‘there’ you use if it’s obvious from context; life is just not that long. But if you’re trying to make a serious political statement and you’re using terms incorrectly, or terms with contested meanings or false premises embedded in their popular use, then the conversation is pointless.

Two terms that distress me more than any others (oh, except for ‘capitalism’) are ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’. The world isn’t that simple: you can’t neatly divide everybody with an opinion into two easy categories. If you write a Facebook post, an essay, a book, anything which makes liberal use of these terms without spending sufficient time and effort delineating which of the many possible meanings you might be attaching to them, your post, your essay, your book is likely to be trash. And its trash because it obscures the truth. And what’s more, it’s divisive – most of the statements I read which contain the terms are using them as a pejorative.

I repeat: that is why I object to statements like ‘the left-wing are’, or ‘leftists just…’. They’re profound oversimplifications. And I repeat: if you substituted another term, something specific, something which clearly identifies who you’re talking about, I might agree. And this doesn’t only degrade communication, it degrades thought. It encourages us to think in equally generalized terms, and to ignore nuance, to be oblivious to diversity of opinion. Personally, I value diversity of opinion, because I love nothing so much as a contrary viewpoint which is expressed with intelligence and good intentions. I believe this is the best kind of intellectual check and balance, which helps us develop a broader understanding of things, to be able to change our opinion based on new evidence, and generally to refine our own positions.

And if you stop to think about it, this suggests a better guiding principle for our criticisms. Every article or essay I can recall discussing an ideology which was not the author’s own had the same combative tone; the aim was to debunk, to discredit, to dissuade, and so on. The aim should be dialectic: to arrive at the truth by the exchange of differing opinions. We should be prepared to offer constructive criticism, and to listen sympathetically to constructive criticisms as well. I, too, have some serious problems with what has become of liberalism, and parts of what people call ‘the Left’ especially, and I intend to write about it. But I don’t intend to write about it simply because I am not a liberal and would like to persuade others that they shouldn’t be liberals either; I will write in the hopes of a better liberalism. I yearn for the liberalism of yesteryear which had so much to contribute to human thought. I will write because we all need to be challenged, and at present I find no real value, no allies or debate partners, in any popular ideology.

So yes, finally, I share many of your concerns. I’m not sure If I agree with your characterizations of the demographic in question or its size, and I perhaps don’t prioritize it as highly as you, but it’s not because I find no grounds for criticism at all. This intellectual climate is too bombastic, hyperbolic, unclear, incomprehensible, as it is, and I’ve been hesitant to join in on a crusade which doesn’t seem to have a clear enough definition of who they’re fighting against, however much they can talk about what they’re fighting against. I didn’t want to contribute to a perception of this problem as monolithic when I’m not at all convinced that it is. But I want to put to bed the notion that I’m simply defending ‘Leftists’ (when I don’t believe any such homogeneous group exists) and anything they might do (when I object to much of the same behaviour that you do).

There is a profoundly toxic element amongst young people who fight for goals which have traditionally been associated with leftist ideologies (note: plural), such as opposing racism, sexism, colonialism, and so on. This toxic element probably does identify as part of ‘the Left’, or at least opponents of ‘the Right’. This is the beginning of a definition, but everything I’ve said applies to more than one group of people. The causes they associate with, moreover, are admirable, and many people are sound, effective advocates for them. So we are probably talking about a subset within this group (which is itself a subset of ‘leftists’). Thank God our criticism didn’t begin something like “the problem with Leftists…”

This subset, this group of people, are best characterized by an attitude and by the toxic traits which result from it. The attitude is superior, sarcastic, dogmatic and arrogant. They seem to feel that the fact they’re ‘fighting for’ good causes entitles them to act however they like. If you don’t agree with their every dogma, you are at the very least stupid and probably a racist and a misogynist to boot. Their tactics are primarily to shame, ostracise, belittle, condescend to, humiliate, etc. Because if you’re not with them, you’re against them, and because they’re against oppression, well – why should they have to be polite to fascist oppressors? Don’t police their tone, please, shitlord.

The problem with this self-righteous and childish posturing becomes apparent very quickly if you are at all sensible. If you claim to really care about something, then you ought to care about being effective. You can’t say you are fighting racism or misogyny if you’re not changing minds. You might feel good calling people out on each and every social misstep, you might feel like you’re standing up for what’s right, but unless your actions have a real, positive impact, then all it amounts to is moral grandstanding oblivious of consequences.

On many occasions I have watched such people belittle and humiliate well-intentioned people they had a disagreement with. Sometimes called ‘call out culture’, they delight in pointing out any minor ignorance or unintended expression of privilege or crime against the laws and dogma of their ideology. For instance, somebody who is trying to argue for tolerance and harmony inadvertently uses a word in a way that is offensive; rather than kindly pointing out the error and asking them to bare it in mind, they call the individual out; they publicly shame them for their sin and express a lack of respect for the individual, treating them with snark.

What is the purpose of this behaviour? I assume it isn’t intended to effectively educate others in order to avoid future mistakes. It’s hard to see any purpose except for making oneself feel superior at another’s expense; showing off membership to the ingroup and highlighting the outsider status of the individual who made an honest mistake. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem like the objectives of somebody who genuinely cares about a cause; it seems like the empty posturing of someone to whom anti-racism and anti-sexism are status symbols and social capital.

This behaviour is profoundly divisive. It makes people feel unwelcome in progressive circles and discourages them from trying to change and help. Oftentimes it makes them resentful of progressivism and activism in general. It has turned God knows how many people away from the causes these people are supposed to be promoting. It has made discourse about the issues they care about limited and explosive: these topics are often so loaded with emotion and so sullied by personal attacks that they’re near impossible to have a conversation about, thanks to this behaviour. So the real, measurable impact of this behaviour is to alienate valuable causes, to associate these causes with vitriol in people’s minds; in short, the precise opposite of furthering the goals they claim to care about.

This is doubly frustrating if, like me, you also care about these causes. To see a group of fanatics try to claim exclusive ownership of ideals you hold dear, to watch them turn these ideals into buzzwords, into objects of ridicule and anger; this is the most upsetting thing you could possibly observe. A dozen white supremacists couldn’t do as much to hurt the cause of anti-racism as just one of these supposedly progressive warriors for change. And should you try to communicate these ideals effectively, you’ll find yourself fighting an uphill battle just to shake off the stigma they’ve attached before anyone is willing to give you a fair hearing.

This is the situation one finds themselves in as a feminist, as an anti-capitalist, even as a vegan. I repeat: the fanatically inept proponent of an idea can do infinitely more to discredit it than even the most effective opponent.

Yes, I care deeply about this. I’m sick of this intolerable behaviour, but I’m disheartened by the lack of calm, lucid responses to it. It disgusts me to see people celebrating the rise of Donald Trump and the ‘alt-right’ as a victory in the fight against this behaviour. It’s not. It is a blatant continuation of the same bullshit. Don’t stoop to their level and don’t celebrate people who do. And if you’re going to do something about it, then we should really start trying to ground our analysis of the problem in facts, lest the opposition to this toxic element continue to be obnoxious and flaccid.

I hope that clears up where I stand.

Peace.

Open Letter from an Anarchist

Dear friends,

I begin writing this morning because I am on a mission of peace. There is so much heated, emotionally-charged and counterproductive debate these days. It seems impossible to have sensible, polite discussions between adults with differing opinions on the issues of our day, but that is exactly what we need. We all have to live together; we have to be able to talk.

That is why I am writing to you today as an anarchist. You don’t agree with anarchism, that’s fine. I won’t try to change your mind. I only want to propose a dynamic which will enable us to talk productively and hopefully learn from one another: our essential agreement is that I don’t believe there should be a State and you think there should. We can disagree about this overarching conclusion and still have ample room for discussion of specific laws and functions. My proposal is simply that the onus of proof is on the State.

It is too often taken for granted that State regulation is beneficial. You can believe in the necessity of a State whilst conceding that many laws or perhaps functions or branches of government are harmful. In fact, if your politics is concerned with subordination, oppression, and inequality, you would do well to look at the government from an anarchist’s perspective, from time to time. It should be subject to harsh and thorough examination. It should require a very convincing argument indeed before it does anything. Perhaps, in some cases, you would like to make that argument, the case for government. I’m sure that at other times we will agree.

Anyway, this is an open invitation to have a calm and rational discussion of the role of the State. To get the ball rolling, I have a proposition I think most people should find agreeable: the government has too much power over society. This is demonstrated often: it was seen in the lamentations upon Tony Abbott’s victory: he was not fit to govern and would destroy our country. We see it again now in the wake of Trump’s victory: he, too, is an unfit leader who may just destroy a country. It must eventually be seen that the problem is not with these individuals, but with the system itself. No one person should have that much power. There shouldn’t be an organization so powerful that it has terrible repercussions if it should get into the wrong hands. But that’s precisely what government, as it exists today, is.

Power ought to be dispersed, don’t you think?

Noam Chomsky’s Beloved Cage

Although he is a formidable intellect and although he always provides extensive evidence and citations for his positions, when it comes to anarchism -the professor’s ideology- his lifelong habit of serious and careful scholarship is curiously no longer practiced. He falls back upon dogma and appeals to authority. He no longer provides evidence for his most crucial claims, perhaps believing them too obvious to require proof. Or perhaps he finds it too difficult to provide evidence for his thesis because it is, on the whole, contradictory, sometimes incoherent, and riddled with dogma.

His description of foundational aspects of anarchism is accurate enough. It is a tendency in human history towards freedom and against authority and subordination. It identifies social, economic, and political structures which are oppressive and if they can’t justify themselves it dismantles them. This is, as Chomsky says, a burden of proof which very few if any oppressive institutions could meet, and any which sought to justify themselves would be subject to very harsh examination.

…He says this, and yet he also confidently argues that the State is justifiable on the basis that it protects us from big business and the accumulation of private capital. This proposition is not accompanied by the harsh examination which anarchists are supposed to make of oppressive institutions and their justifications for existence. He does not provide anything in support of it except for hyperbole and imagery. He invokes an image of the State as a cage which we can make larger or smaller through our struggle. But the cage doesn’t just confine us, it protects us as well, for savage beasts roam outside – “State-supported capitalist institutions. We love the cage. We mustn’t leave the cage. It is scary outside the cage.

In simpler terms, his claim is that the State does more to restrain than to bolster authority, oppression, subordination, and so on. Whether or not this claim is right, it is definitely controversial and demands exposition and justification. And as to whether it is right…well, it’s dubious to say the least. Take note of how near his analogy comes to incoherence when he identifies the predators roaming outside the cage: they are State-supported capitalist institutions…the cage keeps us safe from cage-supported beasts. So he admits, as he must, that the State has a role in capitalism. But his dogma states that free or unregulated markets are a priori evil and absurdly oppressive; ergo it must (according to dogma, not logic or evidence) be true that, although the State supports oppressive businesses and predatory business practices, those businesses would be even more oppressive and powerful without the State supporting them…we’ll come back to this. Just quickly two minutes after the cage analogy, he characterized the American government as a plutocracy. So the plutocracy will protect us from the rich…yeah.

Anyway, there are two schools of thought on the role of the State in capitalism. The first, which Chomsky subscribes to, holds that economic regulation has been lobbied for by anti-business advocates and enacted to restrain big business. The second holds that most economic regulation has been lobbied for, written by, and enacted to the benefit of corporate interests; and that this regulation forms and intricate web of subsidies, privileges, and direct and indirect grants of monopoly protection. The first position seems naive, whereas there is plenty of evidence for the second position. That being the case, if the State is a cage then rent-seeking corporations are the jailers.

It is obviously my feeling that Chomsky is profoundly mistaken in his belief that the State is a bulwark against oppression and inequality in our economic system, but the very fact that we disagree raises another serious problem with his concept of anarchism. He says that power must justify itself or else be destroyed: according to whose ideology is it to be justified; and who, finally, gets to decide? The problem is that like most Leftist theories of anarchism, Chomsky’s anarchism describes a society run according to the dogma of a single ideology (not anarchism*) which, because this is so contrary to the pluralist and anti-dogmatic nature of anarchism, is impossible to achieve without force. This is not often stated by anarchists – likely it is not realized or intended. But is nonetheless implied in what is left unsaid. Descriptions are given of business structures which are pre-approved by socialist anarchism, and it is said that currently-existing property and businesses will be dismantled and rebuilt in this image. It is never said who will do the dismantling, and it is never said what will be done about people who don’t agree. There is never any discussion of conflict resolution, despite the universal recognition that there is no broad agreement on many important issue, even amongst anarchists. Nevermind all that, it’s simple: structures which socialist anarchists deem oppressive will be dismantled and rebuilt according to the designs of socialist anarchists, and nobody will need to be forced or persuaded, they’ll all simply agree with the socialists.

Let’s look at something a little less complicated than the reconstruction of the whole economy. Many anarchists believe that the patriarchal family is an oppressive structure. There;s certainly a lot of truth to that, but what can be done? People who don’t like the structure of their family are allowed to change it through mutual agreement or to leave if this is impossible. But what about people who like belonging to a family which anarchists see as oppressive? Are we to dismantle and rebuild families? Surely not.

We can go on like this endlessly. Dogmatic anarchism raises more questions than it answers, because it presumes to describe how everybody will live, so perfect is its analysis of authority and subordination. As an anarchist, I believe in pluralism. I don’t know how people will live. I only know that they will live according to their own free will; and as a corollary, that nobody has the right to force another to do anything. Ergo, where there is no force, there is not sufficient subordination or oppression for me to intervene; my own analysis of these concepts does not supercede the analysis of somebody who has chosen to enter into a relationship I perceive as oppressive.

And that being the case, I have no cause to cage people for their own protection.

Dear LDP Members

Okay, I’m tired of the increasingly partisan LDP and I’m tired of people who think David Leyonhjelm (hereafter called ‘the Senator’) is totally incapable of doing any wrong. It’s beginning to seem like there’s more than a few people willing to defend literally anything the Senator ever does or says, sometimes with all the rabidity and eloquence of a loyal dog. Can we admit, just this once, that he made a mistake?

Context, for those of you missing it: US Presidential candidate (and an unhinged child with a god complex) Donald Trump is drowning in controversy after a tape was released of him making obscene comments about women, to the effect that when you’re rich and famous they’ll let you do anything to them, and that he is inclined to do so. The most memorable line of the tape must have been “grab them by the pussy.” While we can’t give much credit to the Trump campaign for sanity, we can probably assume they’d rather have kept this quiet. Instead, his poll numbers slumped and editorial writers across the United States were using him for target practice. Enter the Senator who, in his infamous wisdom, thought that the world famous billionaire needed someone to defend him. He made public comments, saying that, although Trumps comments were pretty distasteful, people should “cut [Trump] a little bit of slack,” pointing out that he’s a 70-year-old man, that saying “stuff like that” used to be more common, and that perhaps he’s just a man of his times.

Now, these comments are dumb. Not insidious, not horrible, not sexist, just dumb. The comments in question were not of a different era, they were of a different ideology: the ideology of power hungry and incredibly rich egomaniac who believes woman are so blessed to be groped by the likes of him that he needn’t even ask; he can simply walk into a room and grab one by the pussy knowing that they’ll want it. This has never been a common sentiment. Not in any era. What the hell is the Senator talking about? And people will no doubt respond to this by saying that the media is desperate to paint him as a horrible old sexist, to which I can only respond that the Senator must be in cahoots with them. The only other politician stupid enough to jump (even momentarily) on that rapidly sinking ship was Pauline Hanson, and the Senator should be smart enough not to comment on something so inflammatory when he knows exactly how it will come out in the media.

To make matters worse, upon receiving an angry email from a constituent who had found Trumps words disgusting, the Senator stooped to the level of grumpily responding and calling her a bimbo. This is another thing entirely. It is completely unbefitting a Senator to be flinging shit at his constituents when they point out an error or express an opinion. Firing off a pissy little two sentence email calling somebody a “bimbo” is pretty fucking immature for a Senator, for God’s sake. And even if you’re determined to believe that he was right to react like a child, it was still a profoundly stupid PR move on the heels of the Trump fiasco which (as evidenced by the very email he was responding to) was already landing him in hot water.

The Senator may as well have composed an open letter:

Dear Australian Editorial Writers,

Please portray me as an out of touch, sexist old grouch with an infertile mind. You will find attached all the ammunition you require to paint me however you like.

Regards,

Senator David Leyonhjelm

The only halfway valid defense of him is to say that the media is smearing him, but he should really be smart enough, by now, not to hand them a smear campaign on a silver platter. And yes, the media do blow things out of proportion, but his comments were genuinely stupid, and his response to the constituent was genuinely disgusting.

And people will no doubt dismiss me with the usual lines, “who cares what you think? You won’t be happy no matter what he does.” Or “the only people we’ve upset are people who’d never have supported us to begin with.” Both of these popular fallbacks are patently untrue. You can’t keep pretending that only dirty leftists and the media find David nauseating while your core supporters continue to get tired of defending him and slipping away. I vote LDP. I have been an active volunteer. I even spent an election day handing out How to Vote cards for the LDP. I’ve spent hours defending the Senator, and was excited enough by his election to encourage friends and family to watch him…to my great disappointment. My mother, to this day, refers to him as “your Senator” when she talks to me, as in “your Senator is at it again,” and I can only sigh and ask what he’s done now. When he first started making dumb comments, and managed to make a tweet in favor of LGBTI rights just drip with disapproval of those “promiscuous” gays somehow, I even wrote an article defending him.

And it’s not just me. I know other active members who have quit because they’re tired of the direction the party has taken, and they’re tired of defending things that they themselves don’t really like. And if you’re losing them, you can be sure you’re losing more of the electorate than just people who never would have voted for you in the first place.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for LDP partisans to consider that the problem isn’t always with everybody but them. Maybe it’s time to consider that the Senator gets criticized so frequently, even by libertarians, LDP votes, and former LDP volunteers not simply because anyone who dares to question him is an asshole, but because there’s actually a problem they need to address. Maybe “it’s all sunshine and flowers and anyone who doesn’t agree can fuck off” is an attitude that will eventually ruin the party if you don’t start dealing with criticism constructively.

I hope some of this gets through. More likely every word of it is wrong and the Senator has never erred. We’ll see.

For Open Borders

(Peace, Love and Liberty 1)

People are arguing for tighter restrictions on immigration, to the point of an outright ban on Muslim immigration. It’s not a fringe element, either: according to some polls it’s half the country. This is a bad policy, based on fear and hatred. Let’s look at the arguments that have been put forth and then propose a policy based on peace, love and liberty instead.

Some base their arguments on the “radical cultural changes” that are occurring as a result of supposedly unchecked immigration. This isn’t really a claim that can be substantiated, but common sense should suffice to show it for what it is. Personally, I don’t know anybody that feels they are surrounded by a radically different culture. Do you? Our demographics have not undergone any radical change, where ethnicity is concerned. And it doesn’t really matter, anyway. Personally, I like diversity. The more the merrier, I say. And others are entitled to think differently, but they don’t have to associate with any cultures or people they don’t want to. It is still possible to surround yourself with Australians, if that’s your wish. This isn’t a zero sum game; the existence of other cultures does not take away from your own. If you’re willing to learn from others, it may even enrich your culture.

A more pragmatic argument is that immigrants from the third world consume public resources, and therefore place a burden on the country. I couldn’t find much information on the current cost of immigrants using public services, but given the incredible sums of money our government spends on a variety of programs, I’d suggest that using some of it to drastically improve the lives of thinking, feeling human beings may not be the worst thing in the world. We spend $1.3 million a day to keep Nauru open; about $460 million a year. Suppose we give immigrants $300 a week until they find employment – the money we spend on that one detention centre alone would pay for the welfare of almost 30,000 immigrants. At any rate, the cost isn’t insurmountable

Some claim that immigration is associated with an increase in crime. Sometimes they back this up with cherry-picked examples, like Germany. Sometimes, like Trump and his supporters in the United States, they simply imagine crime waves: Donald has been loudly proclaiming that the massive increase in crime in his country is the fault of Mexican immigrants; never mind that crime has been steadily dropping for years and the crime wave that has so incensed his supporters is no more than a mass hallucination.

When we look to global studies, we find no clear evidence that more immigration means more crime. What we do find is precisely what any sensible, intelligent person would expect to find: it’s a little bit more complicated than that. We find that the results are varied, because there are many more factors involved, but generally speaking immigration doesn’t increase crime. We find that greater job market opportunities reduce the already low crime rate amongst immigrants and it would therefore be more pertinent to reform our economic policy than our immigration policy.

Another argument against Muslim immigrants in particular is that their ideology is in conflict with the laws and customs of our country. It is true that some tenets of Islam cannot be reconciled with our laws. The same is true of the many words in the Bible. It doesn’t really matter in either case: by immigrating to Australia, they agree to abide by the laws of Australia. If they break those laws, they face the same consequences as citizens who break the law. The fact that the rule of law prevails in this country, as it always has, is sufficient to protect us from this supposed “threat”.

The threat is exaggerated. The push to close borders is not based on reason. It is only gaining traction because the population has been frightened and misinformed. What’s worse is that it is rooted in an Us and Them mentality. Implicit in their arguments is the notion that foreign lives are worth much less than Australian lives. The argument for closed borders is an argument against improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings, because we are afraid of the supposed threat they pose to “our culture”, or some unsubstantiated threat to our security. It is an argument that we should deny these hundreds of thousands of human beings a drastically higher quality of life, because a few dozen or a few hundred may be a minor imposition on our own quality of life by committing property crimes if they can’t find work. And this leaves our role in the destruction of their cultures and destabilization of their region’s unexamined, perhaps to be taken up another time. Even before we make that consideration we find the arguments for closed borders to be antithetical to love and to liberty.

With peace, love and liberty as our guides, the answer is simple. We should treat people as individuals rather than making sweeping assumptions about huge groups of people. And if an individual wants to seek a better life in our country, we should be happy to welcome them. We should only deny entry to individuals who we can prove to pose a serious threat. And that should be the extent of our policy.

Personally, I think we should be open to other cultures and treat everybody with love and kindness. If we were all to behave this way, I believe life would be a lot better for immigrants and Australians alike. I believe we’d find that our communities and even ourselves as individuals might be greatly enriched. Until then, we deny ourselves and others the possibility of a richer and more harmonious society, and that’s no way for a culture to evolve