Friday, 14 June 2013

Respect for others: the fightback begins?**

The last week has been a fairly bizarre one in Australian politics, with accusations of sexism flowing freely, and plenty of evidence of it showing to boot in things like menugate, wherein a menu for Liberal a fundraising dinner made lewd and crude remarks about the Prime Minister .

But there do finally seem to be signs of a turn around.

Not before time.

First, the Chief of the Army, in response to the latest case of scandalous sex videos circulating, put out a strong video message to the troops demanding that women in the ranks be accorded due respect.

**Interestingly, the excellent New Advent has put the video up under the headline "Watch closely, Catholic leaders: Australian Chief of Army demonstrates how you address sex abuse"!

And now shock jock Howard Sattler has been sacked after an interview where he asked truly outrageous questions of the Prime Minister.

Not before time!

Respect for the Office of PM

The Sattler Interview - questioning Ms Gillard about the sexuality of her partner - was such as shocker that even notorious offenders in their own way, such as Derryn Hinch and Andrew Bolt demanded action against him.

Nor was it first offence.

But of course that hasn't stopped many other radio and television personalities surviving not dissimilar attacks on Gillard, the Royals, Aboriginal footballers and innocent members of the public in recent times.

So good to see that this time real action has been taken.

Defence leadership at last

In the wake of the latest sex scandal in the defence forces, Army Chief Lieutenant-General David Morrison is being hailed as an 'unlikely feminist hero' for a tough talking video that tells those involved  to uphold the values of the organisation or get out.

I can't see that his comments have anything to do with feminism as such myself.

In fact, as far as I can see he is just asking for basic principles of human dignity to be respected.

He says, for example:

"No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honours the traditions of the Australian Army," he says in the video posted on the Department of Defence website.

"Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army."

Seems to me more like appropriate leadership.

True, he does defend the role of women in the Defence Force.  But the reality is that women have served in pretty much every war Australia has fought in, from the Boer War onwards.  Whatever you think of the latest moves to allow women to take combat roles, that can surely not be an excuse for circulating sex videos or raping people!



Indeed, that he should be hailed this way just for saying what surely needed to be said indicates just how low our society has sunk, and for that the blame must surely be sheeted home to leaders at all levels of society.

Over the last year we've seen a series of stories about outrageous misbehaviour - sexist and racist comments, shameless and demeaning exploitation of others for commercial gain, and worse - from media shockjocks, sports stars, CEOs of companies and more.

And nowhere does the rubber hit the road more than when it comes to politics.

The tenets of democracy

Politics has always been a fairly robust arena, and colourful insults more applauded than not.  Who can ever forget, for example, Paul Keating's 'unrepresentative swill' of  the Senate (and doesn't the epithet still fit!) insult, or the souffle that doesn't rise twice (on Peacock)?

Yet despite all the vaudeville, both sides back then, in the main at least, still exhibited a certain respect for each other, and more to the point, to the various offices people held.

The ABC showed a series on the Whitlam years recently, and pointed out that when the Governor General dismissed the then PM, he could have chosen to fight the decision in various ways.  Instead, whatever you might think about the rest of his efforts, in his famous line, 'God Save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor General' he upheld one of key tenets of our democracy, of distinguishing between the person and the Office they hold.

But you have to wonder, if a Governor General moved now to dismiss a Government in the way Kerr did, or more particularly, moved to dismiss a future Abbott Government, would the same respect for the institutions prevail?

Given the behaviour of the Opposition over the last year, with their no holds barred approach to attacking Gillard and her Government (and the outright evidence of illegal conspiracy to overthrow the Government plotted by Mr Slipper's two advisors in cahoots with once and perhaps future Liberal MP Mal Brough), I'm not so sure.

False separation, false tolerance

Underlying all of this seems a serious problem, namely a general lack of respect for the dignity of others in our society, and a loss of respect for the institutions of civil society.

Can we yet recover the concept of respect for others, no matter their gender, race or religion?

These two small moves today are a good start, but unfortunately, I think the real root of this evil is the deliberate effort of the extreme left to confuse some key distinctions.

Mr Abbott, for example, busily ruling out any changes in the law on abortion should he be elected, or any deals with the DLP on the subject, seems to believe the old Kennedy line, also being used by the pro-abortion Irish leader who said yesterday that he was 'a Taoiseach who happens to be Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach'.  Apparently our faith is irrelevant to our politics!

A similar confusion is evident in the demand that we conflate respect for others with respect for what they do - in particular, to confuse the sinner and the sin.

These days we are not, for example just asked to respect the fact that some people suffer from same sex attractions; instead they demand that we applaud their sin.

We are not just asked to tolerate other false religions, they even demand of the Pope, that in the face of all evidence to the contrary, he laud Islam for example as 'religion of peace'!

Still, we ourselves shouldn't fall into this error, nor should we applaud those who promote it.

And we should surely do everything we can to promote that judicious mix of robust exchanges when necessary, civility wherever possible, and giving Caesar his due, that is modelled for us by Christ in the Gospels.

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