If you are looking for one book to background yourself on the most divisive issue of the decade, try Ryan T. Anderson's Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, which Carolyn Moynihan reviews in an article below. It is designed to summarise the issues and suggest ways in which marriage can be promoted and defended in the wake of the US Supreme Court's recent decision that same-sex marriage is constitutional.
At the moment, the most statesman-like politician in Europe is Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. In the face of a refugee crisis in Europe, it would be easy for her to take a populist line and close her country's doors. Instead, Germany is taking 800,000 refugees this year. This is four times last year's figure and more than any other EU country. She says:
"Universal civil rights so far have been closely linked with Europe and its history — it was one of the founding motives of the European Union. If Europe fails on the question of refugees, this close connection with universal civil rights ... will be destroyed and it won't be the Europe we want."
There is something quite disproportionate about the anger over refugees in Europe, the US and Australia. Of all the major industrialised countries, only Sweden is in the top 10 list of refugees per 1000 native population. It takes 12. The figure for Malta is 23. But Lebanon has taken 232 -- according to last year's statistics. That is an intolerable imposition. Something has to be done to share the burden of misery. See our view on the topic here.
Shannon Roberts alerts us to a very significant development in MercatorNet's terrific Demography Is Destiny blog, which is edited by her and her husband Marcus. There is a looming crisis in care-giving as baby-boomers age. At the moment, there are 6.8 potential family caregivers for every American in the high-risk years of late life.
But by 2050, there will only be 3 of them. As a society, we are already finding it hard to cope with the stress of caring for the elderly: there are too few young people to take up the burden. But how will we fare when the ratio has more than halved? More cuddly Labadors? Robot nurses? Essential reading.
Amnesty International's support of completely legalised prostitution has strirred the waters of debate in a big way. Even if you do not need convincing that prostitution is a bad thing that should not be encouraged, it is worthwhile reading what Jokin de Irala and Cristina Lopez of the University of Navarre, and researcher Melissa Farley have to say on the subject. As with so many other things today that seem self-evident, one needs good arguments to support common sense.
Also, for the record, Michael Cook has put up an edited version of a letter written by sociology professor Paul Sullins about the aftermath of a recent debate in Sydney on same-sex parenting.
For light relief take a look at Susan Reibel Moore's homage to Lewis Carroll on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It makes me want to read the book again.
It's called "medicalisation" or, more caustically, "disease-mongering". I refer to the the issue discussed in today's articles about "Pink Viagra..." and "Medicating our unhealthy lifestyles" -- namely, the often drug-company-driven recourse to costly medical technology for health problems that on the whole require only a change in lifestyle, and sometimes for problems whose very existence is doubtful.
I find this issue personally challenging as I am one of the gadzillions of adults on statins to reduce bad cholesterol, which should be possible by dietary change. I just mention that in case my article seems to be delivered from some high moral ground. Far from it. Healthy living for most of us is a work in progress.
Of all the symptoms of a world that has lost its way, the most far-reaching must be the retreat from motherhood and fatherhood. In a post on Demography Is Destiny today, Shannon Roberts ponders a study carried out in Germany, where the birthrate has not risen above 1.5 children per woman for four decades, to get at the reasons for this dismal statistic. Shannon has many good thoughts on the subject, and you might like to share yours.
Until recently The Onion, the satirical newspaper and YouTube channel, featured panels of pundits discussing issues like "Is The Government Spying On Schizophrenics Enough?" or "Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?". The ensuing discussion was always over the top in its ignorance and banality. But too often for comfort, it mirrored the kind of political punditry which we see every day on TV. Where did this theatre of the absurd come from? Perhaps from the 1968 debates between William F. Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal. A brilliant documentary has brought this fascinating chapter in media history to life again. See the review below.
Next week MercatorNet will be taking a short break for a staff workshop. There will be no newsletter on Monday and Tuesday.
British journalist and occasional MercatorNet contributor Brendan O'Neill is no friend of political correctness. He wrote this week in The Australian that "Something terrifying has happened during the past five years: a belief that was held by virtually all human beings for centuries has been rebranded as bigotry, something that may no longer be expressed in polite society."
On cue, Twitter began to light up with comments like "“How dare you say that the gay-marriage campaign is intolerant, you bigoted so-and-so?! Get out of Oz!” This illustrates the point of the essay below, that we need to recover the true meaning of tolerance. We'd love to get your comments.
Following the Supreme Court’s majority decision in June to legalise same-sex marriage in the United States, New York Times columnist David Brooks appealed to “conservatives” (those who do not accept the possibility of marriage between people of the same sex) to stop fighting a losing battle over sexual morality. Instead, he suggested, they should take their Christian values into underprivileged areas and help people overcome material and spiritual poverty.
This struck Dr Thomas Lickona, director of the character education centre at the State University of New York and a fan of Brooks’ writing on character, as a false choice, and he wrote to Brooks explaining why. Today we have run an edited version of his letter, which we heartily endorse.
Amazon is one of the great inventions of the internet era, making it easy to purchase almost anything online. But convenience comes at a cost, a brutal work ethic with many casualties. One of its own executives called it "purposeful Darwinism". What do you think? Is it worth it?