Reading Harper Lee's surprise novel, Go Set a Watchman, is not on my list of priorities -- I am not even sure that I ever read To Kill A Mockingbird, though I have seen the film -- but I was interested to read Michael Kirke's review of what was, clearly, the only book in town last week. Some reviews I have glanced at were rather off-putting, but Michael is enthusiastic about it, and even finds an uncanny convergence between the world of the book and today in the activity of the US Supreme Court. The history of the books and Miss Lee herself sound equally interesting to me.
We have a good mix of articles for your weekend reading, I think. The redoubtable Roger Scruton, in an address delivered to students of professional ethics, talks about values that we need to defend from the "tyranny of the majority" which a democratic system can easily becaome. And we have a prime example of that in a certain issue that we find it hard to avoid right now, as Steve Craig's piece demonstrates.
An astrophysicist talks enthusiastcally about the New Horizons spacecraft's triumphant flypast of Pluto. To me it is miraculous that such an event could be planned and carried out so minutely. I can only think, "What a piece of work is man" when he sets his mind on higher things.
Marcus Roberts discovers, to his consternation, that more people end their lives in aged care facilities in New Zealand than in any other country in the world. What will happen to all the resthomes once the baby boomers shuffle off the mortal coil, he wonders.
Also, we complete our interview with psychologist Christopher Rosik, who talks in one article mainly about same-sex attractions in adolescents, and in another about his determination to keep offering help to those who want to change, in spite of opposition and legal bans. The entire interview is also available here. If you haven't read any of it yet I urge you yo do so; Dr Rosik brings a balance and courtesy to the controversy that is truly admirable.
It must be the third law of thermodynamics, or something, but any article about Audrey Hepburn will rise to the top of the "Most Read" list, as Tamara Rajakariar's post about a photo exhibition in London has, maintaining its position above all competition. The reason Audrey still draws the crowds? According to Tamara it's because she, like Grace Kelly, had class, style, mystique -- and an air of reality. I would add that they belonged to a world that still innocently believed that romance was something between a man and a woman leading to marriage and the baby carriage.
Our lead story, by contrast, comes from today's topsy-turvey world, in which the effort to help people confused about their sexuality is being treated as a hate crime that has to be banned. We thought the professionals doing what's demonised as "gay conversion therapy" were not getting a fair hearing -- or any hearing at all in the mainstream media. So we asked one of them, California psychologist Christopher Rosik, what he actually offers people who are not happy with their homosexual tendencies, or young people whose parents ask for help. Dr Rosik answered with thoroughness so we have divided the interview into three parts. We will run the other two parts tmorrow and Friday.
If the money managers of the world are not worrying about Greece right now, they are worrying about China and whether its stockmarket will rebound. There are, as we know, many other reasons to worry about China -- the current clampdown on human rights lawyers and activists, ongoing attacks on religious freedom -- but the saddest thing I have read about that country in a long time is in Shannon Roberts' post on Demography today:
China was shocked last month by the suicide of four children abandoned by their parents. The children, aged 5 to 13, were found dead after drinking pesticide at their home in Cizhu Village in the city of Bijie on June 9. Villagers and officials said the children had lived alone for years because their father had migrated to find work in another province and their mother left home two years ago to escape the poverty of the village.
Where were the neighbours or friends? The children went unnoticed because their situation is just not that unusual in rural China. Around 40 percent of children in the poor province of Guizhou live without their parents.
Forty percent! Is this the price of economic growth -- the destruction of the family, the abandonment of children? Doesn't it show, as Pope Francis keeps saying, that there is something very wrong with the values dominating the world? China is not just a big factory and a big market, it is a nation of people who have the right to a family life. Next time you hear someone fret about the Chinese stockmarket tell them what they should really be fretting about.
A week is a long time in politics and that is certainly true of Greece at present. A week ago Yannis Varoufakis was that beleaguered country’s minister of finance; by Monday, he was not. Don’t ask me why he resigned after the “No” referendum (or even what the Greeks so “No” to) I really can’t get the hang of it.
I only mention Mr Varoufakis because an Australian politician did in a speech last week, which we have reproduced on MercatorNet. According to New South Wales Minister of Finance Dominic Perrottet, the Greek rock star spent a bit of time in Australia after running away from Mrs Thatcher’s Britain, and then ran away from John Howard’s economic rigour back to Greece.
Thus, “the man responsible for turning around the failed Greek economy has bolted from two nations because they were led by two competent leaders who managed to prevent them going down the path of bankruptcy.” Whether he will stay put as his Syriza boss Alexis Tsipras accepts the inevitability of serious structural reform remains to be seen.
(Watch the video on the front page for the powerful pep talk Tsipras got from a Dutch MEP in the EU parliament a couple of days ago – it’s a tour de force – and not, despite first appearances, mainly an attack on his Greek friend.)
Anyway, back to Mr Perrottet and the lesson he takes for the rest of the West from the Greek crisis:
A fundamental part of the problem is that our social policy is completely divorced from our economic policy. They are considered in isolation. Like much in government developed in silos.
This divide has created unsustainably large structural deficits that can only be financed by levying unreasonable taxes on future generations.
In reality, economics is downstream from culture. Our policies on welfare, families and cultural issues all have economic implications.
He teases this out in his talk, which is particularly important because it comes from a young married man who belongs to a generation set to inherit the same problems as Greece: a welfare state with low fertility and an ageing population. We could all, quite easily, become Greeks.
Hardly a month goes by, it seems, without some new act of terror shattering the lives of an unsuspecting community or the memory of an old horror being marked. Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the July 7 London suicide bombings that left 52 people dead, 700 injured, and countless lives changed forever.
How difficult it must be not to feel resentment welling up against the perpetrators of such unprovoked violence, let alone find the inner resources to forgive them. Yet forgiveness is precisely what we have to cultivate in our hearts, even for our own sakes, says psychologist Robert Enright in an interview today. The reason can be found in some words of Martin Luther King, which he quotes:
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
Dr Enright practices forgiveness therapy so his views on this subject are more than theory. I think you will find them very helpful.
"Why are we so busy? After all, our cars move faster and our emails go faster than snail mail ever did. We ought to have lots of time to spare." That's the question Michael Cook asked Massimo Introvigne, a professor of the Sociology of religions, and today we publish what he said about that and a few other things. The interview is not long -- they know your time is precious -- but there's plenty of food for thought. All you have to do is make time for the thinking. Good luck!
I borrowed a bit for my first car and paid it off over the following 12 months – and anyway the entire amount was about NZ$2000. That was a long time ago and I have shared a mortgage since then but have never had any serious debt. I struggle to understand how people who are $10,000 over their credit card limit can sleep at night, though apparently some do. It’s scary.
For the same reason I wonder how many Greeks are sleeping well these days, when their country is broke and they can’t even get at their own cash. But, in an article by the Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg on public debt we are reminded that they are not the only ones; the Western world is awash in debt. Does it matter? Some economists say no, but there are political implications, says Gregg. You know, revolutions and things like that. Personally, I'd prefer to practise a little voluntary austerity than wake up to broadcasts from a military junta.
Today also we continue with reflections on the same-sex marriage debate (yes, there still is a debate!) post the US Supreme Court majority decision that what is patently absurd is actually a Constitutional right. We have to fight on, but how?
In times past, censorship was imposed on the media by totalitarians who regarded dissent as unpatriotic and subversive. They would close down newspapers or send gangs of thugs to smash the presses.
Things operate differently nowadays. Censorship is self-imposed. The most remarkable example that I have come across after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalising same-sex marriage comes from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, the capital of the state of Pennsylvania. The paper has a new editorial policy: it "will very strictly limit op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage. These unions are now the law of the land. And we will not publish such letters and op-Eds any more than we would publish those that are racist, sexist or anti-Semitic."
So there you have it. No more dissent. No more subversive opinions. Anyone who argues that marriage can only be between one man and one woman is a dangerous bigot. In this case the editor was remarkably candid. I wonder how many other media outlets will quietly implement this poiicy. Anyhow, here at MercatorNet, we plan to continue putting the case for natural marriage. It is an essential to human dignity and human flourishing.
The focus of today’s newsletter is, of course, the US Supreme Court’s green light to same-sex marriage. This is of global interest as other countries will surely follow suit.
It cannot be denied that many Americans support same-sex marriage, even if they do not understand it. But it is dangerous for legalization to come through a judicial decision. It cuts off democratic debate, disenfranchising and angering a large part of the electorate. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his dissent, “There will be consequences to shutting down the political process on an issue of such profound public significance. Closing debate tends to close minds.”
Five judges who by no stretch of the imagination are average Joes have imposed their vision of what constitutes liberty on the country, in what Justice Scalia called a “judicial Putsch”. As Justice Alito pointed out in his dissent, it diminishes the prestige of the Supreme Court.
“If a bare majority of Justices can invent a new right and impose that right on the rest of the country, the only real limit on what future majorities will be able to do is their own sense of what those with political power and cultural influence are willing to tolerate. Even enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today’s majority claims.”