Why is Hitler regarded as the incarnation of evil while Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, or Kim Il Sung are regarded as slightly comic figures? The authors of the 1997 study, "The Black Book of Communism", estimated that 100 million people died under Marxist regimes, compared to about 25 million under the Nazis. While the exact figures will continue to be debated, there is no doubt that Communism was the more lethal of the two ideologies.
Why, then, are Communist thugs given such soft treatment in the media? This is the question which Christopher Szabo seeks to answer in the article below.
Following political news can be a depressing occupation. Our lead story today is a rather negative look at the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. For all his boorishness, The Donald has been trumped by the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president of the Philippines, who has promised to end crime, mostly by killing the criminals. His remarks about women eclipse any of Mr Trump's more colourful remarks.
In search of some light relief, I discovered the author of a new art form, Ken M, who has been hailed as "the most epic troll on the internet". He has become an internet celebrity, profiled in Gawker, Gizmodo and other geeky online magazines. His subtle but hilarious ploy is to play dumb and allow other commenters to criticise him. But he always seems to have the last laugh. “What I do is turn a toxic space into a source of belly laughter, so it’s not gross anymore,” he explained.
If you are seeking to understand how same-sex marriage could have become so popular, so fast, in the United States, one of the first places to look is the position of the churches in the 1960s. Because that's when it all began, as no-fault divorce and the Pill began to rend the fabric of marriage. Two articles below deal with this process. Ryan C. MacPherson chronicles the reluctance of the religious right to oppose no-fault divorce and I review a book by prominent Evangelical Albert Mohler on the sexual revolution.
Apologies for resending the newsletter. We had some problems with the server and a couple of stories were deleted, causing a mix-up in the links. Hopefully the issue has been sorted out.
The famous Harvard philosopher Willard Quine was once asked what the meaning of life was. He responded: “"Life is algid, life is fulgid. Life is what the least of us make most of us feel the least of us make the most of. Life is a burgeoning, a quickening of the dim primordial urge in the murky wastes of time".
In other words, what a stupid,stupid question. I suspect that many people would agree with him, unfortunately. The British comedy team Monty Python called one of their irreverent films The Meaning of Life, which implied that the question was stupid and all answers were absurd.
I suspect that Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and psychologist, would have regarded these responses as not just daft but dangerous. Without meaning in their lives, people die; he saw it happen before him many times. Frankl has an important message for our era. Taking advantage of a couple of anniversaries, two of our stories below will give you a taste of his inspiring ideas.
The word “demagogue” is often used to describe the presumptive Republican nominee. It was invented by the ancient Greeks, along with other useful words like “democracy” and “politics”. As Robert Garland suggests below, the most famous Athenian demagogue, Alcibiades, is a kind of gold standard for demagoguery.
The spell he cast over his fellow citizens ended in disaster. First he persuaded them to embark upon a reckless invasion of Sicily in 415BC. And then he deserted to the enemy. Thanks to intelligence and strategic advice the huge Athenian army was annihilated. The career and character of Alcibiades are enough to make one deeply suspicious of demagogues, ancient or modern.
What we know about Alcibiades comes mostly from the History of the Peloponnesian War, a book which I cannot recommend too highly. This imperishable classic tells you all that you will ever need to know about politics and warfare, including the lesson that a nation led by a demagogue marches to destruction.
Well, the people of Indiana have spoken. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for the Presidency and will face the (nearly) presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton in November's election. After months of campaigning the greatest horse race in the world is entering the final straight. The pundits are placing their bets; the crowd is roaring; the jockeys are thrashing their mounts. It will be the most interesting election in decades.
Except that an election is not a horse race. It's a deeply ethical decision for each and every one of the voters. And they have been presented with a cruel choice this year. On the one hand they have Clinton, a millionaire from the big end of town pretending to be a champion of the disadvantaged, under a cloud for dishonesty, a polished poitician who has built her career on supporting abortion and gay rights. On the other hand, they have Trump, a billionaire who has never been elected to anything, a man full of vulgar narcissistic bombast, a man who supports torture, who wants to treat migrants like felons, who admires the toughness of gangsters like Vladimir Putin. He says that he is pro-life, but can he be believed?
Is it possible for an American voter who believes in human dignity to support either of them? Or is it better to vote for an obscure third-party candidate? Or to boycott the election altogether? Whatever the answer is, voters have to examine the issues and the candidates deeply.
Not that I am a sports tragic, but I follow a policy of always supporting the underdog. Consequently I feel pretty morose whenever I take a look at the sports pages.
This year I have taken a keen interest in the fortunes of Leicester in the English Premier League. A classic underdog: always at the bottom of the table, barely escaping relegation to a lower league, a joke. The team's Italian manager, Claudio Ranieri, joined the club after just four months as manager of the Greek national team. He was sacked after Greece (population 10,955,000) lost to Faroe Islands (population 49,709). At home, too. Not a good look for Signor Ranieri -- or his players.
The odds of Leicester winning the Premier League were 5000 to 1.
Last night Leicester won.
It was one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. A down-on-its-heels club, with a shopworn manager, a few bargain-basement players from overseas, and some unlikely local lads, beat Liverpool, Chelsea, Man U, Totenham, Arsenal ... all the big boys. It was the ultimate in underdog oneupsmanship.
So I may switch my allegiance to Aston Villa. After a season of unprecedented awfulness, they have been relegated. The Villans, possibly the worst side in Premier League history, are my kind of team.
Here's a prediction for you: commercial surrogacy will become one of the biggest ethical issues affecting the family within the next 20 years. It's inevitable after the legalization of same-sex marriages in many countries. Even if two "married" men want a baby, they cannot produce one. So they will have to hire a woman to gestate the chlld. And since the woman is disposable, the "married" couple will probably hire one in an impoverished country with few legal safeguards. This is already happening in countries like Guatemala, Ukraine, Cambodia and Cyprus. In India and Thailand, booming surrogate industries have been closed down because there were too many scandals involving foreign clients.
In today's newsletter New Zealand lawyer Rachael Wong argues that Australia should not give in to pressure to legalise surrogacy. It's a fascinating read. She concludes:
Australian law should have at its heart respect for the dignity of every human being. It should not be an instrument for legally exploiting women and children. The European Parliament and the Council of Europe recently rejected the legalisation of surrogacy on these grounds. Australia should follow suit.
Probably the greatest moral challenge posed by any of our articles today is that thrown down by Marcus Roberts: Do we all need to become vegan? I must say that it shook me, even at the end of day without meat.
Most of the issues we canvass on our site have to be resolved out there in the public square, or over there in the Middle East, or up there on Mars. But the idea that what we eat is a moral decision with ramifications around the world, brings humanity's problems right to one's door, or rather, to one's dinner table.
I have for some time been aware that the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and favouring fish and olive oil over meat and dairy products, is considered the healthiest, and have made changes in that direction -- even though it seems slightly unpatriotic in a country whose economy is built on roast lamb and butter. New Zealand without dairy farms and sheep grazing on the slopes would simply be a different country, but perhaps, given our predominantly sedentary lifestyles these days, that is the country we need.
More to the point, it may the country the world needs, to reduce carbon emissions and global warming if nothing else. I can't quite connect the dots between the Kiwi Sunday roast and world hunger, but perhaps I need to read Marcus' post again. In particular, his encouraging last sentence...
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The intention seems perfectly clear: the government should stay away from you and your property unless they have demonstrably good cause to do otherwise.
How did this principle we call the “right to privacy” become transformed over the space of 250 years into an excuse for the government to hover protectively over people’s choices regarding contraception, abortion, homosexual relationships (and probably– according to current claims – the use of female public bathrooms by males who think they are females or vice versa)?