A week ago I became the owner of a new car – new to me, that is. It happened quite suddenly, thanks to an offer I couldn’t refuse, and represents a lifestyle revolution. One day I was driving my old, manual Toyota Corolla, sans air-con; the next I was trundling down to the village in a pert little Toyota Vitz in which everything happens at the push of a button or the wave of a hand, including cold air.
I parked my new toy and went off to do an errand. Arriving back I slid my hand behind the doorhandle expecting the “I’m open!” beep, but nothing happened. It opened with the remote control but refused to start when I pushed the button. Nothing I did would bring it to life.
Thinking dark thoughts about automation I set out to walk down the road to my friendly mechanic but, as I passed the medical centre I saw a woman sitting in a parked car that looked of a similar vintage to mine and decided to ask if she could help.
The young woman was looking down at something and smiling away and I guessed she was reading a fond message on her mobile phone. But as I came alongside I could see that she was holding a little ultrasound photograph – of her unborn daughter at 32 weeks, it turned out.
Luck was on my side – she had, praise the Lord, previously driven a Vitz! As we walked to the adjoining lot we talked about the baby and she confided that although she was really happy about the little one she was also quite anxious. It was her first, and her husband, though happy too, was feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of having a child to care for and support.
The car eventually started, although only when I got into the passenger seat beside my rescuer – something I would never have done without her being there – and has behaved itself since. But I was grateful to it for the chance to meet Cristina. We parted with a hug and a promise from me to pray for her and the baby and her husband. There was something specially attractive about her and I am sure that she will make a great mother when the time comes.
What I want to know, though, is this: What use is the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to Cristina’s baby?
This bunch of hypocrites, who would just as soon see a baby aborted as born into a proper marriage between a man and a woman, have worked up a case against the Catholic Church for doing things it hasn’t done in the line of child abuse, and not doing things it has done – all because the Church will not condone the killing of unborn children and the pretence that homosexual sex is equivalent to marriage. Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices UK has the measure of this kangaroo court in his article today. Make sure you read it, and then start asking questions of your government about how these people are appointed.
The one minority group which is not protected by anti-vilification laws is Neanderthals. Not long ago American scientist James Hanson criticised the Canadian government for its Neanderthal policy on climate change. US Vice-President Joe Biden blasted Republicans as a Neanderthal crowd who opposed legislation against wife-bashing. The Daily Mail described a British trade union as “bullies led by a political Neanderthal”. You can diss Neanderthals by comparing them to politicians and escape scot-free. It’s the last acceptable bigotry.
This is all the odder because between 1 and 3% of the genetic heritage of most Europeans and Asians, it turns out, comes from Neanderthal forebears. A paper published in the leading journal Nature a few days ago claims that Neanderthals interbred with Homo sapiens who left Africa about 10,000 generations ago and bequeathed to us genes for coping with a cold climate and less sunlight.
I was astonished by the coverage that this sketchy and highly speculative news received. Every media outlet in the world, it seems, knows that its readers revel in their genetic heritage. Part of understanding ourselves is knowing where we came from. The commercial genetics company 23andme even offers to calculate the percentage of Neanderthal genes in its customers’ profiles. The question “who am I?” is an inescapable part of life even if great-great grandpa lived 1500 generations ago.
That’s one reason why I, at least, get the jitters over same-sex marriage. Children raised by a same-sex couple will be cut off from half of their heritage. I don’t think that supporters of this trend have any idea of how much unhappiness they are brewing. Not long ago, I read a headline over an article supporting same-sex marriage, “The state's definition of marriage reverts to Neanderthal era”. Maybe that’s a good thing. At least Gurg and Brog knew who their mom and dad were.
FIRST, A NEWS FLASH: Michael Cook has just posted a story about the hottest news in science this week. Scientists from Boston and Japan have produced pluripotent stem cells (the kind everyone wants, to cure diseases) from ordinary cells by a very simple procedure. No cloning, no chemicals, just -- well, read all about it here.
Most of don’t have to go far to find a family member, friend or acquaintance who has some debilitating disease, but we might have to think a lot harder to come up with someone who is dealing with it as positively – and successfully – as Daan Schalkwijk, who tells his story in one of our featured articles today.
Daan, a scientist and university teacher who lives in Amsterdam, developed Tourette’s syndrome in early adulthood. Prior to reading his article I had no idea what this condition is like, but from his description it seems to me a terrible affliction – basically a tic that results in unpredictable and embarrassing behaviour as well as mental anguish.
No, I am not going to spoil the article by telling you the whole plot, but I do want to say that Daan’s is not only an inspirational story but one that challenges the reductionist view of the human being as a product of interaction between genes and environment. We are so much more than that, and his journey demonstrates that beautifully, and encouragingly for others who suffer in one way or another. Danke, Daan.
From the Netherlands to Australia, where the powers that be seem to have chosen a really good bloke as Queen Elizabeth’s representative. According to Greg Craven’s sketch, it will be worth listening when Governor-General Peter Cosgrove speaks.
Would that were the case when Australia’s Royal Commission into child abuse reports at some time in the future. Established a year ago it is only authorised to inquire into how institutions such as churches, schools and sporting bodies respond to child sexual abuse – which means, writesJeremy Sammut of the Centre for Independent Studies, that the cause of most child abuse will be passed over in silence – again. There is a remedy, as he points out, but it requires acknowledging some simple truths about the family. Perhaps the new G-G could institute a prize for the first sociology professor or judge to do so.
But if you want a memorable lesson about life, the family and all things, YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO ON OUR FRONT PAGE. "Wrights Law" features the craziest and best teacher in the United States, if not theworld, and a dad who... Just watch it. And if it doesn't make you cry, you have a heart of stone.
For our other new stories, please see the links below – lots of good things there.
President Obama started his State of the Union address a bit too late for me to comment on (time zones and all that), but at least I managed to get a peek at the other media sensation of the week, Sunday's Grammy Awards. They were basically a long promotional video for the same-sex marriage campaign. It culminated with pop star Queen Latifah presiding over a mass wedding of 33 couples, some straight, mostly gay and lesbian.
Regardless of what you think of same-sex marriage (me: not much), you must admit that this was an historic moment. It was the day when Hollywood became a subsidiary of the Moonies and their ghastly weirdness. What else could have inspired them? Who else does mass weddings? It was more or less the same, with Queen Latifah standing in for Reverend Moon. The tattooed brides and the bearded significant others weren't wearing white gowns, of course, but they had the same starry-eyed, besotted gaze as their Moonie counterparts.
Perhaps the Grammys' gay groupthink gives an insight into "marriage equality". For the Moonies mass weddings are part of an ideological program. Queen Latifah's wedding was just a soulless parody of conjugal commitment which was designed to advance an even more bizarre ideology. The good news is that the Moonies (or the Unification Church) seem to be fading. Same-sex marriage will fade, too.
I am gradually slithering my way out of holiday mode. I was hoping for an abrupt transition, but that is what holidays do to you, or rather, to me.
While there, I focused on fitness. Not that I needed it, mind you. Whenever I am asked for advice about fitness, my invariable response is, “Walk to work”. I can honestly say that I have walked to work every day and am much the better for it.
Back to the holiday. Historical sites, a la Stonehenge, the Roman Forum, Sainte La Chapelle, or Graceland are scarce in northwest Sydney where I spent the last three weeks or so. However, I do recommend a trip to St Albans (population 72) in the forgotten Macdonald Valley. It has an excellent pub, the Settler’s Arms. There are abundant picnic tables under massive old pepper trees; vintage tractors are sinking into the ground; and the décor has not altered in 150 years.
I made a beeline for the town cemetery to look for graves of First Fleeters -- convicts, settlers and soldiers who came on the first British fleet to Sydney in 1788. Success! I found the faded headstone of William Douglas, a convict who died in 1838. But what caught my attention was the grave of 5-year-old Joseph Sternbeck, who drowned in the river in 1875. The stone mason inscribed an elegiac poem in his memory:
We had a son, a little son, And nearly six years old His ways were ways of innocence; His heart was pure as gold. But O! Beneath McDonald’s stream Was hid his little head. When next we saw our little boy The spark of life had fled. The shepherd gathered up our lamb Of which he gave us seven. Six still remain alive with us The other lives in heaven.
Not exactly Shakespeare, is it? But it is a poignant glimpse into days past when poor parents had lots of kids and loved all of them the same. It made the long drive to St Albans worthwhile. And the beer, of course.
A key member of the MercatorNet team who might be overlooked by readers who rarely, if ever, look at the comments is our chief comments editor, Tim Lee. Tim is a Sydney resident who hails originally from Malaysia. Finding himself with a little time on his hands after retiring from work as a business analyst he volunteered to help with MercatorNet, an offer that was accepted with some alacrity.
His first and still, perhaps, his most vital job (in which he has been assisted more recently by Sue Barnes from the UK) is checking that readers comments on articles stay within the boundaries of civilised repartee. Tim has thrown himself into this task with enthusiasm, good judgement and wonderful good humour, participating in the discussions himself and adding a note of calm to disputes descending to the bear pit rather than ascending to the heights befitting a website dedicated to human dignity. Thank you, Tim!
It’s a bigger job than you might think. This past week, for instance, a guest post on Conjugality by Helena Adeloju generated 380 comments. Admittedly, the blog, which deals mainly with gay marriage issues, is very controversial. Also, Tim himself was a contributor. As he said in closing off the comments, “There are perhaps a dozen regular debaters here, myself included, who account for 80% of the posts…” Still, it demands a real commitment to dialogue to see such a long conversation through.
Another article this week that has stirred the waters and brought a lot of comments (72) is Zac Alstin’s reflections on the release of a book by a South Australian senator called The Conservative Revolution. Some readers have been upset that the article is sceptical about the effectiveness of Bernardi’s rallying cry, given that he is dealing with such important issues as the family and abortion.
What has made this a particularly worthwhile exercise, however, is the fact that Zac does what few of us writers do (myself least of all, I am sorry to say) and that is enter fully into the discussion himself. I recommend reading the comments, and perhaps adding to them yourself. MercatorNet is not the purveyor of a conservative – or any other – social programme. We are trying to serve the cause of human dignity, and that requires constant re-evaluation of ways and means.
Could Coca-Cola be one of those means? Take a look at the great video here with Kelly Bartlett’s post, and see what you think.
Michael Cook is back on Monday and I am away for the week.
It went like a flash, said a friend about her Christmas break as she returned to work this week. I had to agree. It was great, but oh so short. Still, I have another week coming up soon and, after all, we Kiwis tend to be pretty well off for time off. We might not have the iconic 40-hour working week but we do, normally, have two days out of seven at our disposal throughout the year, and a few extra holidays thrown in.
Last week we had a young Japanese woman to dinner on the night before she returned home to the outer reaches of Tokyo. Misato had spent most of the first two days of her 12-day stay with friends sleeping. She had taught her English classes at a high school right up to the time she had to catch a train to the airport. The girl was exhausted, though she soon rallied and made the most of her time here.
I asked her if the Japanese have two-day “weekends” like us. Misato shook her head. She didn’t, anyway. Her work week seems to involve running clubs after school and on Saturdays as well. She often arrives home late, after a train and bus journey – causing her mother angst. In her early 30s, she lives with her parents and a younger sister. She agreed with reports that young Japanese men are reluctant to marry – though she didn’t blame them as good jobs are hard to find.
For all her hard work Misato was a cheerful soul, game to try everything (including a small glass of sherry, which was new to her) and appreciative of every detail. She has my card and was keen to check out MercatorNet – so if you stumble across this newsletter, Misato, hi! It was a pleasure to meet you. And I’m not going to complain any more about how fast the holidays go.
Like rust, MercatorNet never really sleeps, and thanks mainly to the Editor’s moonlighting over the past week or so (while on holiday) we have published several articles. These include reviews of highlights from 2013 and an edifying – and entertaining – post featuring the fearless gender realist Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador. (Oh, and he’s pretty good on the right to life as well.)
I do not wish to speak of New Year resolutions but refer you to Family Edge editor Tamara Rajakariar, who has broached this sensitive topic. However, there is one piece of advice I picked up this morning that may well result in a more courageous approach to the next family gathering.
Anna Sutherland of the (US) Institute of Family Studies, noting a spate of articles about tippy-toeing around your relatives’ ideological sensibilities, and also the tendency for people to segregate themselves according to their political views, suggests that it’s precisely our extended families that give us the opportunity to break out of the echo-chamber and really talk to people who disagree with us. The fact that we don’t choose our brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles… (but do love them talk to them occasionally) turns out to be a healthy corrective to the segregation impulse.
Sympathies to the American readers who are snowed under at the moment. I could tell you that it’s a balmy 24 degrees Celsius (75 F) in Auckland, but it would be too cruel. So I will just say that we haven’t forgotten you; pictures of you shovelling snow are on our news every night.
2013 was a great year for MercatorNet, with lots of great content and sparkling writing. Share this selection of the best and most popular articles with your friends. Reread your old favourites. Leave some comments.
The genius of Chesterton A comprehensive new biography of the brilliant controversialist will delight fans and instruct the sceptical. By Zac Alstin
The Boy Scouts cave in Under enormous pressure, they have voted to welcome openly gay scouts. What message does the change in policy send young people? by Robert R. Reilly
Not so fast! Walter R. Schumm | 08 June 2013 | 26 tags: same-sex parenting, statistics A one-page report on the success of same-sex parenting was reported around the world this week. How reliable is it?
Recycling Mozart Pedro Dutour | 19 June 2013 | 4 tags: music, Paraguay, recycling Music is transforming children's lives in an impoverished corner of Latin America.
The slow death of a pseudo-discipline Denyse O'Leary | 24 June 2013 | 7 tags: evolutionary psychology, neuroscience Enthusiasm for neuro-everything seems to be waning in the light of evidence that brain scans don't tell us very much.
“Inferno” The appropriate tagline for the literary style of Dan Brown’s latest blockbuster is not “the sparkle of champagne” but “peanut butter and jelly for the mind”. Michael Cook