It seems like Psych 101, but surely unhappy families have something to do with violent crime. The backgrounds of the perpetrators of mass shootings are depressingly familiar: they nearly always come from clearly dysfunctional homes. It's not always the case, but it was certainly true of the young man who killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. It was also true of Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, who shot dead five servicemen earlier this month. Maybe, suggests Carolyn Moynihan in her acute analysis below, fixing families is part of fighting terrorism.
Now that nearly all major English-speaking countries in the Western world have legalised same-sex marriage, the pressure is on Australia, the last hold-out. A number of public figures, however, contest the so-called right to marriage equality. Few have done with with more clarity and verve than the Catholic archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, a lawyer and an Oxford-educated philosopher.
So we are delighted to run a recent speech he made on this topic. Not only has he dug up some quirky news stories (the woman who married herself because she had failed to meet the man of her dreams by the time she turned 40 and, yes, she does come from Texas), he concludes with a point which is either overlooked or assumed: that true marriage is the touchstone of of all other relationships in our society:
"We must learn again the arts of loving. These habits of heart that are no monopoly of the married, but the truly married are models for the rest of us of persevering in loving despite radical differences, of commitment and self-sacrifice for the sake not just of personal or even mutual goals but of yet-to-be-met children and a yet-unknown future society."
A book published earlier this year, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, is a catalogue of terrifying incidents in which ordinary people lost jobs within hours after a tasteless photo or tweet escaped from their smartphone. A South African PR executive, Justine Sacco, became the Number 1 worldwide trend on Twitter in 2013 while she was flying from London to Cape Town, after a tweet sent from Heathrow. The tens of thousands of caustic, violent and obscene tweets which awaited her when she stepped off the plane destroyed her job. They almost destroyed her life. This has happened over and over again.
It's bad enough when a lynch mob assaults a person's reputation in a kind of collective madness. It's worse when the madness is orchestrated, as Carolyn Moynihan reports below. A just-publsihed book arguing the case against same-sex marriage has been attacked on Amazon by a band of internet trolls who call themselves The Flying Monkeys. If this is what critics can expect, it will require courage to speak the truth on the internet.
British novelist Hilary Mantel has been heaped with acclaim for "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies", the first two books in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. The third will be out later this year. You may have seen some of the BBC television adaptation or even, if you live in New York (I mean, you wouldn't travel to see it, would you?) the play now running on Broadway.
In any case you may have gathered that T. Cromwell, whom many of us grew up regarding as Not A Very Nice Man, has been transformed by Mantel into a saintly figure bearing an uncanny likeness to Thomas More, whom Mantel has turned into NAVNM. The question is, why has this preposterous version of key figures in the matter of Henry VIII's divorce(s) and the Church of the period been such a rattling great success with today's intelligentsia and their media?
One answer to this is provided in our interview with Richard Rex , who is Reader in Reformation History at the University of Cambridge and a specialist in the history of the kingdom and church of England under Henry VIII. I find it a very convincing answer myself, and I am sure you will find it interesting, especially if you are familiar with Robert Bolt's play about Thomas More, A Man For All Seasons, and the movie based on it.
It’s a huge scandal in the United States right now – videos showing senior officials of Planned Parenthood talking about how they would manage an abortion to get intact organs from the dead foetus, and what compensation they would expect for supplying the organs to biotech companies using the for research.
The whole idea is detestable (and possibly involves illegal activity) but the details of the discussions and the images they conjure up are the really distressing thing, even though we know something about them already from the controversy over partial-birth abortion.
What’s new – to most of us – is the commodification of the little corpses, the “why let something useful go to waste?” attitude that those involved have persuaded themselves, as they are trying to persuade the public now, is sensible and even humanitarian.
And yet, as Zac Alstin points out in his thoughtful piece on this expose, the attitude is not new. We have seen it before in the fate of “spare” embryos from IVF being used for stem cell research, and in the move to cloning human embryos. And it was there from the beginning of the legal abortion era in the argument that the foetus is not a human being.
Perhaps these videos will allow people to see how callous abortion has made today’s society. I hope so.
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.