Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Festival of Dangerous Ideas

I'm going to quote from part of a debate between Christian journalist Peter Hitchens (brother of the late Christopher Hitchens) and homosexual activist Dan Savage:

PETER HITCHENS: Well, the first summary of my opinions is absolutely right but what that has to do with a world of black and white and a world of technicolour I'm not quite sure. You seem to be suggesting that somehow a world in which people don't fulfil their obligations to their children, desert their marriages, don't keep to the laws, are increasingly selfish and follow their own desires and abandon all kinds of ideas of self-restraint and patience is a better world than one where those things actually ruled, and I don't agree with you. The fact that the world is technicolour – the fact the world is technicolour and full of drugs and people who get drunk and people who abandon their husbands and wives doesn't seem to me to be an improvement and it strikes me that it's time somebody said that actually this isn't necessarily a turn for the better. But in any case, when you're discussing all these changes in our lives, you can't return to the past. It's futile to even attempt to. What we're always doing all the time is discussing what we're going to do with the future. At the moment we're very busily choosing the wrong future, in which some of us and all of our children are going to live.

PETER HITCHENS: Well, Christianity more or less collapsed in Europe after 1914 and the First World War and when it ceased to exist, all kinds of other things rushed in to take its place. But mostly what's rushed in to take its place is what I call ‘selfism’: the idea that we are all sovereign in our own bodies, that no-one can tell us what to do with our own bodies and that everything that we do is okay, provided we think we aren't harming anybody else. Quite often the truth is that we are harming other people but hiding it from ourselves.!

PETER HITCHENS: Where do you draw the line? You draw the line fundamentally, as far as I’m concerned, around about the Sermon on the Mount and those instructions given to us and I have absolutely no shame in saying that I believe that the Christian religion was the greatest possession which the human race had, which it's now, in large parts of the world, rather busily throwing away.

DAN SAVAGE: I'm a firm believer in do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I just think there’s more doing unto that’s possible in my philosophy than yours.

PETER HITCHENS: You do an awful lot of things unto other people and indeed yourself and that's your affair. But it’s not the same question.!

DAN SAVAGE: Consent matters and harm matters. Consent matters and harm matters. If there's consent and no one is being harmed it's no one's business what an individual chooses to do with his or her body.

PETER HITCHENS: No. No. No. It's so essential to answer this. The people who say that they're not doing harm are invariably deceiving themselves. The people who divorce and say the children are happier as a result, they're not.

DAN SAVAGE: And the government should rush in to prevent people from being self-deceptive if that’s indeed what they’re doing?

PETER HITCHENS: The teenager who takes drugs and becomes mentally ill and ruins his own life and that of his parents is doing harm to other people, but at the time they do these things they say "No, my body is sovereign. I am a completely autonomous person. I don't harm anybody else. " We lie to ourselves about this all the time. I lie to myself about it. You all lie to yourselves about it. You lie to yourself about. We know that we harm other people.

DAN SAVAGE: Well, they're very popular with gay men because gay men are men and men are pigs and also safer, generally. But, what? What are hook-up apps? Hook up apps are little things on your phone, where you can use GPS and you can say, “I’m here in this location at this time and you can see who is nearby and if somebody is of a like mind and would like to hook up with you you can hook up.

PETER HITCHENS: Do you want me to say anything, or not? It seems to me that when intimacy is something which is profoundly private and often, if people are mistreated when they're intimate with other people, they are severely damaged and the idea that sexual relations can be conducted in this casual and mechanical fashion is extremely cruel and crude and dismisses the concept of human love from a very important part of our relations and I think that's a pity. He doesn't think it's a pity. He wants a crude and, as far as I'm concerned, individualistic, unrestrained and a totally selfish world.!

PETER HITCHENS: What is all this stuff? Women have stormed every profession. Women run the BBC in Britain. I expect they run the ABC in Australia. They dominate huge areas of professional life. The struggle for equality in educational professions was won decades ago.!

KIMBERLEY ADLER: Do you think it's possible that the women's liberation movement has gone too far away from the primary role of women to nurture and raise their children? The current role of mothering is being performed by paid care-givers and my observations are showing me there's a direct correlation between narcissism rising in the population and early separation of mother and child. The women who can do it all tend to have children with narcissistic traits. We ship our kids off to strangers to raise them and wonder why everyone is tired and depressed. We are allowing narcissists to rule our world and – sorry. We are allowing the narcissists to currently rule our world, to tell us how to raise our children?!

PETER HITCHENS: Kimberley, you were fantastically brave. Be careful on your way home. The feminists will get you for that. But of course it's true. There's extraordinary pressure to hand over young children to paid strangers while their actual mothers are tripped off to work.

PETER HITCHENS: Anybody who’s been involved in raising children knows that women are better at it.!

DAN SAVAGE: And remember all of those movements, the antiwar movement, the feminist movement, women's liberation movement - those were sort of generative. They came about when people became supremely uncomfortable.

PETER HITCHENS: All revolutionaries claim to be fighting against the oppression of other people when, in fact, they're fighting for their own personal advantage.

PETER HITCHENS: Dan [Savage] is absolutely right about one thing, which is that heterosexual marriage has been redefined to the point where it is dying very rapidly in western societies. It's become easier to get out of a marriage than it is to get out of a car leasing agreement and, as a result, many people are not getting married in the first place. I don't know what the statistics are here but in my own country marriage is dying out as a thing which people do and increasingly it has been sidelined and it is the crucial issue of the modern western world as to whether marriage will survive as a relationship at all. I think it should. They probably think it shouldn't.

We’re moving towards a position where the only people interested in getting married are lesbian clergy women and I look forward to the day when the female Archbishop of Canterbury is married in a lesbian marriage to the female Archbishop of York.

PETER HITCHENS: Well, hang on a minute. First of all revolutionaries are tremendously authoritarian. It’s revolutionaries who build gulags and set up the KGB. Revolutionaries are far more authoritarian than I am. But the fundamental reason why I no longer hold the infantile views which held in my late teens and early 20s is precisely that: that I grew up. The thing which astonishes me is that so many of my generation did not grow up and still, while they're drawing their pensions, they have revolutionary opinions and attend Rolling Stones concerts. What is wrong with these people?

PETER HITCHENS: I gave that up long ago. It would only make me miserable. I know that you people have won. All I seek to do is to tell the truth about you and what you want while it’s still allowed to do so because you are so fantastically intolerant.

I mean the cultural revolution. I mean the cultural and moral revolution which has swept the western world since the collapse of Christianity.  It changed our societies, as anybody who has lived through it knows, out of all recognition in the course of 50 years and in my view for the worst. He's part of it.

DAN SAVAGE: You're paranoid and you’re projecting by saying we are intolerant. You have...

PETER HITCHENS: See, this is the intolerance. Because I hold an opinion different from his, he has become suddenly a qualified psychoanalyst who can tell me – who can tell me that my opinions which I am entitled to hold.

DAN SAVAGE: You're entitled to your opinions. You’re not entitled to your smears.

PETER HITCHENS: But are a pathology. And this is the absolute seed bed of totalitarianism. When you start believing that the opinions of other people are a pathology, then you are in the beginning of the stage that leads to the secret police and the Gulags.

You’ll have the whole world to yourself soon. You can't imagine anybody else is entitled to hold a view different from yours without having some kind of personal defect. That's what's wrong with you.!

PETER HITCHENS: You said this is very personal. This is very personal. I’ll reply to it. I am a very rich and fortunate person. I can - and I'm coming towards the end of my life anyway. I can personally escape many of the consequences of this but most people can't. They can't afford to and leave aside some of the things you've mentioned but a society in which the use of illegal drugs is widespread and unrestrained is one in which everybody is affected by the consequences, whatever they themselves do. It's like that ridiculous bumper sticker "Don't like abortion? Don't have one," to which my reply has always been: "Don't like murder? Don't commit one".

PETER HITCHENS: We have - those of us who oppose the cultural revolution and think that it’s a mistake are entitled to say so for the moment.

DAN SAVAGE: You’re entitled to say so.

PETER HITCHENS: For the moment.

DAN SAVAGE: Population control. There's too many goddamn people on the planet. And I don't know if that’s a – you know, I'm pro-choice. I believe that women should have the right to control their bodies. Sometimes in my darker moments I am anti-choice. I think abortion should be mandatory for about 30 years.

PETER HITCHENS:  The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God and rose from the dead and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.!

I can't really leave it there? Because it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject It, it alters us all was well. It is incredibly dangerous. It's why so many people turn against it.

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