Saturday, May 15, 2021
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The moral void at the heart of cancel culture

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FOR all their posturing about taking the high moral ground and ridding society of intolerance and prejudice, every now and again cancel culture activists reveal their true nature.   

In the context of the recent Australian debate about the State of Victoria’s legislation to ban gay conversion therapy, the LGBTQ+ policy analyst Daniel Comensoli does just that. 

When arguing in favour of the Bill, one that makes prayer illegal in the context of conversion therapy, Comensoli argues that public policy should never by influenced by ‘moral judgment’ or ‘discrimination’. 

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines moral as ‘of or pertaining to the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil, in relation to actions, volitions, or character; ethical’.  One of the defining distinctions between a civilised and uncivilised society is that the former strives to be inherently moral.  

If society is to protect the life and liberty of each citizen and to ensure justice and fairness for all, then moral judgment is essential.   

The concepts of natural law and the great religions of the world, including Christianity, are based on moral precepts, and when asking what constitutes the good life and a just society an ethical framework is vital.  

To suggest otherwise by arguing there is no place for morality is both contradictory – on what other basis can human rights be protected? – and dangerous.   

One of the defining lessons from history is that totalitarian regimes are amoral; a situation that quickly leads to inequality, violence and terror as physical force and coercion are the only alternatives. 

As argued by the Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce in The Crisis of Modernity, revolutionary and totalitarian regimes such as communism in striving to create a worldly utopia deny ‘the very idea of virtue in the traditional sense’, committing ‘every violation of the moral order for the sake of (supposed) human happiness’. 

Whether the rise of communism in the USSR and China, or Pol Pot’s return to Year Zero, all such movements in denying the central importance of morality create a world devoid of compassion, tolerance and a commitment to individual liberty and the common good. 

While not suggesting today’s cultural-Left activists are anywhere near as evil as Lenin, Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot, the reality is that cancel culture and the political correctness movement share the same antecedents and have much in common. 

Central to both is the belief that it is possible to create a worldly utopia where all exist in harmony and there is no injustice and inequality. Illustrated by Marx’s mantra ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs’, by overthrowing capitalism the workers’ paradise would arise. 

Cultural-Left gender theory promises the same results, as argued by Roz Ward, one of the designers of Safe Schools – the Australian organisation which aims to make schools ‘safe and inclusive’ for LGBTQ students.   

Ward argues: ‘Marxism offers both the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordinary new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.’ 

Cultural-Left ideologies also advocate what Karl Popper describes as historicism, defined as ‘the doctrine that history is controlled by specific historical or evolutionary laws whose discovery would enable us to prophesy the destiny of Man’.   

Instead of human destiny being determined by larger, uncontrollable forces, what eventuates can be foreseen and controlled. 

Del Noce makes the point that revolutionary movements such as communism are also opposed to religion, especially Christianity.  As argued by Karl Marx, ‘religion is the opium of the masses’, and one of the first steps under communist dictatorships is to silence the church and deny Christians their faith. 

Again, while not as extreme, cultural-Left activists are also dedicated to a world without religious faith, where deciding public policy is void of any religious influence.   

In its submission to the Commonwealth of Australia’s inquiry into religious freedom, the Secular Party argues that ‘religion is a private, individual matter and religion should not impact the public square’. 

Peter Van Onselen, of the Australian newspaper, contends that it’s wrong to treat religious faith as a positive right, since Australians are ‘living in a secular society’.   

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews, when supporting his government’s draconian gay conversion therapy bill, also argues that there is no room for religion, since ‘Victoria is a secular state’. 

Explicit in such arguments is what Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher describes as ‘absolutist secularism’ – an ideology that ‘tries to minimise the role of religion in every person’s life, to exclude it altogether from the public square, and to remove religious institutions from having any influence over government, law, media, schools, universities, the arts, workplaces, social customs, civil discourse, even the civic calendar’. 

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Dr Kevin Donnelly
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of just published Cancel Culture and the Left’s Long March (available at kevindonnelly.com.au)

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