How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia
by Kevin Donnelly
Wilkinson Publishing, 2018, 204 pages, $29.99
In a recent excellent but rather sad article in the Australian, “How the West was Lost”, Kevin Donnelly explained why so much of the blame should be laid at the door of recent Australian and other Western world figures involved in education. Curiously his title reiterated that employed by another deeply thoughtful author back in 2006: How the West was Lost by Alexander Boot, who migrated from Russia to America in 1973, only to find that the kind of West he was seeking was no longer there. Boot’s challenging and intriguing book provides a prelude to today’s cultural battles.
Recently I had the privilege to be present at the launch of Donnelly’s How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia. The broadcaster Alan Jones and Tony Abbott as well as the author spoke with eloquence, common sense and wit, not least about the attempted brainwashing of today’s children and young adults by advocates of political correctness as well as many of the other aspects of what we have come to know as postmodernism. Donnelly’s book could not be more timely or more sensibly and constructively argued. A copy should exist in every household which contains children—not least because the future of our country will lie largely in their hands.
What has become increasingly apparent in recent times is that a growing body of Western intellectual thought now realises at last what is wrong with what we understand today as postmodernism. Since its earliest manifestations in the mid-1960s postmodernism has proposed itself as a new code of “progressive” virtues, in which rhetoric has played a significant part. To poorly educated minds rhetoric is generally indistinguishable from properly arguable sense—hence its more or less universal use in modern politics and advertising.
Kevin Donnelly proposes in How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia that we need to see through the niceties and deceptions of what is at heart a deeply anti-democratic political as well as a sinister cultural movement. Since its inception postmodernism, of which political correctness was the first clear manifestation, has in the minds of many of us simply constituted leftist totalitarianism by stealth. On the very first page of his book, Donnelly reminds us of the dire warnings of George Orwell regarding Newspeak: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”
Donnelly quotes the late Australian academic Pierre Ryckmans: “culture is the true and unique signature of man” and “in the same way a garden is cultivated it is vital that society cultivates the young to enable them to preserve and enrich the culture into which they are born”. Ryckmans is also quoted as saying:
to deny the existence of objective values is to deprive the university of its spiritual means of operation. The basic notions of objectivity and thought have long been under attack both here and internationally in our seats of further education.
Donnelly reaches similar conclusions to those argued by Roger Kimball in America two or three decades ago. Kimball’s Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education was first published in 1990. That was followed in 2000 by The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America. Both books are dedicated to that other very fine American mind Hilton Kramer, whose Twilight of the Intellectuals provides probably the best introduction to the emergence of an extreme Left in the USA before and during the Second World War. In 2000 Roger Kimball published Experiments Against Reality. I treasure that book especially for its measured but highly reasoned demolition of much of the theorising of Michel Foucault, whose name was on virtually every Australian student’s lips in the years leading up to the millennium. Donnelly has reached conclusions in Australia which echo those reached in the USA by Kimball but which recognise that Australia is in a sense a unique case owing to its cultural isolation.
When Roger Scruton’s magnificent book Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left was reviewed in this journal in 2016, the reviewer was slightly puzzled by Scruton’s forbearance when dealing with left-wing figures for whom he clearly had little or no respect. But what Scruton was really doing was employing an intellect of the highest order where too many others content themselves largely with invective. Scruton’s skills are demonstrated time and again in his very English understatement and also by appearing to listen to fools patiently but then utterly demolishing their arguments in a single sentence. What Donnelly is rightly complaining about is almost always the product of inferior and poorly argued theory. Australia tends to lack impressive cultural traditions of its own but now also spurns an international heritage of infinite worth: the entire history of Western civilisation.
The widespread politicisation of culture and the arts in Australia has had a particularly unfortunate effect on all kinds of aesthetic judgments, which are widely dismissed today as elements of an outdated bourgeois Western culture. As Donnelly remarks: “Similar to what is happening in America, Europe and the UK, political correctness is destroying Australia’s cultural heritage and what is best about our institutions and way of life.”
It is not merely the negative aspects of postmodernism which are a fatal danger to the West but what is proposed to replace the existing order. How many Australian lecturers and teachers have ever travelled extensively in former or present communist states?
Before we met, my Australian-born wife and I had each spent significant amounts of time working in former communist countries, including Estonia, East Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, USSR and Georgia, often well before communism’s final, apparent collapse. Having witnessed Russian conditions at first hand before 1989, it is inconceivable to me that any sane person would wish to try to replicate them, or anything remotely like them, here in Australia. But how many Australian teachers have shared experiences like ours?
Let me give just one example. At the Twenty-Third Congress of AICA (the International Association of Art Critics) at Tbilisi in Georgia in 1989 the opening address, which I have never forgotten, was given by a young Russian art critic, Alexander Yakimovich, who said:
No man, no artist, no thinker, no scientist in the Soviet Union could feel safe … high intellect, artistic talent, positive social activity or true moral standards were mortally dangerous for their bearers … the catastrophic aspects of Soviet totalitarianism exceeded known historical calamities by the very aspect which differentiates Dante’s Hell from Purgatory: no hope is left.
Many left-wing Australians were, of course, not only once entirely ignorant of the true nature of communism but also traitors to this country and to Allied causes during the Second World War—as Hal Colebatch has chronicled so tellingly in his book Australia’s Secret War. The grasp by many Australian teachers and lecturers of historical, political and other realities is what I would politely describe as limited. What do most truly understand about concepts such as capitalism which often have little or no apparently direct bearing on their lives? And where have any of the socialist utopias they are so keen to recommend ever existed?
The short answer to that is nowhere, not least because the theories involved are inherently not just anti-Western but also completely false. Many of today’s left-wing teachers in Australia form a kind of unworldly club which often attempts to impose its highly unwelcome ideas on other people’s children. This is both undemocratic and utterly wrong.
God save anyone who lives in Victoria today from the communist-inspired theories which are visited on their children. I would perhaps defend the right of left-wing parents to send their children to leftist schools but no other child in the country should be subjected to the kind of arrant rubbish inflicted, for example, in Safe Schools programs. Likewise the children of Catholic parents should be free to choose an education for their children which is in keeping with their family faith.
Traditional tales, in the words of one Australian academic quoted by Donnelly, reinforce “phallus-dominated heterosexuality and female dependence”. Politically correct gender theory teaches it is wrong to portray men as masculine or to depict women as wives and mothers. Another academic describes the English classroom as a socio-political site where classic fables and stories impose an “oppressive male-female dualistic hierarchy” and a “phallogocentric signifying system for making meaning”. The cultural Left argues that plays like Romeo and Juliet “unfairly reinforce heterosexuality as the norm”.
Donnelly’s book is full of instances of similar idiocies visited upon us largely by people who imagine themselves to be communists or neo-Marxists. Would they had been shipped in the old days, say, to the communist “utopia” of Cambodia run by Pol Pot. Do none of these over-age children have any grasp of what happened in the twentieth century? Presumably even self-styled communists are still able to grasp the meaning of words? In which case they should be set down forcibly before copies of The Black Book of Communism, which first appeared in its English translation in 1999. Care to know precisely where the gulags were in Bulgaria, or in other communist countries around the world? What such books also tell us is the extent of communist crimes, terrors and repressions. Estimates vary but it is widely agreed now that up to 100 million of their own people were killed in former or present communist states. Where then were the socialist utopias?
What about supposedly wonderful socialist Cuba? Pages 647 to 665 of The Black Book of Communism deal in horrific detail with the vast prison camps of that island and the terrible tortures endured by their inmates—especially perhaps by women.
Postmodernism can be divided conveniently into sections, of which political correctness and feminism are just two. Multiculturalism makes up a fairly mindless and self-defeating third and Donnelly is absolutely right to quote the supreme good sense of Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe (2017) as providing endless examples of what so-called “multiculturalism” has achieved in Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Greece.
I do not agree entirely with all of Murray’s theories but feel the one which is most widely overlooked is that almost all true, self-proclaimed postmodernists are basically irreligious and thus fail to realise that people from utterly opposed religions may not necessarily get on terribly well when thrown together. As Donnelly so wisely states:
Forget German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mistaken belief that embracing diversity and difference represents the best way forward. Contrary to the political elites, cultural-left academics and many in the media, Murray argues that multiculturalism is busily destroying what makes Europe unique.
Murray writes: “By the end of the lifespans of most of the people currently alive, Europe will no longer be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home.”
Political correctness, feminism and multiculturalism form, as it were, the equivalents of exposed rocks at low tide. In short, we can see they are there and thus carefully avoid running aground on them even when they are sometimes hidden from view. For those still resolutely unaware of the true dangers of the avowed Marxist intent to destroy Western Christian civilisation, however, it is the lethal thoughts which lurk in the deeper waters of the mind of which we should be particularly aware.
In the run-up to last year’s plebiscite in Australia on gay marriage, for example, I doubt whether more than a tiny percentage of our population had any grasp at all of the significance of the issues truly involved. As I mentioned, postmodernism relies heavily on what is often third-rate rhetoric for the success of its plans. The term “marriage equality” is thus well within the scope of even an average advertising copywriter. But what was its bearing on the final result? For anyone of reasonable intelligence a single book can explain what the true issues are and have essentially always been. However, you will not see the book in question in your local bookshop. When I ordered Donnelly’s How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia at my own local store I was met with the question: “Isn’t he terribly right wing?” What Donnelly is truly is a wise, concerned and deeply Christian human being.
To understand the same-sex-marriage issue properly, you need a copy of Paul Kengor’s Takedown: From Communists to Progressives: How the Left has Sabotaged the Family and Marriage (2015). As the book’s publicity explains, the author “traces the roots of the anti-family movement through the sordid history of socialists and communists—people like Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Margaret Sanger, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse and assorted 1960s radicals”.
How and why then did the Australian Liberal Party endorse same-sex marriage? The Australian public surely deserves politicians who are properly informed. Here is a brief excerpt from Kengor’s book:
Lukacs told Munzenberg, Dzerzhinsky, and Marxist revolutionary Karl Radek that the inability to sell economic Marxism to the world meant that a new means would be needed to bring down capitalism. Class-based economic warfare would have to take a back seat to an assault on Western civilization. That was where the rupture had to take place.
A primary method, wrote Ralph de Toledano, would be to saturate Western culture with a “miasma of unrestrained sex”:
The destruction of the West, from which a phoenix-like Marxist utopia would arise, was to be achieved by the combination of neo-Marxism, neo-Freudianism, Pavlovian psychology and mass brainwashing, wrapped up in what euphemistically became known as Critical Theory.
Does any of the foregoing sound familiar? Survival today is largely a question of reading the right books, of which Donnelly’s latest is a most worthy example. What is at stake in Australia is the soul of a unique country of which Donnelly for one is intensely proud. I find myself in complete agreement philosophically with him. He writes:
The evil nature of totalitarian regimes, such as communism and fascism, is that they are premised on the belief that man-made laws reign supreme, that power and violence instead of reason are the final arbiters and that utopia can be created on this earth.
I have followed the fortunes of the Ramsay Foundation closely since its outset and am by no means surprised that the ANU has now rejected any form of co-operation in teaching the wonders of Western civilisation to Australia’s youth. Most Australian universities, of course, would today prefer to discredit and destroy such wonders.
Donnelly has performed a great service to his country by presenting his profound but unfortunately unfashionable words to us. Would that his book might trigger a deluge of the pent-up feelings of ordinary, sensible Australians. Perhaps the Ramsay Foundation should now content itself temporarily by opening a publishing house which could bring the finest international minds to the attempted rescue of this country? If even the first and last explanatory chapters of Scruton’s Fools, Frauds and Firebrands could be reproduced in the form of a political pamphlet, ordinary people might possibly at last understand what the true issues facing all of us are. Likewise if a cheap reprint of Paul Johnson’s Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1990s could be made available to every Australian teenager, and a copy of the same author’s Intellectuals to every intelligent parent, this country might possibly begin to be transformed.
With this book Donnelly opens a viable breach in the walls which all who have appropriate instincts should hurry to exploit. In the immortal words of Shakespeare:
He that hath no stomach to this fight
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy be put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us …
Giles Auty lives in the Blue Mountains.