Bill Muehlenberg

Gimme a little respect

In something straight out of a George Orwell novel, the Victorian government has recently appointed an MP to become ‘Minister for Respect’. With all due respect – pun intended – this has to be a national first, perhaps a world first.

Orwell of course had four ministries in evil Oceania, in his celebrated novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949). They were: the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Plenty, and the Ministry of Truth. They were part of the totalitarian apparatus of Big Brother, meant to keep the populace in check.

The motives of the Victorian Premier are hopefully more benign, but the same concerns arise here: a Ministry of Respect? What about a Ministry of Niceness, or a Ministry of Friendliness, or a Ministry of Let’s Just All Get Along?

Don’t get me wrong – these are all good things. Who doesn’t want a little respect or a little friendship? The question is, however, whether such things can simply be produced by Government decree – by the click of a Minister’s fingers.

The motivation is good as well: the flood of violence, racial attacks and criminal activity plaguing the streets of Melbourne need to be tackled. And sure, if we all respected each other, hopefully crime and anti-social behaviour would lessen.

But how exactly do we make this happen? It seems that even Justin Madden, the newly appointed Minister for Respect, is not fully sure what his new role entails. How do you legislate respect? How can an inner disposition become a matter of external regulation?

The truth is, respect is an important personal and social trait, but it has to come from within, and not be imposed from without. But the problem is, social peace and calm can be achieved by only two means: conscience or cops. Either we heed the moral compass within, or we pass more and more laws without, to keep society functioning harmoniously and smoothly.

However, all over the Western world, as we become more and more secular and hostile to eternal truths and realities, our inner moral sense is becoming more and more dulled, if not extinguished. When we are taught over and over again that there is no God, that there are no absolute moral values, and that everything is relative, then it is quite hard for conscience to function properly.

When we are told repeatedly that we are mere accidents of nature, without meaning, purpose, a clear beginning or a certain end, then morality – both private and public – becomes increasingly hard to maintain and encourage.

If we are just accidental blobs of tissue living in a purely material world where right and wrong are at best mere social conventions, and at worst, non-existent myths, then why try to live morally? Why bother trying to show some respect? Why bother trying to be good at all?

When we abandon in wholesale fashion a worldview which holds to transcendent truth, including the truth that we are moral beings living in a moral world created by a personal moral God who will one day be held accountable for our moral decisions, then we can only expect that Aretha Franklin’s complaint about getting no respect will only increase.

And given that the Victorian Government has been at the cutting edge of radical social engineering, much of which is aimed directly against the Judeo-Christian worldview, and its expression in the public arena, then you have to ask, “Who are you to talk about respect?”

All sorts of decidedly disrespectful pieces of legislation have been passed by this activist Government. Consider just one: Justin Madden, along with his Labor colleagues, effectively railroaded through a bill which makes Victoria’s abortion laws the most liberal in the nation, and amongst the most liberal in the world.

Abortion is now completely open slather in this state, and an unborn baby can be snuffed out with impunity at any time in its first nine months of life. Where is the respect there?

Indeed, how can you talk about respect when the ones deserving the most respect – those who cannot defend or protect themselves – get the least respect, and are subject to draconian death legislation. Some 20,000 of these innocent and unprotected babies are killed in this state every year.

It seems pretty hard to instil respect into the citizenry when we do the exact opposite in terms of our most vulnerable and most defenceless. If the Victorian government can say it is just hunky dory to wipe out unborn babies in their tens of thousands, then why are we surprised when so many Victorians seem to show no respect for each other?

Mother Teresa long ago said abortion is the world’s greatest disturber of the peace, the most ruthless act of violence. If we can legislate to kill helpless babies, then I don’t see how appointing a ‘Minister for Respect’ is going to even remotely impact the growing levels of violence, crime and anti-social behaviour swelling in our state right now.

If the state is really serious about showing some respect, why not start showing it to those who are most worthy of it – those who cannot speak up for themselves? But somehow I don’t expect the radicals running this state to make this sort of connection.

I fear they will simply continue to offer cosmetic solutions to entrenched social problems, with an ever-expanding bureaucracy, complete with even more Orwellian titles. And as long as they send out these mixed signals, I can’t see how such new ministries will do the slightest bit of good.

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