The Changing Paradigm: Freedom, Jobs, Prosperity
Reflections on the Outworkers
It's not completely new for our moral guardians to decide that some jobs are too sinful for a good Australian worker to endure.
Once, for instance, our churches worked among prostitutes, trying to entice them into and prepare them for more honourable callings. For marriage, even.
Now, of course, it is no real sin to be a prostitute. Indeed, we now have more prostitutes than ever before, and some go on to be elected as mayors or as State politicians by voters fully aware of their past.
Moreover, the mainstream churches no longer actively try to rescue women from what more enlightened churchmen would today hesitate to demonise as a sordid, disgraceful or sinful line of work.
Instead, we now see these churches trying instead to rescue women from what is evidently far more degrading and evil work---from sewing clothes.
Yes, the churches---the Uniting Church in particular, and some Catholic groups---have joined or supported Fairwear, the union-dominated activist group which has pledged itself to wipe out the so-called "sweat-shops'', the garages and homes in which outworkers sew up clothes at piece rates.
It is a campaign that unashamedly aims to put people out of work. In Victoria alone, the Trades Hall Council has estimated that "only" 1,900 jobs would have been destroyed by the State Government's plans last year to "save" outworkers from wicked exploitation.
Far better, it seems, that these men and---mainly---women be on the dole than be free to choose to be outworkers. Far better that they be shown the light and saved from sinning.
Which goes to help prove the truth of Karl Popper's axiom, stated in The Open Society and Its Enemies: "Even our great troubles spring from something that is as admirable and sound as it is dangerous---from our impatience to better the lot of our fellows.''
But the churches' involvement in Fairwear---a far-Left organisation that helped to organise, for instance, the May 1 demonstration in Melbourne last year which saw Trotskyists and anarchists close down the stock exchange in a protest against capitalism---is just one incidental manifestation of a religious change that now threatens thousands of Australian jobs, particularly those of low-skilled and rural workers.
And it is this change that I want to talk about tonight, this religious change that has crept up on us, largely unnoticed and unresisted, although it already endangers our freedoms, our jobs and our prosperity.
But let me first reassure those of you who get antsy at the mention of religion. I am not a Christian, so don't fret that you're about to hear a sermon. What follows is based on observation, not faith---except, of course, a faith in reason, and a faith that our happiness and dignity are best realised when we are free to shape our lives for ourselves, provided we don't get in the way too much of others.
But that said, I have to acknowledge some of the gifts we've received from our Christian culture. One is the hard-won belief that rationality need not be incompatible with Christianity. Another is that the Earth was given to Man to use, albeit use wisely. Man, in the traditional Christian view of things, was the pinnacle of Creation.
This has proved quite handy in making us rich. For instance, we could build the Snowy River Hydro Electric Scheme without worrying whether we were sinning against the earth by changing the flow of a river, or were evil to deny fish their equal right to the water.
We could freely complain, as did the Commonwealth and State's Snowy River Committee in 1950 in recommending the damming of the river, that "little use is being made of the Snowy'', and deplore how its water "flows to waste in the sea''.
Today, however, such a human-centric assessment of a river's usefulness is widely held to be sinful.
In case you think I'm exaggerating, let me quote to you remarks made in the NSW Parliament in May 2000, by John Della Bosca, the minister who has had responsibility for the Snowy scheme.
In paying tribute to this great project which provided so much work, so much pride, so much clean power and so much water for irrigation, he said this vision "to turn an entire catchment around in another direction'' was nevertheless something "which people today would not necessarily pursue because we live in a more environmentally conscious age''.
Indeed, the States of NSW and Victoria are now spending more than $300 million to drain the Snowy scheme of some of its water and once again let it "flow to waste in the sea'', so that the allegedly "dying'' Snowy may be restored to life---a truly pagan concept of a river, investing something inanimate with life and, I'm sure, a spirit .
This is not water which the world's driest continent can easily spare, and certainly not if the population boosters behind cardboard billionaire Dick Pratt achieve their dream of at least doubling the number of Australians over the next 50 years.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Australian Bureau for Agriculture and Resource Economics warned that our rice crop this year will be down 40 per cent, partly thanks to a cool summer, but also because farmers had had their water allocations---much of it from the Snowy scheme---cut.
Entire towns, like Coleambally, now face ruin as their access to water is strangled by the new environmental puritans. These are towns built by farmers who have made Australia the most efficient producer of rice in the world.
These are towns built by farmers who in many cases have learned to conquer their salinity problems, by farmers who have turned once barren scrub into waving fields of green, a home to countless fish, reptiles and flocks of birds, some once rare in these areas.
Towns built by farmers who are now judged to be doing sinful work and who may have to leave the land, victims of our new pagan worship of the earth. Or, at least, of an earth uncontaminated by human touch.
Let me now spend some time in explaining that pagan worship, before I give you other examples of the human sacrifices it demands.
We live today in a time of religious turmoil and uncertainty. Most of us now feel we're condemned to shop in religious supermarkets, choosing a little bit of that religion, a little bit of that faith, and a bit of feng shui for the house.
Church leaders admit that faith in the Christian God is at an all-time low, and, as GK Chesterton warned, when man stops believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing---he'll believe in anything.
That's why a book like How to Turn Your Ex-Boyfriend into a Toad and other Spells, by our own white witch, Deborah Gray, can now sell a phenomenal 250,000 copies.
That's why women's magazines run pages of ads from clairvoyants, and psychics who can put you in touch with your dead dog.
That's why the then Chief Minister of the ACT, Kate Carnell, quit two years ago only after first consulting her clairvoyant.
And there's New Age, Reiki, Falun Gong, spiritualism and even the new world-wide Raelian cult, which claims to be on the verge of cloning humans as part of its plan to enable us to live forever, just like the aliens who created us.
But the new religion that worries me most is paganism---or more particularly Earth worship. It is more sinister, more threatening, and more challenging to our wellbeing and---in fact---to rationality itself.
In the Aboriginal community, for instance, we've seen the renewal of interest in---and professed belief in---a largely reconstructed Earth-worshipping spiritualism, one which denies rationality and in almost every way prohibits its believers from participating fully in capitalism, the one proven means of creating wealth and enhancing freedom.
But by no means is the new paganism confined to Aborigines.
The Christians among you may have received an invitation a month ago to participate in what was advertised as "A Liturgy in the Forest'' near Victoria's Trentham Falls.
Sponsored by the Uniting Church, the Anglicans, the Baptists and the Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace, as well as the usual gaggle of green groups, it invited worshippers to a service by the banks of the Coliban River for "anyone who is moved by the grandeur of God, working for environmental justice or who likes to worship in the forest''.
The invitation I saw even included an invocation: "Thou ancient forest, deep and strong, from silent form, bring forth your song.''
Herbal teas were advertised for sale, and all proceeds were pledged to environmental projects---in other words, to the Earth, and not to the usual humans, such as poor people, starving people and sick people.
This is not the only example I could cite to demonstrate how the more "progressive'' elements of mainstream Christian churches are plunging headfirst into Earth worship, with singing trees and all.
Moreover, fully-fledged paganism is now rampant among many non-Christian environmentalists, the questing young, sociology lecturers and the spiritually rootless.
I'm not talking here necessarily of a formal pagan religion, with a unified set of beliefs. And, in fact, some people tell me that what I take to be paganism is in fact just an exaggerated awareness among many of us that there is no God, and that our survival on this planet relies very much on very imperfect humans who are quite able to stuff things up---permanently.
But let me point out just a few of the many examples I've come across that have helped to convince me that this is indeed a religious phenomenon---as in people imputing spiritual values to things with no real rational basis; as in a belief in the supernatural; as in the reordering of man's place in creation---in fact, his demotion in it---on spiritual lines.
Of course, we're all familiar now with the sight of young environmentalists protesting against logging and crying at the thought of trees, living trees, being killed. Trees, which have no consciousness and are nature's ultimate renewable resource.
But such reverence for nature is not just a youthful and inchoate passion. Freya Mathews, philosophy lecturer at La Trobe University, wrote in The Age newspaper of a seven-day trek she'd undertaken along the muddy banks of the Merri Creek, which winds past derelict factories and alongside barbed-wire fences.
I would have found this expedition hell, but Mathews instead wrote how she'd "found temples, goddesses, medieval churches, sacred birds, sanctuaries and holy waters".
More examples. Another Australian academic, Professor David Tacey, recently published a book, Reenchantment: The New Australian Spirituality, in which he insists this land "is spirit country'' and calling on us to tune in so "the Earth itself is experienced as celestial''.
The Sydney Writer's Festival two years ago invited Roger Deakin, a former Friends of the Earth campaigner who has become a merman, to be its guest. One of Deakin's messages to us was: "If a man meets a water sprite, he must not kiss her because he will surely die within a few weeks. Water is something to be respected and revered, not possessed and ravished.''
Meanwhile thousands of Ecstasy-bombed young ravers flock to techno parties in the bush to celebrate "Gaia"---the pagan Earth Goddess, reborn through green guru James Lovelock as the living, breathing, interconnected Earth.
It's no wonder that a co-founder and former head of Greenpeace International, Patrick Moore, now warns that the environmental movement is falling into the hands of Earth-worshipping extremists who share too many hallmarks of the "religious Right''.
He adds: "In the name of speaking for the trees and other species we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era of eco-fascism.''
And he's right. How can you reason with someone who speaks to trees, or for them, or hears them sing? Reason fails. So does democracy. Only force is left, and we have seen only too clearly how readily environmentalists now resort to force to get their way. And, sadly, how tentative governments are in resisting that force.
Such violence is made to seem even more justifiable in the eyes of the new pagans because their religious beliefs generally demote humans several rungs on the ladder of creation. Humans no longer rule the earth, but can be subservient to even a bat. Or a mosquito.
If this, too, sounds a bit exaggerated, bear in mind that Paul Watson, a co-founder of Greenpeace in America, famously called humans the "AIDS of the Earth", and that Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman remarked that "the worst thing we could do in Ethiopia is to give aid---the best thing would be just to let nature seek its own balance, to let the people there just starve.''
Such views, when expressed so frankly, no doubt would strike the great majority of people as extreme.
But they rarely are. Although even our own Peter Singer, Australia's most famous philosopher and the Godhead of Animal Liberation, has warned that: "We who have an affinity with non-human animals and nature ... are finding it increasingly difficult to love our fellow man.''
Singer believes parents have the right to kill imperfect babies in their first month of life, but wrote an angry letter to The Age last year condemning the management of Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens for being so evil as to kill the bats which were destroying this great cultural treasure.
And how easily the rights of Nature are asserted now over the rights of man.
Green groups and the German Government are campaigning for a world-wide ban of DDT, despite clear evidence that withdrawal of this effective mosquito-killer means that children die.
And Greenpeace last year vowed to destroy trial plantings of Golden Rice as part of its campaign against genetically modified food, even though this vitamin-A enriched rice---to be distributed free to poor farmers---is intended to stop an estimated 50,000 children a month from going blind. That's despite the fact that no credible health or environmental risks have been linked to genetically modified crops.
But sometimes it's actually funny how hateful man and his works can be to the new pagans.
In 1999, the Wilderness Society tried to raise funds by publishing a calendar which showed nature at its most serene and holy. One shot showed a lagoon in sacred Kakadu with an attractive jumble of rocks behind.
Sadly for the Wilderness Society, the lagoon turned out to be a tailings dam of the Ranger uranium mine. Instantly, the lagoon which was beautiful became so ugly and contaminated by human hands that the calendar had to be pulped.
These are the new values which threaten us. Reason is overturned. Humans come second to Nature, and are vile. And some jobs suddenly become sins against Creation.
Here are just some recent examples. Both the West Australian and Victorian Governments in the past month have announced that hundreds more forestry jobs must go to preserve forests which in fact are in little danger of being wiped out and are easily regrown.
Environmentalists this month stepped up their attack on Basslink, an undersea cable which promises to transfer relatively cheap power between Tasmania and Victoria, but---grasping at straws here---might conceivably scare some fish.
To examine the water needs of an increasingly thirsty Melbourne over the next 20 years, the Victorian Government has chosen a committee which includes no farmers or business representatives, but does include a no-dams conservationist, the head of the feminist Victorian Women's Trust and the head of the Victorian Council of Social Service, who may not know much about water but apparently knows people who drink it. Naturally, several of its members immediately ruled out building more dams, because dams are evil, but all are very keen instead on seeing whether Melburnians can be made to drink the water used to flush their droppings down the toilet.
Then there's Pangea, which had hoped to build a $10 billion nuclear waste facility in Australia, but was finally forced to ditch its plans in January, after being treated like a leper by State and federal governments too terrified by environmental groups even to meet its representatives publicly.
The federal Labor Party went to the last election promising to scrap plans to build a replacement nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights for medical purposes, and also to ban the planned uranium mine at Jabiluka, despite incontrovertible evidence that nuclear power is the safest, cleanest and most greenhouse gas-friendly source of baseload power.
The Tasmanian Government continues to oppose plantings of genetically modified crops, despite overwhelming proof that they will benefit the environment, help the hungry and create jobs.
And, of course, there's the Kyoto protocol---which Labor supports---looming over us, threatening to destroy any energy-intensive industry as a largely symbolic sacrifice to an Earth whose warming, if any, has little or nothing to do with our impious human activity.
Think of all the industries and jobs now declared sinful by the new pagans and their Earth-worshipping allies in the progressive Christian churches. Think of all the workers who, like the outworkers, must be hounded out of their jobs to please the new gods.
And worry as you wonder just how much human sacrifice it will
take to please the re-awoken Earth Mother, and which of her human
spokesmen you can trust to tell you when enough is enough.