January 10th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Daniel Mannix: the man and his legacy

EDITORIAL: Battle lines drawn for 2004

The Price of Freedom : its contemporary relevance

COMMENT: Faith and the elite agenda

Australian culture wars: losing the argument?

COMMENT: Solving the Policy Nuts Industry Crisis in a few minutes

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Faith and the elite agenda

by David Flint

News Weekly, January 10, 2004
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the book, The Twilight of the Elites, David Flint, head of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, reflects on the fundamental role of Christianity in Australian culture.

I am confident in saying that all of you would know, from your own personal experience, that putting your head over the parapet has one certain consequence. As Tess Livingstone wrote in her Courier Mail review of Twilight of the Elites, I would need the hide of three rhinoceroses to cop the flak the book would provoke!

The other reviews were interesting - to say the least.

Mike Carlton, who hadn't read it, dismissed it as a "rant'.

Gerard Henderson, who misread it, claimed I had let the conservative side down.

Piers Akerman said I had been marginalised by the "greater media herd", and praised it - lavishly. Thank you, Piers.

Tristan Ewins, of the Victorian Socialist Left faction of the Australian Labor Party, writing in the Canberra Times said it was as disturbing as it was important. It was, he said, one of the more influential texts of the year. Jim Ball of radio 2GB put it at the head of his web page list of recommended books.

Tony Abbott's Foreword was so eloquent that I told him I feared readers might keep the Foreword - and throw away the book.

Hal Colebatch in the West Australian and The Record said it was a most important and valuable book.

Now Twilight of The Elites is not about religion. But religion, our Judeo-Christian heritage, is singularly important to its theme.

That theme is about certain ideas, the ideas of a minority, and how they have so influenced, mainly surreptitiously, the life of our nation. Theodore Dalrymple, who is well known from his column in The Spectator and from his books, writes of a growing underclass in the United Kingdom, dependent for their livelihood on welfare. These unfortunates, he says, are prone to drug addiction, violence and crime. Their relationships are the antithesis of the traditional family.

But he says that their welfare dependence is but a symptom of their wider malaise. And this is the result of ideas, ideas directed against the family and individual responsibility, and which are typical of what in Britain are called the chattering classes.

The American writer, Christopher Lasch, called them the "elites" - upper middle-class intellectuals who are left-wing on social and cultural issues. Americans sometimes call them, disparagingly, "liberals". (For obvious reasons, Australians refer to them as small L liberals.)

Lasch's book, The Revolt of the Elites, can perhaps be described as the seminal study of this phenomenon.

My book, as I say, is not about religion. It is about how the Australian elites have imposed their culture - their adversary culture - and their values on the nation over three decades, thus undermining the faith we have received from our fathers and mothers.

What disturbed me was how the fabric, the institutions and the values of our nation had been changed, often imperceptibly, and not only without the consent and approval of the people but also, without the slightest degree of consultation - and that by a minority.

Their views are a strange melange of philosophies and beliefs, each abandoned and modified as they became more and more unbelievable, all accepted as long as they challenged our long inherited values and institutions, and of course our religion.

And if they do not reject the Christian religion, the elites try to modify it to remove the essence from it, somehow merging it into all religions and no religion. More generally, their view has been to deny the supernatural, and to believe all truth is discoverable by science.

Even history, at least according to the Marxist theory, is governed by scientific laws. The Marxist and the humanist believe that both society and man will evolve to a more perfect state here on earth, it is only our present evil society that is holding back that development.

Hence the conclusion that individuals are not responsible, or at most only partly responsible, for what they do. They are no more than victims of the present society which has been so tainted by religion and which must be reformed.

But while the Christian is derided for his or her faith in God the fact is that the fundamental views of the Marxist and the humanist - and the new age religionist - have never been proved, and I suspect are incapable of proof.

If we go back to the creation of the world, we know there exist theories, but no proof, to explain this. The emergence of life from the primeval mud is also explained again by theory not by scientific proof. Their whole agenda is grounded in a blind belief in what is no more than theory.

As G.K. Chesterton famously said, when man stops believing in God, it is not that he then believes in nothing - it is that he will believe in anything. So you have a bewildering array of prophets, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Jean Paul Sartre, Noam Chomsky, and John Rawls too. And as dialectical materialism was exposed as not at all scientific, the social agenda came to dominate over the economic.

What intrigued me was how so much was achieved by that agenda. Of course, it was not by occupying the commanding heights of the economy as the socialists wished, but rather the commanding heights of our social and cultural life - the universities, the media and soon the professions the courts and the political parties.

The targets were, as I have said, the values and institutions of the old "corrupt" society - the family, religion, and the very idea that individuals, normally, have a personal choice and responsibility in life. The idea, for example, that insanity apart, in criminal law you either did not understand what you were doing - or you did not understand that what you were doing was wrong - had to be attenuated and modified until the perpetrator of crime was to be considered a victim too, sometimes deserving of greater consideration than the victim of crime.

By extending the concept of victim, the paternalistic and benevolent state may take over the roles once exercised by the family and the church. Of course this was inevitably done, not in charity, but in accordance with bureaucratic design and at inevitable cost. So while the wealth of the country has increased, the expenditure of government at all levels has increased exponentially, moving from 30% to 40% of GDP in three decades.

Plato's guardians

In this and in so many ways, the elites see themselves as guardians of society, better endowed than their fellows in cultural sensibility, morality and virtue. So they recall the guardians of Plato's republic, which in practice is the model the worst ideologies of the twentieth century chose to achieve their agendas. But I do not compare our elites to them; ours have been subtler and more successful in the longer term.

The elite agenda differs from the mainstream in this way. The mainstream on the whole accepts their received values and although they do not see things as set in aspic, they are at one with Edmund Burke who observed that society is a partnership - a partnership between those who are alive today, those who have gone before and those yet to be born.

In other words, while they accept a gradual evolution in their institutions, with no change in fundamental values, they are uneasy with revolution.

What we have seen is a cultural revolution, often against the pillars of our society, one of which, from 1788, is our Judeo-Christian heritage.

This was expressed in powerful terms in the very first sermon delivered in this land. In it the Reverend Richard Johnson took as his text Psalm 116:12 "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord." He began:

"I do not address you as Churchmen or Dissenters, as Roman Catholics or Protestants, as Jews or Gentiles... But I speak to you as mortals though yet immortals ... The Gospel ... proposes a free and gracious pardon for the guilty, cleansing for the polluted, happiness for the miserable, and even life for the dead."

That eloquent and poetic theme resounds through the history of our nation and is deep in the hearts of the people. It is their offering of spiritual strength in times of trial and reinforcing our lives today. As Edmund Burke said: "We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society".

That theme that Richard Johnson enunciated is seen again at the time of the achievement of that last great pillar of our nation, our federation. In the meticulous drafting of and approval of our constitution, the people were more involved than had ever occurred elsewhere. And the theme that caught the greatest interest and strongest expression of public support was that the constitution should be adopted with reference that what man does is done under God.

So we find in the preamble to the Constitution Act, a recital which declares that the people of the several states, "... humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown and under the Constitution hereby established".

Those words set out the essence of our federation, which was truly the success story of the twentieth century.

Now the proposition that our Judeo-Christian culture is at the heart of our nation, that it is one of our pillars, constitutes an affront to our elites who preside over the nation's cultural institutions.

Such a proposition goes against their faith, a significant part of which is cultural relativism, that all cultures, and religions are of equal value - that is with one exception, the Judeo-Christian culture. This is now the only culture, which can be denigrated publicly with impunity, even as we have seen in Melbourne, in a taxpayer-funded public art gallery, with the "Piss Christ" display several years ago.

But facts are facts. The historical core of Western culture remains our religion, even if the humanistic avalanche tries desperately to retain its form while removing its heart. The precedents for this are not attractive.

Those regimes which in the previous three centuries tried unsuccessfully to banish religion were all intrinsically evil, and visited terrible crimes on not only their own but other people.

My book is not about religion. But given the fundamental role of belief and faith in the formation and preservation of our nation it would be difficult indeed not to touch upon it. For example in the chapter, "A Commonwealth Without Borders", I discuss the argument that those, mainly Muslim, who are brought in from Indonesia by smugglers, destroying all identification, are not jumping the queue. Why? Because, it is said, there is no queue.

But the Reverend Fred Nile has demonstrated conclusively there is a queue, in which there are thousands of Christians in the Middle East who are living in daily fear, and who have applied to come and are patiently waiting for their claims to be processed - waiting for that place which others may seize because they have chosen to enter through the assistance of the people smugglers. And where, incidentally, did I find that comment? Not in the national media - it was in a letter to the Wagga Daily Advertiser.

On another matter, Tony Abbott says, "Flint is at his most challenging" in the chapter "An Elite Population Policy". In this I observe that you cannot have a meaningful discussion about population policy, if you ignore the phenomenon of abortion, which may take the lives of 100,000 unborn each year.

This is not a book about religion. But in discussing its theme, the elites and their agenda, it is essential to assert the truth - that the basis of all civil society, and especially our civil society was, is and remains the faith of our fathers and of our mothers.

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