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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 32

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 32

Maxim Institute

real issues.


this week: No. Thirty-Two 5 SEPTEMBER 2002

Contents: ---------
MEN'S HEALTH - promoting the 'genitalised society'
RACE RELATIONS CONCILIATOR - how can effectiveness be measured?
GLOBAL CRUSADE - PM saving the world
CIVIL SOCIETY - No. 5 in the series: - interrelationships

MEN'S HEALTH - promoting the 'genitalised society'
The AIDS Foundation has declared today (September 5) 'National p_enis* Day' claiming that this is "a fun way to promote men's s_exual health". The news release talks health, but it's really a front for ideology. While there is much genuinely useful information about testicular cancer and its treatment, it ends with stupefying statistics in 'The Great P_enis Fact Sheet'. This details average flaccid and erect sizes, average duration of o_rgasm, composition of ejaculate, etc. The AIDS Foundation wanted to use billboards to promote its message but the billboard company refused to put them up. Thirty years ago Malcolm Muggeridge predicted the 'genitalised society'. But even he could scarcely have imagined the blatant saturation this concept has now reached in our culture. The deconstruction of natural modesty has moved into high gear. Not only are any remaining vestiges of female and male modesty being eroded, we are being desensitised. In the process, we are being dehumanised as well. We are our s_exual organs. Our genitalia are being presented as a means of emancipation and empowerment. In short, they constitute our humanity. Ideology masquerading as health is also a vehicle for advocating and normalising alternative s_exual expressions. The terrible irony is that this fascination feeds into a culture of s_exual crime and offending. But the connection between this and the advancing 'genitalised society' is seldom made. Perhaps it's time.

RACE RELATIONS CONCILIATOR - how can effectiveness be measured?
- At a time when Winston Peters and immigration are again in the spotlight, the new Race Relations Conciliator, Joris de Bres, is welcoming debate. But he refuses to go head-to-head with Mr Peters. "The debate", he says, "should centre on facts and values, not fear and prejudice".

What 'facts' and 'values' does Mr de Bres have in mind? We need to remember that his appointment, like all commissioner positions, is a political appointment in a political context.

By his own admission, Mr de Bres is committed to promoting "a diverse New Zealand where people were not pressured to assimilate into the dominant Anglo-Celtic culture". But what does 'diverse' really mean? At one level, it is a simple reality - people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds living in close proximity (especially in large cities such as Auckland). Let's call this factual pluralism. There is also, however, an underlying belief that government must promote diversity as a self-evident 'good'. This is philosophical pluralism. And this is what Mr de Bres is really referring to. Philosophical pluralism cannot (logically) translate into any coherent and measurable outcome. It relies, ironically, on an ethos that actually favours certain groups. Take the case of Maori, for instance. The aim of the Government is to eliminate inequality, and Maori are considered more disenfranchised than others.

The office of Race Relations Conciliator has been around for a long time (since 1971) and is in the vanguard of our now finely-tuned human rights culture. What it attempts to do in fostering racial harmony is worthy, but it rests on a confused understanding of pluralism.

A better approach would be to start with a philosophy that understands what unites us as human beings, irrespective of our ethnicity or skin colour. Common human needs provide the best basis for thinking about these issues, not the politics of difference.

GLOBAL CRUSADE - PM saving the world
- Speechwriters have been working overtime at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg and the rhetoric has flowed thick and fast. Helen Clark told CNN that "New Zealand will help save the world". The ratification of more UN protocols and covenants will be the means.

Media attention has accustomed us to attaching a lot of weight to UN conventions. But international imperatives aside, only when governments understand citizen virtue, responsibility and accountability will real progress on these important and perplexing issues be possible.

There is a legitimate role for the state in tasks such as co-ordinating national (and international) monitoring, research initiatives (etc.), but governments and new law can only do so much. For responsible behaviour to ensue, communities, families and ultimately individuals have to develop a conscience.

CIVIL SOCIETY - No. 5 in the series: - interrelationships
- A term currently championed as a political virtue is ' inclusion '. Related terms are 'exclusion', 'tolerance', or 'diversity' . To a large extent these terms are shaping and driving much of our social thinking and policy in New Zealand.

In a Civil Society, however, ' inclusion ' is something that happens naturally. It does not have to be politically engineered. Everybody is born into a natural family - i.e. everybody has a mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles (and in most cases siblings as well). Even when grandparents, aunties and others are deceased the intergenerational context remains. An adult may be single but he or she still exists in a web of intergenerational connectedness that is the natural family. People may live in de facto or other relationships, but the kinship ties remain. In a Civil Society the relational reality naturally embraces diversity. No one is excluded. It's not political, it's simply lived experience. Genuine inclusion and identity are relational concepts, lived out first and foremost within families.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Eric Hoffer (American social philosopher, 1902-83)
- It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbour.

* FootNote
If you are wondering why you read s_exual and p_enis, it is because some computer systems will block messages containing certain words. We are trying to ensure this edition of _real issues_ will get to you in a readable format.

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Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. You are encouraged to forward the newsletter to others who might be interested. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

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