Flat White

St Pauls can do better…

14 June 2017

7:06 AM

14 June 2017

7:06 AM

I usually leave the sincere and polite explanations of why Daisy Cousens is confused to the wonderfully articulate Michael Davis. Out of concern that he is (deservedly) becoming very busy and important these days, I’ve decided to chime in myself on Monday’s bizarre analysis of investigations into sexual assault on campus.

I bear dear Daisy no ill will, as I can see she seemed well intentioned in her argument, even if it could have been better articulated. Her instinct is to defend institutions which she feels have served our country well, which is inherently a good start. However, her desire to defend them seems to be motivated by the notion that ‘left wing media’ is leading said attack, rather than an accurate analysis of the good that such institutions can represent.

This is an emotive argument rather than an intellectual one and seeks to define conservative ideology and principles only by how they stand as a comparison to the progressive left. Some of the beautifully fierce philosophies and beliefs of true conservatism are done a disservice with this mentality.

This is straight out of the playbook of the left, who spit out platitudes and reactionary outrage against conservative institutions and ideals because of a self-appointed moral superiority, more focused on who is launching the argument, rather than the merits of the argument itself. This is intellectually lazy research work if nothing else.

Further to this, however, such an approach can lead well-intentioned individuals to jump quickly into the knee-jerk victim mentality of the left, as Daisy seems to have done with her defence of St Pauls College.

It is first worth noting that Ms Cousens truly gives St Pauls College far too much credit.

If she sincerely considers St Pauls College the pure embodiment of Western civilisation and “the last remaining bastion of western cultural masculinity” then I’d say the battle to save the West is well and truly lost.

The picture painted of “the single-minded male drive to learn and to excel in order to protect and to provide” is a peculiar depiction of a college resident at best, and begs the question whether she has met very many.

Now maybe Daisy took her description straight out of the College’s advertising pamphlet, or maybe she has a commendably romantic imagination.

If surveyed, the students of St Pauls College are probably more likely to describe themselves as normal blokes studying and living together at university, becoming good friends, and maybe playing a bit of rugby on the side rather than Daisy’s rather overly illustrious depiction of residents as the “embodiment of individualism, personal autonomy, hard work, trial and error, incentive, competition, and the constant battle to reach and exceed humanity’s greatest potential.” I truly wish Daisy’s description were the accurate one, what a world!

Unfortunately for Daisy, her spectacular ideal of colleges and their residents died some years ago, maybe when they started having spewing competitions and forcing freshers to chug alcohol laced with chemicals that rendered them a hospital inanimate. If one was to be completely honest, this makes them no smarter, or more stupid than the average university student really.

This does not equate to college students and in particular those from St Pauls, being the embodiment of all evil, but it certainly does not mean that the college system these days is the perfect example of what Western civilisation and its principles currently give to society. Or at least, let’s hope not.

What Daisy needs to acknowledge is that conservatives do not simply defend all institutions and traditions simply because they are institutions and traditions. We are perfectly able to keep the baby while ridding ourselves of the bathwater.  There are many good things that come out of a college experience, but it’s time to salvage those while dealing seriously with the issues at hand.

Due to Daisy’s reactionary approach to ideology, her conspiracy theories have gotten somewhat out of hand when it comes to the topic of accusations of sexual assault on campus.

St Pauls College has not come into the firing line simply because they are a “masculine institution of the West.” Were this the case, male colleges across NSW would have the same target on their back; take, for example, Warrane College at UNSW, who don’t allow women beyond the second floor because they rightly choose to promote a culture of academic focus and remove as far as they can, promiscuity in the dorms. Warrane College, who have a distinctly religious underpinning, do not find themselves regularly dragged through the national and statewide news.

St Pauls College have found themselves the focus of the discussion around sexual assault on campus because they have been the only college who has actively resisted a university-wide investigation into sexual assault on campus. I’m no PR expert, but even I could have anticipated this move going down like a lead balloon.

Daisy’s argument, that sexual assault is just as likely to occur outside college life as in it, implies that she is excusing the College of any blame (I expect, unintentionally) under the proviso that they are in fact, no worse than everybody else.

Now maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned, but to entertain Daisy’s defence of St Pauls as a pinnacle of Western civilisation, it is worth noting that traditionally one deep-seated root of Western civilisation, is the desire for human development and flourishing; to rise above the status quo and the muddy masses.

Even if it had been one instance of rape, one allegation of sexual assault, or one experience of sexually violent speech, against a person regardless of gender, I would hope that this is still considered one story too many.

Punishments following the crime are unfortunately not enough these days and preventative measures need to be implemented. These days, when most individuals enter college at around 18, they are essentially still children or at the very least, vulnerable young adults. Parents with the care of their children entrust institutions such as colleges and I hope this responsibility is taken seriously.

I certainly have no personal problem with those fortunate enough to be, in Daisy’s words, “elite”. Some of our most “elite” Australians are in the unique position of also being our most charitable. But I do have a problem with sexual assault, and investigating allegations does not equate to “a war on the West,” whether it be one case or 100.

Even if the accusations are unfounded, which naturally a fair and thorough investigation is needed to ascertain, to conflate a genuine outrage at women being treated like meat in a promiscuous setting, to a war against the West, reveals a genuine confusion about Western civilisation and a worrying, but I assume unintentionally conveyed, lack of empathy on the topic of sexual violence.

I certainly admire Daisy’s fierce desire to take on the left no matter the battle, and her boldness is admirable, but she has missed the mark on this one.

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