Parliamentary democracy is underrated as a safeguard of personal liberty. From the outside, the perception is that Parliament is mired in gridlock and inertia, and that is a source of frequent criticism from the media and the general public. Yet, the checks and balances of the legislative process are what give democratic outcomes their rigour and legitimacy.
Within Parliament, law-making is overseen by a robust committee process, internal reviews and spirited debate on the chamber floor. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee, established in 1932 monitors delegated legislation, and there is formal committee scrutiny of every bill. Outside the building, politicians are held to account by the cut and thrust of the political contest and the free media. This doesn’t make governing easy. But the fact that lawmakers are ultimately accountable to the people is what gives our system of government its moral authority. We respect the process even if we don’t always agree with the outcomes.
None of these mechanisms protect us from the unelected. Indeed, many of today’s biggest threats side-step the political process entirely. Recent efforts to purge gender from the Victorian public service and the Defence Force are cases in point. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the Australian Defence Force had introduced a ‘language guide’ warning new recruits that a failure to ‘use gender-neutral language when referring to relationships or gender identities,’ could be met with a charge of bullying. These revelations followed an announcement by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services declaring the first Wednesday of every month as ‘They Day’, urging staff to eschew gendered language in the workplace.
Unlike democratic law-making, the process which led these departments to veto the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ has been shrouded in bureaucratic secrecy. Who’d have thought that pronouns could be regarded as a form of aggression in modern Australia? Who were the architects of ‘They Day’ and the Defence Force’s new language guide? Was it an ambitious public servant who thought virtue signalling their commitment to post-modern gender theory would mark them up in the eyes of their superiors? Perhaps a zealous HR manager, keen to remove the threat of injury by bullying that might arise from a snowflake employee being offended by being incorrectly addressed?
We can sort out the issue of how to address each other simply by the use of good manners. You call a person what they’d like to be called, in the reasonable hope that you might receive a similar courtesy. It’s another thing entirely to make it the rule, backed up by the force of policy that flows into employment law.
Will the minutes of departmental meetings and internal memos associated with the change ever see the light of day? I suspect not, even if someone pursues the long and often expensive process of ‘right to information’. More importantly, why were the general public and their elected representatives not consulted?
Many strongly oppose the imposition of new language structures, seeing it as an attempt to delete from public discourse the traditional concepts of gender and traditional family structures. Activists may have succeeded in large departments and corporate structures by marking the cards of dissenters as ‘regressive’ and ‘not to be promoted’, but people in the wider community see the imposition of ‘zie’ and ‘hir’ and suchlike for the nonsense it is. But the real issue is this: there is no oversight or accountability for this kind of social reform by stealth.
Although bureaucratic diktats like ‘They Day’ lack the binding force of laws passed by parliament, that’s likely to be neither here nor there for employees that fall within their purview. After all, what prospects of promotion await the traditionally-minded soldier or nurse who conscientiously continues to use ‘he’ and ‘she’? Similarly, what option does the conservative colonel seeking career advancement have but to parrot the full array of LGBTIQ talking points? It used to be enough to simply do your job well, mind your own business and be polite to your colleagues.
Advocates of gender-neutral pro-nouns claim the de-gendering of language is in the interests of tolerance and inclusivity. In truth, they have it back to front. It emanates from what John Howard wisely labelled ‘minority fundamentalism’, whereby ‘long-held custom, practices and beliefs [are assumed to] represent or imply an attack on those who do not support it.’ It’s this suspension of common sense that allows the use of ‘he’ and ‘she’ to be taken as a swipe at the very small minority who fall outside these categories.
This growing push to androgenise our vocabulary is about more than just language. It’s about using the guise of civility to pathologise thought that doesn’t conform to the minority fundamentalist worldview. It was this alarming instinct to curb free thought which led Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson to risk censure before the Ontario HRC by defying his province’s diktats compelling the use of gender-neutral speech.
And herein lies their success in re-writing social norms without any mandate. Minority fundamentalists recognise that the mainstream of Australia has a conservative disposition that’s wary of diving into sweeping social change. Rather than going door by door to persuade the public of their worldview, radicals have taken the lead of their European forebears and focused on capturing our culture by force.
What Marxists in the 1960s dubbed ‘the long march through the institutions’ has been an overwhelming success. Minority fundamentalists are keenly aware they can realise their vision of the world far more swiftly by infiltrating unelected positions of cultural and political power than by going through the inconvenience of public persuasion to obtain a democratic mandate. The universities, public education, the arts and even the corporate world testify to their success.
Aided by an apathetic majority that’s cowed by political correctness, the fundamentalists are no longer knocking at the gate. They’re inside it; minority fundamentalists have never been in a stronger position to stage an assault on our most time-tested traditions and values. The irony is that all of this ‘tolerance’ has delivered the very opposite. If you’re not sure that’s so, try using a few unauthorised pronouns in your public service or corporate workplace, and see what HR has to say about it.
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