Hamlet summed up the problem of how to be good, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Ethical behaviour is not innate.
So it should be no surprise to hear a result, trumpeted by the ABC, that “three out of four people have an implicit bias against Indigenous Australians”. With a leftist media desperate to prove systemic and oppressive racism, this was manna from heaven for the ABC.
But before we rush to judge perhaps we should take Hamlet’s advice and do some thinking.
The study involved a subject hitting keys on a keyboard when pictures of white or Aboriginal Australians were shown alongside good or bad words. If you responded quicker when the good words were associated with white Australians, compared to when they were shown alongside Aboriginal Australians, you are an unconscious racist. When I did the test, I found that what really happened is that I just got sick of its repetitiveness and my answers slowed down. In the test, Aboriginals were associated with good words last.
Whatever its methodological failings though, I don’t disagree with the results. Humans probably do have an unconscious bias towards their own race, their own tribe, their own people. This bias is sinful and wrong. Some of our instincts are unethical but there is a distinction between human instincts and human behaviour.
If we let our instincts rule, there would be a lot more gluttony, adultery, greed, jealousy and laziness. The key question is what cultures best restrain the worst of our instincts and generate the best of our behaviours?
The author of this study, Siddharth Shirodkar, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, reckoned the solution was “about educating all of us from an early age and to a significant level about the ongoing oppression that pervades countries like Australia and the United States.”
Mr Shirodkar went on to reveal his true objectives: “It is about dismantling the monocultural Western nature of many of our key public institutions and about vastly increasingly the racial/ethnic diversity among our media, government, workplace and educational leaders [and] judiciary.” A comment that perhaps reflects that this study into bias might just be itself a little, I don’t know, biased.
And before Mr Shirodkar and his allies tear down centuries of western civilisation, we should ask how does the west compare to others? Are we bastions of racism? Perhaps some actual evidence could help us answer this question.
The World Values Survey asks people in almost 100 countries their views on social or political issues. One question they ask is often used as a proxy for attitudes to different races: “Would you like to have people of a different race as neighbours?”
In Australia, 95 per cent of people surveyed would like to have people of a different race as a neighbour, one of the highest rates in the world. As a recent article in The Washington Post concluded: “People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in Latin America.”
India, South-East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa tended to have much lower levels of tolerance based on answers to this question.
At least on this evidence, Mr Shirodkar’s solution to dismantle “monocultural Western society” may not be the best way of promoting racial harmony. Indeed, it can not be anything but downright destructive to this goal.
Why is it that so many of those who seek to promote racial and cultural tolerance are so prejudiced against the west? How can you promote tolerance but then be so intolerant to those from a certain cultural background? You can not fight bigotry with bigotry.
Look at the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. To the extent they have a practical aim, it is to combat what they say is the prejudice of police forces against black Americans. Many protestors have adopted as a tag “ACAB” which they liberally spray paint on walls, businesses and abandoned police cars. ACAB stands for All Cops Are Bastards. That sounds to me much like prejudice in the same way as the worst types of racial profiling. Identity politics can never be a means to promote greater harmony because by definition identity politics divides us into tribes based on race, gender and sexuality.
Those countries that have high levels of tolerance mainly have a western Christian heritage and there is something in Christian teaching that generates this result. Simple things like “do unto others as you would like done unto you”, and “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
That verse from Galatians remains one of the more powerful rebuttals of the fractured vision of identity politics. The Judeo-Christian view, that all human beings were created in the image of God was, and is now becoming again, a radical one. Not all Christians have lived up to this high standard but the more Christians there were the more people protected the dignity and rights of all people as individuals not as members of groups.
We are the beneficiaries of the success of this philosophy and now enjoy unprecedented individual freedom and opportunity. Yet if we turn our back on this heritage we put it all at risk. Hamlet’s opinion on the nature of good and bad was said in frustration as he vented to his friends that Denmark was a “prison”. The greatest threat to our relative liberty and tolerance is from those that hate their own country and their own society. Their destructive and bigoted worldview will only unleash the worst of human instincts unrestrained by the best of human thinking.
Matt Canavan is a Liberal National Party Senator for Queensland and former resources minister.
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