Women-Only Train Carriages: Identity Politics Leads To Calls For Segregation, Once Again

Women only train carriages

Is there any contemporary problem that the identity politics Left will not propose solving through the introduction of segregation?

I see that the recurring debate about whether or not to introduce female-only train carriages has bubbled up again from the swamp of leftist thinking.

Charlotte England tries to make the best case she can for theocratic-style gender segregation over at Left Foot Forward:

There is a pragmatic argument for women-only carriages as an interim measure, which is being largely buried by simplistic rhetoric and a disingenous framing of the original proposal. Arguing against the policy on ideological grounds ignores the experience of many women and young girls who are assaulted and become afraid of travelling alone on public transport. It ignores the fact that they feel forced to alter their behaviour already.

When he first proposed the policy two years ago Corbyn made it clear the aim was to give women more freedom than they currently have, not less.

“It is unacceptable that many women and girls adapt their daily lives in order to avoid being harassed on the street, public transport, and in other public places from the park to the supermarket,” he said. “This could include taking longer routes to work, having self-imposed curfews or avoiding certain means of transport.”

He also did not suggest the measure in isolation, floating the idea of a 24-hour hotline for women to report harassment, along with broader measures to tackle assault in society such as tougher rules for licence holders on reporting incidents on their premises and cabinet members for women’s safety on local councils.

A 24-hour hotline for women to report harassment? Perhaps somebody should inform Charlotte England that such a line already exists, and that you can reach it 24/7 by dialling 999.

At some point the Left will have to confront the fact that they have devalued terms such as racism, white supremacy, sexual assault and “rape culture” to such a degree that if we are now to take them literally, the police would have to be called to millions of incidents which qualify as crimes every single day. Blurring the line between socially inappropriate behaviour (including microaggressions) and criminal behaviour has helped the Left to point to rapidly rising reported statistics and claim that an epidemic is underway – of racism, Islamophobia, other generic hate crime, you name it. But it is also creating undue alarm and making it harder to focus resources and policy on the most pressing issues.

If sexual harassment on trains is a serious and growing issue – and I’m not arguing otherwise – then the correct response by train companies (and the Office of Rail and Road) to their customers frequently being bothered and assaulted onboard rail services is to dramatically improve security. That means ensuring that CCTV is installed and functional on all trains, placing more passenger alarms in carriages and hiring more guards. Or perhaps the train companies could deploy the private militias they have hired to zealously crack down on fare-dodging to also protect passengers from unprovoked attack. And when ticket fares rise by 20% or 30% to cover the additional cost, we can all pay the extra money knowing that we are helping to clamp down on sexual harassment.

Alternatively, perhaps the citizenry should be legally permitted the means to defend themselves, if not with firearms then at least with tasers and pepper spray, rather than being forced by government to remain at the mercy of thugs, hooligans, sexual harassers and terrorists.

But the Left don’t want to do any of this. They don’t like it when people are given the right to defend themselves, and they certainly don’t like it when private companies take independent action to tackle issues. They want government to step in with a heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all mandate instead, because then leftist politicians (rather than the private sector) can claim credit for the results. And if those policies ride roughshod over civil liberties or equality then who cares?

In no way do I mean to diminish the experiences and suffering of those who have experienced sexual harassment. But when the Left defines the term downward so far that it now includes clumsy flirtation, it does a disservice to those who are verbally threatened or physically groped, stalked, flashed or assaulted – and counter-intuitively makes it harder to focus on eradicating criminal behaviour rather than behaviour which merely causes social offence.

But this is only one of the ways that the leftist identity politics argument for segregated train carriages comes unstuck. To use the language of the Left, there is apparently a growing problem of sexually aggressive behaviour in the male population of this country – behaviour which makes some female citizens feel concerned for their safety. And the Left’s answer to this problem is to offer gender-segregated seating on public transport for those who feel unsafe sitting in unrestricted areas because of the heinous actions of a small subgroup of the male population.

Now try applying the same logic to – oh, I don’t know – let’s say the British Muslim population. The vast majority of British Muslims are upstanding, patriotic citizens whose behaviour is generally above reproach, yet there is a small minority within this population who plot and carry out heinous terrorist attacks for religiously motivated reasons. And this spike in Islamist terror attacks has arguably caused some people to “adapt their daily lives” (as Charlotte England puts it) to reduce their exposure to risk, or at least to constantly be thinking and worrying about the possibility of a terror attack as they go about their day.

Is it reasonable, then, given that Islamist terrorists have historically targeted public transport, that train companies offer segregated carriages for non-Muslims in order that other travellers might feel safer? Of course not. Is it more unreasonable for someone to feel nervous standing next to a Muslim on the tube than it is for a woman to feel nervous sitting in the same train carriage as a man? I would argue that both are equally unreasonable.

But the Left do love to pick and choose their favoured victim groups, and “people who are legitimately afraid of Islamist terror” generally don’t get much sympathy from the identity politics brigade, while women in fear of sexual harassment are deemed worthy of protection by extraordinary means.

Segregating men from women and Muslims from non-Muslims would infringe on the natural rights of both groups, reduce them to second class citizens, provide them with a lesser service (fewer available seats per train) and stigmatise both groups as being inherently dangerous. And yet while the Left would be up in arms if such a proposal were targeted at Muslims – and rightly so – they advance exactly the same argument for male/female segregation without seeing the contradiction.

But assuming that the Left were able to implement their scheme (over what I’m sure would be the strenuous objection of train companies, who would have to fund and enforce the policy) how long would this gender segregation last? Jeremy Corbyn, Charlotte England and other fellow travellers of the hard Left may claim that they only propose female-only train carriages as a stop-gap measure while other actions are taken to tackle the supposed sexual assault epidemic. But this only begs the question of what actions they propose. Mandatory anti-rape classes for boys at school? Re-education of adult males?

If you are going to propose introducing segregation into British society in the 21st century – to place Britain in the happy company of theocratic states such as Saudi Arabia, who similarly keep their females locked away lest they arouse the lust of helpless men – I think you have a duty to be straightforward and explain why the same identical logic does not apply when it comes to protecting people who don’t make the cut for inclusion in the Left’s hierarchy of victimhood. And given that temporary laws have a pesky habit of becoming permanent, anyone proposing such a draconian, authoritarian policy should also clearly outline how it will be time-limited, and how the underlying root issue will be addressed by other means.

Jeremy Corbyn, Charlotte England and others on the Left promoting this divisive and discriminatory policy have no answers to any these questions and have no intention of providing such answers, because this isn’t actually about making women safer at all. It is about gaining political support by being seen to be on the side of minorities, oppressed peoples or perceived victimhood groups, gaining their support and then failing to meaningfully help said groups once in office.

Just as affirmative action hasn’t done a damn thing to increase representation of black and Hispanic students at American universities (because it papers over the cracks rather than tackling the deep underlying issues), so forcibly segregating men from women on public transport will neither tackle the root causes of male sexual harassment nor protect women from danger for the vast majority of the time when they are not travelling on trains. (After all, why stop at trains? Why not introduce gender segregated cinemas, swimming pools, workplaces, nightclubs, stadiums, universities?). Proposing gender segregated train carriages may not be effective, but it sure will make certain leftist politicians and commentators look good to their base.

This isn’t compassion. This isn’t applying creative thinking to an entrenched social problem. This is cheap virtue-signalling at the expense of threatening fundamental civil liberties and rights, while promising to place Britain in the unfortunate company of some of the most backward and oppressive theocratic regimes in the world.

Slow hand clap, leftists (or should that be slow jazz hands?). You’ve really outdone yourselves this time.

 

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Exhuming McCarthy: Corporate Social Justice And The Google Memo Saga

Google diversity memo - free speech - social justice

A software engineer at Google published an internal memo questioning the current diversity strategy and warning that the company was becoming an ideological echo chamber where dissenters felt intimidated about expressing their views. Google immediately validated these concerns by firing him.

One wonders exactly what Google would have to do before senior executives at the company are forced to admit that their corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil”, is little more than a bitter joke.

The company has been in the headlines the past few days thanks to a “scandal” precipitated when software engineer James Damore published an internal memo questioning Google’s approach to diversity in the workplace.

Entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, the memo alleges that “differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership”, before pointing out that a free discussion cannot take place because:

“when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.”

The memo goes on to consider various non-bias related causes of the gender gap in tech. At all times, James Damore is at pains to emphasise that he is not suggesting that all men or all women share the various traits under discussion, merely that there are indisputably different distributions of preferences and abilities between men and women which might account for some or all of the gender representation gap in the industry. Damore emphasises that “many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions”.

Damore then goes on to propose a number of potential ways to reduce the gender representation gap without relying on methods that could be described as affirmative action, including a genuine embracing of part-time work, rewarding cooperative as well as competitive behaviour and striving to make it more socially acceptable for men to free themselves from expectations of the male gender role:

Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally “feminine” roles.

Read the whole memo here – it is only ten pages in length, and quite unlike the monstrous manifesto that it has been portrayed as by a hopelessly biased media.

As it happens, I agree with some of Damore’s premises but not his conclusion. I was swayed partly by this article by Josh Barro in Business Insider, which posits that if there are indeed natural gender imbalances in tech because of differences in aptitude and interest, it still behoves corporations to guard against the possibility that hiring managers, expecting that women will be less suited for certain roles, then subconsciously discriminate against female candidates.

Barro explains how this phenomenon might manifest itself:

  • A widespread assumption that “most” of the good job candidates will be men may lead to stereotyping in the hiring process, with hiring managers more likely to assume that men are good candidates and overlook qualified women.

  • Women may self-select out of the field because they internalize the stereotype that it is “for men,” and the stereotype may also make men overconfident in their fitness for the field and more inclined to pursue employment in it.

  • A male majority in the field is likely to be excessively self-reinforcing, as research shows that hiring managers tend to use the qualitative and “culture fit” aspects of hiring to hire candidates who resemble themselves, and most of the hiring managers in a male-dominated field will be men.

  • As seen in several high-profile cases in Silicon Valley, male-dominated management structures may foster cultures of pervasive workplace sexism and harassment that drive women out of the field.

Barro goes on to explain:

The memo misses this entirely, jumping from a claim that gender differences in interests and aptitude “may in part explain” the strong male skew in Google’s engineering groups to a conclusion that specific efforts at Google to recruit and retain women and underrepresented minority candidates are counterproductive and should be ended.

For example, the author complains about “hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for ‘diversity’ candidates by decreasing the false negative rate.” That is, he’s upset that women candidates get a second look when men don’t.

But this is something you would absolutely want to do to prevent a phenomenon described above: hiring-manager biases and stereotypes leading to a lopsidedness by gender in hiring that exceeds the actual lopsidedness by gender in the qualified candidate pool. It makes sense to be extra certain that women who got screened out were rejected on the basis of qualifications and aptitude, not something else.

These are sound points, some of which I did not stop to fully appreciate when originally penning my response – I’m glad that I waited 24 hours and did some wider reading before hitting “publish” on this.

Of course, there was no such reflection and nuance to be found in the mainstream media, whose reporting might well leave you thinking that Damore had rewritten Mein Kampf for the 21st century and published a bitter screed attacking women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

CNN certainly took this hysterical approach:

“Aren’t biologically fit for tech jobs”? CNN should be ashamed of themselves for this blatant misrepresentation, if only they still had the capacity to feel shame. Of course, James Damore actually said no such thing. One can agree or disagree with the various premises and conclusions in the memo, but on the whole it was a thoughtful, measured and articulate reflection on a very topical issue. Rather than firing him, Google should have been proud to employ somebody who raised the issue respectfully with the aim of improving the company.

But apparently the memo has taken a grave psychological toll on Google’s “woke” and sensitive workforce. Now we hear that several female Google employees apparently failed to show up to work the following day because they were too distressed about the contents of the memo.

From NPR:

Another software engineer who used to work for Google, Kelly Ellis, says some women who still work at the company stayed home on Monday because the memo made them “uncomfortable going back to work.”

Seriously? What reason had they to feel uncomfortable? The memo was the creation of one employee – an employee who was publicly chastised by Google’s Head of Diversity, who hinted strongly that the memo “crossed the line” and violated the company’s code of conduct – and who was later fired from his job. It is hardly as though Google had suddenly been invaded by a swarm of alt-right campaigners or men’s rights activists. The corporation is overwhelmingly and publicly set against Damore’s position, to the extent that they excommunicated him for his beliefs.

The only person for whom Google proved to be a hostile work environment here is James Damore. And the only reason for any employee to stay home from work claiming distress was to parade their conspicuous victimhood and revel in their own (largely) imaginary oppression.

When I was eleven years old and in my first year of secondary school, I was queuing for the school tuck shop when some massive neanderthal of an inbred fifth-year kid shoved me out of the line and called me a nigger. And yet somehow I managed to board the school bus and show up to class on time the next day. And I was a child. Now these are intelligent, grown-ass women working for one of the most prestigious firms in the world, and we are supposed to believe that they are so fragile, so wounded by a MEMO of all things that they weren’t able to do their jobs. Again, I ask: are you for real?

This is why I say that social justice is a cancer on society. A cancer. Not just because it suppresses the free speech rights of ideological dissenters and creates a truly chilling atmosphere in which a significant portion of the population is cowed into sullen, fearful silence for fear of losing everything if they dare to express themselves reasonably and honestly. Not just because of that, but also because the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is turning fully grown adults with jobs, mortgages, credit cards and often kids of their own into little more than oversized, perpetually vulnerable babies. It poisons the body politic and fractures society into separate warring special interest or “victimhood” groups, all jostling for attention, sympathy and affirmative action. Social justice activism is corroding our society from within.

There is no good reason for anyone to be traumatised by the Google memo, even if they disagree with its contents. One can disagree with the either the premises or the conclusion of the memo’s main argument, but it should be possible to have a civil discussion without acting as though real physical or mental harm has been done by the mere expressing of an opinion.

Anybody smart enough to work at Google should be capable of articulating a response to the “offensive” memo if they disagree with it strongly enough. Moreover, they should actively welcome the opportunity to debate these ideas so as to win over more supporters. That’s how social causes have traditionally advanced themselves, often with great success and rapidity.

But now this is apparently too much of a burden. Now the regressive Left is unwilling to do the hard work of argument and persuasion, preferring instead to push the “fast forward” button and speed ahead to an imagined time when everybody agrees with their social justice dogma. And since this ideological consensus does not yet exist (and God willing never will), the Left must instead artificially enforce it by clamping down on contrary opinions and making dissenters feel so fearful that they simply cease to express themselves.

David French makes this very point in the National Review:

The primary victims of this new culture of groupthink are social conservatives and other dissenters from identity politics. In field after field and company after company, conservatives understand that the price of their employment is silence. Double standards abound, and companies intentionally try to keep work environments “safe” from disagreement. Radical sexual and racial politics are given free rein. Disagree — and lose your job.

It takes a person of rare constitution and moral courage to speak up. And that’s precisely how the far Left likes it. After all, what value is there in disagreement? They’ve figured out that elusive path to racial, gender, and sexual justice, and disagreement only distracts. It does worse than distract. It wounds.

But take heart, conservatives. It’s not all bleak. After all, the government is highly unlikely to persecute you for your speech. And if you want to succeed in cutting-edge businesses or enjoy equal opportunity in the academy, you do have one good option. You can shut your mouth.

You can shut your mouth. Which is precisely what the social justice brigade wants to happen – we have recently seen reports that various employees at Google are maintaining personal “blacklists” of other staff with whom they will refuse to work or consider for promotion because they have supposedly failed to publicly embrace the diversity agenda with sufficient enthusiasm.

One such boastful threat reads:

“While Google appears to be doing very little to quell the hostile voices that exists inside the company, I want those hostile voices to know:

I will never, ever hire hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever. I don’t care if you are perfect fit of technically excellent or whatever

I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”

“You’re being blacklisted by people at companies outside of Google. You might not have been aware of this, but people know, people talk. There are always social consequences.”

And it’s not just Google. I logged in to LinkedIn the other day to check my notifications and was immediately barraged with tens of status updates from various connections working at a variety of large corporations, bragging about all of the amazing things that their firms are doing to celebrate Pride month. Now from a personal perspective I have no problem with that. But if I was a social conservative who takes seriously the responsibility to treat everybody with respect but feels unable to endorse certain social movements for religious reasons, I would be very nervous right now.

Why? Because more and more, employees are exhorted to make explicit their “allyship” of various designated identity groups, or otherwise endorse the aims of the broader social justice movement. We saw this in Britain last week with the National Trust furore, where volunteers were prohibited from serving in customer-facing roles unless they agreed to wear Pride ribbons (eventually the National Trust backed down under public pressure).

The bar has been moved. Mere tolerance is no longer sufficient – increasingly we must be seen to actively affirm and celebrate every lifestyle choice, gender identity or dubious fad which falls under the auspices of the social justice movement.

This is incredibly dangerous. The idea of our employers becoming auxiliary parents to us is as insidious as the idea that the state should play this role in our lives. In fact, the current moves by many corporations to enlist their employees as agents of social change on top of their day to day responsibilities is incredibly paternalistic, almost like something out of the early Industrial Revolution, when benevolent (or not so benevolent) industrialists housed their factory workers, provided for their basic welfare but also carefully regulated their leisure activities and social lives to uphold moral standards.

As I wrote yesterday:

Whereas a decade ago one could reliably find leftists railing against the power of corporations and the supposedly unfair, coercive power balance between employer and employee, now those very same leftists are screeching that big corporations are not doing enough to indoctrinate their employees with the new social justice dogma.

Of course, vesting corporations with such power is in fact highly dangerous and quite likely unconstitutional, particularly when lawsuits start to emerge where employees allege that their employer has pressured them to violate their own conscience when it comes to matters outside the workplace.

If this trend continues, we will soon reach a point where social conservatives, social justice agnostics and anybody else who fails to actively affirm progressive dogma becomes as unwelcome in the corporate world as those suspected of communist sympathies were in 1950s Hollywood. That is the direction in which we are headed.

The rejection of truth in favour of total ideological conformity. Groupthink, paranoia and blacklists. McCarthyism is being exhumed and reanimated before our eyes in the year 2017 – this time not by anti-communists, social conservatives or the religious right, but rather by the so-called progressive Left.

 

 

UPDATE: 9 August, 23:00 BST

Curiously, nobody ever seems to ask why the male to female ratio is so skewed in other professions such as steelworking, mining, forestry or construction, careers which are often less glamorous, more dangerous and entail greater physical labour. It is almost as though gender equality activists tacitly admit that there are in fact differences between men and women which make one or other gender better suited (though by no means exclusively drawn) to certain careers. And if we accept this in the case of physical labour, why not also with mental labour – other than the fact that to even ask the question is now considered heresy?

And why do we only care about diversity in high-status non-manual jobs? Could it possibly be because the world of social justice largely consists of a self-appointed priesthood of middle and upper-middle class people talking exclusively to one another about their First World Problems and busily confirming their own biases, while working class people are too busy trying to get by to worry about whether their employer is sufficiently nurturing of their chosen identity?

 

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We Are All Cats Now

No, you are not a cat simply because you “identify” as one. And we should all be wary of where the rise of the Politics of Identity is leading us

When future aliens discover the ruins of human civilisation and wonder what set our demise in motion, they will likely identify the period through which we are now living – the time where we finally became so arrogant that we believed we could bend objective reality to our will, physically becoming something simply because we mentally “identified” as that particular object or state of being. They will say that we sowed the seeds of our destruction when we abandoned reason and put our faith in verbal alchemy.

A story is going viral today (see video above) which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so terrifying. It involves Nano, a twenty year-old woman from Norway who identifies as a cat, having come to this “realisation” when she was sixteen and apparently indulged in her belief by friends, family and psychologists alike.

The Telegraph reports, totally deadpan:

The young woman shows off her cat characteristics by wearing fake ears and an artificial tail. She communicates by meowing.

“I realised I was a cat when I was 16 when doctors and psychologists found out what was “the thing” with me. Under my birth there was a genetic defect,” she explains in the video.

[..] The cat woman wears a pair of pink fluffy paws with which to groom herself, and feels especially like doing so when she is in contact with water.

When asked if she was born as the wrong species, she said: “Yes, born in the wrong species.”

But terrifying it is, because stories like this are no longer so far-fetched, and Nano’s claims are not so unreasonable – at least not according to the insistent logic of modern day identity culture, which makes each one of us the little tin-pot god of our own reality, able to pick up and discard identities as core as gender or even species, in some cases on a whim.

And this is not the first such case. Just last month in Canada, a 52 year old formerly married father of seven revealed to the world that he no longer identified as a man, but rather as a six year old girl called Stefonknee.

The Daily Mail reported at the time:

Stefonknee (pronounced ‘Stef-on-knee’) Wolscht, 52, of Toronto, says she realized she was transgender – rather that simply a cross-dresser – at age 46, and split from her wife, Maria, after she told her husband to ‘stop being trans or leave’.

Now, Stefonknee lives with friends who she calls her ‘adoptive mommy and daddy’ as a six-year-old girl, dressing in children’s clothing and spending her time playing and coloring with her adoptive parents’ grandchildren.

Stefonknee says her ‘adoptive’ family, which consists of an older couple and their children and young grandchildren, are completely accepting of her identifying as a little girl.

She says she’s living as a six-year-old girl because it’s something she could never do when was in grade school.

‘I can’t deny I was married. I can’t deny I have children,’ she says in the video. ‘But I’ve moved forward now and I’ve gone back to being a child. I don’t want to be an adult right now.’

She’s moved forward, so that’s fine, then. Good for Stefonknee. Never mind her abandoned wife or seven young children who are doubtless hurt, confused and humiliated by what their father is doing. Stefonknee just doesn’t have time for all of that adult stuff right now, so she is going to put on a gingham dress and regress to a pre-pubescent age, until she gets tired of that and wants to try something different.

This is pure narcissism, plain and simple. He didn’t want to be an adult anymore, so he clicked his fingers and became a six year old girl instead? How are we to unpack this? Are we to accept his Wolscht’s statement that she is now female, since transgender acceptance is now (rightly, I believe) much more widely accepted and tolerated?

But if we do so – if we accept Wolscht’s statement that she is now female – do we not also then have to accept her insistence that she has also turned the clock back and become six years old again?

Stefonknee Wolscht - Identity Politics

The ludicrous thing here is that Wolscht’s own identity is floating, as she freely admits later in the article:

She says she previously lived as an eight-year-old girl, until the couple’s granddaughter asked her to be the younger sister instead.

‘A year ago I was eight and she was seven. And she said to me: “I want you to be the little sister, so I’ll be nine.” I said: “Well, I don’t mind going to six.” So I’ve been six ever since.’

So according to this jaw-dropping reasoning, our identity is not even fixed and core to ourselves (if unmoored from reality). Now, our identity is a commodity which can be haggled over and traded. And if winning the friendship of a young girl means that a formerly 52 year old man has to downgrade from being an 8 year old to a 6 year old girl, that’s absolutely fine, apparently. Who are we to judge in any of this?

Never mind the callousness of a father of seven doing such a thing to his own children, putting them through this ordeal in pursuit of an identity which he openly admits is free-floating and liable to change again in future anyway. That’s bad enough. But how are we all – individuals, employers (the six year old girl apparently has a job driving a slow plough in winter) or government agencies – supposed to relate to somebody who decides that they “identify” as a different age and gender?

If Stefonknee is really six years old she should be in school, and the local authority should by current laws be hounding her adoptive “parents” to ensure that she is receiving a proper education. But would the identity culture cheerleaders seriously propose sending what was once a 52-year-old man to primary school with young children? Surely, under today’s logic they have to?

Stefonknee has identified as a young girl, and therefore she must be treated like one in every way. Anything less – such as homeschooling – would be discrimination against 6-year-old girls who happen to have the bodies of 52-year-old men. The kind of women who are harmed by a performance of the Vagina Monologues.

Meanwhile, Stefonknee’s employer when she drives the snow plough in winter will need to be hauled before the court and prosecuted for infringing on child labour laws. The courts would probably take a very dim view indeed of any business hiring a young girl to operate heavy machinery, and since justice must be blind, Stefonknee’s carefree decision to become a little girl should put her employer’s livelihood and liberty in grave jeopardy.

It’s easy to laugh at these scenarios, but they are going to come up more and more frequently if – as will inevitably happen when stories like this gain traction – more people are tempted to follow in the dangerous footsteps of Wolscht, or the somewhat less threatening (but no less absurd) paw prints of Nano the Norwegian cat woman.

For what is to say that Nano and Wolscht are not the “new normal”? The people being hounded and “No Platformed” for their old-fashioned views on transgender issues are guilty only of holding thoughts which were incredibly mainstream just a couple of decades ago, yet in that short space of time they have been completely overtaken by received wisdom and the new orthodoxy of intolerant tolerance. What is to say that in thirty years’ time, those who question a person’s ability to discard their entire life and “become” a cat or a young child are considered as bigoted as today’s “transphobic” holdouts?

Nobody can say that this is unlikely to happen. The world has changed so much in just a few decades, and promises to change even more in the coming years. Social attitudes have changed enormously in this time – what is to say that the warm, fuzzy embrace of unquestioning tolerance and affirmation will not expand to embrace people like Nano and Wolscht by 2050?

In 2050, maybe the future version of Eddie Redmayne will be starring in a movie, not just playing a male-to-female transsexual person (how boring that will be by then) but turning in another Oscar-winning performance for his sensitive portrayal of the pioneering early 21st century woman who identified as a cat, or the brave Canadian man who threw away his family in pursuit of his new identity as a pre-pubescent girl.

But that’s fine. Since we seem intent on burying our heads in the sand and denying that there is anything wrong with our new Politics of Identity, by that time our Prime Minister will probably identify as a Beagle, the Home Secretary will be a barn owl except on Tuesdays, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be a goldfish who looks suspiciously like George Osborne’s grown-up kid wearing a wetsuit, Number 11 Downing Street having been converted into a walk-in aquarium in deference to their “mental safety”.

And Nona the Norwegian cat woman will be the very least of our problems.

 

Crazy Cat Lady - The Simpsons

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The Hysterical Left Don’t Know The Meaning Of Human Rights

Human Rights - Disabled Protest 2

In their rage against the Evil Tories, activists are in danger of expanding the definition of “human rights” so far that the term loses all meaning

Last month, a ruling was handed down by a High Court judge. It barely received a ripple of attention in the media at the time, but it has potentially profound implications for our country and the ability of our elected governments to make policy.

In a stunning act of judicial activism masquerading as enlightened compassion, Justice Collins held that by implementing the welfare cap pledged in their manifesto, the Conservative government is actively discriminating against disabled people who might rely on the help of carers – other people – hit by the benefit cap.

The Guardian reports:

The welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, unlawfully discriminated against disabled people by failing to exempt their carers from the benefit cap, a high court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Collins said the government’s decision to apply the cap to full-time carers for adult relatives had created serious financial hardship for them, forced many to give up caring for loved ones, and loaded extra costs on to the NHS and care services.

The benefit cap, which limits working-age unemployed people to £500 a week in benefits, was introduced by the government on the basis that it sent a strong message to so-called workless families that they had to try harder to get a job.

The court ruled that the two carers who brought the case – and who were caring for upwards of 35 hours a week – were effectively in work even though they were in receipt of benefits, and therefore should be exempt from the cap.

Clearly the government should not have used the word “workless” and referred instead to “families without employment”. Of course caring for someone with illness or disability is work, though not employment. But a failure of semantics is hardly sufficient reason to overturn a flagship government policy, as Justice Collins seems to advocate:

Collins ruled that by applying the cap to unpaid family carers the secretary of state had unlawfully discriminated against seriously disabled people, because it meant they would no longer receive care from a trusted family member or relation.

He said: “For many it matters deeply that they are cared for by a family member. Thus there is adverse treatment since, although care can be provided by others, the loss of a trusted carer can be devastating”.

This ruling is but one small part of a wider programme of judicial activism which has seen the government found by our own Supreme Court to be in breach of international human rights obligations, has seen Britain investigated by the United Nations on the ludicrous suspicion of institutional domestic human rights abuses, and which establishes a truly terrible precedent in law. With this ruling, the government can theoretically be held liable for violating the human rights of Person A simply by enacting a policy that adversely impacts Person B.

Thus our so-called human rights now extend to the people around us, and a harm inflicted on any one of them is a harm inflicted on us. Not only is every citizen already surrounded by an ever-expanding protective bubble of their own “human rights” (including such imaginary leaps as the right of foreign criminals to a “family life” while serving a prison sentence), now that bubble theoretically extends to anybody associated with them in a caring capacity.

Let’s be clear – making somebody worse off financially is not a breach of their human rights, let alone the human rights of somebody else for whom they act as carer. It may be bad policy. It may be mean spirited. It may be short sighted or have any number of other flaws as a piece of social policy. But to call it a breach of a person’s human rights is an extraordinary over-stepping of the mark. Discrimination means treating somebody differently because of an inherent characteristic, but activists are now crying “discrimination!” when the government fails to treat people sufficiently differently.

These attempts by the Left to weaponise the issue of human rights must be fiercely resisted. If human rights are to mean anything, they must be primal, sacrosanct and indivisible. It is hard to express those universal rights any better than the signatories of the US Declaration of Independence, who referred to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Life and liberty in particular are crystal clear, and the state should have no power to infringe upon these rights except in the gravest of circumstances (usually as punishment after being found guilty of committing a crime).

Human Rights - Life Liberty Pursuit of Happiness - 2

But the American founding fathers were also quite clear that there is no human right to be happy, or to live a carefree, comfortable life. There is only the right to pursue happiness. This properly reflects the fact that one person’s idea of happiness may be quite different to another’s, and that proper government becomes impossible when the state is continually forced to adjudicate between competing claims of infringement on happiness.

Indeed, the difficulty comes when activists and pandering politicians try to drill down from these lofty principles in a control-freakish attempt to ensure equality of outcome for all. We are all different, and require different social and environmental factors in order to be happy and free.

For some people, their inability to express certain outdated or bigoted views for fear of police harassment or prosecution is a gross infringement on their liberty to hold and express personal thoughts and beliefs. But for other sensitive souls, the mere possibility that they might encounter such unpalatable opinions in the real world – and the belief that unpleasant words heard are somehow comparable to physical harm inflicted – infringes on their own happiness and liberty.

This puts the government in the impossible situation of having to pick winners. Does one person’s human right to live life offence-free trump another’s right to freely express their own thoughts? Does the right of some people to enjoy new public infrastructure trump another’s right to peaceably enjoy their own property without having it seized, built over or spoiled? Does the right of a foreign criminal to maintain links with their UK-based family trump society’s right to deport foreign nationals convicted of a crime on the grounds of cost and public safety?

We live in an imperfect world and so long as we maintain our current expansionist view of human rights, such tough calls will always exist, regardless of who holds power. The best that any government can do – to avoid becoming bogged down in endless competing claims for favouritism – is to remain as neutral as possible and stick to enforcing only the most core human rights.

And let us remember that it is quite possible to establish various additional rights and principles to protect the vulnerable – enshrined either in law or through codes of practice – without elevating every single claim to the level of an “human right”.

For example, as a society, we may well want to establish a duty on large businesses or government departments to spare no expense in accommodating the accessibility requirements of the severely disabled. But if an organisation happens to fall short of the required standards, is it really right that they are sued according to the same laws that govern torture, detention without charge or war crimes?

Consider the London Underground, the world’s oldest underground metro system. Because of its age, the vast majority of the Tube network does not conform to modern accessibility standards, and could not quickly be brought up to standard without exorbitant, prohibitive cost. Of course this is hugely unfair to those with mobility impairments, as they are unable to avail themselves of the full range of London transport options. But to call it an infringement of their human rights is wildly excessive, and something of an insult to the millions of people living in more benighted parts of the world whose fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are routinely trampled.

In the information age, and with the growth of social media, it is easier than ever to identify businesses, organisations and government agencies which fall short of their responsibility to provide accessible services for all, and to apply pressure on them to raise their performance. One trending Twitter hashtag, coined in outrage at the insensitivity of an organisation, now has the potential to achieve more far-reaching change than any judgement handed down in Strasbourg.

Human Rights - Disability 2

But we absolutely can not continue to abide the corrosive idea that government policies should be struck down if they impact differently on different citizens. Because nearly every government policy will, by definition, impact different groups in different ways.

Spending more money on roads penalises those who walk or use public transport. Spending more money on pensions penalises those people of working age who will inevitably receive a less generous settlement when they retire. Spending more money on education penalises those currently in retirement. Enacting tougher prison sentences for criminals penalises people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds who are more likely to end up in court. Government funding of research into cures for disease A penalises sufferers of disease B.

Where does it end? By clinging to the notion that individual government policies must never be disadvantageous to anybody, ever, we render ourselves ungovernable. We descend from being a cohesive society into a splintered and warring coalition of special interest groups, each jealously guarding their own perks and privileges at the expense of all others.

Government spending disproportionately benefits those who are not economically self sufficient. That much is obvious and unavoidable – rich people either do not or cannot claim the benefits on which poor people rely. And the fact that wealthier citizens support their less fortunate compatriots with their taxes is part of the social compact we make in order to maintain our inclusive society.

But to suggest that cutting government spending infringes on the “human rights” of the recipients is utterly abhorrent, even immoral, because it effectively enshrines a formal, limitless claim on the labour and earnings of the economically productive by the non-productive. It says that by refusing to fund government services with ever increasing taxes until the wishes of every welfare recipient are fully satisfied is to violate their human rights, to effectively inhabit the same low category as torturers and dictators.

Human Rights - North Korea - Kim Jong Un

It’s hard to know who comes out of this whole sorry affair looking worse – the disability rights activists, who have somehow managed to turn what should be a principled and laudable campaign into a grubby and petulant sulk, or the United Nations, which once again debases and undermines itself by treating the United Kingdom – of all countries – like some kind of rogue state.

It is perfectly possible to disagree with this Conservative government calmly and rationally. It is perfectly possible to advance the case that government spending restraint, the “bedroom tax” and welfare reforms are bad policy. But to claim that they infringe anyone’s human rights is a grotesque exaggeration that should be laughed out of town, not treated seriously and earnestly investigated by the UN.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: these inalienable, indivisible rights have served us well for centuries – and not only in the United States of America. Generations of campaigners before us were able to argue for (and win) the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage and civil rights protection with reference to these noble aims. And they would be appalled at the modern-day assertion that we should obsess over whether each and every government spending decision has been carefully calibrated to benefit us personally, rightly viewing this as a condescending attack on our liberty and autonomy as free citizens.

If human rights are to mean anything at all, we must stop trying to invoke them every time the government does something with which we disagree, or whenever we have a less than wholly successful interaction with a business or government agency. Human rights violations are real. Even today, while puffed up social justice warriors in the UK write furious screeds accusing Iain Duncan Smith of human rights abuses, people in other countries are being imprisoned, tortured, spied upon, maimed and executed. Babies with entirely survivable conditions and disabilities are being killed, or aborted before they are even born.

If we really cannot find a way to discuss the human consequences of shrinking the state without resorting to shrieking about supposed human rights abuses then truly, we are suffering from a grievous failure of empathy and imagination as a country.

And that’s the real crime.

UN Declaration of Human Rights - United Nations

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Triangulating On Gay Rights

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A surprising piece today from Andrew Sullivan, in which he distances himself from certain aspects of the opposition to the anti-gay discriminatory legislation currently working its way through the usual-suspect state legislatures.

Sullivan, gradually sensing victory in his long struggle and seeking (perhaps overly so) to be magnanimous in the face of it, writes:

The truth is: we’re winning this argument. We’ve made the compelling moral case that gay citizens should be treated no differently by their government than straight citizens. And the world has shifted dramatically in our direction. Inevitably, many fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews and many Muslims feel threatened and bewildered by such change and feel that it inchoately affects their religious convictions. I think they’re mistaken – but we’re not talking logic here. We’re talking religious conviction. My view is that in a free and live-and-let-live society, we should give them space. As long as our government is not discriminating against us, we should be tolerant of prejudice as long as it does not truly hurt us. And finding another florist may be a bother, and even upsetting, as one reader expressed so well. But we can surely handle it. And should.

I have read and re-read this paragraph multiple times, and this argument both surprises and concerns me. Boiled down to its essence, it is frankly disturbing – in essence, Sullivan is saying that discrimination in the private sector should be allowed and that a blind eye should be turned, and that we only have real cause for concern if gays (or presumably other minorities) face discrimination at the hands of the government.

Sullivan is also willing to play along with the fairly innocuous example of the gay couple approaching a florist to cater their wedding. It may well be the case that such a couple, spurned by one business, will be able to find an alternative provider in their town. But equally, it may not. There may be only one business of its kind in the vicinity, or there may not be the time or money to go on a Nativity-style trek through town trying to find a spare room at the inn.

More seriously, the business in question may be more important than providing flowers for a social occasion. What if it is accounting services? Or social care? A funeral home? Or medicine? Would it be permissible to deny services to gay or lesbian couples in one of these fields? If so, which ones? And what would be the logic behind such a consideration?

Sullivan’s desire to reach out to the viscerally anti-gay hold-outs in society (and if your beliefs prompt you to deny service to someone based on them, they are visceral) comes at the expense of the logic of his own argument. Sullivan remains fully cognisant of the danger of using religious freedom arguments to permit discrimination:

But the wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination. And that’s for an obvious reason. If legislatures were to craft bills specifically allowing discrimination only in the case of services for weddings for gay couples, as Erickson says he wants, it would seem not only bizarre but obviously unconstitutional – clearly targeting a named minority for legal discrimination. So they had to broaden it, and in broadening it, came careening into their own double standards. Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow.

This awareness only makes Sullivan’s desire to reach an accord with those who want to enshrine discrimination in law all the more bizarre. Sullivan seems to want to have it both ways – to point out the impossibility of the “religious freedom” bills, while also holding out an undeserved olive branch to the fundamentalists and proclaiming his unwillingness to force them to stop discriminating.

Sometimes it is appealing to float serenely above the fray and call for moderation and respect. Most of the time, it is probably the right course of action. But sometimes it is not.

The people currently trying to enshrine anti-gay discrimination into law want nothing more than to hoodwink the public into fretting about an imaginary future where beleaguered mom-and-pop businesses are forced at shotgun to commit acts in violation of their religious beliefs, acts that risk sending them straight to the pits of hell.

They want to recast the ignorant, the hateful and the prejudiced in the role of the plucky underdog hero, humbly attempting to live their simple lives according to their God-fearing values, but being thwarted and dictated to by the arrogant metropolitan elites. This image is sensationalist and false.

And the last thing that these cynical people deserve is the sympathy and respect of Andrew Sullivan or anyone else who has fought so hard to end discrimination.