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

gayweddingcake

 

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.

Get Out Of Jail Free (If You Are A Girl)

Claire Perry, Conservative MP for Devizes, thinks that boys who commit crimes should go to prison, but not girls.

You would think that such a striking and illiberal proposal would be backed up by some powerful facts or hitherto-unseen observations, right? But no. Instead, she gives us this:

Generally speaking, girls are much better behaved than boys. That isn’t some ludicrous Victorian stereotype, but a fact drawn out by crime statistics. Of 1,744 young people in custody, just 95 are girls. Just 22 per cent of offences committed by children are committed by girls. Moreover, of the few girls that do end up in court, the majority have committed low level, non-violent offences such as shop theft or criminal damage.

Okay, Claire Perry. I’m waiting to see how you twist this observation into the idea that those girls who do commit violent or high-level offences should receive different punishments their male counterparts. Oh wait, that part never comes.

Using inappropriate and unnecessary criminal justice interventions for girls’ low level behaviour is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

It’s fine for boys though. Go to town with that sledgehammer.

The Howard League for Penal Reform has conducted research on children in the penal system and legally represented children in custody.  The charity has been supporting the APPG inquiry and found that many of the girls who do end up in court had led chaotic lives, experienced poor parenting, neglect or abuse.  They have grown up in communities blighted by poverty and deprivation.  However, magistrates in the youth court lack the powers to invoke care proceedings, even when it is obvious that the young girl before them is vulnerable and in need.

True. But again, how is this terrible and depressing fact any different in the case of boys?

Failing to address a girl’s underlying welfare issues makes it more likely she will end up in court again.  A criminal conviction can exacerbate problems instead of solving them.  It can make it harder to find employment or a college place in the future.  Rather than criminalising girls for minor misdemeanours we should be ensuring that they and their families have the support they need in order to turn their lives around and make a positive contribution to their communities. We need to intervene early and give girls appropriate support in order to reduce further the small number of girls who end up in the penal system.

Change the word “girl” to “person” in this paragraph and you would have my agreement, Claire.

And she goes out on a strong note:

Prison for girls is not the answer and we should shut down all three prison units for girls immediately.

Wow, you really convinced me with the power and fact-based nature of your argument.

I’m actually not going to discuss the merits and drawbacks of Britain’s existing penal system in this blog post, though it certainly deserves discussion in future. For now I’m just going to marvel at the ridiculous notion of proposing different punishment methods for individuals, based not on the nature of their crime, or their treatment needs, or the danger that they pose to society, but based exclusively on their sex.

How disappointing to hear such discriminatory tosh emanating from the mouth of a Conservative MP.