About Me

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The Author Erik’s family emigrated from Britain to the island State of Tasmania then lived in the woods. The family home schooled, helping to pioneer the home education movement in Australia. The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Back to the Future – Post Modernism and Gay Adoption

If society were based around human wholeness what would it look like?

I write this article in response to the commentary generated by my posts on gay marriage. It would be easy to have a shouting match which reveals nothing more than the fact that there is a collision of world views which, like giant icebergs in the ocean, sometimes bump up against one-another, their curious shapes colliding at the corners. The corners are an odd assortment of wedge issues. Gay adoption is one of these.

Really it’s about post modernism; whether human society is something we can invent, or whether there are some things inherent and innate that we can’t or shouldn’t change. Is there a plumb line for what it means to be human?

We can look from an evolutionary perspective to simians. Homosexuality occurs in simians to varying extents. Indeed I have been corrected on, and surprised by, the extent to which it occurs across numerous species in the wild. I have not done an exhaustive review to find out whether or not gay simian couples habitually raise young but if anyone has observed this they are probably describing an exceedingly rare event. Penguins and black swans often do form gay couples who raise young. What significance is seen in this probably depends on your world view. I suggest that raising a chick to be a swan is very different to raising a human baby to adulthood.

We can look from the perspective of the world’s great religious writings. This is a reasonable thing to do because, whether or not you believe them to be inspired, they do incorporate thousands of years of human experience and understanding. The Abramic religions do not countenance gay adoptions. I know of no religion that does, but someone with greater learning may enlighten us.

Every society makes provision for adoption – usually as a familial or tribal obligation to care for orphans. Other societies have variously tolerated, celebrated, or suppressed homosexuality. I know of none that tolerated homosexual adoption. Maybe there is an anthropologist out there who has found one. Again, they will be describing something very rare.

Perhaps this is because gay adoption challenges the most fundamental philosophical underpinnings of human society. If a mother and a mother are sufficient, there is no need or place for fatherhood. If a father and a father are sufficient there is no need or place for motherhood. If there is no need or place for either motherhood or fatherhood there is no need or place for the traditional family at all. It is a complete ‘free for all’. If two mummies are OK and two daddies are OK then any two heterosexual women and any two heterosexual men should also have the right to create a ‘family’ and adopt. On reflection, why stop at two daddies, why not have several….you get the idea.

This debate is only partly about equality. As the boundaries are pushed (and they will be) the debate will shift from whether a minority group should share in marriage to whether ‘marriage’, ‘motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood’ have any real meaning. There are some who see all three concepts as redundant. As a correspondent to a facebook friend of mine (who is a gay activist) wrote in relation to the gay marriage bills “Lets just get the fucking bills through and then get rid of the whole fucking institution [of marriage].” It is reasonable to ask whether it is wise to de-construct the foundational underpinnings of our civilization because some people within a minority group of less than two per cent of the population want to do something that appears foreign to human society.

There are practical issues also. If we have true marriage equality then any two men who register a marriage should have as much right to adoption as a heterosexual couple have to conceive. Let’s be real for a moment. If that ever becomes law the paedophiles will head to the registry office and down to the adoption office in very little time. I am not saying gay people are paedophiles. I am saying paedophiles are intelligent, strategic, and work in team to gain access to children. Allowing male unions to adopt gives them more opportunity.

Since the human question is one of identity, a logical place to start would be the story of traditional/indigenous societies for the last few thousand years. That is where we have come from, and as a species, that is really who we are. I am not an anthropologist but a good place to start is linguist, naturalist, anthropologist and author Jared Diamond. For the record, Diamond regards Christians and Christianity with withering contempt.

You can read Diamond’s books for yourself but in essence traditional indigenous societies tend to have the following key features:

  • Babies are breast fed until at least the age of two but often much later
  • Babies are in the immediate physical proximity of their mother, and usually in skin contact with their mother, until they can walk
  • After they can walk they remain in close proximity with a close relative
  • Children grow up in an extended family/tribe/village/clan
  • There are rights of initiation into adulthood and they are different for men and women
  • Gender roles vary according to need and custom by genders are clearly distinct. The means of distinction are as varied as the number of extant cultures in the world.
  • Every child is given a value system and cosmology which forms part of their tribal/clan identity.

Thus by the time ‘normal’ homo sapiens become adults they have a family identity, a gender identity, a tribal/clan identity, and a cosmology. That was also the case in Western countries until the great cultural dismantling got underway in the 1960’s. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to figure out that all these essential aspects of human identity and wholeness are under systematic attack in the West.

In this context further deconstruction of 'marriage, gender, mother, father, and family' is unhelpful from a whole of society perspective. My reading of pro-gay rights blogs suggests that this social deconstruction is the next wave in the long march from "what consenting adults to at home is no one's business" to "We will close down your organisation or put you in prison if your clergy won't formalise gay unions, your school won't teach pro gay marriage propaganda, and your adoption agency won't foster children to gay couples; and we will fine you for speaking out on these issues and take your children off you if you object to them being taught pro gay school curricula." Hating Christians is not a crime and what was once a plea for tolerance and respect is now a no holds barred assault on basic freedom of conscience and practice. This militancy is perhaps understandable given the many injustices suffered by gay people from religiously inspired policies. That said, forcing people to take sides doesn't foster understanding. It leaves people who might support some but not all of the gay agenda with limited options.

I am not a fundamentalist because I am religious. I'm a fundamentalist because I think a line is the shortest distance between two points, 2 + 2 = 4, and people who wander off into the wilderness without knowing how to survive tend to die there. We can be more creative with social mores but I still regard post modernism, and many of the policies that come from there, as exceptionally silly. 

Tag line: gay marriage, gay adoption, family values, emily's list, postmodernism, deconstructuralism, Jared Diamond, gay rights, marriage equality

Monday, 11 February 2013

Bush Fires - an Indigenous Legacy and the need for cultural change

Bush fire sky - photo credit Robin Roberts Photography

This week a large uncontrolled bushfire came within roughly six kilometres of our home (as the crow flies). It was a sobering experience. Friends evacuated the nearby township of Collinsvale, our youngest loved watching the helicopters flying overhead with their water bags hanging down below, and we packed for a rapid evacuation.

It was a timely reminder that Indigenous people burned this ancient continent for thousands of years. They did so to open up dense forest and scrubland, encourage new growth, and make better conditions for game. This process selected against fire intolerant species and favoured fire adapted ones. As a consequence of this and ongoing climate change, most of the continent has adapted to burn. This burning was not random. Indigenous people used fire to manicure the bush. They were managers not arsonists.

That was 200 years ago. Now we have arsonists, plus in recent decades the southern continent has seen a strong drying trend, and droughts are becoming more frequent. The Aussie dream of a ‘home among the gum trees’ is plain stupid unless you build underground. Our society has yet to accept this fact – even after Ash Wednesday (1983 for you young folk), the Victorian fires, and the latest round of fire in South Easter Australia/Tasmania, [update - now we have catastrophic fires and a state of emergency in New South Wales].

After 200 years we still view fire like Europeans – it’s bad, it destroys property, it needs to be put out. We don’t manage with fire – we fight fire. This won’t work very well in the longer term. As the climate changes, more than ever, we are going to need fire to manage fire. Frequent low intensity burns reduce fuel loads – but there is a balance. Too frequent burning reduces regeneration; too infrequent leads to hotter fires later. There is a lot of science in this, but this science we need to get to grips with. As an aside, Forestry Tasmania still makes the rather bizarre claim that clear-felling and napalming old growth forests somehow mimics Aboriginal burning practices. The only thing thease two burning regimes have in common is that Forestry’s burning regime discriminates against rainforest species and reduces biodiversity. Centuries of Aboriginal fire management had a similar affect over much of the continent.

Bicheno Fire Tasmania - photo credit Hanna Woolley

Bushfire is shaping up as a new wedge in Australia's culture wars. On the one-hand greenies are blamed for restructions on fuel reduction burns and road access into remote country. On the other hand industrialists are blamed for climate change. Fact is that Australia contributes less than two per cent of global CO2 emissions. We can be part of a global trend (which does include China) to address carbon but we cannot actually control our climate. We will just have to adapt to hotter and more frequent fires. We may need to re-think our leafy suburbs, put a stop to urban expansion into bushland, clear 'fire protection' belts around the approaches to our cities, and just stop living permanently in some places.

Our Western Red Cedar house faces onto a bush hillside. That hill hasn’t burned since 1967, it is extremely dry, and fuel loads are high. There should have been several low intensity burns in the last few decades. I can’t afford to get arrested for arson and trespass but the local Chigwell youth did the civic thing and burned their side of the hill a couple of years ago. At some point the rest of that hill will burn. There is no other possibility. It makes a lot more sense to burn it deliberately on a cool spring day than wait for a random bush fire on a 40 degree day with high winds at the height of summer.

Managing and living with fire requires a fundamental change in attitudes, management, laws, and for some people, architecture. Why is it that we don’t build underground? There is no better way to fire proof a structure, yet anyone proposing this would struggle to find a builder, be thought eccentric, and experience great difficulty navigating a maze of council regulations and building standards. Underground building is however the obvious answer to living in a harsh fire prone environment. It intrigues me that much of the new residential construction of large homes in Sydney and Melbourne is concrete slab and glass, basically what office buildings are made out of. It is a cheap, unimaginative and ugly construction method. These buildings are expensive to cool and expensive to heat. Put the same single storey building underground and you have an instant eco-home. Warm in winter, cool in summer, and highly resistant to fire (but not flood!). By ‘underground’ I don’t mean burying it in a hill-side. Simply excavate 1-2m down, leave the windows above ground on one to three sides, slope the roof to the ground at the rear, and cover with 0.5 – 1.0m of dirt. Add some curves and landscaping and your ugly concrete box is now a stylish modern eco-home. Add double glaze for extra efficiency. Modern open plan lay-outs favour light and ventilation and thus lend themselves to underground designs. Add pull down metal shutters and you basically have a bomb shelter.

OK its more expensive than your standard brick veneer with a water tank but that won’t always be an option. It may sound like a hippy rave but one thing the market mechanism does very well is price risk. At some point in the not too distant future the insurance industry is simply going to stop insuring normal homes that are near gum trees. Fortune will favour those who thought ahead.

For a timely discussion from a subject matter expert see here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-21/fire-expert-professor-david-bowman-discusses-the/5036718

 Tag line: bush fires, Tasmanian fires, fire management, Indigenous firestick methods, underground housing, cultural change, climate change and fire, insurance.