Monday 12 February 2007

Am I colour-blind?

Some respondents to the previous post here and privately seem to think my view on academics had been too harsh.

Although I have not compiled a comprehensive analysis of every scientist or researcher around the world, one way to gauge the effectiveness of some action is to look for its results. Let's not forget, someone in their position does have the ear of an editor, convener, or program chef. So, where and when has someone confronted a public phenomenon grounded in ideology head-on through his or her expertise on the subject?

Then there is the anecdotal evidence. Such as the comments by Jennie Brockie, presenter of the SBS-TV Insight program. On the 12 Oct 04 the topic of the discussion was, "Is animal rights activism out of control?". According to Ms Brockie several scientists were invited to attend to give the research side of the story. They declined because they were intimidated by activists who sometimes went as far as issuing death threats. The point was made repeatedly in the program, with the two scientists who did appear confirming the situation.

Remarks by Islamic clerics or others who are more interested in the shock value than actual substance are not countered by the voices of reason. And if editors cannot bring themselves to accommodate the unsensational then why is there not a systematic pressure applied to them in the interest of a mature society?

A critical and objective analysis is of course in line with the principles of the Enlightenment, the antagonist of Middle Eastern ideologies from the very beginning. Currently it is deemed the height of political incorrectness to criticise the general denigration of Western and/or European culture.

Some days ago the London think tank Policy Exchange published the report "Living apart together". Muslims across Britain were surveyed on their attitudes towards the British and Westerners in general. Their own comments made reference to a crude anti-Western bias existing in society (pp 7, 16), the official policy of multi-culturalism was seen as making the situation actually worse by mostly denigrating its own (pp 24, 33), and the report's authors recognised that the ideals once introduced by the Enlightenment and now downgraded provide the cultural vacuum for extremism to flourish once again (p 92). I don't think Australia is that much different.

No-one expects intellectuals to fight it out on the streets. But their professional status also comes with the duty attached to preserve the cultural climate which gave them their positions in the first place.

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