I’ve just opened a sub to The Age and Greg Sheridan is a large part of the reason why

This kind of analysis really is a disgrace: Coronavirus: The West’s civil disobedience — it’s a trend to die for. There is a social divide in the West between left and right, authority and freedom, Pelosi versus Trump. It is having grave consequences for our ability to govern ourselves according to the liberal values that have made the West great. That said, this is how Kelly’s Sheridan’s article opens:

For 50 years, popular culture in Australia and the West has mocked authority, glorified rebellion, sanctified the individual’s quest for ever deeper self-realisation and told us that Western governments are dishonest, corrupt, wicked and primarily act as agents of racism, colonialism, sexism, economic exploitation and environmental despoliation.

All this is reinforced by academic culture, which sheets all these sins home not only to Western governments but to Western civilisation generally.

Is it any wonder that these societies are having so much trouble in the coronavirus crisis responding to essential lifesaving directions from their respective governments?

That is, because we are a society whose ethos is based on individual freedom, there are many amongst us who will not immediately do whatever the government tells them to do. Oddly, in his analysis he does not mention China. This is so simple-minded that it is frightening. It is Confucian societies who apparently get it right.

The most successful societies in tackling COVID-19 through social distancing and similar suppression measures are Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. The widespread elements of their success are well known — large-scale testing, contact tracing, tough travel restrictions, strict social distancing, strict isolation for those infected or possibly infected, and above all co-operative societies that take what governments say seriously.

Here is the centre of his concerns about our wayward independent ways in the West:

Popular culture in Anglo-American societies, and in most of Western Europe, demonises every traditional institution and demonises government itself, while glorifying the existential rebellious individual who makes a heroic stand, typically against a designated set of pantomime villains: government agencies, corporate greed, property developers, organised religion et cetera.

If you want a tell, here he is quoting David Brooks from The Atlantic. To someone from the more conservative side of the fence, you could not choose a name and a magazine I’d be more ready to ignore than these two.

In a brilliant piece in this month’s Atlantic magazine, David Brooks describes how the American family has collapsed in the past 70 years. Its collapse doesn’t hurt rich people too much because they can buy replacements for family — therapists, carers, tutors. And they can buy assistance to keep their own small families functioning. But it has been a disaster for poor people, who are left with nothing. Brooks argues that over the past 70 years life has become freer for individuals but more unstable for families, better for adults and worse for children. The move from big extended families to ever smaller nuclear and sub-nuclear, so to speak, families has meant the poor have fewer people to help with bad economic times, rough psychological passages, the ups and downs of childhood. Rich folks buy this assistance. Families are also sources of authority and social capital. When they go, the authority and social capital go.

Here’s how he ends.

One difference with Confucian societies is that their governments do everything they can to support families and to promote traditional family structures. Both sides of politics make this impossible in societies such as Australia. The left hates tradition and works to destroy it, the libertarian right can’t stand anything that smacks of government social engineering.

I am inexactly connecting an immediate crisis with long-term cultural trends. But the inability of large numbers of its citizens to accept and yes, obey, simple government directions that are literally lifesaving is a sign of a relatively recently acquired, grave weakness in our culture.

We don’t OBEY government directions. Our cities are ghost towns. If you wander over to the supermarket, everyone you pass, which is hardly anyone, shifts to their side of the pavement to the greatest extent possible. I would not expect anything as stupid in The Age, but for now I am going to spend some time finding out.

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34 Responses to I’ve just opened a sub to The Age and Greg Sheridan is a large part of the reason why

  1. Judith Sloan

    That piece was actually by Greg Sheridan, Steve. Oops.

  2. Peter

    What’s Paul Kelly got to do with it, he didn’t write the article?

    I agree with everything Greg Sheridan said in the article, anarchists are gradually destroying our society.

    I suspect “that opening a subscription to the age” is a bit of a porkie and that he already has one.

  3. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Perfesser – my headlines email from the Oz this morning stated the piece you’ve identified was written by Greg Sheridan, not Paul “is wrong, again” Kelly.

    Both of those clowns are some of the many reasons why I ditched my Oz subscription.

  4. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Thanks, Dame Judith.

  5. JC

    He’s an absolute disgrace and the OZ should have retired him 30 years ago when he went over the expiry date.

  6. Clam Chowdah

    Sounding like angry of Mayfair again, Steve.

  7. Steve Kates

    Greg Sheridan and Paul Kelly are such ideological twins that I can see how I mixed them up. But the point remains the same, and I have just opened my subscription to The Age. Nevertheless, very sorry for the error.

  8. Chris M

    I have just opened my subscription to The Age

    Well congratulations… I guess. Does that include access to the ‘Shake My Head’? Pravda?

    Lets all cancel ABC subscriptions now!

  9. David

    Good luck with The Age.
    Is your problem with Sheridan his evident leanings towards Christian understanding of what makes for the good life: loving God, loving neighbour?

  10. Vagabond

    You’ll be disappointed if you expect anything better from the Age. It’s a bottomless cesspool of wokeness and Trump derangement syndrome. The letters page is a conga line of Getup apparatchiks and the only thing worth a read for the amusement and contempt factor. Don’t bother subscribing, you get a few free articles every month and that should give you a taste of the Pravda from the Democratic People’s Republic of Victoriastan.

  11. Sinclair Davidson

    I knew it! You’re a communist.

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    I would not expect anything as stupid in The Age, but for now I am going to spend some time finding out.

    You are going to be soooooooooooooo disappointed.

  13. John Smith101

    There is a social divide in the West between left and right, authority and freedom, Pelosi versus Trump.
    This left-right thing is just another Hegelian ploy to stop us from understanding clearly, to stop us recognising our common humanity, that we all come from a common source and bleed just the same. Ultimately, our society runs on faith, hope and charity, meant in their broadest sense. We don’t need for this to be cleaved. What “the Hegelian divide” proposes is the death of liberty by a thousand cuts, by the elevation of the supposed collective interest over that of the individual, and the primacy of the State, in ordering people’s lives. Both constitute the tyranny that is encompassed by fascism and communism. The danger is that if you see yourself as infallible then you do not feel the need to be tolerant of others. This forms the basis of the bigotry we are seeing and hearing in the mainstream media.

    Take a look at Eliot’s Vision of Totalitarian Democracy, based on a book by T S Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society, Harcourt Brace and Company, New York, 1940
    From the article (paraphrased):
    Eliot thought that liberalism would do most to prepare the way for a type of totalitarian democracy . . . This “totalitarian democracy” – seemingly an oxymoron – would be:
    “a state of affairs in which we shall have regimentation and conformity, without respect for the needs of the individual soul; the Puritanism [sic] of a hygienic morality in the interests of efficiency; uniformity of opinion through propaganda, and art only encouraged when it flatters the official doctrines of the time.” [T S Eliot]

    ….
    By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanised or brutalised control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.

    This, I think, is what we are dealing with now, with the corona-virus as the mechanism.

  14. tgs

    Sheridan is a religious collectivist and is often wrong on most things with the exception of many of his foreign policy views.

    However, as if he’s the worst at the Oz; Kelly, PVO, Kohler, Gottleibsen and Savva are orders of magnitude worse.

    Also, how have you lived in Australia this long and not gained even a passing familiarity with the trash the Age/SMH churn out?

  15. tgs

    Also, you don’t need to pay for The Age/SMH, their paywall is based on locally stored cookies which means it is trivial to circumvent.

  16. Graham

    It is utter madness taking out a subscription to ‘The Age’. That paper stopped being readable more than 20 years ago.
    The Australian is the closest thing to a readable newspaper in Australia – although it disappoints often as well.

  17. nb

    ‘But it has been a disaster for poor people, who are left with nothing.’
    I guess he is complaining about welfare? As Thomas Sowell notes, welfare has had a particularly deleterious effect on black families in the USA. I’m not sure the same argument can’t be made in relation to Australia.
    In any case if we could just make the purchase of The Age compulsory, that would be a good start – perhaps adopt the BBC or ABC model. All this unpleasant free choice… If only we could all think the same, and if only Greg and friends could tell us what those thoughts should be.

  18. C.L.

    Good luck with The Age.
    Is your problem with Sheridan his evident leanings towards Christian understanding of what makes for the good life: loving God, loving neighbour?

    Is this the Greg Sheridan that endorsed gay “marriage”?

    Sheridan is a religious collectivist and is often wrong on most things with the exception of many of his foreign policy views.

    He’s a Jakarta lobby idiot who worshipped General Suharto.

  19. Tim Neilson

    John Smith101
    #3377105, posted on March 26, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Yes!

    And if we are, inevitably, to use generalised terms to describe devotees of different schools of thought – bearing in mind JS101’s sage warnings about that – “left” and “right” are utterly inadequate, in fact downright misleading.

  20. Clam Chowdah

    What a child. Subscribing to The Age because you didn’t agree with an opinion.

  21. Tim Neilson

    I’m sympathetic with a good deal of what Sheridan has said here.

    The unholy alliance between “progressives” and libertarians from around the ’60’s till fairly recently was intended by both participants to destroy social conventions in the name of “I want equals I’m entitled” self-indulgence.

    The libertarians saw that as an end in itself, and assumed that abolition of societal constraints would lead to wise, thoughtful, self-disciplined pathways to fulfilment by the vast majority, with self-destructors being a minority of unfortunate casualties in the fight for freedom.

    The “progressives” knew better. They knew that once people were directed down the path of self-gratification as a moral right, more and more of them would end up infantilised, unable to delay self-gratification to the extent necessary to create genuine self-reliance, and would be easy pickings for the “I’ve got a right – the government has the responsibility” message of “progresssivism”.

    The results are all too clear. Luckily there’s still a considerable reservoir of culturally inherited individual responsibility in Australia, but the “progressives” are eroding it at a frantic pace, and the libertarians still don’t fully realise what’s going on.

  22. Viva

    Nevertheless, very sorry for the error.

    Never mind Steve. I got Phil Coorey mixed up with Paul when posting here on the bush fires. I was
    slinging off at one when I meant to sling off on the other as a Cat poster helpfully pointed out. Still can’t remember which one was which.

  23. Viva

    Paul Bongiorno. Still cant get it right.

  24. notafan

    I’m with you Tim Neilson

  25. Anthony Park

    Try the AFR. If you have a .edu email address you can probably get a discount.

    I haven’t bothered with The Australian for years. I get through a few Age/SMH article a week, but it’s not worth paying for a sub. Just browse incognito.

  26. Anthony

    In fairness to David Brooks, his Atlantic article on the (American) family was pretty insightful, though was too long to read the whole thing.

    Guessing I may have time in the coming days to get back to it.

  27. Tezza

    You missed Sheridan’s key paragraph, Steve:
    I am not arguing here that Confucianism is better than the Judaeo-Christian civic tradition. Nor am I arguing the reverse. It’s more relevant that Confucian societies have maintained their traditions. Their governments, even their education systems and parts of popular culture, reinforce this. In contrast, we have mounted a socially suicidal and nearly insane attack on our own traditions for at least the past five decades.
    I hope it’s not too late to cancel that sub to the Age.

  28. Iampeter

    There is a social divide in the West between left and right, authority and freedom, Pelosi versus Trump.

    Yes, but Pelosi and Trump are both on the same side of that divide. The left wing side.
    As a supporter of Trump and his policies regulating trade, immigration, endless spending, etc, you are not on the side of “society whose ethos is based on individual freedom.”

    I mean, you can’t clamor for nationalism or socialism one day, then turn around and claim to be fighting for individual freedom.
    Surely you see this.

  29. Tom

    Steve, as Sinclair says:

    You are going to be soooooooooooooo disappointed.

    As someone who spent 32 years at The Age, but also worked before that for both components of the Herald Sun (the Herald and the Sun News Pictorial), I can tell you there is only one source of unbiased, ethically produced news in Melbourne and that is the Herald Sun.

    Thankfully, Rupert Murdoch’s idiot children haven’t yet destroyed it — essential daily reading if you’re a Melburnian with none of the ragbaggery that infests the Daily Tele in Sydney.

  30. Tim Neilson

    As someone who spent 32 years at The Age, but also worked before that for both components of the Herald Sun (the Herald and the Sun News Pictorial), I can tell you there is only one source of unbiased, ethically produced news in Melbourne and that is the Herald Sun.

    It’s by no means perfect but it is far and away the least bad newspaper available in CFMEUistan.

  31. The problem with David Brooks is that he has based his career on spruiking the virtues of the traditional family, staying in your marriage and pitching in until death do us part… but he divorced his first wife after 28 years, shacked up with his 23-years-younger research assistant and eventually married her. Thus invalidating any reason to read him.

  32. Walter Plinge

    . Don’t bother subscribing, you get a few free articles every month

    You can get the whole lot free everyday if you clear your cookies daily. Also many library systems have it free on-line.

  33. Boambee John

    m0nty

    Sit down, take a deep breath!

    I agree with you. Brooks is a nong.

  34. Squirrel

    Sounds like it might be time for the DLP to make a(nother) comeback.

    When Nine is snapped up by an o/s network, they can divest the papers which can then be merged with their true soul-mates – i.e. the privatised bits of the ABC (everything other than a basic news – regional -kiddies service) sold off by a federal government dealing with debt surging towards 100% of GDP.

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