‘Virtue signalling’ is in vogue in some quarters as a label used as a term of abuse. The other day, someone asked a sensible question. What is wrong with virtue signalling? Big corporates spend a fortune on it. So do governments – although different considerations apply to different ways of spending public moneys.
Reading Richard Evans’ The Pursuit of Power, Europe 1815 – 1914, I came across some diverting labels. In 1900, a German gynaecologist said: ‘The use of contraceptives of any sort can only serve lust.’ Given that the survival of the species depends on procreation, what’s wrong with a spot of lust – if you are still up for it? The notion that sin is inherent in the word lust does not get much encouragement from the Oxford English Dictionary.
A Mayor of Vienna, who happened to hate Jews, was upbraided for sitting at a table with some Jews. His answer was very simple. ‘I decide who’s a Jew.’
The word Prussian carries a connotation of militant if not military Teutonic discipline and froideur – all ghastly stereotypes. And Bismarck was the prototype Prussian. You might therefore be surprised to learn that Bismarck has a good claim to be called the father of the Welfare State. The Iron Chancellor got in about a generation before Churchill and Lloyd George when he said that ‘the state had to meet the justified wishes of the working classes.’ He dubbed his aristocratic paternalism as ‘state socialism.’ That would be enough to send current Republicans clean out of their minds.’
But the prize for quote of the book goes to a Russian ethnographer who in 1836 said:
According to the observations of old timers, the climate of Kharkov province has become more severe, and it is now exposed to more droughts and frosts. It is likely that this change has come about because of the destruction of forests.
Yes, that’s right – man made climate change was old hat in Russia in 1836.
Blooper – a good book
The book Finding my place by Anne Aly is a must. She was two when her parents migrated here from Egypt. She and they met the full face of bigotry about colour and Islam in Australia. They were getting over this when Osama knocked over the twin towers and this was followed by the Bali bombing. Reading this book, you get a clear idea of the damage done by people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones – and, I would add, John Howard.
Anne’s parents thought it would be easier for her, but that is problematic. She went through two failed marriages. On top of her primary degree at the American University of Cairo, she has a diploma, a master’s and a doctorate of philosophy. Tickets don’t worry me too much, but she got the last two while raising two sons as a single mother. That is on any view impressive.
She has a world-wide reputation for her expertise in counter-terrorism. And she has put her training into effect. One young Muslim who was being groomed told her third husband that but for Anne he would be dead or in jail.
The book is by turns heart-breaking and hilarious. It is worth the price of purchase just for the spray she gave a shabby dealer who sought to renege on a sale of fencing and passed a rude remark about Arabs. Anne Aly does know my language. And yes, she does sink the slipper into two politicians who – to my certain knowledge – asked for it.
I will only refer to two quotes. This on being a Muslim in Australia after the twin towers.
There is something disempowering about hate. If someone hates you for who you are, there really isn’t anything you can do about it.
This on being a federal MP.
I’ve never liked politics and I doubt that I ever will. I don’t rate my performance in media interviews where I’m pitted against a seasoned politician who barks out attacks and expects me to do the same, and my greatest fear is that I will become that person.
Anne Aly is the kind of person who will get right up the noses of the IPA and their ilk. She is a Muslim woman who breaks all the templates and has made more of her life than they ever will. This is her triumph, and I found it entirely uplifting. I will give a copy to my oldest grand-daughter. The language can be fruity, but the humanity of this woman is a winner for us all.