My social media feeds have been even more than usually irritating lately. I’ll take aim at a particular issue, although my thoughts on this issue are largely applicable to almost every other even slightly emotive topic in the public consciousness. Whatever that is.
I write this article now because I’ve had a gutful, and expected better from my fellow humans.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am a white male in a committed heterosexual relationship who harbours serious reservations about the continued utility of the institution of marriage in general.
Sensible ways to encourage a ‘yes’ survey result
You’ll note that I refuse to use the term ‘vote’ to describe the postal survey. The overpriced farce that is the same-sex marriage postal survey process is not a ‘vote’. It doesn’t involve a change to the Constitution, is not binding on parliament, and doesn’t have any of the advertising restrictions that an actual election does.
Barring a successful challenge in the High Court (to be heard tomorrow), the survey will go ahead. In an effort to reduce the damage to our collective psyches, friendships, family relationships, etc… here are a few tips.
Please note I use conservative in a non political sense. By conservative, I refer to one who is, above all, resistant to change in social, cultural, or intellectual fields. There are conservatives with both right and left leaning economics, and not all of those who have right leaning economic ideals are conservatives. Conservatives are not necessarily racist or sexist.
I am on the fence as to whether the social construct in which we reside can properly be referred to as civilised. Perhaps the term is used in an aspirational sense. Perhaps it merely refers to the existence of some kind of societal order, although it’s impossible to imagine a type of human existence that does not have such.
I’m think most of us would like to imagine that we are civilised people in accordance with the term’s usage in ancient Rome, or by our former colonial masters. In each of these societies, when stripped of its nationalistic and racial connotations, ‘civilised’ meant that one understood, and adhered to, the conventions of how to behave in society. For our purposes, this includes how to speak to people, and how to conduct a debate in an orderly manner.
Chaos and shock produce extreme push-back from conservatives, and even more from religious people. Given that many of those considering a ‘no’ response are religious conservatives, aggravating these reactionary tendencies is a terrible idea. Indeed, it is likely to lead to further grotesqueries such as a certain advertisement we all saw recently that I refuse to link on account of not wanting to generate any more views for it. I am not unaware of the irony in this situation – it’s taken this issue to make clear to many younger people the conservative nature of religious fundamentalism. I’m quite amused that Cory Bernardi is in agreement with the Islamic fundamentalists on this.
On an unrelated note, ‘proper speech and action’ is generally considered a virtue. Consider your conduct during the campaign to be an opportunity for growth as a human being.
Argue from principle
The greatest challenge for the ‘yes’ cause is overcoming an instinctual fear of change held by many of a conservative bent. This is why the ‘no’ campaign is running arguments based on ‘slippery slope’ fallacies. “Where will it end?” has been used throughout history to justify terrible decision making. Don’t let the generation led into disaster in Vietnam by this reasoning be led to make yet another poor choice. There are numerous ways to deal with slippery slope arguments. They do not include scorn, laughter, or disbelief. There is a reason these responses do not work. Conservativism is founded upon fear, and attempting to overcome this fear by emotive appeals is a fools errand.
Ask a person responding ‘no’ why that is their response. If they have reasons, address the errors in those reasons. If they have no reasons, suggest that perhaps extending rights to people who don’t have them is a fundamentally moral idea in the situation where there is no reason to deny those rights.
Be prepared to outline your reasons for responding ‘yes’. If you don’t have reasons, find some, preferably before you speak to anyone about this issue, and definitely before you speak to anyone smarter than you about the issue.
- Argue from economic utility
- Argue from a rights perspective
- Have reasons
- Sidestep emotive arguments
Don’t belittle anyone
Again, ‘civilised society’ and whatnot…
The recent democratic debacle in the US has shown us, among other things, that conservatives and the uneducated dislike being preached to. They also dislike being told that they’re wrong, that their beliefs are idiotic, and that they’re bad people for thinking and being who they are. The more the left told these people they were racist and sexist and stupid, the more fervent became their idolatry of an opportunist who told them exactly what they wanted to hear.
Don’t do this.
If you’re unable to outline a persuasive argument for same-sex marriage without belittling an individual’s beliefs, then do those who would benefit from a ‘yes’ result a favour and refrain from participating in the public discourse.
Don’t be a bully
Why would we give up the moral high ground on this? The churches and mosques and lobby groups are going to trundle out some of the most offensive advertising material we’ve seen in recent times. This is because the ‘yes’ cause has a sound theoretical and logical basis. All the conservative movement has to go with is misinformation and scare tactics.
Don’t resort to personal attacks, don’t resort to professional or personal bullying or blackmail. It undermines the efficacy of our actual arguments. It undermines the effectiveness of having a sit-down with that recalcitrant relative or friend and having a legitimate discussion. When an individual is persecuted on account of their political or religious belief it is bad for all of us, regardless of how offensive that belief is. When we are advocating on behalf of a traditionally persecuted group, persecuting others weakens our position, and tarnishes the legacy of those who are LGBTIQ and have experienced persecution in the past on account of identifying with this group.
Champion free speech
Certain conservative lunatics have been attempting to make this into a free speech debate… I have a few points.
- We do not have an enforceable right to free speech in this country.
- This is not a free speech debate.
- Free speech is freedom to speak, but not necessarily freedom to be heard. It is definitely not a freedom to be listened to.
- Free speech cannot discriminate. Many conservatives are highly protective of their free speech, but not that of others’. In the interests of fairness, this is also true of many socialists, and most communists.
Ask the conservative whining about their freedom of speech to explain to you how their non-existent speech rights are infringed by two other people of the same sex, in a different location, getting married. They won’t be able to. Tell them about how same sex marriage is legal in places like California that have extremely strong, constitutionally entrenched free speech protections. If they’re worried about the free speech of the church in the abstract, or religious officers in the particular, there will almost certainly be an exemption in the legislation whereby individuals can refuse to conduct marriages on religious grounds. It’s likely to be quite a strong exemption given that (for whatever reason) the churches are collectively quite a powerful lobby group. Note also that there are current exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act at Commonwealth level, and parts of the Equal Opportunity Act in Victoria to allow churches to (for example) refuse to appoint female priests on account of their gender.
Also ask the conservative whether not allowing same-sex marriage impacts on the freedom of speech of those who cannot be married to their same-sex partner.
Of course, please ask these questions with reference to everything else I have said above.
Let’s be honest, the postal survey is really just an attempt by the right wing of the Liberal party to further ruin Turnbull’s prime ministership. I’ve said from the beginning that it’s an issue that should have been pursued by private members bill straight away while Turnbull’s popularity was soaring. That it has happened in this way is testament to the bloodymindedness of a number of MPs who are terrified of how the world has changed in the past thirty years, and one MP who has a chip on his shoulder so large that it has become his defining feature as an individual. In proceeding with the postal survey, this small group of MPs, has, in my opinion, made it ethically impossible for almost anyone currently under the age of 35 to vote for the Coalition into the foreseeable future. They’ll lose the small ‘l’ liberals, classical liberals, libertarians, and moderates. This is a shame, because, while an effectively two-party system is a bad idea, it’s a better idea than a one-party system.
It’s also a shame, because by definition a ‘liberal’ government should be in favour of equal rights. Essentially, this demonstrates the misnomer that is the Liberal party in Australia.
In the interests of full disclosure, that the Labor party has decided to support SSM now, when they had the majority necessary to amend the Marriage Act from 2007 until Abbott was voted in, is opportunistic at best and cynical at worst. I’d like to think the change of position is based on the views of each members’ constituents, but I think it has more to do with hoping the Coalition implodes.
This post may also be completely moot, on account of the upcoming High Court hearing.