The North-South Moral Dialogue

This story from Indonesia rather suggests that early optimism about its progress towards liberal democracy was seriously premature:

Indonesians will be barred from kissing in public under new laws criticised by human rights groups as draconian.

Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin said an overhaul of the country’s criminal code had been completed and would soon be sent to Indonesia’s Parliament for debate, including a provision that could limit press freedom. Included in the draft legislation is a 10-year jail sentence and fines of more than $40,000 for “locking lips” in public or dancing erotically.

Unmarried couples would be barred from living together, while adultery and possession of pornography would be reaffirmed as criminal offences, along with going naked in public.

Those spreading Communism or mocking the Government would face 10 years’ jail.

There seems to be a real danger that the need to appease hardline Islamic sentiment in Indonesia, along with the ingrained authoritarianism of the Javanese ruling caste, may cause Indonesian democracy to be still-born.

But illiberal action is hardly confined to our nearest neighbour; it’s endemic in our closest ally as well.

Not only does the US imprison people indefinitely without trial, and have an Attorney-General who champions the torture of terrorism suspects, but sponsors an illiberal moral agenda that in some ways makes the proposed Indonesian initiatives look mild:

It may also be true that the radical right will never achieve its stated legal goals — the overturning of Roe v. Wade, passage of the Human Life Amendment, a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, the reinstatement of prayer and Bible reading in the schools — much less such dystopian dreams as making Christianity the national religion, abolishing public schools and banning the Pill and divorce. But that’s like saying the left got nothing from FDR because it didn’t get socialism. The fact is, anyone who thinks the GOP is stiffing its “moral values” backers hasn’t been paying attention: George Bush, for one, has been paying them back for the past four years. He’s promoted a raft of anti-choice legislation — including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and a law making it easier for health professionals to deny women abortions and even birth control for “reasons of conscience.” He’s packed the federal bench with antichoice reactionaries, and he’s seeded the federal bureaucracy and the government’s international agencies with hard-line social conservatives like the faith-healing Dr. W. David Hager of the FDA reproductive health panel. These people wield immense power over regulations and funding and the flow of information. It did not take a Senate majority to keep emergency contraception from being sold over the counter; all it took was compliant Mark McClellan, willing to overlook the recommendation of his own expert panel and the overwhelming weight of medical opinion.

Bush has flat-funded Title X, which pays for birth control for poor women, while heaping federal dollars on abstinence-until-marriage programs, $138 million in fiscal 2004 and a requested $272 million for the next year. He’s appointed delegates to UN conferences who have done their best to wreck global consensus on reproductive health, the rights of women and children, and AIDS. Fully one-third of the $15 billion budget for his international AIDS initiative goes to abstinence-only programs, cutting out established workers in the field in favor of Christian groups with zero experience. Even though his faith-based initiative tanked, Christian entrepreneurs — pastors, counselors, creators of “educational” materials, inspirational speakers, anti-sex impresarios — have gotten loads of federal money, with more to come. As a bonus, if you visit the Parks Department gift shop at the Grand Canyon, you can now buy “Grand Canyon: A Different View,” a creationist volume that claims that the earth couldn’t possibly be more than a few thousand years old.

Reading this depressing litany, I couldn’t help noticing the contrast with John Howard. I’ve occasionally been guilty of conflating Howard and Bush as neocon peas in a pod. But when you actually examine Bush’s record and belief systems, it’s apparent that he’s a very extreme right wing ideologue compared with John Howard. With all his shortcomings, Howard is essentially just a very successful socially conservative but pragmatic Tory leader, who is also rather better at expedient political lying than any of his opponents or immediate predecessors. There’s nothing unique or even especially unusual about him, whereas Bush appears to be an entirely new and dangerous species of political animal: the utterly unprincipled ‘moral’ crusader. I don’t think Howard can meaningfully be labelled a “neocon” just because he seems to have signed on irrevocably to Bush’s Iraq adventure, any more than you could similarly label Tony Blair for that reason.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

it’s highly ironic that this is happening under the ‘New Golkar’ (because let’s face it, that’s what the new Prez is) government whereas the previous President Gus Dur who was an Islamic cleric was trying to liberalise laws against the Communist party. So let’s not have any RWDBs blaming this on ‘Islam’ – it’s all a Machiavellian way of shoring up support and returning Golkar to its corrupt days. And note that homosexuality in Indonesia was also legal until very recently – there were literally no laws against it.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

Well, Ken, Howard has stopped gays being entitled to their partner’s super, and stopped euthanasia in the NT, and tried to stop heroin injecting rooms. And he has significantly skewed the welfare system to the benefit of stay at home mothers.

But on the whole you are correct. Howard hasn’t done all that much to advance a far right social agenda. But is that because he really is pragmatic, or he really would like to but hasn’t been able to because (a) most of this stuff is controlled by the states (b) he hasn’t had the Senate (until now) (c) he knows his Party and the Australian people won’t cop it in large doses, unlike the Americans.

As for the Indonesians, it’s not going to do a whole lot for the Bali tourist trade.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2021 years ago

Is this tongue in cheek diplomancy?

James Farrell
James Farrell
2021 years ago

“There’s nothing unique or even especially unusual about [Howard], whereas Bush appears to be an [an] utterly unprincipled ‘moral’ crusader.”

Yeah, but, as you noted the other day,

“There has to be a real prospect that the Howard government will revive its SDA amendments once it gets control of the Senate”.

And let’s not forget the anti-euthanasia legislation. The difference is in the degree of caution and pragmatism, isn’t it, rather than the willingness to impose ‘Christian’ moral teaching. I’d even quailify that, because religious crusading is more practically feasible in the mad US than here.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2021 years ago

Correction: For “[an]” in the first quote, read “…”

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

Meh. That’s just a feminist whingeing about a perceived loss of female privilege.

Those rich, white women are always trying to claim victimhood, when they’re the ones who actually control society.

They feel threatened by George Bush because he won’t bow to their selfish, sexist demands. Tough titties.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

Indonesia is such a wonderfully contradictory place. Does anyone remember that story in the Good Weekend months ago about that sacred Hindu site somewhere in Bali which Indonesians would make a pilgrimage to to have sex with complete strangers in order to gain good luck?

Cameron Riley
2021 years ago

Australia’s foreign policy is dominated by the “Great and Powerful Friends” doctrine. Which leaves Australia uncritical of the US on the international stage. Since the most repugnant aspects of neo-conservatism are the use of the military to enact civil change, Australia is not in a position to make any independent foreign policy until it gets rid of the “Great and Powerful Friends” doctrine. We are neo-cons by association.

Bush’s domestic policies may be heartfelt, but they are also paying of a constituency of his that helped him get elected.

Dan
Dan
2021 years ago

“Meh. That’s just a feminist whingeing about a perceived loss of female privilege … Those rich, white women are always trying to claim victimhood, when they’re the ones who actually control society … They feel threatened by George Bush because he won’t bow to their selfish, sexist demands. Tough titties.”

Is this a parody?

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I think Ken Parish’s assertion that limiting abortion and promoting abstinence makes a 10-year jail sentence for kissing “look mild” is a parody.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

EP

Of course, abstinence may well just increase the amount of sperm available to be stolen by those nasty femonazis. I’d think seriously before embracing it if I were you (assuming you have a choice in the matter).

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I never thought of it that way before. Could George Bush be part of the spermtheft conspiracy?????

simon
simon
2021 years ago

Excuse me if this is hijacking but did anyone catch DateLine and what is happening in West Papua?
Given what we have recently done with Iraq and East Timor should we get involved with this one and if not why not?

yobbo
2021 years ago

Ken’s just clutching at straws now. With Mark B gone, he’s gotta find something to keep all the lefties coming back. US laws worse than 10 years for kissing? Check!

Nic White
2021 years ago

*crosses Indonesia of places to visit anytime soon*

wtf?

And I think Ken was comparing the role of religion in the policy making of the governments, not saying that Bush’s push for stupid “moral” laws are worse than these inconcievebly ridiculous Indonesian ones (that would be silly).

squawkbox
squawkbox
2021 years ago

Well, Ken, you’ve opened my eyes. I never knew how sinister these evil American Christians could be. Promoting sexual abstinence (the promoters may be a bit starry-eyed about this, but abstinence is still the only 100% effective way of preventing STDs), protecting foetuses from assault from third parties by the Unborn Victims Violence Act, preventing partial birth abortions (which you don’t have to be a Christian to find repellent). What will these vile bigots think of next? It’s clearly only a matter of time before they start burning people at the stake.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

“It’s clearly only a matter of time before they start burning people at the stake.”

http://www.godhatesfags.com/main/

Yes I know they’re a very extreme group, but since a favourite RWDB trick is to quote lefty or islamic extremists as representitive of some overall monolithic “left” or “islam”, I’m sure you won’t mind if I do the same.

Incidentally, if anyone’s into sexy Scandinavian Princessess, click the “Sweden: land of Sodomy and Bestiality and Incest” link at the above site. Some hot Swedish spermthief action there Evil Pee.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

Bet that last comment really pushed Troppodillo’s spam filter envelope.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2021 years ago

Ken, re the Indo ‘kissing in public’, living in sin, being naked in public and dancing erotically (presumably in public not including a darkened disco?) are regarded as ‘sins’ within the socially conservative beliefs of a vast majority of Indonesians. It is pandering to the Islamic vote but I think there is a danger of overemphasis on the Islamic issue, Indonesian Christians are equally socially conservative.

Seeing as TNI and the Police controls or licences all sorts of nefarious activities such as brothels and discos, you can be sure the new laws, if they surface, will not often be prosecuted, with the possible exception of foreign visitors for which the police will be most happy to extort bribes to let them escape the law. Police regard ALL laws as a reason for corruption, long before enforcing them for the common good.

The slandering of the government (law) is more worrying and definitely an attack on the free press but depending on how it is framed, probably of little consequence given that ways and means of criticising Suharto existed outside the media and in individuals such as Amien Rais, at that time before Suharto’s downfall (when it was an offence to insult the president.)

The reason for the anti-mocking law is really, in my experience of 8 years there, an attempt by the crooked b…… elites who run the country to avoid being labelled as corrupt. Seen in that light, valid political criticism to my mind is not really under threat.

The socially conservative return to the dark ages of the Bush era of demons and witches, the heaping of damnation on those evil doers who espouse Darwinian theory instead of creationism, is far more dangerous than the Indo scene where they are bleeding heart liberals by comparison.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

Oh, how wonderful. Peter Kemp tells us not to worry about fascist suppression of free speech and public affection in Indonesia, but condems a country with constitutionally-mandated free speech as living in “the dark ages”.

How can anyone be so wilfully blind and stupid?

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2021 years ago

EP, if you have lived in Indonesia and understood the nuances and differences between form and substance in Indonesian politics; if you have lived with the common people there and understand the social mores of that society, you may have acquired some evidence and a better point to argue.

Indonesia has had free speech since Suharto and that will continue, in my opinion. Reading the Jakarta Post would be a revelation to you and compared to a lot of the US press, is one helluva lot more ”fair and balanced”.

Constitutionally mandated free speech in the USA does not mean that it cannot be subverted and abused by the corporations that own the media. That it has happened is due in large part to the breaking down of media ownership laws in favour of large corporations whose interests are not necessarily to be fair and balanced, but in many cases to be propagandists for the neo-cons for example.

As there are few to no ‘femonazis’ there, I would have thought it a haven and paradise on earth for you, outweighing all other considerations perhaps???

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2021 years ago

Femonazis in Indonesia that is.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

Oh, so the Indonesians are exempt from having human rights by virtue of their “social mores”. I suppose that excuse also applies to Iranian women sentenced to death for adultery, and Sudanese blacks exterminated for being ethnically diverse.

Your attempt to make excuses for the inexcusable, while condemning a country that has more true human liberty than any other, is contemptible.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

“Iranian women sentenced to death”

Spermthieves, all of’em.

Don’y get me wrong folks. I think Isalm is even more awful than Christanity when it comes to women.

But having just read Jon “Them” Ronson’s “The Men Who Stare At Goats”, I’m now experimenting with trying to make Evil Pee’s head blow up at a distance.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I think you’ve been staring at too many goats.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2021 years ago

Like the neocons, EP’s ‘one size fits all belligerence’ is analogous to one size fits all democracy, irrespective of different cultures.

Indonesians are indeed exempt from some so called ‘human rights’ due to their different social mores for the simple reason that kissing and dancing naked in the streets is behaviour that they EXEMPT themselves from, considering it abhorrent .

Javanese and Chinese culture also preclude publicly mocking (as against politically and subtly criticising) their leaders however incompetent or corrupt.

How these unassailable factually correct cultural factors ‘excuse the inexcusible’ is something perhaps EP can enlighten us on.

wbb
wbb
2021 years ago

“Oh, so the Indonesians are exempt from having human rights by virtue of their social mores”.

That’s pretty lame, EP. Just because you’ll be locked up if you laze around the mall in your birthday suit, doesn’t mean Australia tramples on human rights. (Recent ministers for DIMIA notwithstanding.)

It simply means that, like Indonesia, Australia is a society that maintains certain small-minded pieties.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

Yet, even granting your idea that cultural relativism makes it acceptable to jail people for 10 years if they are kissing — you are still a hypocrite.

This is because you apply a completely different standard to the US, just so you can condemn the laws that reflect its culture.

This is a breathtaking example of double standards.

squawkbox
squawkbox
2021 years ago

wbb, get a sense of proportion. Should EP display his tackle in public in Australia, he’ll get a fine of a few hundred dollars and maybe a good behavior bond. That is a long way from 10 years in an Indonesian jail and a $40,000 fine.

While I don’t have Peter Kemp’s claimed expertise on Javanese and Chinese culture, I have heard similar arguments used by dictators, dictator wannabes and their apologists from every culture on earth. Strangely, once the risk of being fined, imprisoned or shot for expressing one’s opinions vanishes, the culture of not criticising the government always seems to change with astonishing speed. Colour me sceptical.

BTW, is there any way of posting comments without disabling Norton Internet Security?

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

“BTW, is there any way of posting comments without disabling Norton Internet Security?”

You need to fiddle with the privacy settings for this domain name. I had a “recipe” that I posted here earlier (see the topic “Evil Pundit Tech Support”), but some people said it didn’t work for them. Nevertheless, it’s one of the settings in that general area of the program.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Thanks for the tech help EP. It’s a mystery to me.

Anthony
Anthony
2021 years ago

EP, since you can’t come up with anything new, I’ll come up with the same old tired riposte to your tired old blah.
“Do you hate America so much that you think its standard of comparison should be Indonesia?”
Way to set the bar! Let’s formalise it: As long as there exists X, such that some aspect of X is worse than P, no criticism should be made of P.
So now, next time I go to the US, if Immigration were to demand a bribe just to give me a visa, I should just say “well, fair enough, they’d have done the same in Indonesia.” Any other response would be a double-standard, with the added complication that it would take away EP’s breath.

So Indonesia passed a stupid law as a sop for the conservative elements in parliament and outside it. Few expect it to be enforced. I think it’s dumb, but you know, there are worse things happening in Indonesia. Poverty. Corruption. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Things that smell bad. The new law is just another crappy thing to be weighed against the energy and potential that aspects of Indonesia (sometimes) display. You can get incensed about it or shrug and add it to the list.
Anyway, some places have stupid laws. In some states of the US, it’s illegal to carry an open beer bottle. Cue squealing about human rights violations.

I find knee-jerk anti-Americanism tedious and unproductive. But you’re on a whole different level of predictability.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

You’re missing the point, Anthony.

Peter was excusing the bad laws in Indonesia, yet he was condemning the much less bad laws in America. This is a clear case of double standards. If he had condemned both, then your argument might apply.

Warbo
Warbo
2021 years ago

Seeing as you love America so much, Evil P, why don’t you go and live there? Preferably yesterday.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Is this sort of discussion really necessary? I won’t close the thread yet, but couldn’t we avoid the ad hominem attacks (by both sides) and stick to the issues?

Anthony
Anthony
2021 years ago

Actually, much as it pains me to admit it, EP has a point. I missed the crucial last paragraph in Peter’s first post.
But, it’s not like he said that Indonesia is all sweetness and light either. And I still think the basic point is valid. I quite like the US, it is basically the same kind of society as ours (with minor differences which are constantly blown out of proportion); and I think it’s fair enough to get more outraged at crappy things happening there than it is in Indonesia, where crappy is pretty much par for the course.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

Kissing in public is gross from every angle. I think 10 years is reasonable – in fact Parish, I might go and live there.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

So going naked in Mitchell Street tonight is definitely out too, then (fortunately for people trying to eat dinner, at least in my case)?

JO SANDER
JO SANDER
2021 years ago

most people go on the vacation to Bali to engage in anoynmous bonking activities. dogs do it in the street we are no better. ever walk down the street and ‘ cor ‘ wouldn’t I like a slice of that, every bloke is a potential rapist frightened by draconian laws, I’m not a whore but still like a bit of poontang at the click of my finger.JoJo