Tag Archives: right

Australians should also worry about white extremists in our own backyard

The Conversation

Mark Briskey, Curtin University

The proliferation of terrorist attacks in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa saturate the media with attention to and analysis of these outrages. From the murder of a Catholic priest in France to the massacre of 80 Hazara people in Kabul, these lead us inexorably to question the origins of such attacks and why these extremists claim Islam as a justification.

Equally, the focus upon the Man Haron Monis inquest as well as emerging details of the Anzac day plot capture our attention in Australia. Without alternative commentary, this leads many of us to equate Islam with terrorism, false as this may be.

But some headlines are now informing us of a “new” risk, with the arrest on terrorism charges of a white “nationalist extremist” from an avowedly right-wing organisation.

A history of foreign fighters and extremist violence

Is this something new? Of course it is not. Despite the recent focus on those who malign the name of Islam in the name of terrorism, Australia has a long history of terrorism.

This is true, too, of our history of foreign fighters. They have been every bit as diverse as the multicultural country we live in. Though we argue the relative merits and ethics of particular causes, Australians have travelled to foreign conflicts since before federation.

Australians have been involved in conflicts from the American Civil War and fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War to more recent examples of individuals fighting for Islamic State and against it. Some have involved themselves in continuing conflicts and causes far from their adopted country of Australia. One example is the Ustaša and their activities against the former Yugoslavia.

While many may applaud involvement in some of these conflicts, a dark side of this has been the continuing presence of far-right-wing neo-Nazi groups in Australia. There has been analysis of why the more mainstream of these groups have achieved recent electoral success – a recent John Safran documentary is particularly good at teasing this out. However, the underside of the far right is more pernicious and potentially more dangerous.

Neo-Nazi members have been guilty of ongoing violence against migrant communities. The bashing of Minh Duong was a particularly significant example of these groups’ commitment to violence.

Don’t neglect radicalisation on the right

Melbourne man Phillip Michael Galea is charged with collecting and making documents connected with preparing for a terrorist act and committing acts in preparation for a terrorist act. AAP

Australia has suffered right-wing extremist violence in the past, though none comparable to the Breivik massacre in Norway or the McVeigh bombing in the US. However, the arrest on the weekend should alert us that it is imperative that any consideration of counter-radicalisation should include members of the extreme right.

The arrest follows a disturbing series of vile attacks against the Muslim community around Australia. These range from those random rants of racists abusing Muslims or suspected Muslims on public transport to attacks in which mosques have been set alight and daubed with racist graffiti, coming on occasion very close to causing injury or death.

Those who subscribe to an extremist Islamic narrative may indeed give us cause to fear their actions and the influence of technology-assisted radicalism. Equally, we should fear members of the far right who have access to a poisonous blend of neo-Nazi motivation that is as global and as accessible as their chosen information technology device.

As we urge representatives of the Muslim community to look for solutions to the apparent siren-like attraction of violent extremism for those in disenfranchised communities, so we must also robustly reject the simplistic and unauthentic rhetoric that right-wing parties peddle about Islam.

A good place to begin would be to have those government members who make a noise about the threat of Islamist extremism, such as George Christensen and Cory Bernardi, as well as One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, to set the example and reject right-wing extremism in all its forms.

The ConversationMark Briskey, Senior Lecturer, National Security and International Relations, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.
 

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We don’t need no (moral) education? Five things you should learn about ethics

The Conversation

Patrick Stokes, Deakin University

The human animal takes a remarkably long time to reach maturity. And we cram a lot of learning into that time, as well we should: the list of things we need to know by the time we hit adulthood in order to thrive – personally, economically, socially, politically – is enormous.

But what about ethical thriving? Do we need to be taught moral philosophy alongside the three Rs?

Ethics has now been introduced into New South Wales primary schools as an alternative to religious instruction, but the idea of moral philosophy as a core part of compulsory education seems unlikely to get much traction any time soon. To many ears, the phrase “moral education” has a whiff of something distastefully Victorian (the era, not the state). It suggests indoctrination into an unquestioned set of norms and principles – and in the world we find ourselves in now, there is no such set we can all agree on.

Besides, in an already crowded curriculum, do we really have time for moral philosophy? After all, most people manage to lead pretty decent lives without knowing their Sidgewick from their Scanlon or being able to spot a rule utilitarian from 50 yards.

But intractable moral problems don’t go away just because we no longer agree how to deal with them. And as recent discussions on this site help to illustrate, new problems are always arising that, one way or another, we have to deal with. As individuals and as participants in the public space, we simply can’t get out of having to think about issues of right and wrong.

Yet spend time hanging around the comments section of any news story with an ethical dimension to it (and that’s most of them), and it quickly becomes apparent that most people just aren’t familiar with the methods and frameworks of ethical reasoning that have been developed over the last two and a half thousand years. We have the tools, but we’re not equipping people with them.

So, what sort of things should we be teaching if we wanted to foster “ethical literacy”? What would count as a decent grounding in moral philosophy for the average citizen of contemporary, pluralistic societies?

What follows is in no way meant to be definitive. It’s not based on any sort of serious empirical data around people’s familiarity with ethical issues. It’s a just tentative stab (wait, can you stab tentatively?) at a list of things people should ideally know about ethics, and based, on what I see in the classroom and, online, often don’t.

1. Ethics and morality are (basically) the same thing

Many people bristle at the word “morality” but are quite comfortable using the term “ethical”, and insist there’s some crucial difference between the two. For instance, some people say ethics are about external, socially imposed norms, while morality is about individual conscience. Others say ethics is concrete and practical while morality is more abstract, or is somehow linked to religion.

Out on the value theory front lines, however, there’s no clear agreed distinction, and most philosophers use the two terms more or less interchangeably. And let’s face it: if even professional philosophers refuse to make a distinction, there probably isn’t one there to be made.

2. Morality isn’t (necessarily) subjective

Every philosophy teacher probably knows the dismay of reading a decent ethics essay, only to then be told in the final paragraph that, “Of course, morality is subjective so there is no real answer”. So what have the last three pages been about then?

There seems to be a widespread assumption that the very fact that people disagree about right and wrong means there is no real fact of the matter, just individual preferences. We use the expression “value judgment” in a way that implies such judgments are fundamentally subjective.

Sure, ethical subjectivism is a perfectly respectable position with a long pedigree. But it’s not the only game in town, and it doesn’t win by default simply because we haven’t settled all moral problems. Nor does ethics lose its grip on us even if we take ourselves to be living in a universe devoid of intrinsic moral value. We can’t simply stop caring about how we should act; even subjectivists don’t suddenly turn into monsters.

3. “You shouldn’t impose your morality on others” is itself a moral position.

You hear this all the time, but you can probably spot the fallacy here pretty quickly: that “shouldn’t” there is itself a moral “shouldn’t” (rather than a prudential or social “shouldn’t,” like “you shouldn’t tease bears” or “you shouldn’t swear at the Queen”). Telling other people it’s morally wrong to tell other people what’s morally wrong looks obviously flawed – so why do otherwise bright, thoughtful people still do it?

Possibly because what the speaker is assuming here is that “morality” is a domain of personal beliefs (“morals”) which we can set aside while continuing to discuss issues of how we should treat each other. In effect, the speaker is imposing one particular moral framework – liberalism – without realising it.

4. “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “right”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Something’s being “natural” (if it even is) doesn’t tell us that it’s actually good. Selfishness might turn out to be natural, for instance, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to be selfish.

This gets a bit more complicated when you factor in ethical naturalism or Natural Law theory, because philosophers are awful people and really don’t want to make things easy for you.

5. The big three: Consequentialism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics

There’s several different ethical frameworks that moral philosophers use, but some familiarity with the three main ones – consequentialism (what’s right and wrong depends upon consequences); deontology (actions are right or wrong in themselves); and virtue ethics (act in accordance with the virtues characteristic of a good person) – is incredibly useful.

Why? Because they each manage to focus our attention on different, morally relevant features of a situation, features that we might otherwise miss.

So, that’s my tentative stab (still sounds wrong!). Do let me know in the comments what you’d add or take out.

This is part of a series on public morality in 21st century Australia. We’ll be publishing regular articles on morality on The Conversation in the coming weeks.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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