Ignition

Betrayal.

I feel betrayed.

I spent six years of my life – and at this end, I don’t have that many years to waste – earning my PhD. I loved it. I loved doing it (most of the time). I loved learning and I loved teaching – and the two always, always work in tandem; you can’t teach without learning, and when you learn you teach at the same time. It’s inevitable.

When I first came to Monash, I was uncertain of myself and of the institution. I had spent four years at La Trobe, and would have stayed there but for the fact that the culture was changing; degenerating thanks to the attitude of the Vice Provost, who seemed to hate anything to do with the Humanities – or rather, he considered them irrelevant.

However, I soon came to see that Monash had a richer and more diverse culture than I had suspected. I found myself being brought into projects, often helping to initiate them, in a wide range of educational fields. I was given opportunities to learn and teach in ways and with people I would never have envisioned working with before, and suggestions were made about future opportunities that were truly exciting. None came to fruition, but there were other compensations; other paths opened up during my studies that implied that I had a solid future there devoted to teaching, learning, and discovering.

I fell in love with it; I believed that, after two decades of wandering in the wilderness, I had finally found a place where I was both valued and productive, and where I could continue to contribute and to learn.

That’s why the eventual betrayal stung and still does sting so very badly.

I was told when I first asked about undertaking a PhD that I would “walk into a job” at the end of it since there were so few PhDs in Education. I never believed that; I realised that I would have to prove myself and work from the bottom up, just as one does in any new profession.

What I didn’t realise – what I never dreamed would happen – is that I would be ejected completely from the University literally on the day my studies finished.

I had devised and run classes, workshops, workshop series, and curricula for various sections of the Faculty of Education. In particular I had been part of the foundational group for the English Connect program that is now running so successfully. I helped to develop the original series of workshops and laboured whenever asked on the upgrades. It was a particular pain to watch one after another of my peers in that program – some that I had trained – elevated to more significant jobs while I was left in the casual role of facilitating workshops; but I thought if nothing else, the experience would do me good in the future and that I might even be offered a more substantial role after my studies were complete.

Needless to say, I was disappointed.

After my studies finished at the end of 2017, I sought to find a way to continue my work at Monash. I applied for any job within my range of skills. None were offered to me; even the role of LSA was denied to me. I couldn’t access the ECR program; sessional work was non-existent, at least in the Faculty of Education; my emails to people I had assumed up until then were my colleagues, along with most of my job applications, went unanswered; even the student employment program proved to be designed primarily for people completing a first degree – post-graduates need not apply. It took a long time to sink in, but eventually I realised that I had been summarily kicked out the back door without so much as a backward glance and that Monash University had simply washed its hands of me.

It broke my heart.

I clung on for a while, hoping against hope that somehow, someone would realise that I had much to contribute and that I could still be of use. But the door stayed firmly and implacably closed. Some tried to help, offering piece-meal work where they could, but it was not enough. Eventually, after struggling to survive on the unemployment benefit and a seemingly endless series of job rejections, I realised that I had been utterly abandoned and would have to effectively hit the reset button. I abandoned any hope of getting a teaching position, re-wrote my CV leaving out most of my qualifications, and landed a job as a part-time clerical worker in a hospital; ironically, the same job I had been doing before I began my studies. Ten years of my life wasted on qualifications that even the University who conferred them on me saw no value in whatsoever!

Not long after I got the hospital job, I applied to teach English in Japan and was accepted almost immediately. It’s not an academic position – not even close. But at least I get to teach, and there might be opportunities here that will forever be denied me in Australia. Japan is a country that genuinely values education.

I’m still connected to several groups at Monash online, but I am going to severe those connections now that I am living and working in Japan. Even if I return, there will be no point in trying to get work there; the only thing I could do would be to enroll in another course and I am too old for that now. No doubt, Monash would be effusive in its welcome, as long as I was bringing money in with me. But I already know the end of that story; eventually, I would be jettisoned again – a useless old man without anything to offer. I know I’m not, but Monash doesn’t seem to realise it.

It’s time to cut the ties. It’s time to burn the bridges.

Smoke

Smoke; others – every ‘Other’ – are like smoke to me now. They drift in and they drift away; they are here and then they are not. Insubstantial; ethereal; twisting and turning in the tides of their lives without seeing that they themselves are the tides; without understanding that with every twist and turn they are forming the tides.

They are so precious, these flickering candles; so fragile and temporal and the same time so beautiful; my breath catches when I see them – when I see their eyes. They have no idea, most of them, how essential they are; how every act, every breath, every thought touches the world around them out to the farthest reaches of the Universe and beyond it.

They serve Gods which say to them “you matter as long as you worship me”, without ever realising that those Gods would not exist without them. They are blind to their own power – their own importance – their own essence – the essence of existence itself; for there is nothing without them – they are no mere cogs in a machine – no ‘mere mortals; mere flesh’; they are themselves the soul and body of the Universe and not just connected to it; intimately one with it. There is nothing they do not touch – nothing that does not touch them. But they cannot see it; their sense of their own smallness – carefully cultivated – blinds them to it.

I understand what Gods are now; I know where they come from, where they abide, and where they go when they die. I know what ghosts are; I know what spirits are; I know why they exist and what they arise from.

I see the whole Universe – everything that was, everything that is, everything that will be – even everything that could be. All of time has opened to me like a flower blooming and it is sad and sweet and tragic and wonderful; all of humanity and everything beyond it is connected – enmeshed – entangled within and through. The stars are not ‘out there’ any more; they are in here; ‘in’ me. And I am ‘in’ them; ‘in’ everything. No barriers.

The veil has dropped; there are no secrets any more.

Goodbye to All That

Dear mother.

I’ve waited for a very long time to write this letter. I’ve been trying to find ways to express my feelings without hurting yours. Sadly, I don’t think that’s possible.

I know what my brother did when he called you up was deeply upsetting to you, and I even understand why. But the most glaringly obvious reason it upset you was because most of what he said was true, even if he didn’t use the right words to express himself; let’s face it, subtlety has never been his strong point.

The fact is … you were not a good mother. Oh I know you did your best – you did what you thought you should do. But most if not all of your mothering of us was done for yourself – not for us.

You wanted a large family, so you made one. You had us to fulfill a long-held need within yourself, but I do not believe that at any stage did you ever really want us for ourselves – you wanted us for you. You kept us well-and-truly tied to your apron strings, and curbed with every form of persuasion available to you even the slightest hint of independence on our part. It has taken me decades to understand what you did to us, and the disastrous effects it has had on our lives.

Why do you think that none of us have ever realised our full potential? Why do you think that all of your children are so glaringly unsuccessful at living? You kept us so tightly restrained – so desperate to attain and keep your approval – that none of us dared to take the risks that all people need to really fulfill their lives. Nothing in our childhoods prepared us for life in the real world – everything was geared solely to you keeping us with you – keeping us from ever developing the courage and the skills to leave you. You did us a terrible dis-service in your desperation to keep us clinging to your skirts – and all because you didn’t want to be alone – as if that would ever happen.

I see in my own children – raised without your desperate need to control every aspect of their lives – what we might have become if you had actually loved us enough to set us free. And the worst thing is that you did all this so gently – so softly. Our prison was built of feather pillows – though it was a prison, none-the-less. You rarely scolded – you never hit – you never yelled – you just killed our spirit with the threat of disappointing you by making you “sad”; the threat of your oh-so-gentle disapproval. Yours was a steel fist thickly swathed in velvet.

And I’m sure you didn’t even really know you were doing it, did you? You probably thought and still think that you were “a good mother”, and that we should be “grateful” for being born. Well – I hate to tell you this, but I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to be born, so why on Earth should I be “grateful”? I am happy that I was born into a family that was comfortably off enough for me to have a reasonable upbringing, and in a country in the First World, with all the advantages that bestows. I am happy that I was born into a healthy body, and that you and Dad were in a position to keep me that way throughout my childhood. There are many aspects of my life that I am grateful for, and some of them include what you and Dad did for me.

But being born is not one of them – that was nothing more than a happy accident. And there are many things that happened after that that I have no reason to be grateful for.

One thing having my own children has taught me is just how much bullshit that attitude of expecting one’s children to be “grateful” for being born is. In fact it’s entirely the other way around – I am grateful to them – grateful for having two such amazing young people in my life and grateful that I had the opportunity to be a father to them. I am grateful every day for that. I do NOT expect them to be grateful to me.

The destructive emotional manipulation to which you subjected us was not the act of a good mother – it was the act of a frightened and desperate woman so mired in her own loneliness that she would do anything to alleviate it. And it even extended to our family friends. I often wondered why so many of them drifted away over time – now I know. They saw you for what you really are, and even though they genuinely loved you, they knew – as I do now – that staying in your sphere of influence was ultimately not for their own good.

You weren’t a terrible mother – you just weren’t good one – not in the way we needed you to be.

I forgave Dad for never being the father I needed him to be in part because I recognised that he was damaged, not only by his upbringing, but by his relationship with you – in marrying you, he simply moved from one intensely controlling woman (his mother) to another. I am very glad that, at least with my own children, that destructive pattern has been broken.

I’m not sure if I can ultimately forgive you for the damage you caused us. Dad couldn’t really help himself, but your manipulation of us was at least partially conscious – you knew what you were doing on some level. I will try to heal all this before you die, as I think it is important to do so. My success in Academia has at least helped in some way, as it is a success that I can attribute solely to my own efforts – you had nothing to do with it.

But to really heal I would have to find a way to actually love you despite the damage you have caused, and I’m not sure I can ever completely do that – mostly because I don’t think you ever fully loved us, despite your protestations to the contrary. Yours was a love that was and remains deeply conditional – I’m not sure that is something I can forgive. Time will tell, I guess.

So that’s it. Don’t think that I will offer gratitude at your funeral, because I do not think you warrant it. Do not think that I will offer words of love and devotion, because in simply expecting them from us – and trying to manipulate them out of us – you gave up your right to receive either. I did not speak at Dad’s funeral because I did not feel I could. I will probably not speak at your funeral because there will be nothing I want to say that others will want to hear.

All I will say for now is ….. goodbye to all that.

CW

 

We

A message to the fearful.

 

We.

We – LGBTIQ+ men and women – were here when humanity still lived in caves.

We were here when the first human settlements developed in the hills of what is now Ethiopia.

Remains of homosexual couples buried as ‘man and wife’ have been found in Neolithic grave sites dating back over 5,000 years.

We are known to have existed and been accepted and even honoured in every ancient culture on Earth, including the longest surviving culture; the 60,000 year-old culture of the Australian Aboriginal peoples.

We have outlasted the Egyptian Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.

We have withstood the European “Dark Ages.”

We have outlived the Spanish Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and the witch-burnings of Europe, where we were thrown on the fires as “faggots.”

We have prevailed over the death camps of the Nazis, the pogroms of Stalin, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields of Cambodia.

We have persevered through the discrimination of the 20th century, where we were branded as mentally ill, subjected to electroshock therapy, and chemical castration.

We have survived the AIDs pandemic.

We will survive religions’ childish, fear-driven prejudices.

Your religions are not part of the natural order. Tens of thousands of others have come, flourished for a few centuries or millennia, and then been utterly forgotten.

As will yours.

We were here at the very dawn of humanity’s existence and we will still be here long after Christianity, Islam, and every other religion are nothing more than forgotten entries in abandoned history books; long after the names of your prophets and your gods have become overlooked relics of a barbarous age; long after your holy texts have rotted into dust in the derelict remains of your mosques and churches and temples.

We were here at the beginning and we are still here, despite your best efforts to destroy us. You will never prevail over us because it is not possible to do so.

WE are part of the natural order. WE will endure.

 

Jesus did NOT die for our sins.

When I hear of sacrifice, I do not think of someone who suffered temporarily, but of those who suffered and died without hope of any temporal or material salvation.
 
I think of a boy known as “Golf”, 16 years old, who died saving the lives of two little girls. When the Tsunami struck Ache in 2004, this boy was walking past a group of girls practicing netball. As the waters rose, he grabbed two of the girls and tied them and himself to a flagpole, putting his own body between them and the debris-filled water. The girls related that he held on against the pressure even when the cord began to cut through his hand. By the time rescuers arrived, he had died from the battering of the debris.
 
I think of an unnamed man I read about, who stayed in the freezing water of a river after an airliner had crashed, helping his fellow passengers one-by-one into the recovery net of the rescue helicopter until they were all safe. When it finally returned for him, he had died from the cold.
 
I think about watching in absolute astonishment as a lone young man armed with nothing but unshakable courage stood in front of a line of tanks in Beijing in 1989 and refused to allow them to pass. I don’t know if he survived or not.
 
I think about the firefighters, police, paramedics and others who sped TOWARDS the blazing Twin Towers, placing themselves too deep within the danger zone to escape when the buildings finally collapsed.
 
THESE are heroes; these and the countless other men and women who have fearlessly hurled themselves into the path of death to save the lives of people whose names they didn’t even know, not because of any promised “reward” and not with the sure and certain knowledge that they would live again, but knowing that they would almost certainly die.
 
They did it IN SPITE of the mortal dangers they faced; they did it because they were courageous and compassionate human beings.
 
Jesus sacrificed nothing, if we are to believe the
Christians’ description of who and what he was.
 
He knew that his suffering was only temporary, as was his “death”.
 
He knew that after only one day of pain, he would live again forever in Heaven.
 
He knew that he would be worshiped and glorified by millions for thousands of years and that his image would be burned into human consciousness in a way that no other individual’s ever has.
 
Those true heroes above did not. No statues have been raised to their memory in most cases. Few if anyone outside their families and those whose lives they saved remember them at all. “Tank-man” is certainly known about, but who here knows his name or his fate with certainty?
 
Compared to these, Jesus’ “sacrifice” was facile; an empty piece of theatricality; a bogus performance with neither substance nor meaning.
 
He warrants neither my respect nor my devotion.
 
I only give such to those who have truly deserved them.

Why should anyone care about someone else’s sexual behavior?

Here’s a question:

Why does it matter if someone engages in homosexual sexual activity? I see plenty of debates about how homosexuality is a “choice” or is not a “choice”; about how it’s “unnatural” or “natural”; etc. etc.

But I see very few debates about why it matters at all.

History shows us that the existence homosexuals in a society makes no difference whatsoever to that society’s functioning; there is no evidence at all that it causes any problems, other than those generated by people who dislike other people doing it. There are no economic ramifications, no political ones, no social ones (apart from those generated by the above mentioned behaviors of the anti-gay movement) – nothing at all.

So – what does it matter if people engage in homosexual sex, by choice or otherwise? What reason is there for refusing to allow people to do so? History also shows us that only a minority of people do so engage (for whatever reason) so the population won’t be seriously affected either.

With the proviso that it is always consensual and occurs between people of legal age, what reason can anyone give for concerning themselves in any way with other people’s sexual behavior?

Fantasy and the law.

This post is to do with sexual fantasies involving children, so if even discussing such a topic offends or disturbs you, please read no further.

Recently, I heard about a man who was arrested and prosecuted for downloading cartoon images of elves and fairies having sex; the law in his country (and I believe in mine) states that any sexual image in which the participants “look like” children is illegal. I have read that this could even be extended to images involving young men and women who are clearly of legal age, but who have been dressed to look younger, possibly including wearing school uniforms.

Here are three scenarios that relate to this:

1) A man goes to a bar and meets a young man who, despite being of legal age, looks much younger; I’m sure most people know someone like that – in my case, I have a friend who looks no more than 13 or 14, even though he is 20. The two men go to a hotel room where the younger man removes all his body hair (willingly) and the two then have fully consensual sex, with the older man fantasizing that he is having sex with a minor and the younger man playing along.
This is entirely legal.

2) A man goes online and visits a virtual world. There he meets another player whose avatar is a young boy of about 13 or 14; both players are legal-age adults in their home countries and there are no laws barring them from visiting virtual worlds. The two players engage in “sex” in the virtual world while masturbating.
This may or may not be legal (I’m not sure).

3) A man collects images online and from other sources of cartoon characters which look child-like, but are clearly not meant to represent actual humans (manga, for example), which he uses for the purposes of masturbation while imaging himself taking part in the activities depicted. The images are entirely imaginary and have not been copied from actual photos or other sources involving real children.
This is illegal.

All three of these scenarios involve men indulging in a fantasy in which no actual person is harmed at any time, even in the production of the images in scenario three.
My question is: have the authorities in those countries where scenario three is illegal gone too far in their (entirely understandable) desire to protect children from sexual exploitation? Why is scenario 1 legal, when the fantasy being indulged in is exactly the same as that in 2 and 3? Are they criminalizing men for indulging in fantasies, and if so, where do we draw the line in terms of policing people’s fantasies?

Reflections on the darkness in Russia

The nightmare being visited upon Russia’s homosexual citizens is a salient reminder of just how fragile freedom really is; I have no doubt that few Gay and Lesbian Russians thought that, in the 21st century, with all the hard-won freedoms that have been achieved in many countries, their own government would turn on them in such a regressive and barbaric manner.
Just why Putin and his henchmen have chosen to do this is not clear to me; I have little doubt that Putin himself has no concern whatsoever with what his people do in the privacy of their bedrooms – or even the “protection” of Russia’s children; the man seems to be cynical in the extreme when it comes to anything but his own grip on power. I can only assume that this flagrant and completely unjustified demonization of law-abiding LGBT citizens in his own country is being used as some kind of smoke-screen, or a vote-grabbing exercise.

However, that is really not the issue. The lesson we can take from this is two-fold. First; it displays just how easy it is, when you have control of the media and the institution of government, to turn a population against members of a minority group, regardless of whether or not that group poses any actual threat to the community. Putin clearly cannot simply use Jews, Muslims, immigrants or the poor as the target, since I imagine the numbers in those groups are too high for them to be easily attacked. Furthermore, it is far easier to stir up a population by suggesting that the chosen minority is a threat to children; this emotive and volatile subject is one that raises an immediate, unreasoned response that can be more easily directed against the chosen target. It seems the lessons learned from the Holocaust have not endured very long.

Second; it shows to us that, no matter how far we have come from the dark days of the past centuries, those days are not that far behind us, and the momentum of the negative and antithetical attitudes towards homosexuality deliberately stirred up by the Monotheist religions which ruled Europe and North Africa for over 1,000 years is still great. Colonialism has managed to spread the poison of both Christianity and Islam, along with the racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic postures they entertain, over almost the entire planet; they have even managed to infest other, more accepting religions with these attitudes in the process. While there are undoubtedly many Christians and Muslims who are supportive of LGBT (Human) Rights, the institutions of those religions and the corrupt and power-hungry men who run them are not. They have continued to push their agenda of demonization, both overtly and covertly, even as the power of their religions has begun to fade; in fact, the increasingly obvious failure of both Christianity and Islam has intensified the attacks upon the LGBT citizens of the world.

Like it or not, LGBT people are perhaps the last minority against which it is still seen as acceptable to hold prejudice, even in those countries and societies in which we have won some recognition of our Rights. The false conflation of homosexuality with disease, perversion, crime, and particularly paedophilia is still one which is believed by many people to a greater or lesser degree, and as noted earlier it is the issue of paedophilia which arouses the most intense and unreasoning passions. Political and social power-mongers like Putin, Mugabe, and others recognise this, and will eagerly embrace the cause of the most vitriolic homophobes if they think it will help them maintain their authority. We are the last “soft target” and, sadly, there are few outside our ranks that will leap to our defence when it is their own government that is leading the attack.

Apart from public protests, there is probably little that anyone can do for the LGBT citizens of Russia right now; they have been deliberately targeted by their government, and as offensive and degenerate as that action is, it will not stop until Putin has achieved whatever outcome he is hoping for, or until he finds another minority to use as a scapegoat. What we must be sure to do is pay very careful attention to the situations in our own countries; however far we may seem to be removed from the events playing out in Russia, there are those in our own societies who still seek to wind back the clock and reinstate those laws and restrictions that have been overcome in the last few decades. The Monotheist religions cast long, dark and deadly shadows; it will probably take many generations before those shadows are finally lifted from humanity.

The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance.

“The Pious Man is Humble before God” – but nowhere else.

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Is it just me, or does anyone else have a problem with the “humility” touted by monotheism? I’ve seen this sort of stuff all over the internet; about how all the problems of the world boil down to humanity’s “arrogance” and how everything would be just peachy if we all simply admitted our “lowly” status and submitted to the will of the almighty (fill in name here).

The contention is that humanity is “arrogant” because we have failed to acknowledge (fill in name here) as our creator and He (why is it always “He”?) is so pissed off about this that he is making our lives miserable – or allowing us to make our own lives miserable, which amounts to the same thing for an omnipotent, omniscient being, a factor which the God Squad never seem to grasp (thank you Epicurus).

My point is, why is it “arrogant” for people to refuse to believe in an all-powerful deity that has remained steadfastly invisible in any meaningful or verifiable way for all of human history, but not arrogant to assume that such a deity would focus its entire attention upon us?

I mean, don’t the God Squad get it? They believe that there exists an immortal, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing being which has existed forever (if that term has any meaning), that yet bends all its attention and will upon us – humanity. They believe that this inconceivably powerful being created the entire Universe and everything in it expressly and solely for the purpose of giving the human species a place to live. They believe that this being focusses its attention so completely on our species and ours alone that it actually cares what we do, what we think, and who we have sex with.

Some of them even think that this being is so enraptured with humanity that He manifested Himself on Earth as His own son in order to offer Himself as a blood sacrifice to Himself so that He could forgive humanity for the sins He allowed us to commit in the first place – they consider this to make perfect sense.

As if that is not enough, the God Squad further believe that they are members of a select group – actually, a range of groups, all of which disagree with each other – with whom (fill in name here) has a special and personal relationship; that this group is so special to (fill in name here) that they and they alone will be taken into His presence on Judgement Day or its equivalent, while everyone else is consigned to (check one):

  • burn for all eternity in a Lake of Fire
  • suffer the Second Death
  • be cast into the Eternal Darkness
  • all of the above.

They also think that they and they alone are the ones who know “The Truth”, are the “Keepers of the Flame”, are the “Soldiers of The Lord” and so forth, and that (fill in name here) takes the time to speak directly to them on a daily basis. Somehow, they consider that this truly astonishing level of self-aggrandisement is, in fact, a sign of their self-effacement.

Can these people honestly not see how perverse and distorted their world-view is? What degree of twisted logic must it take to perceive what is clearly the highest level of egotism as abject humility? What is worse, they have the infernal (and I use the term advisedly) gall to claim that those who do not so believe are the ones who are “arrogant”. These people must have egos the size of Jupiter to think that any such deity, even if such existed, would give a small, brown rodent’s rectum about them, their thoughts, or their peccadillos. It would be funny, if the consequences of this distorted and self-centred belief system were not so devastatingly serious.  They have managed, by a combination of good luck and clever politicking, to spread this psychological distortion of reality all over the planet, and even though the power of their institutions is finally waning, the effects on humanity have been and still are deadly serious.

Personally, I can’t wait until the last of them has gone to “meet their maker”; if He actually exists, I wonder what He will make of them?

Trashing an opponent of same-sex marriage.

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This is my response to one of the articles on the “Protect Marriage New Zealand” page that they cite as supporting their argument; if this is the best they can do, then we have nothing to worry about.

Redefining Marriage
The case for caution
by Julian Rivers
http://www.jubilee-centre.org/document.php?id=432
Professor Rivers states that “challenges” to the exclusivity of marriage would risk it becoming a “formalised domestic arrangement between any number of people for any length of time”; yet in the same article, he acknowledges that marriage defined as between “one man and one woman” has only existed since the 11th century (note [6]), and that only within Europe (Interestingly, it was Cnut the Great who made this rule, who nevertheless is recorded to have had two wives and a concubine). One can assume, therefore, that for all of human history prior to that (or outside the European region), at least 5,000 years according to archaeological records, humanity not only survived but thrived with a far broader description of marriage. This blows a hole in his argument so wide that I’m astonished he can’t see it; it must be due to his theological blinkers.

The common law has always defined marriage as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others….

English Common Law (and as a result, the common law of all her colonies) was begun in the reign of Henry II in the 12th Century, well after the Romans had imposed Christianity on the country in 200 AD. Therefore, Common Law, like Professor Rivers, carries the baggage of Christian doctrine against homosexuality; a doctrine which has no place in a secular, 21st Century society.

The debate about same-sex marriage is a debate about using law to change the meaning of the social institution of marriage. And that affects everyone.

He’s right about that; I would just like to see him defend the unstated assumption inherent in his argument that Gay and Lesbian citizens should not enjoy the same rights and privileges as the other members of the society in which they live.

The Government’s arguments
The argument from equality
… It follows that for marriage to be ‘equal’ on grounds of sexual orientation, the law should not be restricted to just one type of sexually-intimate companionship. Why can’t a man marry two wives? Why isn’t prostitution treated as a form of short-term marriage? Why, for that matter, should single people be deprived of the chance to pass on their pension rights to a best friend? There may or may not be reasons for drawing the legal boundaries in any particular place, but until those reasons are stated, the argument from equality is incomplete.

This is just the “slippery slope” argument revisited; it has absolutely no basis in observed history and is an emotive and irrational appeal to fears of societal disintegration. In the numerous states and nations in which same-sex marriage has been legitimised and legalised, there have been no negative consequences whatsoever; none of them have enacted further legislation resulting in the redefinition of marriage to include every conceivable sexual union. It is dishonest and disingenuous to use such a tactic and it is neither rational nor logical to conclude that such events will result from the granting of equal marriage rights to all New Zealanders.

The argument from stability
…It is fair to assume that, practically speaking, no same-sex couple would be willing to marry who are not already willing to enter into a civil partnership. So the argument depends on the relative stability of marriage as opposed to civil partnership. … the truth is that we simply do not know the relative stability of marriage and civil partnership. Civil partnership has only been available since 2005. The data so far might even imply that civil partnerships are more stable than marriages. …. the argument from stability is speculative.

This is a complete furphy; the issue is not about whether or not civil partnerships are more or less stable than civil or religious marriages, but about whether or not homosexual unions are more or less stable than heterosexual ones. The evidence for this is overwhelmingly that same-sex unions are just as stable as opposite-sex unions when given the same legal rights and obligations; much like same-sex parenting has been shown to be just as advantageous (in fact slightly more so) than opposite-sex parenting. Professor Rivers does himself and his argument no favours by resorting to this clear straw-man fallacy. Again, this is an unproven and fallacious argument which has no basis in logic or rationality.

The argument from convenience
…The difficulties of a small group of people are emphasised at some length by the Government…. The argument from convenience is negligible.

This one is so shallow that even Professor Rivers himself spends very little time on it; it almost seems as if he would prefer people to skip right over it without noticing. It is simply absurd to claim that, because this issue affects only a small minority of people, it can be conveniently ignored. Civil rights, one of which is the right to legally marry, affect everyone, as Professor Rivers is at pains to point out at the beginning of the article. Here, however, he seems to be suggesting that this minority can be safely relegated to second-class status because they lack the numbers to be considered worthy of attention. This is an appalling attitude, and it does not surprise me that Rivers does his best to skate over it as rapidly as possible. Just how big a number of members does a minority need to fulfil Professor Rivers’ requirements for recognition? Again, there is NO logical or rational basis for this argument, which moreover flies in the face of many of the moral arguments in favour of democracy.

Two arguments against same-sex marriage
Marriage secures the equal value of men and women
… we live in an age and society which has done more than most to ensure that gender roles are fluid, that men and women are equally able to access jobs, careers and other social opportunities, as well as taking up domestic responsibilities. Yet we still recognise that men and women are in various ways different….
It is only marriage which harnesses gender difference to the purposes of social cooperation….
Redefining marriage to be indifferent to sexual identity reinforces this individualistic tendency because it turns human society – from marriage outwards – into a matter of individual inclination and choice. Marriage will cease to be an institution which reflects the necessary and natural interdependence of men and women.

In this one, Professor Rivers shoots himself squarely in the foot. No doubt he was hoping that the average reader would not notice that he uses two completely different definitions as if they are the same thing; gender identity and sexual identity. They are not. By attempting to conflate these two essentially distinct elements of human personality, he shows that he actually has no rational basis for this argument at all. The idea that opposite-sex marriage is the basis from which all societal inter-gender cooperation flows is so absurd that I’m surprise he had the effrontery to postulate it, as is the concept that allowing same-sex couples to marry would in some way permanently damage this societal cooperation. Again; an illogical and irrational argument poorly dressed up to look as if it is not so.

Marriage promotes the welfare of children
…In spite of these developments, there are still connections between marriage as currently defined and the bearing and rearing of children. Most married couples of childbearing age will be able to have children and will have to take steps to avoid having children. By contrast, individuals and same-sex couples have to take active steps to acquire a child, at some point involving another party. Far fewer do.[24] So there is a social and practical presumption connecting marriage with children….
Only a man and a woman can form the biological unit capable of pro-creating another being ‘free and equal in dignity and rights’. No new human being can exist as a living expression of the intimacy of a same-sex couple….
The prevailing view is that there is no significant deficit in same-sex parenting, although a recent major study has called this into question.[28]…
Redefining marriage breaks the necessary connection with childbearing, in the sense that marriage will no longer mean ‘the relationship which is normally and naturally productive of children and thus a nexus of kinship.’ Its intrinsic purpose will be reduced to sexually-intimate companionship.

Here we have the ultimate emotive argument that all those opposed to same-sex marriage inevitably resort to; what about the children? Every study ever conducted into same-sex parenting (apart from the now totally discredited Regnerus study Professor Rivers cites in note [28] above) shows emphatically that there are no negative consequences at all for children that arise solely from being raised by same-sex couples; however, this fact rarely if ever succeeds in preventing those opposed to same-sex marriage rights from raising this issue. Furthermore, this argument runs counter to his earlier argument about the rights and needs of minorities, in that he claims that very few same-sex couples have or want children. Thus, by the logic of his own argument earlier (if that argument were credible), we could conclude that the effect on society from the children of same-sex couples would be negligible.
He also seems to be under the mistaken impression that same-sex couples can only have children by adoption or through in-vitro fertilisation. This is increasingly not the case. Many same-sex couples – including the highly stable (27 years) Lesbian couple with whom I have fathered two children – elect to have children via a known donor who continues to have contact with the children after their birth. As I find it difficult to believe that a person of Professor Rivers’ education would be ignorant of this fact, I can only assume that he has neglected to mention it because it so effectively undermines his argument.
The fact is that legalising and recognising same-sex marriage, far from putting the children of such unions at risk, will legitimate the relationships that brought those children into being and raised them, thereby providing them with a greater psychological and emotional stability than they would otherwise enjoy. Same-sex couples can and do successfully raise children in ever increasing numbers; individuals like Professor Rivers and organisations like “Protect Marriage New Zealand”, far from ensuring the future happiness of children, are in fact seeking to undermine the happiness and psychological well-being of the ever increasing number of children being raised by same-sex parents.

The permanence of marriage will be undermined
…The fragility of marriage is a major cause of harm in twenty-first-century British society….

Again, Professor Rivers shoots down his own argument here; the study he cites in note [38] (Counting the Cost of Family Failure (2010)) relates to the increasing number of failures in heterosexual marriage. How, I wonder, can he contend that allowing more people to marry will make this situation worse? Furthermore, the article he cites points out that the most serious threat to marriage per-se is not same-sex marriage, but poverty. It seems even someone like Professor Rivers can’t actually manage to find any evidence to support his arguments; probably because there aren’t any.

The sexual dimension of marriage will be undermined
In law, marriage is a sexual relationship. Incapacity and wilful refusal to consummate a marriage are grounds for annulment, and adultery is one of the five facts which demonstrate irretrievable breakdown….
A close same-sex companionship need not be sexually active, so marriage and sex will be similarly disconnected….
If marriage includes relationships which are not necessarily sexual, the companionship of any adults who aspire to formal recognition and its other advantages could be called a marriage.

I honestly have no idea where Rivers is going with this one; the argument is so illogical and the reasoning so Byzantine in its confusion that it’s hard to see what he’s trying to say. Quite apart from the well-know and documented fact that many heterosexual marriages become less sexual in nature as the years progress, how on Earth does he manage to conflate allowing same-sex couples to marry with the idea that marriage and sex will become somehow disconnected thereby? The telling point is in the second line quoted; he uses the words “…need not be sexually active…” in the first part, but then goes on to say “…marriage and sex will be similarly disconnected (my italics).” Again, Professor Rivers is conflating two disconnected ideas here in a deliberate attempt to create a false association. In short, he’s attempting (and failing) to fabricate an argument from nothing.

The moral weight of marriage will be undermined
…. marriage as currently defined derives at least part of its social significance from its historic location in Christian theology….
The insufficiency of the individual points also to human dependency on God, just as the joint capacity to ‘procreate’ children is testimony to our creation in his image. Furthermore, marriage is a symbol of the mutually loving and dependent relationships between the different persons of the Trinity. It also pictures the relationship between Jesus Christ and his bride, the church. The exclusivity and permanence of marriage represent the faithfulness of the one true God, and our commitment to him. The pleasure of sexual union points to the greater joy of spiritual union with God.

He just couldn’t help himself, I guess; despite his earnest attempts to keep his theological bias out of the argument, he just naturally gravitated to the “my God doesn’t like it” position, even though he expressly stated that this article would not do so:

The purpose of this paper is to set out a non-religious case for retaining the current legal definition of marriage. It does not seek to question the morality of same-sex relationships, the provision of civil partnerships, or the current law prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation….

What this final section does is to reduce Professor Rivers’ argument to what he actually thinks; that his religious beliefs should dominate and rule the lives of everyone, even those who do not follow them. Essentially, he’s a Christian apologist posing as a rational intellectual and failing to succeed in maintaining that posture.

Conclusion
… Marriage risks becoming any formalised domestic arrangement between any number of people for any length of time. On such a trajectory, marriage will eventually unravel altogether.

Even here, Professor Rivers’ argument fails in the final analysis; prior to the 11th century, marriage was defined in many ways that modern liberal democracies would find problematic, if not downright illegal. However, marriage did not “unravel”; the fact that we are here now to discuss this very issue is clear evidence of this. Furthermore, marriage was not even the sole province of the Christian church until the middle of the 15th century, and then only in Europe. Marriage existed in numerous forms long before the advent of the Christian religion and it will continue to exist long after that religion has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Professor Rivers and Protect Marriage New Zealand would do well to remember that.