Thursday, January 2, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Dunedin - finger-wagging capital of the world

What on earth has happened to Dunedin? I’ve always thought of it as a city of hard-working, practical, no-nonsense people, reflecting its Scottish Presbyterian heritage. It was the home of Sir James Fletcher, founder of a construction empire, Henry Ely Shacklock, who made the country’s first electric ranges, and Bendix Hallenstein, whose name lives on in the menswear chain he established.
I wonder what such men would make of Dunedin today. Once a southern bastion of industry and commerce, it’s now chiefly known for the torrent of shrill, moralistic scare-mongering emanating from Otago University. It seems hardly a week passes without someone from Otago University, or one of its satellites in Christchurch and Wellington, warning us that our drinking and eating habits are leading us to moral and physical ruin.
Granted, one of the functions of health academics is to undertake research and to pass on their findings. But the constant diet (pardon the pun) of doom-laden messages from Otago has all the overtones of a moral crusade.  Dunedin has become the finger-wagging capital of the world.

The Otago researchers’ findings always paint the blackest picture imaginable. And the message is invariably the same: our consumption habits are out of control and the government must act.
Underlying that is another message again: we are all at the mercy of greedy purveyors of booze and high-risk foods whose wickedness must be curbed by advertising bans and punitive taxes.  Hostility to capitalism is never far from the surface.

Doubtless the academic wowsers are buoyed by the success of the campaign against smoking and hope to replicate its success by similarly stigmatising the consumption of alcohol and fast food.
Significantly, Otago University was the source of a recent report that called for smoking to be banned within a ten-metre radius of doors and windows to buildings used by the public.

That’s the thing about zealots and control freaks. They never let up. I shudder at the thought of the joyless, buttoned-down society that would result if we gave way to their demands.
* * *

ON A RELATED note, some academics are reportedly fretting that their role as the “conscience and critics” of society is under threat.
They are alarmed because they perceive that under the Key government, the emphasis in tertiary education is shifting away from the arts – which supposedly stimulate critical thinking – to subjects such as science and engineering, which the academic hand-wringers deem to be far less useful.

The rest of us should lose no sleep over this. The notion that universities function as the conscience and critics of society is self-serving cant.
The phrase once meant something, and still would if all academics genuinely respected intellectual freedom. But the truth is that many university faculties slavishly observe a narrow ideological orthodoxy.

What most academics really mean when they talk about their duty to serve as the conscience and critics of society is their right to promote a left-wing agenda. In their fixed view of the world it’s inconceivable that anyone not on the Left could even possess a conscience.
Conservative thinkers do exist in universities, but they are as rare as rocking horse droppings. The few renegades who defy the approved line tend to keep their heads down because it’s safer that way.

It’s a curious fact that while Marxism in the economic sense is dead and buried, and no one promoting it can expect to be taken seriously, a mutant offshoot called cultural Marxism is alive and well.  
Cultural Marxism seeks to undermine traditional Western values such as individualism, small government, the family and traditional morality.

Its proponents are nowhere more active than in what are grandiosely known as the humanities and social sciences faculties of universities. And it’s a fair bet these are the people most fearful that they might no longer be able to masquerade as the conscience and critics of the rest of us.
Karl du Fresne blogs at This article was first published in the Dominion Post.


Brian said...

Dunedin Marxism Rampant!
Great start to the New Year Karl, I read with some amusement at the antics of our Dunedin academics in their bid to purify from just about everything, including ourselves. Yes they are well bred Marxists’ and innocent enough to believe that they are doing us all a great favour from inside the White Halls of Learning.
I recall when doing Military training one of our new recruits was a fervent 23 year Marxist, and he let vent his ideology upon us all, believing that these 18 year olds would lap up his diatribe. His mistake was to carry on this activity late into the barrack room night, for which he received a fire bucket of cold water while between the blankets. His Marxist inventive was, I fear, then punctuated with some highly decorative strangely Anglo/Saxon rhetoric. However an Army directive was at hand and he disappeared into the Pioneer Corps, rather appropriate we all thought.
There is a blessing and this is that these academics have their socialism while they are young (well mostly!) When they eventually enter the real world, and have to contend with such practical matters such as family, mortgages, and other mundane activities, they then realise that all the free lunches have gone.
As the old adage says..
“If a man is not a socialist at 21 he is probably inhuman, and if he is still a socialist at 41 he is generally insane.”
Just think if it was the opposite way around; they all started off as young rabid Conservatives and then ended up as Marxists! Think of the extra costs involved, much better the present way, at least we can ignore them.

Ray S said...

Yes Brian, ignore them we should but at what cost. If enough of these so called academics make enough noise and convince enough of the right people, then who knows what might be foisted upon us.
Was it Burke? who said "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"
Well worth remembering when these people are about.

B said...

Yes I agree Ray, The cost would be horrific. But is it possible in this land where apathy dominates. When the God of sport and entertainment rules the majority; and the phrase "There is nothing we can do about it" becomes the general excuse.

We can do something, no not a revolution unless the perceived outcome would be successful!
What then? Ask yourself what has been the greatest way to alter Governmental policy in the Western World since World War 11?
Demonstrations, civil disobedience, and the union work to rule (which might be an amusing concept)
The Greens and the far left have shown the way in this regard.

Burke never approved of the French Revolution, its Brutal dictatorship and methods, being contrary to his idea of a democratic state.


Unknown said...

All the isms have failed on their own and we can see what unregulated capitalism is doing to our freedoms and the environment as I write. Clearly we need a mix of the best of all of them not a dogma.To my way of thinking we must ask ourselves why do we need political parties at all. Are we not looking just to find quality decent intelligent common sense people to represent our electorates.People that are our mentors in our communities and convince them to represent our interests in the national committee called parliament. The people I am talking about would never get involved in the shit fight of party politics which is by definition divisive. Are we not looking for consensus. Independent candidates who can table the manifesto they have presented to the electorate without the restraints of a party hierarchy who do not work for us, the employer. Maybe you are talking about private enterprise Karl, which clearly should be a part of any system. Capitalism eventually stifles young innovative entrepreneurs who challenge the corporations. The only way to get a mix is to vote independent candidates who are not compromised by belonging to a political party and can promote the ideas we elected them to put forward.

Anonymous said...

Beware of sweeping generalisations! Whilst it's probably true to say that our universities are turning out too many graduates in what might loosely be called "unproductive" subjects (media studies, drama, and perhaps even law, for example)when the country desperately needs those with skills in I.T, technology, engineering, and science,one shouldn't overlook the possible benefits of the humanities. I have degrees in biological sciences, medicine, and philosophy, and am in no doubt that the last-mentioned was by far the most effective in teaching me how to think critically. In these politically correct times,the critical appraisal of what we're fed by politicians and the media is vital if we're to resist extremist cant.
On the subject of alcohol and its abuse, the scientific evidence is rock-solid: even "modest" consumption significantly loads the risk for a remarkable range of morbid conditions.To say this is not to engage in wowserism, nor is it shrill leftist, control-freak ideology: it is a reflection of one of those uncomfortable facts of life: not everything that we enjoy is necessarily good for us. Sorry.