Sir: Brendan O’Neill’s essay on Bill Leak’s (in)famous cartoon reminded me how much we should appreciate our cartoonists. They have to steer a tight course between the Charybdis of politically correct tyranny and the Scylla of disrespect and denigration. A healthy society has to encourage both dissent and respect for the marginalised.
This means that taking the piss has to have a more noble purpose than taking the piss for its own sake. Otherwise the cartoonist becomes no more than the pimply school kid writing f–k on the walls of the toilet. Offending people for the sake of offending is unlikely to create progress for the benefit of mankind.
Leak’s cartoon can justifiably be seen as a defence of wayward youth who never had the benefit of a caring and loving father. If people want to argue that he was denigrating indigenous fathers that that is their right to enter the debate. However no useful purpose is served by arguing the fragility of the reader’s ego or attributing to Leak motives for which there is no evidence.
New Lambton, NSW
Sir: Brendan O’Neill’s article ‘Leakphobia’ raises the question: why is it that ‘Islamists and the Left are, yet again, in an unholy alliance’ (Spectator Australia, 13 August 2016). Why is Bill Leak, and those of us who support his right to free speech, being called racists, and bigots?
I believe I have the answer: it is that the Australian ‘cultural cringe’ has transmogrified. I recall that the term ‘cultural cringe’ used to be applied to Australians who felt, deep in their waters, that anything or anyone imported had to be better than anything or any person made in Australia. Chopping down local tall poppies came with the territory.
Now it’s clearly a way for many Australians to overcome their feeling of insecurity or inferiority, or cultural cringe. They can do this by claiming that they believe in ideas and ideologies that are imported. Islam is imported. It must be supported. LGBT is imported, it must be supported. Even Land Rights is an imported idea. It must be supported.
Sir: Michael Davis is indulging in pure fantasy when he describes marriage as “an exclusively religious rite”. In the real world marriages were originally legally registered and recognised in order to make children legitimate. Government registration of marriage began as a way to protect inheritance—of both property and titles. It is, and always has been, about the children That’s why marriage has always meant a relationship based on sexual difference—the only relationship that can result in the natural birth of a child. Relationships based on sexual sameness may be loving, legal and faithful but they are not marriage. Mind you, in the crazy world we live in the fantasists seem to win over the realists every time. But it is sad that Michael Davis, who writes so well, has sold out to the fantasists.
Sir: Matt Ridley is completely right (‘Don’t grouse about grouse’, 13 August). I am lucky enough to live at Blakeney in north Norfolk with a clear view to Blakeney Point. But since the RSPB, Chris Packham and the National Trust got their hands on Blakeney, things have changed dramatically. I walk every day on and around the marshes and the Blakeney Freshes. This morning — a brilliant, calm day — I strolled for an hour and apart from a couple of warblers, crows and several black-backed gulls, that was it.
When my wife and I came to Blakeney 35 years ago it was markedly different. From our room we would see dozens of lapwings, curlews, warblers, curlews, avocets and waders of all types. Not now.
What has happened is the RSPB (and others) have decided that it must be ‘back to nature’ in spades. So Blakeney Freshes is now infested with otters, foxes and cunning predatory birds.
An old friend of mine, a retired professional gamekeeper from west Norfolk, has told me that nothing will improve until the RSPB and the National Trust come to their senses. Where gamekeepers are allowed to do their job properly, wild birds and wildlife prosper.
Sir: Lara Prendergast should take heart (‘Head in the clouds’, 13 August). To be sure, the ability to memorise by rote is a fine thing. I still get pleasure from reciting verse or playing music from memory. But in terms of human intellection, rote learning is a party trick. The skill is in learning how to combine various disparate pieces of information, making connections that perhaps nobody had made before. If all the facts we need are there at the touch of a button, so much the better. After all, ‘Never memorise anything you can look up.’ So said Albert Einstein, who was no slouch at intellection.
I should add that I found that quote on the internet, so one should be aware of Abraham Lincoln’s dictum that 99 per cent of anything found on the internet is wrong.
Forget the ageism
Sir: Lara Prendergast makes an interesting case in regard to internet memories, however I must chastise her for the uncalled-for slight aimed at the likes of myself who, at the age of 70, am blessed with a good memory and the good fortune to speak four languages. There is no fixed correlation between age and the ability to remember.
Anthony J. Burnet
East Saltoun, East Lothian