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Admiring ex-Big Brother star David Graham

20 Oct

I have never bothered with Big Brother, which I regard as pure swill. Nor am I a card-carrying National Party supporter. However, I am unreserved in my admiration for Young Nationals federal membership officer and ex-Big Brother star David Graham for his courageous stand reported in this week’s Star Observer.

The federal Young Nationals have voted to support civil unions for same-sex couples, prompting the Queensland Young Nationals to threaten a split in the party. The majority support for the proposition came as a surprise for many delegates at the group’s annual conference on the weekend, including gay Young Nationals member and former Big Brother star David Graham.

“I had intended to give a speech to try to swing voters, but as everyone else spoke it was quite clear there was already a clear majority [in favour of civil unions] among the delegates,” Graham, who was elected federal membership officer at the conference, told Sydney Star Observer.

Graham, a Queensland farmer, had lobbied to get the topic on the conference agenda along with the Western Australian Young Nationals, who announced their support for civil unions two months ago. Debate on the issue had to be extended to allow delegates time to speak.

Those in favour spoke of removing discrimination for same-sex couples and families, while a number of Christians spoke about the importance of human rights, Graham said.

Those against the motion said homosexuality was a choice and there was no link between it and depression and suicide.

“I said, from my experience, yes, there is,” Graham said. “I talked about the reality of it. I wanted to make it very clear it is a real issue.”

He said he had hoped to “get into the minds of the Neanderthal element of the party” with his speech.

“I said to them, ‘You’re a dairy farmer, you know very well dairy cows root each other. That is a natural phenomenon you allow on your farm. Humans are also animals and we’re no different. We’ve all had dogs that have been exclusively gay or lesbian and we’re all fine with that’.”

The National Party is considered one of the country’s more conservative parties, with strong views on family values and some vocal anti-gay MPs. However, the Young Nationals, made up of people under the age of 30, have been known to discuss issues the main party won’t touch.

His cow-centred argument is indeed quaint, but really it is about time that we agreed that this idea that “homosexuality was a choice and there was no link between it and depression and suicide” is as useful and respectable as believing in pixies, a flat earth, and the moon being made of green cheese, or that Elvis has just left the building, or that women are naturally inferior, or that black people are created to serve white people. It needs to be consigned to the bin of outmoded and inhumane ideas as rapidly and as ruthlessly as possible, continuing as it does to be at the root of much misery, cruelty and sheer injustice.

Which may make some of you wonder about my religious position. Do I believe in God? Yes I do. Can I define God? No I can’t. Do I believe God is masculine and subject to temper tantrums? No I don’t, though one might think so from the Bible and the Qu’ran. Do I believe God writes books that retain their validity for all ages and all places irrespective of culture or context, or that he grants infallibility or certainty to any institution or human agent on earth? No I don’t. Does that make me odd in religious terms? No it doesn’t. Visit the links to the right on “Faith and Philosophy” if you want to explore that further; for example, read this review of a writer I admire, Bishop Richard Holloway, though I haven’t yet sighted this 2006 book How to Read the Bible. Immature religion is, unfortunately, the last thing the world needs, but on the other hand atheism does not protect anyone against bigotry and oppression. It can itself be just as bigoted and oppressive; that at least is one point Alister McGrath establishes in his The Twilight of Atheism. (See Uncommon Sense: The Biggest Lie You’ve Ever Heard.) The histories of the former Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, and more, have unfortunately put paid to that idea. (That will annoy a few people.)

There is a wonderful saying in Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong: “It is not people who make interpretations, but interpretations that make people.” Think about that.

UPDATE

Decided to add this from Reflections on the week that was (6 November 2006). 🙂

anddavid078.jpg

No special reason… 😉 Except that is David Graham.
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4 responses to “Admiring ex-Big Brother star David Graham

  1. AV

    October 20, 2006 at 9:05 am

    I can’t really comment too extensively on McGrath’s book as I haven’t read it, but as one reviewer points out, the validity of his argument depends greatly upon how “atheism” is framed. The review is worth looking at, if for no other reason than the fact that it makes many of the points I was just about to make before I stumbled upon it 🙂

    But in short, if McGrath is simply constructing a straw-atheism–if he’s simply saying, as many a theist has suggested to me, “You’re an atheist: therefore you believe x, y and z” (whether or not atheists indeed hold x, y and z universally)–then he’s lost me. And I think his argument then becomes–quite against his stated intention–an exercise in apologetics and in stroking the beliefs of those with an axe to grind against atheists.

    A lot of this debate boils down to the distinction–a distinction that must be made–between strong and weak atheism.

    Now, to adress your points directly:

    atheism does not protect anyone against bigotry and oppression

    Agreed. That’s not to suggest, however, that bigotry and oppression are the logical outcomes of atheism.

    The histories of the former Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, and more, have unfortunately put paid to that idea.

    The reviewer I cited above does a great job addressing this point. As for myself, I would point out that the examples you cite are totalitarian regimes. What are the implications of this? First, their atheism is an outcome of their doctrinaire approach to Communism. Second, and more importantly, their anti-theism is an outcome of both their doctrinaire approaches to Communism, and their totalitarianism (which brooks no competition to the ideology of the ruling party).

    Do these regimes demonstrate that atheists are just as capable of barbarism as theists? Absolutely. Do they demonstrate a logical connection between atheism and barbarism? No, I don’t think they do.

     
  2. Jim Belshaw

    October 20, 2006 at 10:57 am

    Neil, it’s always been the case that the Country/National Party is a far more complex organisation in values terms (I hate that word, but it’s appropriate in this case)than the standard presentations allow. I think that you will find (I stand to be corrected here) that if you look at pattern of dissent within parties there is a bigger range of views in the Country/National than exists in either Liberal or Labor where the machines impose uniformity. The current National Party has become more conservative, but I think that it is still true.

     
  3. Ninglun

    October 20, 2006 at 11:13 am

    AV: Glad my coat-trailing worked 😉 I agree with you about McGrath, though he does actually raise a number of interesting historical points, especially on the Romantics and Victorians. But his book is very parochial. If you visit the post I linked at the mention of McGrath you will see I am not wildly enthusiastic about the book, but he does establish that atheism can be intolerant. Also, clearly there are many very fine atheists with whose humanism I would essentially agree. See, for example, my praise of Richard Norman, Humanism, a more impressive book than McGrath’s. I do, however, find atheistic certainty as flawed as its converse.

    Jim: You may well have a point. I can think of other earlier examples. I corresponded with several National Party figures, especially Bill O’Chee (who agreed with me 100%) and Ron Boswell, during the Pauline Hanson fracas in 1996, and received much more decent responses than I did from John Howard who merely burbled on about “political correctness”.

     
  4. Tim Baker

    November 6, 2006 at 12:16 am

    Above is a link to David Graham’s new website. Included is a blog page spelling out his views on politics, gay rights and other issues.

    farmerdave.com.au

     
 
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