There is a good post on Deus Lo Vult today — well, yesterday.
You know what I’m sick of? Hearing about ‘Australian’ values. Point blank: they don’t exist. How can there ever be an ‘Australian’ value? It implies that we have values that simply do not exist in the rest of the world, which in itself is an insult to, yes, the rest of the world. And what gets me even more pissed off is how ‘Australian’ values are used by every which politician in every which scenario…
I’m sick of hearing the term used by pollies of all stripes to justify this or that too, but on the other hand there I was just recently talking about “a particularly Australian decency”. That came about because I found myself in the midst of what turned out to be a cross-cultural conversation, as well as a cross-political one, and I have commented several times along the lines that Australians are not Americans, which is not to assert that one is right or one is wrong necessarily, but it just seems inescapable there are attitudes I have which are quite distinct from my American friend’s which are, well, Australian.
Of course at a certain level of generalisation it becomes absurd, but I can’t help feeling the conversation with Kevin showed up more than personal differences. There would also be “values” that Kevin and I have in common. Having had a long relationship with a person from Mainland China has been relevant to my thinking on this as well. His values have changed in an Australian context but there is a deep core of Chinese values down there too, deeper even than the official ones promoted by the Chinese government.
It is all very difficult, as obviously we would like there to be universal values, and perhaps there are, but at the same time cultural relativism can’t be denied, with all that implies. It is a very serious dilemma, not only personally, because ideas like “human rights” are rooted in assumptions about values. It seems too that NSW Labor HQ could do with a seminar or two on the subject, or on ethics at least.
So I am not knocking Deus Lo Vult, as he is thinking seriously about all this.
Valuing Values is worth a look, on the New Zealand site Flat Rock.
I also found a marvellous quote in Christian Century, the famously unfundamentalist US magazine, in a review of Jesus Camp by John Petrakis.
The French writer André Gide once said that we should “believe those who are seeking the truth, but doubt those who find it.” That doubt grows rapidly when the “truth” involves a roomful of crying, screaming children stricken with fear and guilt.
I’ll drink to that.
Visit Encounter on ABC Radio National: Values in Schools: A Way of Being.