Monday, July 06, 2015

Let's all be vulnerable victims...

...because there is more of a pay-off in being a vulnerable victim these days than in being a responsible and capable sovereign.

//The therapeutic discourse is ruinous to public policy. It is bound to be, for each of its elements approaches public policy in the wrong way. The personal wants of a section of the community should never shape a policy that concerns the entire public. Nor should public policy be fashioned in favour of individuals who are able to claim a vulnerability. Such an approach rewards those who can claim to be vulnerable. And, when policy is shaped in this direction, it encourages individuals to look for and play up a vulnerability. Just as a policy that pays people to be poor will always create poverty, so a policy that recognises vulnerability will always create victims. Public policy should encourage individuals to see themselves as robust and resourceful.

But the greatest harm to public policy from the therapeutic discourse comes from its appeal to emotion. Emotion, unlike reason, should play no part in the development of public policy. Public policy needs to be formulated in the crucible of reasoned debate. And, in this regard, the gay-marriage discourse shows how, by using the language of therapy, and by appealing to hearts rather than minds, the therapeutic discourse seeks to close down debate.

As Chief Justice Roberts observed when quoting the words of the majority: ‘Americans who did nothing more than follow the understanding of marriage that has existed for our entire history… have [according to the majority] acted to “lock-out”, “disparage”, “disrespect and subordinate” and inflict “dignitary wounds” upon their gay and lesbian neighbors.’ This, he argued, was language that amounted to ‘assaults on the character of fairminded people’.

Justice Alito, in his dissent, made a similar point when he assumed ‘that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labelled as bigots and treated as such by government, employers and schools’.

By portraying its beneficiaries as vulnerable and in need of state recognition, and by appealing to hearts rather than minds, the therapeutic discourse seeks to close down reasoned debate. Public policy needs to expose and reject the therapeutic discourse. We need to inject public policy with ideas that are the antithesis of those espoused by the language of therapy. Public policy needs to focus on the needs of all rather than the wants of individuals. It needs to encourage individuals to see themselves as robust, resourceful and rational. And, in encouraging the rational elements of human behaviour, it needs to appeal to minds rather than hearts.

Obama can laud gay marriage as ‘a victory for America’. In truth, it is a victory for the therapeutic discourse and this can only harm public policy. What America and the Western world needs is a victory for reasoned debate.//


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