Climate children: encouraging idealism without fear and anger

My latest article at MercatorNet looks at the phenomenon of fearful and angry children and young people taking part in climate change protests:

When it comes to the climate change indoctrination of children, it’s hard to fault the ideals that often go along with it. Children and adults who care about the environment, care about human life, and care about future generations are laudable.

But not so much the negative messaging that often accompanies climate change activism…

When it comes to children we should err on the side of happiness and hope and trust, because they are self-evidently what we all desire. Besides, nobody functions well mired in anxiety, fear, panic and despair. The activist notion that we need to “get angry” is a self-defeating message, and runs counter to the best examples of social change in our history.

Criminalising cowardice: the ethics of school shootings

My latest article on MercatorNet is about Scot Peterson, the former deputy and School Resource Officer who seemingly failed to respond appropriately during the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida.

Peterson was arrested this month and charged with child neglect, facing as much as 97 years in jail if convicted.

It’s an emotional topic, with professional standards, scapegoating, and questions of cowardice and heroism adding to the weight of these unprecedented charges.

The Active-shooter Training demands outright heroism from police officers. It would take great courage to run towards the gunfire instead of away from it, and in line with the training and our ideals for the police force there is an element of self-sacrifice required.

Whether the charges and eventual punishment are warranted in this case, it will play into the narrative that the gun problem in America can be solved through personal acts of heroism and ad hoc responses to threats, without addressing the availability of powerful weapons in the first place.


Israel Folau: seeing the good

In my latest article at MercatorNet I apply my focus on providence to look for the positive aspects in the case of Israel Folau, a rugby player whose recent sacking for quoting a “homophobic” Bible verse has worried conservatives, Christians, and free-speech advocates in Australia and beyond:

Predicting possible negative outcomes is a learned skill. In fields like journalism and ethics it’s an occupational hazard. We can learn to do the opposite instead, looking for the good in every situation, the good our faith tells us God will inevitably bring out of evil.

What happened to Folau is not exactly something his friends and family would cheer for, but it’s also not an outright evil or pure misfortune.

Is ‘Avengers’ America’s Iliad?

My latest article on MercatorNet looks at the whole Infinity Saga as a cinematic form of the epic poem:

The epic genre is defined by loose stylistic and thematic criteria, not all of which translate to film. But the essence of the epic is there:

“it is a long verse narrative on a serious subject, told in a formal and elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or (in the instance of John Milton‘s Paradise Lost) the human race”.

Other key characteristics include catalogues of heroes and warriors, vast geographic range and disparate locations, depictions of superhuman and martial feats, extensive descriptions of the hero arming himself, intervention by gods and other supernatural beings, and often a terrifying journey to some form of underworld or land of the dead.

Has Marvel succeeded in creating an epic for our era? And if so, what virtues and values does it represent to us?

Aren’t we all a bunch of snowflakes?

My latest article at MercatorNet takes aim at our disdain for those horrible “snowflake” Millennials:

I used to laugh along with derogatory stories about Millennial “snowflakes” who think they deserve special treatment in every walk of life just for being born.

But after a while I began to see it as morbid, like hearing an old man rail against his “useless” offspring, and all you can wonder is whether a good tree produced bad fruit.

Finally I discovered I’m actually a part of the Millennial cohort myself, and if I take off my scratched and dented hand-me-down grey-coloured Gen X glasses then what seems like cringe-worthy sensitivity and emotional weakness among my younger peers begins to look like something very different: authenticity.

Or at least the desire for it.

The Batman article we deserve

Mercatornet republished my blog post on International Batman Day!

And what a great and immediate example of what I wrote in a recent post:

It’s a bit like writing a draft. Is a draft a failure because it’s not as good as the revision? Of course not.

I remember someone saying that a first draft is really your first best try. It’s creating our first best try that gives rise to our desire for something more perfect, more a match for our desire and intention.

So check out the new and improved version:

Notwithstanding forgettable renditions in the current crop of DC films, and the controversy of Batman killing many people in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Christopher Nolan’s 2005 trilogy set the bar high in our appreciation of the Dark Knight’s story.

In Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan rescues our beloved hero from weak and campy portrayals of the late 90s, a series of films that had itself attempted to rehabilitate Batman’s image from the even more kitsch 60s TV series starring Adam West.

For many though, the gold standard is the early 90s Batman: The Animated Series which is not only regarded by many as the best on-screen portrayal of Batman anywhere, but one of the best animated series full stop.

Will comparative religion save the world?

My latest article at MercatorNet expresses my enthusiasm and enjoyment of comparative religion, a subject close to my heart and part of my personal search for meaning for some twenty years:

Even when things seem irreconcilable, like the supposed atheism of Buddhism or a belief in reincarnation, understanding in depth the role these diverging beliefs play in the life of the believer can show the differences are not necessarily the obstacle they may seem.

…to see one’s own religious heritage as part of a universal search, love, and knowing of the divine in our lives gives it context and meaning beyond the narrow scope of how we were raised and the peculiarities of our immediate culture and society.


Thus spake Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is in Australia, and my editor asked if I could explain the psychology professor’s global appeal:

Jordan Peterson is much more than an impassioned participant in the PC cause célèbre, and those who went looking for more information on the humble professor who sounds not unlike a Canadian Kermit the Frog soon uncovered a wealth of content…

Peterson turned out to be a charismatic and impassioned lecturer drawing upon his expertise in psychology, his ambitious yet idiosyncratic ambit in mythology, literature, religion and philosophy, and undoubtedly his many years of clinical therapeutic work to exhort his students and viewers to take responsibility for the meaning in their own lives.

There’s always more to be said, but I’m particularly glad my Nietzsche and Kermit intuitions bore fruit!

How the internet is driving the fractionalisation of society

In my latest article on Mercatornet I reflect on the growing fractionalisation of society, facilitated and driven by the internet:

In the recent past everyone watched more or less the same TV shows. Now we can enjoy such a diversity of content that kids in the same class at school can effectively inhabit different planets of entertainment, just as their parents inhabit different worlds of news and online opinion.

There are still many points of convergence, but the option to not watch Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey or the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more viable than ever.

Linear TV focused our attention on a limited range of options, just like the two-party political system effectively concentrates genuinely diverse political views on a near-binary set of options.

The rise of the internet means that people can now air their diverse political views, whether it be weird and wonderful theories or simply the degree of personal support or opposition for a candidate.

And it’s not just a process of “airing” what is already there. Exposure to diverse opinions engenders greater diversification. We change, reflect upon, amend and consolidate our opinions as we realise how and why other people agree or disagree.

Bad Cholerics in the Catholic hierarchy

Inspired by the McCarrick scandal, my latest article at MercatorNet shows how we can use the Four Temperaments theory to help spot the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”:

We can’t know without evidence whether someone is deceitful, hypocritical or malicious. But bad Cholerics also know that we can’t know, and exploit our uncertainty with cunning and duplicity.

A bad Choleric knows how to exploit other people’s values and beliefs as well. They know how to tailor their message to a specific audience for maximum impact.

If we understand how Cholerics function, it’s easier to pick the difference between the good ones and the bad ones. The faults of bad Cholerics become clearer up close, and in retrospect they are obvious, but without understanding the Choleric temperament we’re more liable to accept excuses and discount faults.