TaraElla Themes 2017-18

A Moral Liberty
Contrary to popular (American) belief, real liberals are not Left (or Right), but pro-liberty.
The Ideas Lab is on a campaign to revive Moral Liberalism.
For more about Moral Liberalism, read TaraElla's book The Moral Libertarian Horizon.

A Liberal and Truly Intersectional Feminism, no GLIF

Only Liberal Feminism is Truly Intersectional Feminism. Learn more here.
Both the Ideas Lab and The TaraElla Show aim to advance liberal intersectional feminism.
To learn more about how other 'intersectional' feminists are doing it wrong, read The Disappointment of G.L.I.F.

More Music
More new work will be added to the catalog of TaraElla's Music.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Referendum for Climate Change?

Many people I know have been complaining about how governments around the world are not doing enough to address climate change, and how Western democratic systems have not adequately met the challenge.

Whilst I am not unsympathetic to their concerns, I really think the issue should be addressed through democratic consensus. This is because climate change can only be addressed through collective action, and if you believe strongly in liberty and democracy, you realise that collective action must only come through a strong democratic mandate. In fact, when climate action is implemented without a clear democratic mandate, you get what has happened in Australia recently - the tearing down of whatever achievement made, plus the election of a government that is detrimental on many other fronts too.

Therefore, any future climate action must have a clear democratic mandate. How do we establish this? A referendum may be a suitable vehicle, I suggest. We can have a clear campaign on the issue at hand without other aspects of politics interfering, and a resounding 'yes' will provide ongoing legitimacy to climate action. Of course, many governments are not interested in referendums. However, that does not prevent interested people in campaigning for one to be held. Better still, we could institute a citizen initiated referendum system once and for all.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Modesty: An Example of Why Everything Must be in Balance

Dressing modestly is about being respectful, I believe. It's a kind of respect seen too rarely in mainstream popular culture these days. In particular, it's a kind of respect to people committed to the abstinence lifestyle, and to people who are uncomfortable about flaunting their bodies in public.

However, like all good things in the world, it is only one good, not necessarily the highest or the most dominant good. Therefore, it must be considered in conjunction with, rather than over, all other goods.

What if we set strict standards for modesty, and exclude everyone and every cultural phenomenon that does not fit the standard? From what I know, some parents have done this regarding the culture allowed in their homes. Homeschooling parents in particular may find it quite easy to do this. The results? The young adults raised this way often complain that they missed out on years of popular cultural references and feel like an immigrant in their own country, learning a new culture. Obviously this would impact on their socialisation.

I guess we can also take this one step further. When people are not comfortable interacting in the mainstream, they often stick to their own subculture. And subcultures where people 'cannot' leave anyway are vulnerable to being controlled by crazy leaders, I believe. I'm not saying that it will happen - but it may just happen.

Live and dress modestly, and have plenty of modesty in your life, if that's what you believe. I certainly do myself. But going to great lengths to exclude the rest of the world is not worth it, and may even be a dangerous idea.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Ex-Conservative Perspective

I was raised in a conservative culture. I was once a conservative. Now I am not, at least politically.

I still have the values of my upbringing. I value family, commitment, freedom from social engineering and the like, as much as when I was younger. I have nothing against the values underpinning 'conservatism' (at least social conservatism). It's the way I was brought up, and it's my values. However, the way political and cultural conservatism is carried out is often counterproductive, and I would like to see more adaptive ways of applying the values.

I would like society to have a conversation about these and many more conservative values and ideals. They are ideas that I have thought about again and again, and I would have a lot to say about them. My positions are based on preserving the spirit of those values but in a way that is adaptive so that it benefits the diverse people and cultures of the modern world, something that conservatism cannot do. As we share the same values, I look forward to talking to conservatives about why I believe in my application of such values rather than the conservative way.

In conclusion, I don't support conservatism as a complete ideology anymore, but I sure still support those values. It's all about applying them in a better way, I guess.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Non-judgmentalism in Balance: Judge Values, Not Actions

My generation in the West is known for being non-judgmental. And I agree it's a good thing. The culture I was brought up in was known for its judgementalness, and freedom and truth get lost in the way. And unlike what some people thought, it wasn't just freedom to live a 'loose lifestyle' that gets lost. It's the freedom required to do the right thing that matters. For example, peer pressure against supporting marriage equality would be too great to overcome for most people in the aforementioned culture.

Non-judgmentalism has been challenged on the grounds that it doesn't make sense, since we judge in one way or another anyway. My generation is especially prone to judge against people who are racist or homophobic, for example. I think the important thing is that we should judge people's values, rather than their individual actions. Non-judgmentalism is respect for people's chosen identity and chosen course of action in life. It is to respect the dignity of others, even when they choose differently than you do. It should be applied to everyone.

However, even in this spirit, there will always be issues where worldviews clash. To avoid this is just escapism. I'd rather we just deal with that openly. In fact, dealing with values people hold and frankly saying that you agree or disagree with them is a very respectful thing, as long as the values in question are clearly actually held by your 'opponent'. This is because dealing with people based on an identity they themselves uphold is the most respectful way of dealing with people in this world. (By extension, we should not judge others' actions to imply that they hold particular values, unless they clearly do so. For example, support for marijuana legalisation may come from those with a positive attitude to recreational drug use, but it may also come from those with a general libertarian attitude. Assuming the wrong values in people is therefore too easy to do, and must be avoided.)

Saying that, for example, unwed mothers are irresponsible people is very judgemental indeed, as you don't know why someone became an unwed mother, either by choice or by circumstance. You don't know their values, you don't know their life. However, standing up for one's values in an argument is another thing altogether. If we do not do this, there will be no values left in this world. I know my own values, and I know that things as diverse as racism, discrimination against single parents, political correctness, homophobia, and 'sex positive radical feminism' will never sit well with such values. Therefore, I am prepared to take up the argument against such values when they are presented. There is no judging particular people's actions in and of themselves in doing this. I may end up criticising particular actions, but it will be because they clearly stem from values I don't agree with, and I am merely using those actions as an example.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Am I A Feminist?

After some of my recent posts, some people have asked me this question: are you a feminist?

I usually don't like labels. However, to answer this question, I think I'll have to use some. You see, there are two main types of feminism: liberal feminism and radical feminism. As with all things liberal vs radical, I support all of liberal feminism but none of radical feminism.

Liberal feminism, as with all things liberal, is about removing inequalities that are clearly identified in the system, for example unequal education opportunities for women or unequal pay for women for the same job. These inequalities are objective, and are clearly unfair. Fortunately, the work of liberal feminism is over in the West, but we always have to keep the cause up for the sake of women living outside the West.

Radical feminism, on the other hand, is all about a perceived structure to society that disfavours women and must be changed, even when there are no clearly identified inequalities. In radical feminism, people and society are analysed by looking at who has more 'privilege'. Trouble is, this is highly subjective. Thus radical feminism is a subjective ideology. I personally have a particular problem with subjective ideologies - that thing called 'conservatism' that I ran away from was just such an ideology. Conservatism is always able to justify itself, even without looking at objective results, which is often the misery of other people. Radical feminism, for me, carries the same worries. Therefore, it is something I just cannot support.

I'm sure radical feminists are well intentioned. But so are conservatives. And it doesn't mean they aren't wrong. Social engineering, especially when working with anything other than objective evidence, is dangerous.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Adaptive Politics Manifesto

Having seen the world develop in various parts of history and the way society responded to new challenges, I have come to the conclusion that adaptation to new realities is one of the most important tasks of any political ideal. If a political ideal or program is implemented maladaptively, it may end up harming its own aims. Consequently, ensuring adaptiveness in this aspect, and ensuring that there are no unjust outcomes during periods of adaptations, becomes very important.

The rest of this manifesto will address just how we can achieve these objectives.

1. Continued adaptation in policies and politics will always be necessary.

The world is always changing, and further change is inevitable. The world now is different from the world in the 1910s, which was different from the 1810s and the 1710s. There's no reason to suggest that things will look any less different in the 2110s. Technology certainly has a central role in this change, and it is only accelerating.

We also discover new things about the world every now and then. For example, just 50 years ago most people thought that being gay was a lifestyle choice, and that interracial marriage was bad for families. In light of new facts, it would be unjust not to change some pre-existing arrangements. The best example of this is the recent marriage equality movement. Whilst we may think we are civilised now, there may still be many things we don't know yet. People in the 1600s considered themselves very civilised too.

In light of the above factors, society will need to continue to adapt to new environments and newly emerged facts of life for the foreseeable future. There is no use running away from this fact. Therefore, a framework for adaptive politics, i.e. how society should best adapt to changes, is needed.

2. Adaptation must be principled, else it will become maladaptive.

When we respond to things, we must do so in a principled manner, with those principles informed by our values. Using 'maintenance of the status quo' as the ideal (a common theme of conservative politics) is therefore counterproductive. Maintaining the status quo in light of new developments may mean the introduction of blatant injustice into our culture. By conserving the literal status quo no matter the price, our pre-existing social values like justice, fairness and compassion often disintegrate.

Note that this does not preclude one from responding to certain things using traditionalist or even 'reactionary' principles. But the application of the principle must be consistent, rather than shying away from the new development and pretending that it does not exist.

3. Adaptation methods can be progressive or reactionary. Both have their value, and both can be dangerous too.

Two main categories of ways to respond to new challenges, which can be equally principled (or not), are progressive ways and reactionary ways. Progressive ways aim to invent new solutions, and reactionary ways aim to bring society back to its original principles. Therefore, both can be valid. However, both can be dangerous too. Fascism came from reactionary impulses, and eugenics came from progressive impulses. Both were classic cases of each form of impulse 'overreaching'.

4. No adaptation method is perfect from the start. All adaptation attempts have to learn from plenty of previous mistakes, often horrible mistakes.

Especially in the beginning, attempts at responding to new developments often overshoot in either, or even both, of the directions described above. Therefore, they are maladaptive at least to a significant degree. Although the mistakes made are rarely as big as fascism and eugenics, they often include a huge amount of injustice, often necessitating official apologies from future administrations. Examples include forced adoptions during the post-war era, racist immigration policies in the 20th century, attempts to provide 'treatment' for gay and lesbian individuals, and segregation in the American south.

It is often only with trial and error that we gather the evidence to rule out maladaptive and unjust practices. For example, we now know that curative therapy for gay people is ineffective and harmful, but in the past people thought they were doing these 'ill' individuals a service. We now know that forced adoptions, and the associated practice of secretive adoptions was a tragedy, but similarly in the 1950s the experts thought that was a good thing to do. Therefore, adaptation taking time to perfect is an inevitable thing.

5. Therefore, the most efficient and painless and the only just way for adaptation to happen is with maximal freedom of conscience.

In light of the above, any response (or lack of response, for example refusal to legislate for marriage equality) society has collectively made in response to new developments may be severely unjust and harmful, especially in the earlier phase of the response. Therefore, such collective decisions must not be forcibly applied to any individual, consistent with the 'do no harm' idea. The decision to be part of a response or not must be voluntary. Therefore, maximal freedom of conscience must be granted to every adult citizen in a society.

A model of 'free market of ideas' also allows ideas to be experimented on in parallel and selected through competition, thus increasing the speed in which a response becomes adaptive, and hastening the awareness and removal of any unjust aspects. Of course, such a market also functions best when proper debate, without requirements for political correctness and with respect of all parties, can occur in society. Therefore, this should be encouraged.

6. Maximal freedom of conscience comprises of a balance of negative and positive freedoms.

The provision of this maximal freedom of conscience must include a balance of negative and positive freedoms. Negative freedoms are freedoms that occur when the government does not interfere against them, and positive freedoms are freedoms that can only be guaranteed with suitable intervention, for example anti-discrimination laws and economic safety nets.

The concept of 'positive freedom' is required, because otherwise we would have a tyranny of the rich and powerful. Poor individuals could essentially become slave-like in their existence and forced to conform to whatever demand from the rich just for survival. The rich and powerful will then be able to shut out the voices of the poor in any debate. However, a strong concept of 'negative freedom' is also required, as it guarantees that people will not be required to go along with a practice just because it has been collectively determined as 'good'.

This is a rough rule that can be used to assess this balance I have proposed: governments should only be able to intervene and thus take away some 'negative freedom' when it will result in the net gain of 'positive freedom' or at least no net loss of freedom overall in society, and the redistribution is just, i.e. from a party having more freedom to a party having less freedom, with the result of the distribution not reversing this relationship. This rule can be used to justify welfare programs and anti-discrimination laws, whilst limiting the ability of the government to tax excessively or run forced adoption programs again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Complex Families

Recently, sections of the right wing have been increasingly vocal about championing the traditional nuclear family as the 'gold standard' of family, saying that it is better than blended families, step-families, single parent families and same-sex parent families.

Whilst I have long been a champion of stable family structures, I simply believe that it is inappropriate to pit one form of family against another, as long as it is a stable structure. I have long believed that large extended families are much better than isolated nuclear families for the purposes of raising children. Should I disparage isolated nuclear families then? No, because those families are still clearly of much value to their members and to society. Furthermore, each form of family has its pros and cons, and cannot be easily compared. For example, families headed by lesbian parents are often believed to be better at caring for young children and raising boys to respect women as adults. Children in step-families and co-parenting agreements have two sets of parents looking out for them.

Also, whilst I believe in stable family structures, life isn't always ideal. I am a firm believer in giving your all to preserve a marriage, always. But there are situations where people have no choice but to walk away, for example where there is domestic violence, emotional abuse or other severe problems that cannot be resolved. Families have to do their best to survive in these situations, and we have to applaud them for their efforts.

All families should be celebrated, and none should be disparaged.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Marriage Equality and Family Values

Consistent with my commitment to multiculturalism and the free market of ideas, I've often been one to say that whilst marriage is a good foundation for a family, it surely isn't the only one. Yet I have also said that marriage equality is essential for the promotion of family values. If a family can be formed by other kinds of partnerships, why would marriage equality still be essential then?

There are two reasons. Firstly, marriage is a bright beacon of family values, and has always been. Whilst families can be formed by other means, marriage is still a major representation of how family values culture is seen. If any part of marriage is discriminatory, even if just in the processes of the government rather than the views of the wider culture, family values culture itself is tainted in the eyes of many people. We cannot allow that to happen.

Secondly, upholding family values means supporting the formation and sustenance of families. Whilst it is possible for gay and lesbian couples to start a family by civil union or cohabitation, for example, that may not be what they really want to do. Forcing a couple to settle for a solution that they don't really want is not a really supportive thing to do. It's for the same reason that I have been supporting opening up civil partnerships to straight couples in the UK and other countries. The foundation to a family must be something the couple must be willing to believe in. We must support them in each and every case.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Answering Critics of Marriage Privatization

1. Marriage Privatization May Affect Marriage Culture
Some people have raised concerns that marriage privatization may affect marriage culture. But just how that effect will be is still debated. Some contend that marriage culture will be weakened. However, there is no evidence nor any inherent logic that the non-use of the 'marriage' word and its replacement with 'civil unions' will weaken marriage culture in any way, since 'marriage' will be around in our culture for at least centuries to come either way. Conversely, many people also say that marriage privatization will strengthen marriage culture. When couples can set their own terms for their own marriage, it is logical that there will be more ownership of marriage in our culture, and therefore there will be a stronger marriage culture. There is a third option too - that marriage privatization would not change marriage culture in any way. As culture is not really reliant on government, except in the fantasies of authoritarian types, this is not unlikely too.

There is another aspect to this argument too. When marriage is in the hands of the government, they have an increased power to mould it any way they like. All the conservatives who don't believe in marriage privatization will regret it if one day the government allows polyamorous marriages. I believe that one of the reasons some of them are so paranoid about marriage equality, to the point of inventing a slippery slope argument, is because they are just too aware that whenever government favours on definition of marriage over another, they can further change the definition at any time. But this has nothing to do with marriage equality itself - it's just the natural consequence of letting government control marriage. When marriage returns to the collective hands of the public, no future government will be able to impose a new definition of marriage on the people without majority support.

In short, whilst there is plenty of debate about what kind of impact, if any, marriage privatization will have on marriage culture, the case for a stronger marriage culture under marriage privatization is at least as strong if not significantly stronger than the case for the opposite. Marriage culture is weak enough as it is, with the 40%+ divorce rates, and many would agree that there needs to be a change. Many believe marriage privatization should be part of that change.

2. Marriage Privatization May Lead To Bigger Government Through Welfare
This is an argument made to convince small government libertarians, but I believe it is just a conservative argument dressed up to appeal to libertarians. Firstly, believing in the result of increased reliance on welfare depends on believing in a weakened marriage culture under marriage privatization, something clearly not agreed by any supporter of marriage privatization that I know. Therefore, this is speculative opinion only. Conservatives often make and support policy on feeling rather than hard evidence, whilst libertarians are more likely to look at evidence. Hence the differences on things like the drug war. Therefore, acting on speculative opinion is essentially conservative and totally unlibertarian.

Plus it is against libertarian principles to use the ends to justify the means. It is a very conservative but not libertarian thing to do. For example, plenty of libertarians, myself included, do believe that legalising marijuana may have adverse effects on societal productivity and welfare dependence. Yet only conservatives, not libertarians, believe that the status quo of criminalising marijuana should be maintained because of this. The conservative worldview generally supports using anti-liberty means to achieve desired outcomes, whilst the libertarian worldview requires one to support liberty as a principle. Another great example is where conservatives often support wars to 'spread liberty and democracy' but libertarians almost never do, even though they too believe in liberty and democracy.

Therefore, I believe arguments like these are purely conservative and incompatible with libertarian thinking.

3. Marriage Privatization Is Impracticable As A Political Goal
This argument is often put forth by liberals and libertarians who believe that there is nothing we can do about government control of marriage. I have to disagree here. I believe we are not going to achieve the ideal of getting the word marriage replaced by the word civil unions everywhere in law in the next 30 or more years. But that doesn't mean that we cannot have a change in culture and even some changes in law that supports the idea of marriage as a cultural institution defined by the couple and their families and community first and foremost. We need to lay the groundwork and win the cultural argument first.

In the West, marriage has been in the hands of the government for a few centuries. Marriage privatization will take time. It will definitely be a much longer term thing than reforms like marriage equality. I believe full legalisation of marijuana and euthanasia will even come before legal marriage privatization. But one day its time will come. We just have to be patient.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What's Wrong with Marijuana Positivity

Some celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Rihanna are well known for their positive attitudes towards marijuana. In fact, they have deliberately shown it, for example by wearing stuff with marijuana leaves on them.

I feel very uneasy about that, really. In my mind, marijuana is dangerous. Legal or not, I am never going to touch that stuff, therefore. I also feel that I should share what I think on this matter with my friends, and I certainly would be happy if they also share my point of view. I would also be worried if I ever found out a friend was using marijuana - not judgemental as you may think, but just worried for them. I believe that marijuana has potential bad health effects. I also believe that a life lived under its influence is not the best lifestyle. Therefore, I really don't like the idea of glorifying it. It's not really like saying you love ice cream and chocolate, you know.

Another thing is the double standard for those praising marijuana vs those expressing an unfavourable opinion of it. In many sections of culture, people like Miley and Rihanna are celebrated, whilst people like us are stigmatised as prohibitionists, even though we don't support the 'war on drugs' either. I hope that this double standard is removed. Those of us who advise our friends against using marijuana are speaking from our hearts too, and want the best for our friends. It doesn't mean we support the continued ban on marijuana in most places, or the 'war on drugs'. We are expressing an opinion, and we are not persecuting anyone. Why should there be a stigma against us speaking out?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

It's the Culture, not the Waiting Period

There have been talk in recent years in several US states of possibly extending the waiting period for couples who want to get a divorce. Supporters say that this will give struggling families a 'second chance', whilst opponents say that it may make things even more difficult for people trapped in abusive situations.

As a former supporter of 'divorce reform' and covenant marriages, let me say this: I too would like to see a drastic cut in the divorce rates of the Western world, perhaps 4% would be much healthier than 40%. But to justify an increase in governmental intrusion, into an area of life that is deeply personal and private, requires solid evidence to back it up, as well as a strong democratic majority to support it. It would be forcing moral values down others' throats to suggest otherwise.

Let's look at the evidence first. On the evidence, I am unconvinced that barriers to divorce in the form of waiting periods or compulsory counselling have a major impact on divorce rates. In the US each state has a different waiting period, and the data suggests that there is no clear association between waiting periods and divorce rates. Plenty of no waiting period states are below median in divorce rates, whilst Arkansas with its long waiting period has one of the highest divorce rates. If anything, divorce rates appear to be more divided along regional lines, and appear to be particularly high in the South. This suggests that waiting periods provide minimal benefit at best.

And then there was the experience of covenant marriage. Exit from covenant marriages come with a longer waiting period and there may be counselling provisions too. However, evidence I have seen suggest a divorce rate of around 25% from memory. There is a reduction there, but it's around 20% or less. Plus there is sometimes also the option of getting the divorce in a neighbouring state. Given that only very few couples chose covenant marriage in the first place, this represents a self selected group, often more religious and traditional, who definitely take marriage more seriously. You would expect a significantly lower divorce rate amongst this group, frankly. Therefore, I expect the real benefit to be 10% or less, and it is entirely plausible that there is actually no benefit at all.

Let's look at the democratic situation now. Opinion on this issue appears split. A return to fault based divorce appears to be out of favour across the Western world, and mandatory long waiting periods and counselling continues to be strongly opposed by a significant number of people. Democratic opinion alone justifies not changing the current divorce system. The only other option is to provide a two-tiered marriage system as in covenant marriage, but take up rates are low and it may create more problems than it solves.

I would suggest that most people in the 1950s did not divorce not because of the barriers, but because they truly would not even think about getting a divorce unless there was abuse in the relationship, because culturally you didn't walk away from a marriage that was 'becoming boring', or 'simply does not satisfy me anymore'. Everyone knew the expectations of marriage. Such things as Hollywood 'mini marriages' would be considered highly offensive by most. I suggest that we return to this culture. Divorce should be available, but we should all have a cultural consensus that it is only for the unfortunate few suffering abuse at the hands of their spouses. It should be never something to even think about just because you had a minor argument with your spouse. It should never be seen as a common event. One aspect about the 50s view to divorce that I surely don't want back however is discrimination against divorcees. Many divorcees have suffered so deeply, it is only fair that a compassionate society show them the deepest condolences and support. Anything less is judgmental and cold hearted.

'Divorce reform' is a non solution that pretends to be a solution, to satisfy those who cannot find a solution but are angry at the sky high divorce rates in the Western world. I suggest that we should look at proper solutions instead. I think the answer lies in culture. Using government to solve a cultural problem is basically anti-libertarian, and before long we are on our way to fascism.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Conservative Politics are Often Maladaptive (Or Why I Stopped Being Politically Conservative)

Conservative ideals are often framed in terms of family values, upholding tradition, not compromising traditional liberties, and the like. Many people hold these ideals, regardless of race, gender, cultural background, occupation or sexual orientation. And they are noble ideals! Who wouldn't want healthier families and strong traditions?

And then there is conservative politics, an attempt in translating some of those values into policies. The results are often ineffective, sometimes counter productive, and usually in violation of the principles of good government. For example, restrictions against abortion lead to an industry of backyard abortions, and the 'safe, legal and rare' position is much better. Combine that with adequate social welfare for single parents and struggling families, and I believe abortion rates will dramatically decrease. But no, in order to conserve the past which did not have a welfare state, Western conservative politics demand that no such welfare be provided. Another example is marriage equality. It is the best chance for a new generation of gay and lesbian couples to experience the value of permanent, lifelong commitment. However, conservative politics is again too often about just clinging onto the past, whatever the outcome. A great opportunity to promote and revive marriage is thus wasted. In fact, much of conservative politics, both economically and socially, is all about being rigid about rules from the past. It should really be called 'deliberately maladaptive politics', if anything.

Conservative politics is in essence lazy thinking. The solution to everything is just to turn back the clock, without regard for actual consequences. There's no critical thinking about if particular policies are good for families or good for liberty in actual result. Even if a policy is clearly bad for families and brings our traditions into disrepute with younger generations, conservative politicians often don't care about it. Results don't seem to matter too much with them. Times change, and we have to be adaptive. The only way to work for healthier families and strong traditions is to work for these goals within the context of the present, where a slightly different approach may be needed compared with what worked in the past. This is the biggest blind spot of conservative politics, and what makes it such a failure when it comes to results.

Instead of supporting conservative politics, I suggest that traditionalists simply work towards better outcomes for families and a stronger guarantee for liberties, with everyone else in society. In a society where this is the case, there would be plenty of room for a conservative lifestyle, and to promote traditionalist culture. It surely would be much more satisfying than engaging in maladaptive 'conservative politics', right?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Actual Caring is Better Than Abstract Theories

by TaraElla

Abstract theories are good for winning arguments. For example, there's the theory of 'privilege', with its subsets of gender privilege, race privilege and class privilege, which I am sure most people do not know anything about. Some of my friends are very much into arguments about who has more privilege - or how would being gay, female, black, disabled or transgender rank in terms of who has the least privilege. Some days I would get so tired of it. There's a major lack of social justice out there, who cares who is more 'privileged' than who else?

I would rather prefer actually caring about what people want and need in their lives. For example, everyone needs access to food, shelter, health care and education. These things are under attack from fundamentalist pro-business politicians right now. Besides economic injustice, society needs to also correct its remaining social injustices, the chief one being marriage inequality I think. Caring about all of this is something everyone can do, simply because they do not wish to see others suffer, simply because they would not tolerate blatant injustice in the society around them. It is both simpler to understand and simpler to act upon, and much more effective in improving people's lives, than abstract arguments about 'privilege'.

I know being simple about my social ideals sometimes makes me look 'less intelligent' than some other commentators, but then, who cares? I certainly don't. (Especially when I probably have more postgraduate degrees than those who are saying I'm being simplistic).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Expected Return from Hiatus

We will return from hiatus later this year. It is expected to be around the middle of the year.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


The TaraElla Values Group has been suspended for now.

The website and all the resources will remain available indefinitely.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Marriage Equality Will Save Marriage and Families

We all need to recognise one thing: marriage is in crisis. Marriage rates have been declining for many years, and the decline has not halted unfortunately. If the trend is not reversed, I am afraid that many of us will live to see a time when marriage will have become a minority concern. It's a tough reality, but it's one that we need to face.

In response to this phenomenon, there have been efforts on marriage promotion. However, these have been very limited in their success. Just why marriage promotion is not working very well needs to be studied, and programs will need to be improved upon. I suspect that opponents painting marriage as outdated, hierarchical and elitist, amongst other things, have had at least some effect. I don't believe in any of that rubbish personally, but I know people who do. In the long run we need strategies to defeat comprehensively the 'liberation' ideology that has torpedoed marriage. However, there is no way we can win either the short or long term game on this without marriage equality.

Looking into the future, there is one clear threat to marriage promotion: that much of the younger generation are starting to see marriage as an exclusionary, bigoted institution. In fact, it is happening right now - there have been plenty of reports of young people including pleas for marriage equality in their ceremonies, feeling conflicted about sending out the marriage invites, etc. Not every young couple feels the same disgust about the exclusionary aspects, but as long as a significant proportion of the younger generation do feel this way, I suspect few of them would be too happy to get on board marriage promotion or be actively pro-marriage in culture. Not when it is promoting an institution excluding and hurting their gay and lesbian friends, and in many cases, family members.

Let me put it more bluntly: when marriage clearly excludes gay and lesbian couples, every word of marriage promotion will hurt their feelings - this is literally true, and something that cannot be said any milder. As a result, marriage promotion will rightly be seen as a hurtful exercise by many young people. Even I, a supporter of marriage, have had trouble explaining to my friends that whilst I support marriage I don't support the exclusionary aspect of the marriage laws out there. I simply have given up on talking about the matter most of the time.

Most of the older generations will have a difficult time grasping the concepts outlined above. After all, their generation of gay people are often more closeted, and many were/are not that interested in marriage. In any case, the older generations developed their attitudes towards marriage without the same sex marriage issue in consideration. However, they must try to put themselves in the shoes of the younger generations if marriage revitalisation and promotion is to work in the younger generations. After all, the most important place for marriage to flourish, the most important cohort for which marriage must remain strong, is the younger generations - because they are or soon will be raising the next generation.

Just like on many other issues, standing still and not changing a thing does not mean we can go back to the past. It does not mean conservative values won't miss out. Inaction is dangerous, especially when the world is changing. If a significant portion of a whole generation becomes ambivalent to marriage, the damage may take many generations to repair. On the other hand, if we take advantage of the opportunity of marriage equality and usher in a new era of public conversation and enthusiasm about marriage, things won't change overnight, but over time they will, in the direction we want things to change. And whilst political issues often take a long time to resolve, ten years down the line it may already be too late to grasp this opportunity. Now is the time to support marriage equality, for anyone who is serious about the future of marriage and family values in society.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Answering Some Arguments Against Marriage Equality

1. Gay marriages destroy the purpose of procreation in marriage, and leads to the destruction of the ‘conjugal’ and ‘fruitful’ reasons for marriage.
If we are to be strict about this, any proven infertile couple should be excluded too. However, that would taint marriage as a harsh and exclusionary institution, and in an age where it has become an option rather than a necessity, would drive many away from it. In the eyes of many particularly younger people, excluding gay couples is just as cruel. Again, rigidity should not apply. We can still strongly stress that marriage is for procreation as a primary purpose, whilst still stressing that we need to be inclusive and compassionate otherwise, and therefore cannot use black-and-white rules to shut people out. This isn’t too hard to understand, is it?

2. Marriage is meant to be a complimentary institution.
This is a useful concept, but a really wishy-washy rule. Not all opposite sex couples are complimentary in their character, and certainly not all opposite sex couples are complimentary in a particular way that same sex couples cannot be, unless you are talking about the physical only.
If physical complementariness is what you're talking about, many infertile couples should be excluded too, as should couples were one member was born with certain 'intersex' medical conditions (e.g. Klinefelter's syndrome - look it up if you don't know what it is), as they are not strictly complementary either. The trouble is that, many men with Klinefelter's don't even know they have it! Again, complementariness is often the case, but we cannot be rigid here.
If spiritual complementariness is what you're talking about, many straight couples come together because of similarity rather than complementariness (think many geeky couples), or because they are complimentary in non-traditional ways (e.g. the alpha female and the omega male), and these have clear parallels in same sex couples too. Of course most people still live out traditional gender roles and always will. But society has already decided that non-traditional gender roles are OK too for the minority whose lives are like that - and as long as they are heterosexual they can legally marry too. Therefore, if those people are allowed to marry legally, why not same sex couples?

3. Gay Couples are Not the Same Thing as Straight Couples
This tends to not be very convincing for those who know gay couples well, again more commonly found in the younger generation. Therefore, this argument is often voiced and accepted by older opponents of equality. And for good reason too - for those who have observed and known gay couples, they will find that there isn't a clear line they can draw, except regarding physical body parts.
Different straight couples bond over different things or reasons, and their relationships are held together by very different central concepts. Technically, they can be divided into different categories too. In this sense maybe we can have the glamour-marriage, the religious-marriage, the Chinese-marriage, the Irish-marriage and so on. But we don't do that - marriage is a broad church and a society wide brand, and for a good reason. On the other hand, one straight couple's relationship may have more in common with a same sex couple's relationship than with another straight couple, other than the body parts. So it doesn't make sense to draw the line at the body parts thing, right?

4. It has Historically Been This Way
There was much confusion and ignorance around same sex attracted people in history. They were just not allowed to live openly as couples. Now that this is no longer the case, not only is denial of legal marriage ridiculous and arbitrary, it threatens to delegitimize marriage in an age where already it is seen as 'only a choice'. In fact, that some couples can be allowed to live openly in relationships but not to be married is entirely the creation of the ‘liberation’ of the 70s and 80s anyway. As conservatives, we should not just allow marriage equality, but we should encourage gay couples to get married, like society encouraged everyone living in a couple relationship to get married bak when family values were strong. Marriage equality presents a chance to re-assert pre-liberation culture.

5. The Family has been destroyed enough in the 20th century
This had nothing to do with gay people, and it was all due to ‘liberation ideology’, which marriage equality does not come from and is often diametrically opposed to. Many marriage equality supporters are opposed to ‘liberation ideology’ in almost every form. It is also inconceivable that marriage equality would lead to any change in most marriages, the way that no fault divorce changed the landscape for example. No fault divorce applied to every single marriage, whilst same sex marriages do not change a thing about any heterosexual marriage.
In fact, for marriage promotion to work and to have a strong case against liberation ideology, we need to show everyone that traditional values are to be aspired for, can be aspired to by everybody, and are not bigoted or apartheid-supporting. When there is a consensus about gay people not being able to change their sexual orientation, if marriage excludes gay people it will always be seen as bigoted and apartheid supporting by a large proportion of the younger population.

6. It Defeats the State’s Purpose of Benefiting Marriage
If we think of the purpose of marriage in society narrowly, the state also should not benefit any infertile and childless marriages. However, part of the way marriage works is by upholding marriage as a brand for the whole society, and that brand needs to be inclusive and non-bigoted to have the most appeal to potential supporters for it to work that way. The benefits of this will return to the majority of marriages – i.e. child bearing, fertile heterosexual marriages, by encouraging marriage and a strong marriage culture in the whole population. Hence same sex marriages still support the state’s purpose of benefitting marriage, although more indirectly. Moreover, further benefits can be seen in a general return to commitment and family values, reduction of STI and HIV rates in certain communities, etc.

7. It Imposes Its Acceptance on All Society
This is a myth. See the Canadian Civil Marriage Act 2005 and what it says, for example. When a law is written that way, to impose its acceptance on all society would require ANOTHER change in law, which may even be unconstitutional in most countries.
On the other hand, opponents of marriage equality are forcing THEIR version of marriage down the throats of everybody else, by having it enshrined in national law. It doesn't matter than theirs is the traditional version - it is no longer accepted as a consensus in most of the West either, and is thought of as offensive by many people in our society.
When there is a clear conflict between two visions of a shared thing (our laws), we should proceed to consider the most inclusive solution. As the equal definition of marriage also includes all heterosexual marriages, but the heterosexual definition excludes same sex marriages, society should opt for the more inclusive definition, which would satisfy to a degree everyone on both sides, as nobody's actual rights get compromised.
Reports about businesses being 'forced' to serve gay couples have not been due to marriage laws. In fact, many such reports have come from Australia, the UK and many other countries where marriage equality is not yet the law. It has to do with the anti-discrimination law in these countries, which often say that businesses must not serve gay people, and by extension gay couples, any differently to the way they serve straight people. Marriage does not appear to factor into this.