A set of guidelines were circulated by the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations (FAUSA) entitled Towards Non-Sexist Language. See Quadrant (1984) p 16. These guidelines have the very objective which is set out for Newspeak in the appendix to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. The objective is to make certain thoughts (sexist thoughts and attitudes) inexpressible. Professor Lauchlan Chipman comments:
Needless to say, the guidelines are ridiculous in their justification, and inaccurate — embarrassingly so in an organisation which claims to represent the interests of those in our highest institutions of learning — in their substantial linguistic claims. But what is more important is that in several Australian universities committees have been established to consider recommendations, inter alia, that compliance with the guidelines in university lectures, tutorials, administrative documents and research publications, be university policy. While serious scholars will certainly ignore the positive recommendations which are predictable given the sorts of people who gravitate to such committees, the real indictment of the quality of our tertiary academic community is that there are sections within it who would take it seriously at all.
What sort of attitude to scholarship is held by someone who would actually recommend, to take a real example, that in lectures, tutorials, or research publications about Aristotle, he should not in future be quoted directly as saying "Man is a political animal", but rather, as university policy, should be paraphrased as saying that people are naturally political (or other non-sexist words to that effect)? It is difficult to take a principled stand on university autonomy against attacks from without, when it is being wilfully subverted from within by people who, in the unlikely event that they have read Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, have interpreted his discussion of Newspeak as a set of useful positive recommendations. When a satirist provides an archetype for a social policy within our institutions of higher learning, retreat and withdrawal are very tempting. (Quadrant, May (1984) p 27).
Professor Chipman also refers to several proposals which were put forward to re-write school textbooks and revise school curricula so that men and women are portrayed as having socially interchangeable roles. An organisation of Western Australian school teachers suggests that history texts be rewritten to write out wars and war heroes and write in peace and peace heroes. More significant is the actual culling of certain school and municipal libraries, under the direction of committees filled with moral zeal, of racist, sexist, and militarist works. In New South Wales, former federal Commissioner for Community Relations and former Immigration Minister, Al Grassby, is reported to have called for the removal of Clive of India from New South Wales school libraries on the ground that it is racist. To quote Professor Chipman again:
The arguments given for removing these books from school and municipal libraries could be extended to removing them from all libraries. The arguments are essentially those offered by Plato in Book X of The Republic. Indeed the parallels between Plato's Republic, Oceania in Nineteen Eighty Four and the new illiberalism in Australia are striking. In all cases, a publicly educated elite, sure in its values but untrusting of the rest of the community to quickly endorse or understand its values, adopts a paternalistic (The Republic) or Big Brotherly (Nineteen Eighty Four) protective role. Plato's Guardians, and the new moralists of the new class in Australia, who are associating themselves with such very worrying agencies as the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission (itself an interesting specimen of Newspeak terminology, of which more below), various Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Boards, and a number of other advisory boards and ad hoc panels with direct access to Attorneys-General and other political leaders, have a remarkable amount in common. Like The Party in Nineteen Eighty Four, under the sternly protective but nonetheless sibling image of Big Brother, these people believe that not only do they know the truth on important matters of social order, but they know it with a certainty which justifies them in legislating for the implementation of this certain truth by whatever measures are necessary. Like Plato's Guardians, they fear that the lower classes (Orwell's proles or quite simply "ordinary people") will be too lethargic, weak-minded (the effects of prior "structural social conditioning") or too weak-willed to achieve voluntarily the rapid implementation of these selectively revealed goods.(Quadrant, May (1984) p 28).
|« NEXT »||« Freedom Of Speech »||« Australian Achievement »||« Australian Topics »||« Home »|