News & Events

19 August 2019

The Ramsay Podcast with Stephen McInerney and Rachel Fulton Brown

What is the Middle Ages and what can we learn from that period about truth, beauty and goodness, to enhance the joy of modern learning? Ramsay Centre Executive Officer Dr Stephen McInerney sits down with acclaimed medievalist Associate Professor Rachel Fulton Brown from the University of Chicago ahead of her Sydney lecture on “Great Books of the Middle Ages and How to Read Them”. 

 

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15 August 2019

Reclaiming the Middle Ages from contemporary politics

By LUKE SLATTERY
12:00AM AUGUST 10, 2019

“Three cheers for white men!” American medieval scholar Rachel Fulton Brown proclaimed in the 2015 blog post that effectively remade her.

Until that moment this spry, white-haired University of Chicago academic was known chiefly as the author of a 750-page scholarly doorstopper titled From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200.

With her incendiary blog, designed to counter with a few salient historical facts the ritualistic enmity towards “dead white Anglo-Saxon males” among tenured radicals, Brown catapulted herself into the culture wars. Her post urged readers to “Hug a white man today!” She has never looked back.

Ahead of a public lecture in Sydney next week on great books of the Middle Ages, Brown stresses a point that she has hammered on her Fencing Bear at Prayer blog: “It was white men who extended suffrage to women. White women invented feminism and white men supported them.” Much of what she has to say on the web is playful and provocative — it’s in her gift to be both simultaneously — but the title of her blog can be taken quite literally. She is a devoted prayerful Christian, baptised and reared a Presbyterian and received into the Catholic Church in 2017. Her sport of choice is fencing. “I’ve been a sport fencer for 16 years,” she tells Inquirer. “Putting on a fencing mask changes you.”

When viewed through its art, architecture and literature, the Middle Ages can seem like a dreamscape of noble ladies, chivalrous knights and troubadour poets, saturated in the ideals of courtly love. Of late, however, it has been dragged roughly by its wimple and gorget into the 21st century. The Middle Ages have been renamed the Middle Rages, and Brown, 54, labelled a “violent fascist” and “white supremacist” for her refusal to follow colleagues in denouncing the subject for complicity in the ideals of white ­nationalists. She describes herself, with a touch of sadness, as her discipline’s “poster monster”.

In August 2017 a fellow medievalist, Dorothy Kim, who was disturbed by the adoption of medieval regalia by some protesters at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, called out her colleagues as “ideological arms dealers” trading racist weaponry in the classroom.

“Today, medievalists have to understand that the public and our students will see us as potential white supremacists or white ­supremacist sympathisers because we are medievalists,” she wrote in a blog post. “The medieval Western European Christian past is being weaponized by white ­supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/Nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students.”

Brown hit back. Not only did she insist that she is not, and never has been, a white supremacist, she went to some lengths to trace the multiracial threads in the New and Old Testaments as well as the culture of medieval Christianity, stressing in particular the genuine Catholicism (from the Greek katholikos, meaning universal) of the early church.

Her riposte to Kim, similar in thrust to her argument with Anglo-masculophobes on campus, is that history in neither its broad sweep nor in its fine textual detail confirms the image of a “white supremacist” medieval world. “How should you signal that you are not a white supremacist if you teach the ‘medieval western European Christian past?’ ” she asked, pointedly echoing Kim, who teaches medieval literature at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, and is the author, most recently, of Digital Whiteness & Medieval Studies. “Learn some f..king medieval western Euro­pean Christian history, including the history of our field.”

Speaking from home in Chicago, Brown, who is married, plays the fiddle, confesses to a Myers Briggs Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging personality type, and has a Cardigan Welsh corgi barking in the background, is rather more muted than her often peppery blog persona. She quotes Paul’s letter to the Galatians as confirmation of her creed’s blindness to colour, class, gender or race: “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor ­female.” Yet it can’t be easy to ­retain her equanimity in the often-vituperative world of politicised aca­deme. She mentions, a little wearily, that she has just been tagged in a thread: ­“Rachel Fulton Brown has repeatedly allied herself with white supremacists and has harassed scholars of colour in our field (presumably a reference to her criticism of Kim). I don’t want anything to do with her.”

Stirring the coals of outrage, as Brown explains, is her friendship with Briton Milo ­Yiannopoulos. The self-described “cultural libertarian” — code for publicity-seeking ultraconservative provoca­teur — and former editor of Breitbart News was denied a visa to enter Australia this year after anti-Muslim comments he posted following the Christchurch massacre. The openly gay — Brown ­describes him as the world’s “most famous faggot” — commentator’s new book, Middle Rages: How the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America, goes into bat for Brown in her row with Kim.

Until her “three cheers for white men!” post of 2015, Brown had used her blog, she explains, largely for rumination and reflection. But her decision to tackle “more darkly cultural questions” led her to examine the intersection of past and present, or politics in thought and action. She took an interest in Yiannopoulos, ­started to watch his videos and eventually emailed him. “That contact blossomed into a friendship,” she ­explains. “We share concerns about Christianity. He’s playing on a much bigger stage and that’s brought my work to a bigger audience.”

In response to the concerns first raised by Kim, and repeated by other academics vexed by the apparent allure of medieval ­imagery for the far right, Brown points out that only a few far-right protesters are seen in “vaguely” medieval costume, and their preferred symbolism appears to be pagan Germanic and pre-Christian. The implication is that if proto-fascists want to dress up in Wagnerian garb, scholars of the medieval world have little purchase on the problem.

“I was simply suggesting to my colleagues that they might be stoking hysteria and if they want to dispel this sort of thing they should do their job and tell the story,” she says, reprising the history of her ­notorious stoush, minus the sting. “Good history dispels the popular myths about the medieval world, and the fantasy version of the ­Crusades.”

Her personal and professional focus is not, in any event, with the masculine world of the Knights Templar or the bloody wars of the Plantagenets. Her medieval world is a thing of beauty: a civilisation singularly devoted to the Virgin Mary. The culture, in her view, was completely infused with Marianism. And to the extent that medieval Christianity helped to define Western civilisation, we still live at some level, she believes, in a matriarchal culture.

“To understand Mary as medieval Christians imagined her, one has to understand everything,” she says. “She is there in the art and the architecture and the music. She is there in the literature and the liturgy and the liberal arts. She is there in the most elevated expressions of human imagination and in the humblest prayers for help. She is there in the politics and in the ideals of marriage, in battle cries and in pleas for mercy for the ­oppressed. Medieval Christianity is inconceivable without her.”

The Virgin Mary was not only the mother of God, Brown argues, she was an emblem of the city and of civilisation. The medieval world and its devotion to the Virgin Mary is far from our own, and its fragile hold on the contemporary imagination was underscored symbolically this year by the near-destruction of Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) of Paris. The idea of recovering the difficult texts of this ­period and reverse engineering them into a Great Books curriculum doesn’t drive Brown. Nor does nostalgia. “I don’t want to bring back the medieval world,” she says. “That will not work. It’s like taxidermy. I want instead for you to have the living sense of what it meant in that period to create.”

Brown has taught at Chicago for 25 years and worries about the tendency to read literature as an exercise in speaking knowledge to power. She detects a mood in ­undergraduates — a kind of hollowness — that she interprets as “a fear of being affected by the texts that we read. It is a fear of what might happen if we let the great books that we read work on us.”

If there is one thing she would like to recover from the Middle Ages it’s not so much the texts that were inherited and read, transcribed or written but an attitude to reading. “Scripture is inexhaustible,” she says. “It’s a consistent story. Medieval students of scripture knew that the stories were true but they didn’t know all its truths, its full dimensions. Scripture was a constantly unfolding revelation of mysteries. So, from the medieval point of view these texts are very much alive; we need to unlock all these layers. And to read — to read for wisdom.”

Credit: The Australian Newspaper – click here to read the full article.

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15 August 2019

Great Books of the Middle Ages and How to Read Them

Sydney, Thursday 15 August: Do we really understand the ‘Dark Ages’? What was it like to exist in an age when people were supposedly punished for the exercise of reason in pursuit of the truth?

Renowned medievalist, University of Chicago Associate Professor of History Rachel Fulton Brown, has dedicated her academic career to reading texts from the Middle Ages that she says are often dismissed ‘either because the ideas in them seem boring (they aren’t!) or because everyone assumes that we already know what they say (we don’t).’

Last night she delivered the sixth Ramsay lecture for 2019 on ‘Great Books of the Middle Ages, and How to Read Them.”  

She argued that ‘Great Books’ courses should include more works from the thousand years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the sixteenth century, as currently such courses effectively exclude the Middle Ages from the development of Western Civilisation.  

“Without the Christian Middle Ages, we would not be here arguing for the importance of truth, beauty and goodness at all. If we want to challenge the postmodern critique of modernity, we need to understand the straw-man on which modernity constructed itself: the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ in which people were supposedly punished for the exercise of reason in pursuit of truth,” she said ahead of the talk. 

Since 1994 Rachel Fulton Brown has taught at the University of Chicago, one of America’s most distinguished colleges, where her teaching has been recognized with the Provost’s Teaching Award and the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She was awarded tenure in 2002.  

She is the author of From Judgement to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200 and Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought, as well as co-editor of History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person, all published by Columbia University Press.  

Her current research includes work on training the soul in virtue; the psychological bases for the doctrine of the Seven Deadly sins; the growth of cities and their relationship to prayer; and how saying the Psalms in honour of the Virgin Mary gives birth to understanding and joy.  

The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage. Printed versions of the lectures and video recordings are available on our website: www.ramsaycentre.org

 Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098 

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8 August 2019

Ramsay Centre and The University of Queensland sign Memorandum of Understanding

STATEMENT FROM CEO PROFESSOR SIMON HAINES


Sydney, Thursday 08 August 2019
: As part of a philanthropic gift to the Humanities in Australia, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The University of Queensland (UQ), to fund a new program in Western Civilisation, and related scholarships.

Worth upwards of $50 million over 8 years, the partnership deal includes funding for at least 150 undergraduate scholarships, and the hiring of world-class educators. The Western Civilisation program will commence in 2020.

This is the second university partnership for the Centre, following its partnership with the University of Wollongong.

We are delighted to be partnering with UQ, which is ranked in the world’s top 50 universities and is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions.

The University has a strong focus on the student experience and supporting students to become ‘agile, innovative thinkers and leading global citizens.’

Most importantly, we have always said that the success of the courses we fund would depend on the quality of teaching, and UQ has received more national teaching awards than any Australian university.

The program’s curriculum has been developed under the leadership of the Executive Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Heather Zwicker and internationally-acclaimed classicist Professor Alastair Blanshard.

The University will offer a new major in Western Civilisation that students can either take as part of its advanced humanities honours program, or in a new double degree consisting of a new Bachelor of Humanities coupled with an Honours degree in Law.

Students will graduate with either a Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours) (Western Civilisation) or a Bachelor of Humanities (Western Civilisation)/Bachelor of Laws (Honours).

The MOU will be published by UQ and clearly articulates the joint commitment of the Ramsay Centre and the University to academic freedom.

Together with UQ, we are excited about the wonderful opportunity for both students and teachers in the Humanities that this partnership presents.

 

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org

For more information on the centre please visit our website: www.ramsaycentre.org

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6 August 2019

Ramsay Centre and University of Wollongong sign funding agreement

STATEMENT FROM CEO PROFESSOR SIMON HAINES

Sydney, Tuesday 06 August 2019: As part of a philanthropic gift to the Humanities in Australia, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation has signed an agreement with the University of Wollongong (UOW) to fund a new BA degree in Western Civilisation, beginning in 2020, and a related scholarship program.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the University in December last year.

Worth approximately $50 million over 8 years, the partnership deal will enable UOW to offer at least 150 undergraduate scholarships and hire world-class educators to teach its Western Civilisation program. UOW’s BA in Western Civilisation will be directed by Professor Daniel Hutto who is a gifted and passionate educator.

Billed as a course for the ‘intellectually fearless’, UOW is promising students a transformative BA in Western Civilisation degree that will take them on a ‘unique philosophical adventure’, engaging with ‘some of the greatest intellectual and artistic masterpieces ever produced.’

It will comprise 16 newly created subjects, with students having the option of studying for a single degree, with a choice of major, or a range of double degrees. The degree is funded to enable students to study the great texts of western civilisation in small groups.

The funding agreement contains a joint commitment from UOW and the Ramsay Centre to academic freedom.

The partnership is made possible through the extraordinary generosity of the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care.

Students interested in learning more about the degree and the Ramsay Scholarship program at UOW can find more information on the UOW website – https://www.uow.edu.au/law-humanities-the-arts/schools-entities/liberal-arts/ . Scholarship applications are open for the month of August.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org

For more information on the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation please visit our website: https://www.ramsaycentre.org

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10 July 2019

What the vulgar feud around the Ramsay Centre doesn’t grasp about ‘Western Civilisation’ – by Andrew Gleeson

The Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation appears to be making progress in its plan to establish degrees in Western Civilisation at three Australian Universities. Just last week, it was reported that the University of Queensland’s academic board approved a plan for courses to begin next year, subject to final approval by the university’s vice-chancellor. At the same time, the National Tertiary Education Union is reported to have dropped legal action against courses at the University of Wollongong, also scheduled for a 2020 start.

Scornful critics will, of course, not abandon their attempts to scuttle the project. They have succeeded in convincing many people ― even some of the program’s advocates ― that it is little more than a conservative project aimed at glorifying straight white European male supremacy.

But nothing could be further from the truth. A perusal of the Indicative Curriculum reveals a cunning left-wing plot to subvert the established order of capitalism. Consider this selection from the curriculum’s texts.

The initial year of study includes Aeschylus’s Oresteia. The first play of this trilogy, Agamemnon, is one of the earliest works to strike a feminist blow against patriarchy, describing Queen Clytemnestra’s murder of her husband Agamemnon to usurp his throne. Students also study Plato ― that well-known champion of homoerotic love ― whose most famous dialogue, The Republic, describes an ideal state devoted to justice and ruled by a caste of progressive intellectuals.

When one gets around to authors writing in English, students are introduced to sexual politics through the notorious bawdy of Chaucer and Shakespeare. They also study John Milton, that infamous republican and revolutionary, whose greatest literary creation was an epic poem celebrating insurrection against the Christian God.

In the study of the Enlightenment, pride of place is given to radically democratic and liberal figures like Locke and Kant, feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, radicals like Rousseau ― an inspiring spirit of the French revolution ― and Thomas Paine, the nemesis of conservative hero Edmund Burke.

As we reach the last couple of hundred years, the fig leaf of traditionalist appearances is shed to reveal an openly Bolshie syllabus: Nietzsche and Freud ― scourges of Christianity both ― black radicals like W.E.B. Du Bois, and even Marx and Foucault!

Well, this is parody, of course ― albeit parody with a point: that the canon of ‘Western Civilisation’ is more diverse than its critics suspect. More importantly, it is also far richer than anyone would think whose only knowledge of it ― like that of most students ― is sourced from the bizarre philippics of its detractors or the bland instrumental rationales sometimes voiced in its defence.

Credit: ABC Religion and Ethics website– click here to read the full article
Posted Tue 9 Jul 2019, 5:49pm Updated Tue 9 Jul 2019, 6:12pm

Andrew Gleeson is a retired academic philosopher who lives in Adelaide. He is the author of A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil.

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1 July 2019

Freedom of speech the basis of study in Ramsay courses

By Simon Haines and Stephen McInerney

Can we maintain the right to express our own views while limiting the rights of others to do the same? When does free expression become an incitement to riot, an oppression of the vulnerable or a danger to national security?

Since 2017, the Ramsay Centre has been in discussion with several Australian universities about prospective partnerships to offer degrees focused on the “great books” and other texts of Western civilisation, from Homer to Heaney, taking in classical, biblical, medieval, early modern and modern sources.

While we may have taken a slower path to realising these partnerships than we anticipated, there is much to look forward to.

The new bachelor of arts in Western civilisation at the University of Wollongong will accept its first enrolments in 2020, with 30 full undergraduate scholarships to be offered each year, and 10 academic positions. We are progressing towards other partnerships.

We also expect next year to unveil a suite of generous postgraduate scholarships for Australian students to pursue further study at prestigious overseas universities.

This slow but steady progress is good news for us all, not least the students and academic staff of under-resourced humanities departments: the places we rely on most to remind us that what we often take to be self-evident, or think we have just discovered, has its roots in ancient insights, or is the outcome of centuries of struggle and progress.

Our notions of tragedy and truth, state and citizen, beauty and good, nature and art: all these have long and distinctive pedigrees, and are deeply constitutive of modern attitudes.

Perhaps this is most true in the case of our liberal-democratic freedoms: of speech, assembly, religion, the press.

Daily the local and international news reminds us that these freedoms are under perpetual challenge.

In Australia, voices across the political spectrum, from Alan Jones to Richard Flanagan, have spoken out in defence of a free press. In Hong Kong, millions of people, included among them many students, have assembled in the streets in defence of the rule of law.

Good for them. Use it or lose it: freedom is the birthright each generation inherits, but also holds in trust for those to come. Our sense of responsibility for the trust is strengthened if we also know it as an inheritance. But it’s a complex inheritance, and we are inconsistent in our attitudes to it. Students protesting against contentious campus speakers, for example, or governments denying visas to controversial visitors, could look across the centuries to John Stuart Mill, John Milton or Thomas Aquinas.

In On Liberty (1859), Mill argued “there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered”.

But he also invoked the “harm principle”, according to which the prevention of harm to others is the only purpose for which power can be “rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised society”. So how much harm can be done by a speaker expressing a contentious view? When does the exercise of power over speech become illiberal?

Milton’s argument in Areopagitica (1644) for “unlicensed printing”, for the freedom “to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience”, is a treasure of English prose as well as one of the greatest of all defences of liberty – and of great books, come to that – which he said “do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them”.

But as a Puritan writing in the shadow of civil war, Milton did not think this freedom should be extended to Roman Catholics, whom he saw as a threat to his nation’s existence.

So did he believe in freedom of speech? Is his position so different from the pre-modern attitude of Aquinas, the soul of Aristotelian good sense in so many respects, and of course a Roman Catholic, who in the mid-13th century argued that heretics posed a threat to social order and indeed the very souls of the population, and should be suppressed, by force if necessary?

Does freedom of expression have exceptions? If so, is it genuinely free?

Students might be encouraged to ask such questions in some university courses. They might perhaps encounter Mill, or Milton, or even Aquinas, at least in passing, in different majors. But asking such questions through reading all three of these “living intellects” in the course of one degree: this is the kind of thing we hope to enable a few students to do, and when the word gets around, maybe a lot more will want to.

Source: Australian Financial Review, to see article click here.

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25 June 2019

Conversations with John Anderson: Featuring Helen Pluckrose, editor-in-chief and academic researcher

Former deputy Prime Minister John Anderson sat down with Grievance Studies affair hoaxer and academic researcher Helen Pluckrose in Sydney recently as part of his ‘Conversations’ podcast series.

Helen was in Sydney to deliver the fourth Ramsay lecture for 2019 on ‘The Rise and Whys of Grievance Studies’. She is a self-described ‘exile from the humanities’ and currently editor-in-chief of Areo, a non-partisan digital magazine focused on Englightenment liberalism, humanism, secularism and freedom of expression.

Helen came to prominence when she and two colleagues sought to expose problems in academic ‘grievance studies’ by submitting bogus papers to academic journals, some of which were published. She is currently writing a book about the impact of postmodern thought on academia, social justice movements and wider culture.

The podcast is available here.

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10 May 2019

Les Murray’s ‘second funeral’ and his everlasting poetry

Les Murray will be farewelled today at St Bernadette’s Catholic Church, Krambach, just out of Bunyah. It will be his second funeral.

More than 20 years ago, Murray suffered an abscess on the liver and was in a coma for three weeks. Coming to, he discovered well-wishers had sent “a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards, / of flowers and phone calls and letters”. Waking to the nation’s love, which he’d “never dreamed was there”, meant everything to him. He called it his “State Funeral”. Now that he really has gone, the accolades have been even more numerous and good willed.

To be sure, some commentators have felt the need, in praising Murray, to indicate they were on the “other side” to him politically. What side would that be? Were they on the other side of Murray when it came to the working poor and marginalised? Were they on the other side to his advocacy, long before it was fashionable, of Indigenous Australians? Were they on the other side when he called out – long before anyone else – the problem of schoolyard bullying and its reverberations through the culture?

“Nothing a mob does is clean,” Murray believed. That was the main thrust of his politics. Like the eponymous hero of his remarkable 1998 verse novel, Fredy Neptune, Murray would often step in to protect individuals from a mob, even if he disagreed with them. In an era of “Safe Schools” programs, this is a lesson that should be part of the curriculum, and there is no better way to teach it than through the work of our greatest poet. But there are, of course, many good reasons to encourage the young to read Murray. Indeed, there is an obligation on our schools and universities to do just that.

When I was 16, my father handed me a copy of the 1983 collection The People’s Otherworld. I was confronted by the brazen dedication to the Glory of God, but I was even more challenged by the language itself: “Flashy wrists out of buttoned grass cuffs, feral whisky burning gravels, jazzy knuckles ajitter on soakages… migrating mouse-quivering water.”

A year later, my interest was fostered by John Watkins, later deputy premier of NSW, who introduced his Year 11 English class to the early poetry, including Driving through Sawmill Towns, Spring Hail and An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow. The difference between these poems and the more mature ones was stark, and intriguing. How to account for it?

Honestly, I was a slow learner. When I first encountered them I could make little literal sense of the more mature poems, but I felt their electric charge and kept returning to them, year after year, delighting when something suddenly became clear. The last line of the poem, Shower, for example: “Only in Europe is it enjoyed by telephone.” What on earth was he talking about, I wondered for years, until I took a shower in Italy in 1997 and lifted the shower-head with its trailing cord from its fitting: a telephone!

I taught this poem to undergraduates over 10 years in an Australian literature course. Their reaction to the closing line was more often than not the same as mine had been, but I couldn’t bear to make them wait as long as I had to to discover its meaning. I can still see their smiles of recognition when they “saw” for the first time what Murray was describing.

And when I see them in my memory, it is another poem of Murray’s that captures their reaction: “Streaming, a hippo surfaces / like the head of someone / lifting, with still-entranced eyes, / from a lake of stanzas.”

We owe it to every student in Australia’s schools and university English departments to give them this experience.

Stephen McInerney is executive officer (academic) at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation and author of The Enclosure of an Open Mystery: Sacrament and Incarnation in the Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, David Jones and Les Murray.

Article published in The Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 2019

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25 March 2019

To blame Ramsay for Christchurch atrocity is facile vilification

By Simon Haines
March 25, 2019 — 12.00am

The tragedy in Christchurch has understandably produced a variety of responses, most of them characterised by horror at the appalling evil inflicted on innocent people at prayer. But there was opportunism and cynicism too. The massacre was enlisted in the continuing campaign to prevent the University of Sydney entering a partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Nick Riemer has been a vocal critic of this partnership since it was first mooted. To date his principal argument has been that the goals of the centre are an exercise in white triumphalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The centre seeks, through partnering with universities in creating “great books” programs, to encourage a holistic and balanced understanding of the civilisation which has done so much to shape the world in which we live.

Last week Riemer went much further. He wrote in a column in these pages that “this is all the more reason to reflect on how the Ramsay curriculum validates the world view behind the massacre”. That is a truly extraordinary claim and it should be emphatically rejected, even by others who for whatever reason oppose a partnership between the centre and University of Sydney.

We have all been shocked by the terrible slaughter in New Zealand. Our responses should be compassionate and measured. The victims should be mourned, and those who have lost loved ones comforted. There is a special obligation to avoid the type of sordid political point-scoring that emerges in the Riemer column. By all means attack the Ramsay Centre. That is one of those priceless rights we have been given by our civilisation. But don’t smear its proponents with the monstrous claim that what they seek, in some way, prompted the murder of 50 innocent people.

The Ramsay Centre’s speaker program also came under scrutiny. This program is completely separate from our university partnerships. It is a varied program and includes individuals from different backgrounds who have in common interesting and sometimes controversial things to say about different aspects of Western civilisation.

We have heard from a novelist, a historian, a sociologist, a medical scientist, a columnist and a university president, and will hear from other highly credentialled academics and authors this year. None of them is speaking to us from a party-political perspective. Several of them, however, are well known public figures who run their own commentaries on current events, as they have every right to do. We would urge readers to look carefully for themselves at the credentials and comments of our speakers before trusting the distorting and tendentious snippets offered by Riemer and others.

We and our close friends across the Tasman are fortunate in that we can rely on one of the great pillars of Western civilisation, the rule of law and our justice systems, to ensure that the perpetrator of the dreadful crime in Christchurch is brought to justice.
Meanwhile, our cherished freedoms, including those of religion and speech, which need to be respected at all times, are especially important in such crises as this, when they are most under pressure. This is not a time for facile and irresponsible vilification.

Professor Simon Haines is the chief executive officer of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald – click here to read the full article here

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Only one man ever understood me, and he didn’t understand me"
- Hegel