We need to talk about complacency

Oct 6, 2020 | Announcements, News & Media

Acclaimed author and journalist Lionel Shriver to deliver third Ramsay Lecture for 2020

Sydney, Tuesday 6 October 2020: In a year marked by chaos, what is our greatest threat?

Is it the novel pathogen which saw world leaders “…cup suffocating tumblers over their own economies for months on end, like an interminable episode of ‘The Dome’?” Or social divisions following an “…abuse of power by a single policeman in Minneapolis, Minnesota (which) fired up a world-wide protest movement that was affecting at first, but that rapidly grew violent and fanatical”?

Award-winning author and journalist Lionel Shriver argues our greatest threat is actually a “deadly complacency” – that a surfeit of Western security, with no major wars and nearly uninterrupted prosperity for 75 years, has created an ahistorical underappreciation for the fragility of order.

In her October 14 Ramsay lecture, ‘Just Because We’ve Been Okay Doesn’t Mean We’ll Stay That Way’,Shriver will claim that the “tear-everything-down social turmoil post-Floyd” and the COVID-19 lockdowns reveal how complacent we have become.

Advanced economies have too readily employed an alarmist response to COVID-19 that is causing economic devastation, she says. And she decries the false comfort of “…Magic money tree thinking, aka, Modern Monetary Theory, that a government that controls its own currency can print money to cover its expenses without limit’. 

Shriver also laments that the Black Lives Matter campaign has been hijacked by “would-be revolutionaries imagining that they can bring an end to capitalism and still keep all the fruits of capitalism that they like. That think they can install a neo-Marxist equality of outcome, boot out all the evil old white guys, and keep their iPhones.’”

Shriver’s 2016 novel The Mandibles described a near-future US in which the president has renounced the national debt, inflation subsequently goes through the roof, and social order unravels. She says she dreads ever really having to watch the civilisation that nurtured her fall apart.

“Both the Marxist Trojan horse of BLM zealotry and these suicidal, short-sighted ‘public health’ policies eat away at everything in Western life that I treasure, from reading artful, ideologically unorthodox books to being able to buy a chicken. Yet in protestors and politicians alike, I detect that deadly complacency, as if you can rock a boat as wildly as you want – all because it’s stayed afloat so far.”

A prolific journalist with a column in The Spectator, Lionel Shriver has published one short story collection and thirteen novels, including the bestsellers The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, Big Brother, So Much for That, The Post-Birthday World, and the Orange-Prize winner We Need to Talk About Kevin (made into a 2011 feature film starring Tilda Swinton).  Her latest novel is The Motion of the Body Through Space (2020), with the forthcoming Should We Stay or Should We Go scheduled for June of 2021.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper understanding of western civilisation. 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.

Due to COVID-19 Lionel Shriver’s lecture is recorded. It will be available via our website www.ramsaycentre.org on Wednesday 14 October.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 98/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org