(Not) Politically Correct

The Chairman of a Committee

When I was teaching in the Western Australian College of Advance Education (WACAE, later to become Edith Cowan University) in the late 1980s, the head of my department was a burly red-haired, bearded bloke, Dr. Jim M[redacted]. (Jim had taken over as head of department from Tony Watson, who had deservedly been promoted up the academic hierarchy.) At the that time I was on a committee that discussed curricula matters, and at some point Jim was placed in charge of the committee. At his first meeting he introduced himself as "Dr. Jim M, the new new chairman of this committee". Some (overly?) politically correct lady spoke out, "Don't you mean 'Chairperson', Dr. M?" Jim's reply was glorious, "Ma'am, I took a shower this morning and checked ... I am the chairman of this committee". Of course that caused a great deal of mirth for some, and much gnashing of teeth for others. I don't know if that exchange had any further consequences, but it did set a standard in my mind for "political correctness", to which I still adhere some 30 years later.

Geoff Sutcliffe, January 2023

Abortion (is Killing)

In 1973 the US Supreme court, in the somewhat famous Roe v. Wade case, ruled that the constitution of the United States conferred the right to have an abortion. In June 2022 the court overruled that decision, leading to much debate on the topic. I started thinking about it, and asked myself (and friends) the fundamental question, "When does a life start?". My conclusion is that life starts at the moment of conception, when a spermatozoom fertlizes a oocyte to form a zygote (and I'm not alone in the conclusion - it is a common understanding). So, any form of abortion is killing life. But I'm pro-abortion! The logician in me concludes that I'm pro-killing. OK, I can accept that. Once I got past that realization, I asked the leading question, "Until what point in life is that form of killing OK?". 

There are lots of opinions on when abortion should stop being acceptable. Examples include "when a heart beat is detected", "20 weeks post-fertilization", "after the baby emerges from the mother". Only the last of these seemed to be a clear step change, and I could live with abortion being accepted up to when the baby emerges into the world. But it's still killing life, so why stop there? How about making abortion legal up to the age that a child has the ability leave home and be independent ... somewhere around the age of 12 I guess? Until then parents would have the right to quote Bill Cosby: "I brought you into the is world, I can take you out". That ruling would certainly ensure that kids keep their room clean, do their homework, help with chores around the house, etc. 

You think I'm being ridiculous? Hold tight, this is going somewhere ...

A bit after writing the paragraphs above, I realised that state-mandated abortion is legal in many countries (e.g., Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Somalia), and some states of the USA (e.g., Florida, Texas) - it's called "the death penalty". The time constraints are the converse of abortion of children - it can be applied only after reaching a certain age, commonly 18. It's also not as simple as a parental decision - it requires a judge, often a jury, always lawyers, and there is typically an appeal process. Yeah, it's much easier for a mother to abort an innocent baby than it is for the state to abort a guilty murderer. Strangely there is no point after which state-mandated abortion is not accepted, except the point of death (weird, once the death penalty has been applied, it can no longer be applied).

I told you this was going somewhere ... here's a graduated abortion scheme:

Please don't think that I'm some kind of inhumane ogre. I hope that all parents love their children absolutely, I hope every state is very careful with its rights, I hope that no-one ever has to make such a hard decision. I also hope that thinking carefully about this matter helps clarify what it really is - killing, killing, killing. I bet many people who read this (if anyone reads it!) will have emotional outbursts trying to prove that I'm wrong, immoral, etc. But I do challenge anyone to fault my reasoning - maybe I missed a better train of thought.

Geoff Sutcliffe, July 2022, updated February 2023

African Americans

I'm pleased to have noticed that the demographic descriptor "African American" is being replaced by "Black American" (but as I type this during Superbowl LVII, a commentator just said "African American"!). The reason that I'm pleased is that "African Americans" have mostly never been to Africa, nor have any direct linkage to Africa; rather, they have ancestors from Africa. Many of those ancestors were brought to America in the most horrible way, and treated disgracefully in America. But that does not make their descendants "African". I am African ... I was born in N'dola, Zamiba, grew up in Africa, enjoyed the African sun and surf, experienced African culture, got educated at African schools, was impacted by (South) African politics, and left Africa to avoid being forced to fight in an unjust African war. I am more African than pretty much all "African Americans". I would not call myself "English African" just because my parents and ancestors were English. I find it rather rude that "African Americans" leverage an ancestral relationship to a continent they have not experienced - it's really quite offensive to true Africans. So let's agree, people from Africa are Africans, and people from America are Americans. If anyone wants to clarify their demographic, then I'm cool with Black American, but I'll still think of those people as Americans, and hope they are proud of it. I'm proud to be an African (and I find it unnecessary to clarify to anyone that I'm a White African).

Geoff Sutcliffe, February 2023