Episode 189 – Left, Right, Black Face, Colourism and Universal Morals

Episode 189 – Left, Right, Black Face, Colourism and Universal Morals

Plenty of humour in this episode as we debate a breadth of topics that no other podcast would be game to attempt.

Generally in this podcast:

We criticise the left for obsessing over identity politics while ignoring the poor, for using offensive speech as a reason to restrain free speech and for being duped by Steven Pinker.

We criticise the right for conservative social values, neoliberalism, favouring the rich and for glorifying Steven Pinker and Jordan Peterson.

1:58 Stephen Fry put it well

“A grand canyon has opened up in our world,” Fry said. On one side is the new right, promoting a bizarre mixture of Christianity and libertarianism; on the other, the “illiberal liberals”, obsessed with identity politics and complaining about things like cultural appropriation. These tiny factions war above, while the rest of us watch, aghast, from the chasm below.

2:58 Left Vs Right

I was listening to the John Anderson podcast and picked up one fun fact.

The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville, explained: “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp” … The contemporary press occasionally used the terms “left” and “right” to refer to the opposing sides.

The use of the words Left and Right spread from France to other countries and came to be applied to a large number of political parties worldwide, which often differed in their political beliefs.

The Scottish sociologist Robert M. MacIver noted in The Web of Government (1947):

The right is always the party sector associated with the interests of the upper or dominant classes, the left the sector expressive of the lower economic or social classes, and the centre that of the middle classes. Historically this criterion seems acceptable. The conservative right has defended entrenched prerogatives, privileges and powers; the left has attacked them. The right has been more favorable to the aristocratic position, to the hierarchy of birth or of wealth; the left has fought for the equalization of advantage or of opportunity, for the claims of the less advantaged. Defense and attack have met, under democratic conditions, not in the name of class but in the name of principle; but the opposing principles have broadly corresponded to the interests of the different classes.

5:57 We have to talk about the Morrison government. Should we start with a prayer?

Let us pray.

6:44 The Latest Ipsos Poll

Oh dear … A Royal Commission and its aftermath exposed this pathetic government but the conversation turned to illegal boat people and their polls numbers went up?

Conducted by Ipsos and published overnight by Nine newspapers, the poll finds Labor’s lead being slashed from 54-46 to 51-49 — which, The Australian proclaimed this morning, showed that Labor was being “badly punished” for its position on the bill.

Did a boat people scare campaign do the trick?

As it happens, there was another, less widely publicised poll over the weekend that gave strong cause to doubt that anything particularly radical was going on in voterland while Ipsos was in the field.

Conducted by YouGov Galaxy for The Courier-Mail, the Queensland-only poll recorded a swing of 6% to federal Labor in the state the worst result for the Coalition out of eight such polls conducted since 2016.

Paladin will blow up. Here is a long and depressing read.

It has been reported in recent days that Paladin, whose reputation has been under fire and which, until last week, had its head office as a beach shack on Kangaroo Island, was awarded contracts worth up to $423 million to provide security for refugees on Manus Island.

Banking Royal Commission, $400m for Reef preservation, Paladin, Michaela Cash, Mathias Coreman, Home affairs has more leaks than an illegal Indonesian

12:55 Inquiry into aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and voluntary assisted dying

Should voluntary assisted dying be legalised in Queensland?

The Queensland Parliamentary Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee is seeking your views on aged care, palliative and end-of-life care and voluntary assisted dying.

We need to hear from you by 15 April 2019.

14:37 Secular Hospital Chaplains in Victoria

What a great initiative.

Are you a non-religious person in Melbourne with a desire to support others at difficult times? Are you comfortable talking to strangers, and a good listener? Do you understand how a sense of meaning and purpose is important for a person’s well-being?

The Humanist Society of Victoria is looking for volunteers (and those aspiring to paid work) to be trained and placed part-time in a hospital as secular spiritual care workers. The role is similar to a hospital chaplain, but with no religious aspect and no rituals to perform. The main focus is on non-religious patients but we are an inclusive organisation and will assist anyone in need. Hours are flexible and training is free. 

15:20 Gay Conversion Therapy

Dan Andrews. He banned RI, he objected to Chaplains and now has banned Gay conversion therapy.

Victoria will be the first jurisdiction in Australia to outlaw the practice of psychological therapy or counselling to try to suppress or change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

In some cases conversion therapy includes exorcisms, the Health Complaints Commissioner’s inquiry found.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the ban of what he called “bigoted quackery”.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director Martyn Iles has described laws against conversion therapy as “a dangerous policy for parents, counsellors and even medical practitioners with a faith identity”.

17:21 Psychology 101 in the early 1980’s

19:20 Not all Church courses are bad

What problem found a good one.

20:50 Illegal Boat Arrivals

Scott Morrison announced his intention to just ignore a “stupid vote” on medical evacuations … He seemed to be suggesting that Parliament was just there to make suggestions and it was up to him as PM to decide whether to implement them or not. Where is John Kerr when we need him?

Remember, they come by plane now

24:31 Western Media Are Parroting Trump’s Venezuela Propaganda

The Trump administration’s now completely overt effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro had a very successful public relations effort this week, as major Western media outlets uniformly echoed its simplistic, pre-packaged claim that the Venezuelan government was heartlessly withholding foreign aid

Except three pieces of key context are missing. Context that, when presented to a neutral observer, would severely undermine the cartoonish narrative being advanced by US media.

  1. Both the Red Cross and UN warned the US not to engage in this aid PR stunt.
  2. The bridge in question is a visual metaphor contrived by the Trump administration of little practical relevance.
  3. The person in charge of US operations in Venezuela has a history of using aid as a cover to deliver weapons to right-wing mercenaries.

Overthrowing Democratic Governments Is Practically an American Tradition

49:42 Colourism

A very interesting article by Matthew Blackwell

The specific process whereby members of one ethnic group discriminate against those within their own ethnic group based on skin colour has been labelled “colourism.”

When Solange and Beyoncé Knowles’s father Mathew Knowles was asked in 2018 why he preferred to date women of a lighter skin tone, he replied, “I had been conditioned from childhood.” … social scientists have recognized discriminatory behaviour among African American males in favour of fairer skinned females, a bias that the 2011 documentary Dark Girls reveals is still unfortunately prevalent today. “I don’t really like dark skinned women, like, they’d look funny beside me,” disclosed one male interviewed for Dark Girls. “I’d like a pretty, light skin girl.”

The Association of Black Psychologists has labeled colourism as a form of internalized racism, the process whereby ethnic minorities absorb the racism of dominant ethnic groups to their own detriment: “After hearing racist stereotypes and attitudes, a time comes when these are adopted as truth—internalized—and believed by those on the receiving end of the lie.”

The World Health Organization reports that 77 percent of women in Nigeria use skin-whitening products (the highest rate of any country), some containing mercury that can cause lasting kidney damage.

It’s notable that the issue of colourism in beauty norms has become a feminist issue in large part because of the sexually dimorphic nature of the phenomenon. As Lawton writes, “Colourism is a feminist issue because black men are allowed to be dark-skinned where women are not.” Which is to say that women in African American communities generally don’t perceive lighter skin in males to be any more desirable than darker skin—so that males can “get away” with being dark, even as they generally exhibit a preference for lighter skin in female mates. But this invites the question as to why slavery and oppression would arbitrarily lead to a male desire for female skin but have no corresponding effect on the opposite form of attraction. Clearly, some further explanation is needed.

Van den Berghe and Frost concluded that there is an overwhelming cross-cultural pattern of colourism in male sexual desires that places lighter skin females above darker members of their community. They also argued that Western contact couldn’t possibly explain the phenomenon due to its ubiquity throughout the historical records of Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Aztecs, and in societies not colonized by the West or with limited contact. Van den Berghe and Frost calculate the probability of their data set arising by chance to be “less than one in 100 million.”

In particular, Van den Berghe and Frost found that women tend to have the lightest tone of skin during early adulthood, during the most fertile period of her menstrual cycle, and when they are not pregnant—in other words, when a woman is most likely to conceive: “There appears, in short, to be a linkage not only between pigmentation and sex, but between light pigmentation and fecundability in women.”

In obstetrics and gynecology, fecundability is the probability of being pregnant in a single menstrual cycle, and fecundity is the probability of achieving a live birth within a single cycle.

They hypothesized, firstly, that the correlation between lighter skin complexion and fertility led to a genetically programmed learning bias in males, which usually manifests as a cultural preference for lighter skinned females. But once this colourist discrimination took place on the cultural level, they further hypothesized, sexual selection caused the further lightning of female skin pigmentation, explaining the lighter pigmentation we now find in females as compared with males.

What seems to be firmly established is that the cross-cultural bias for lighter skin does in fact exist and that it arises for reasons independent of oppressive forces exerted by the West. The question then becomes to what degree oppressive historical forces have further intensified a colourism toward women that already existed.

I recall reading, only a few years ago, a satirical piece that pretended to argue that skin tanning is a form of “cultural appropriation.” Well, social justice activists have caught up with the satirists by unironically embracing this very position. Indeed, Vrinda Jagota, associate editor of the New York-based magazine Paper, has suggested that white people should check their privilege before stepping out into the sun:

It’s that time of year again—the sun has finally reemerged and people are spending their Saturday afternoons lounging on crumpled blankets drinking La Croix in Prospect Park … I’ve always been intrigued and slightly annoyed by white people’s obsession with tanning. When they compare their skin tone to mine, it feels like appropriation, a co-option of brownness without ever having to deal with the oppression people of color face for their skin color … I’m sure the well-meaning white reader is wondering what they are supposed to do. Not go into the sun this summer? Wear SPF 90 at all times? Sadly, the answer is not so obvious or so easy.

“Racism rears its ugly head again,” wrote Simone Mitchell for an Australian news outlet. In reprimanding the spray-tan industry for cultural insensitivity, she likened the products to blackface. Denouncing the names of a Swedish company’s spray-tan products—such as Dark Ash Black and Dark Chocolate—Teen Vogue declared flatlyy: “The names and the shades = not OK.” Indeed, the products were likened to a violent hate crime by one commenter, who wrote: “It reminds me of the typical scary movie where the murderer kills the person, cuts off their face, and wears it as a mask.”

So is it racist to abhor dark skin—or is it racist to celebrate it? They’re both objectionable, apparently.

56:50 These 7 Rules Could Be The Universal Moral Code Shared by Every Culture, Study Finds

Based on a deep analysis of over 600 cultural records from 60 societies around the world – the largest sample ever in this field of study, the researchers say – there is empirically much more that unites us than divides us, in terms of moral values.

“Everyone everywhere shares a common moral code,” says anthropologist Oliver Scott Curry from the University of Oxford.

“All agree that cooperating, promoting the common good, is the right thing to do.”

Delving into a research database on cross-cultural variation called the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF, hosted by Yale University), Curry and fellow researchers sought to explore the theory that morality evolved in human cultures to promote cooperation.

These cooperative behaviours and rules – the proposed universal moral code – are the following: helping family, helping your group, reciprocating, being brave, deferring to superiors (respect), dividing disputed resources (fairness), and respecting prior possession (property rights).

That aside, the universal code also means that conduct in opposition to the cooperative behaviours is considered as morally bad: neglecting kin, betraying your group, free-riding (not reciprocating), cowardice, disrespect, unfairness, and theft

1:02:46 But at the group level …

David Sloan Wilson on Norway

Around the world, politicians talk unashamedly about pursuing the national interest as if it is their highest moral obligation. Double standards easily trigger a feeling of moral indignation. How could persons or nations be so hypocritical? But wagging fingers at nations is not going to solve the problem. A smarter approach is to understand why moral indignation works at the scale of a village, why it doesn’t work at the scale of the global village, and how it can be made to work with the implementation of the appropriate social controls.

Moral indignation works at the scale of villages because it is backed up by an arsenal of social control mechanisms so spontaneous that we hardly know it is there.

This is why people refrain from unethical acts – to the extent that they do – in village-sized groups and why cooperation is accompanied by positive emotions such as solidarity, empathy, and trust. The reason that nations and other large social entities such as corporations openly engage in unethical acts is because social controls are weaker and are not sufficient to hold the wolves of selfishness at bay. This is why politicians can talk openly about national self-interest as if nothing else matters – even though a villager who talked in a comparable fashion would be regarded as insane.

There is evidence that village-like social controls are starting to form at larger scales without the help of governments. In the United States, a nonprofit organization called B-lab (B stands for benefit) provides a certification service for corporations. Those that apply for certification receive a score on the basis of a detailed examination. If the score exceeds a certain value, then the company is permitted to advertise itself as a B-Corporation. Xiujian Chen and Thomas F. Kelly at Binghamton University’s School of Management recently analyzed a sample of 130 B-corporations and compared them to a number of matched samples of other corporations. The samples were matched with respect to geographical location, business sector, corporation size, and other variables. In all cases, the B-corporations were either as profitable or more profitable (on average) than the corporations in the matched samples. Engaging in ethical practices did not hurt, and might even have helped, their bottom lines.

1:09:42 Another example of States behaving badly

Kenan Malik on Shamima Begum

How do you solve a problem like Shamima? In February 2015, 15-year-old east London schoolgirl Shamima Begum travelled to Syria with two friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, to join Islamic State. Last week, she was discovered in al-Hawl, a Syrian refugee camp, by the Times reporter Anthony Loyd. She is nine months pregnant and wants to return to Britain.

For some, Begum is a victim, a child brainwashed into jihad. For others, she is a villain who willingly joined Isis and should be barred from this country. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, insists that he ‘will not hesitate to prevent’ her return if necessary.

Both sides are wrong. Britain should let Begum return. Not because she’s a victim but because she’s a British citizen. We do not yet know of her actions in Syria. But, whatever they may have been, she remains someone to whom Britain has legal and moral obligations.

Refusing entry to Begum would not simply keep her out of Britain. It would also force another state or organisation to take responsibility for her. The al-Hawl camp is run by the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF has endured staggering loses in its battles against IS. Why should Britain now expect it to be responsible for a British citizen who helped its monstrous enemy?

Earlier this month, Sajid Javid authorised the deportation to Jamaica of 29 people convicted of crimes in this country. They were deemed ‘foreign nationals’ despite many of them having spent most of their lives in this country and being, in most meaningful senses of the word, British. Yet Javid now suggests that he might refuse entry to British citizens who may have committed even worse crimes and force other nations or organisations to take responsibility for them. That is ethically grotesque.

1:13:36 A free market conundrum

In a little-known strategy to prevent paying out too much to the same winning punters, operators simply restrict how much they can bet or close them down altogether.

I want to say they have to supply but …it is not discrimination based on a group characteristic, so is it OK? Is it unfair?

Punters and anti-gambling advocates have hit out at betting agencies for restricting or shutting down the accounts of people who win too often.

In a little-known strategy to prevent paying out too much to the same winning punters, operators simply restrict how much they can bet or close them down altogether.

There is nothing illegal about it and the right to do it is written into agencies’ terms and conditions, but anti-gambling advocates say such conduct is unethical and should be illegal.

1:19:44 Patrons, Feedback, Beer Report  and Reviews

List of Patrons

No iTunes reviews for 2 months!

A generous donation from Landon Hardbottom

A beer donation from Adam

Plus from Craig:

Hi Fist,

Really enjoyed your recent podcast, keep up the good work.

In relation to Franking Credits, when looking at them in isolation you don’t get to see the full picture.  When  you consider that superannuation payments became tax free for individuals 60 or over in 2007 then Franking credits was icing on the cake. So, you have very wealthy older people with potential millions in super drawdown phase, paying no tax, then getting a tax refund because of Franking Credits.

Rich old folks paying no tax means either everyone has to pay more or services reduce, or both.

Well respected Economist Saul Eslake, hardly a spokesman for the left, has consistently stated the Superannuation decision was one of the worst policy decisions of the last decade (he now states two decades)……….


I think one of the worst tax policy decisions of the last decade, and there are a lot of contenders for this title, was the decision to abolish, or to free of tax entirely, superannuation payments to people over the age of 60. In a relatively short number of years I am going to benefit from that, but I still think it is a bad decision that has no sensible or credible economic foundation. It might have been popular, it obviously was, but that does not make it right.

The Fist notes

Q. Who was Prime Minister in 2006 that made the decision that super over 60 would be tax-free?

A John fucking Howard

Page 8 of the below report really spells out the problem.


Note that over the last few years Governments have been trying to wind this back, i.e. limiting the pension phase of Superannuation to $1.6 Million, but this is just a small wind back to a huge problem.



From Saul Eslake’s essay:
When Niccoló Machiavelli wrote (originally in 1515) that “there is nothing more difficult to plan,
more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system – for the initiator has
the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm
defenders in those who gain by the new ones”, he wasn’t referring specifically to taxation reform.


5 comments on “Episode 189 – Left, Right, Black Face, Colourism and Universal Morals
  1. Daniel the Patron says:

    I woke up this morning to see this episode in my feed. ‘Hurrah!’ I thought.

    I had a quick scroll through the discussion topics, and was happy to see mention of Stephen Fry’s ‘The Hitch’ oration.

    I actually listened to the oration instead of this episode this morning. For anyone who’s interested, you can find it here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/festivalofdangerousideas/The_Hitch.mp3?dest-id=880244

  2. Squeaky Wheel says:

    The Fist going soft on Maduro and Shamima Begum –  the former of which should have known what would happen to Venezuela given the history of such endeavours and the latter of which knew exactly what she was doing then and still feels herself superior to non-Islamists. We might have to get you a new handle, Fist.

    • Ha, yes you may be right. Maybe that’s why The 12th man is acquiring Fan Boys:). Anyway, it depends on your viewpoint. Soft on Maduro and Begum but hard on the USA and the UK? You are right that Maduro should’ve known that the US would shaft Venezuela if it didn’t hand over its economy to American companies. Maybe he did and but decided to keep it for himself and try his luck. Of course, Maduro and Begum are despicable and we expect that from corrupt politicians and brainwashed girls. We also expect the USA to be despicable and to engineer regime change but usually they are a little more coy about it. This time they have shed all pretensions and have just taken the booty. And the world doesn’t care …

  3. Bronwyn Benn says:

    Hi guys,

    As a proud Victorian, I very much enjoyed hearing your positive comments about our Premier, Daniel Andrews, in this and previous episodes. And by the way, you can’t have him. Get your own.

    Andrews is, of course, not perfect, shown by the recent Red Shirts scandal as one example. But he is that very rare thing in Australian politics – an active, devout Catholic who is able to keep his personal religious beliefs separate from his public role, in the public interest. I’d struggle to name another Catholic politician with the same outlook.

    You may or may not have heard this story about Andrews, which illustrates his ability, and preparedness, to maintain this separation. About 10 years ago, when he was Health Minister in a previous Labor government, he proposed an Abortion Reform Bill which would decriminalise abortion. Some of the senior Catholic clergy tried to persuade him to drop the bill, but he refused, saying that he intended to be the Victorian Health Minister, not the Catholic Health Minister. So he has been signalling this mindset for some time.

    Thanks again for the podcast, which I enjoy every week.

  4. Warren Foster says:

    Boats v Planes
    I recently heard a counter argument to the boats vs planes debate. I won’t say it is a strong argument. I’ll leave that to others to decide for themselves as I am still deliberating its merits. It is worth sharing though. The key points are:
    1. It is necessary for those arriving by plane to have a passport.
    2. Border security can easily deny entry at airports.
    3. Any aspiring immigrant with a criminal record would choose to arrive by boat, without ID and a fake story of who they are and their background.
    I’d be interested in further discussion on this topic.
    I’m looking forward to supporting this worthy cause and advocating for legislation change (before I get too old).

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