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Enough of these ceremonial apologies, please!

Is it time that we learned to think for ourselves instead of reacting to peer group pressure?

On the 27th January 2020, the Benson Centre for the study of Western Civilisation hosted noted scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In her talk The Market for Victimhood she advised the following:

(A transcript of her comments above is available here. View Ayaan’s full presentation here.)

The extreme peer group pressure placed upon anyone who refuses to succumb to this epidemic of apology is nothing new. The ancient Greek philosophers were quite familiar with this process, which they referred to as OSTRACISM – a political process used in 5th-century BC Athens whereby those individuals considered too powerful or dangerous to the city were exiled for 10 years by popular vote. These days it would seem that those who have the ‘wrong’ opinions face a similar form of censure.

A recent example of peer group ostracism is the case of Bari Weiss, an opinion editor at The New York Times. She found herself forced to resign due to constant bullying for crimes of ‘wrongthink’ by her colleagues. Full details are here in her formal letter of resignation.

The accelerant in this recent mass hysteria of BLM protest marches, all around the world, was the recent criminal behaviour of a policeman, and the law courts will no doubt judge his behaviour and punish him severely.

However, any amount of self-harm to the human race by continued hysterical protests will not aid the cause of returning to the levels of human dignity to which our civilisation is entitled.

Could this epidemic of apology be caused by our inability to defend exactly what we stand for as evidenced by how few corporate executives are fluent enough to defend their own companies from constant attacks from the concerted efforts to ‘bring them to their knees’?

All this talk of ‘knees’ stirred memories of the many times I have referred to ‘getting up off your knees’ in the past, and a quick search of my website – – brought forth these examples, extending over many years:

Taxation: How Times Have Change (Feb 4, 2019)
“…Today, 35 years later, I look back at Arthur Seldon’s optimism and observe that taxpayers did not seize the technological opportunities to which he referred.  So I conclude:

Nothing much will change it seems,
till we get our knees up off the floor.
Stop begging for protection from competition –
That’s just a perversion of the law.
The problem’s solved if we all stand up
and decline their invitation.
Let them collect the taxes
If they want to run the nation!…”

Nature’s Start-Ups – A festive Poem (Dec. 2017) 
“….Get up off your knees
and email your politician too,
tell them how you just paid another Uber fee,
they inconsiderately imposed on you!…”

Libertarianism’s enormous challenge  (Dec 6, 2017)
“…The full title of this speech is Libertarianism’s enormous challenge and responsibility in Australia. It’s a very long title but the sub-title is even longer: Don’t be overwhelmed by all the bad news because the good news has never been better.

So, there is only one challenge for you on which to focus. That is to ride that great wave that goes all the way from the bad news to the upcoming good news. However first, a poem.

My festive poem for 2017 is officially launched here tonight. It is a sensitive nature poem called, Nature’s Start-Ups (you can read it in full here). The call for action to ‘get up off your knees’ reminds me of the Ayn Rand quote: “They will only do to you, what you let them do…”

Leading Lights: Where mining needs to lift its game  (May 6, 2017)
“…I should caution against adopting a ‘victimhood’ status for our industry – victims cannot be leaders. We must get up off our knees and change ourselves; it is part of the individual responsibility package that comes with true leadership. Earlier this year in Hong Kong at a large rugby commemorative dinner, I heard two rugby legends each speak for 40 minutes. They both spoke without notes and with great passion. I sat there wondering why our industry – the most imaginative and creative industry in the world – does not have a significant collection of people who can speak with similar passion about this industry?”

Property Rights in WA: An endangered species (Nov 8, 2016)
“So my plea, to you good folk, from the legal fraternity, please do not measure your success by the number of delays you can bring about; by the number of projects you successfully torpedo; by the number of entrepreneurs you bring to their knees…”

Triumphs & Tragedies of Australia’s exploration and mining industry: 1960s (Mar 30, 2015)
“…Back to reality. While we are on the subject of regulations, rules and general impediments to industry, I should caution about adopting a ‘victimhood’ status for our industry. Why? Well, victims cannot be leaders. If you view yourselves as a victim in any corporate sense, or in any aspect of your own life, you are giving your power away. If you are a victim, someone else has to change to make you happy but you cannot change anyone else. For leadership to emerge from our industry, we must get up off our knees and change ourselves. It’s part of the individual responsibility package that comes with true leadership. This victimhood angle is one of the reasons why the Native Title Act fiasco has failed the aboriginal people. From their perspective it has been based entirely on the cult of victimhood…”

Charles Copeman – 1930 – 2013 (July 5, 2013)
“…I first met Charles in 1968 through our mutual involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh Commonwealth Study Conference and have valued his friendship ever since. Charles was no ‘follow the leader’ sort of guy. He was the leader and it was this characteristic that caused him to draw a line in the sand when many of his contemporary corporate leaders stood by in a ‘deknackered’ fashion whilst labour-union thuggery brought Australian mining to its knees in the 1980s…

Ideas that matter: speaking up for the good of the industry (Dec 20, 2012)
“…The most entertaining version of this debate, Fight of the Century – a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem can be viewed on YouTube.

Yes, it would be encouraging if we could see big business get up off its knees and defend the country against big government, rather than them seeing government as simply a dispenser of permits and privileges…”

Different Countries; Similar Problems (Aug 3, 2012)
“…Yes, it would be encouraging if we could see big business get up off their knees and defend the country against big government, rather than them seeing government as simply a dispenser of permits and privileges.

Back on the Keynes vs Hayek economic debate, I was reminded last week in Shanghai (at the Austrian Economics Summit) that the Chinese have a much longer view of history and have been debating this big government vs small government question over a longer time frame. They had a similar rap re-enactment where Confucius was the equivalent of Keynes and Lao Tsu the equivalent of Hayek. Both these Chinese scholars (Confucius and Lao Tsu) were from the sixth century BC and now over 2500 years later the debate between big and small government continues…”

One Day in the Life of an International Jetsetter (June 6, 1995) – not relevant but amusing! 
“…The cemetery turned out to be the place where all the brightly made-up transvestite ladies met to lurk behind the grave-stones. They liked to chase unsuspecting tourists like me but I could run pretty fast. I got away, just as it started to rain. A five kilometre of walk later and with mud up to my knees, I found a taxi and headed back to the hotel. I thought I would just call it a night.

When I got out of the taxi I found a guy selling cigars. He had one of those little street stalls loaded with “beedie” cigarettes and elegant wooden boxes filled with Indonesian cigars. They were great big magnificent cigars and I couldn’t resist buying two boxes. That was about the only nice thing that happened to me that day.

Room (non)service
Back at the hotel, I got the bags up the steps and went straight to my room. I noticed the front door, which was a wooden door with slats. I also noticed the slats caught the rain instead of deflecting it. Walking into the hotel room, I found water all over the floor. It was not a fancy room. There were two beds and sitting on top of one of the beds was the biggest cockroach I had ever seen. Not to be deterred, off came my boot and I whacked that cockroach aggressively. On lifting up my boot, I couldn’t believe that one single cockroach could make all that mess. Further investigation proved that on the way up the darkened stairway I had stood on a dog-turd!…”

Turning Ideas into Gold Bars (May 17, 1995)
“…Dick Warburton, Chairman of Du Pont and prominent member of the Business Council of Australia, recently had the courage to draw attention to Canberra’s “politics of hate”, where the Prime Minister is felt to silence influential critics in the business community by sending them clear signals that: “If you don’t agree with me, I’ll not only hate you, but I’ll destroy you”. History will judge people like these three outstanding business leaders by their heroic actions, and they will be remembered long after their tepid contemporaries are forgotten. Their example should inspire more of our country’s industrial “leaders” to get up off their knees and lead…”

Taxes, Taxes and Damned Taxes (Oct 31, 1992)
“…Why has this situation developed? Business leaders have over the years not always acted in the interests of the productive sector, often preferring not to rock the boat. It is their total compliance that has permitted the nonsensical and constant procession of new taxes – with his year’s new crop including training tax and superannuation tax.

A levy by any other name is still a tax. Things will only get better when captains of industry get up off their knees and refuse to collect these taxes. How much more pain needs to be inflicted on our country before the seeds of this idea take root?…”

When President Hoover sat at my desk (June 6, 1992)
“…Any one of these actions following the stock market crash would have seriously impaired business recovery, but together they acted in concert to bring the economy to its knees, and in the process, threw nearly a quarter of the American workforce into the unemployment queues. I have dwelt on this topic in some detail because it is so relevant to Australia in 1992…”

At war with optimism (Oct 20, 1989)
“…The daily practice of exploration and mining is becoming increasingly inefficient. Without a major revolt and some sign that the industry is getting up off its knees, it will become an endangered species…”

Ron speaks about tax at the Taxpayers United Kalgoorlie Tax Summit  (June 12, 1980) 
“…The third step is massive peaceful civil disobedience from the business sector. It’s one that we don’t need to be a member of anything. We can just do it ourselves and I’ve been doing it for years and I love it. It’s just such good fun and it doesn’t cost very much money either to do. And I think, on this case, with this White Paper, we should get up off of our knees and make sure that we as businesspeople say, well, they can have their consumption tax if they like, but we’re not going to collect it for them and it’ll make us, our job easier if we can get some of the big organisations on side if we can tell them the same thing…”

Kalgoorlie (and Australia) Lookin’ Good, Feelin’ Awful (June 8, 1977)
“…My own personal contact with our Foreign Affairs Department was when I engaged one of their personnel in discussion (April ’77, in a major Asian capital city). He readily admitted that he was a communist-socialist (he agreed that the difference between socialism and communism were far too subtle to explain to an Australian).

I suggested that he and others of his ‘leave in in the ground’ mining philosophy has brought the industry to its knees and created unemployment for geologists and other mining personnel…”

This submission is dedicated to creating a healthy debate on how best we can ‘get up off our knees’ and defend an enterprise system that has benefited each of us greatly and lifted millions from the world historical default condition of abject poverty, and given each of us opportunities that previous generations could only have dreamt about.

In conclusion, ‘getting up off your knees’ has been an ongoing theme for me for quite some time, and it is my firm view that we need to do so, more now than ever!

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  • Thank you SO much for writing this!!! Thank you so much. I am so grateful that someone calmly, quietly, persistently, with respect and dignity can put forward these arguments. Many years ago Mannkal organised a talk by Vaclav Klaus and what most impressed me (apart from the Czech security guys supplying an ‘extendable’ pop up Czech flag for the table – ‘extendable’ so that it could pop up taller, if required, than a US table flag) was the calibre of the young people you were mentoring. This was the most outstanding, inspiring part of the day. The hope, the potential and optimism, their openness and intelligence was uplifting. Our future does have ‘promise’. Thank you for all that you do and have done.

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