A Tale of Two Joyces

There is no doubt that in Australia in 2018 being Alan Joyce is a lot better than being Barnaby Joyce.

Alan Joyce (AJ) was the primary public face behind the Yes campaign for the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite throughout 2017.  Indeed QANTAS became a carrier, as it were, for more than just passengers.  It was free ad campaigning, headed up by the openly gay Joyce, who as a native Irishman,  no doubt had his share of troubles over his sexuality back in the day.

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Settle in and enjoy the smooth flight AJ

And Barnaby Joyce (BJ)?  What else could be, can be, or should be said about our poor old Deputy Prime Minister.  That BJ was also publicly opposed to AJ’s stance on same sex marriage probably makes it all the more galling for many people, and all the more open to the charge of hypocrisy.


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A row to myself.  How’d I swing that?

What intrigues me – given the (un)happy coincidence of their surnames – is the manner in which the practices they held on open sexual relationships have undergone such an overhaul in Australia so recently.

Now let’s be clear.  I think AJ is wrong in practice and philosophy when it comes to marriage.  And I think B is wrong in practice and hypocritical in philosophy – at least he was during the campaign.  But there would have been a time when both AJ and BJ would both have been scurrying about making sure their sexual practices were kept well away from the limelight.  BJ, because it would have tarnished his reputation. AJ, because it would have destroyed his career, maybe even his life.   You can see why the same sex marriage lobby could be feeling just the tiniest bit of Schadenfreude at the moment.

I’ve quoted Dale Kuehne’s book Sex and the iWorld many times before, and even employed his three-fold taboos that the Western world holds about marriage.   Here they are again to refresh your memory:

  1. One may not criticise someone else’s life choices and behaviour.
  2. One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others.
  3. One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.

In terms of these three taboos AJ ticks all the boxes.  He is to be celebrated.

In terms of all three BJ has been getting a pasting.  He is to be shunned.

BJ is getting a pasting on taboo 1, because for many he does not pass the test on the other two.  But I would have to say without all that much reason.  There were a plethora of writers, many a theological writer too, who came out attacking Barnaby for breaking taboo 2.  The primary nature of his “sin” (yes I reckon it’s a strong enough concept for people to think in terms of it without using the word), is that he was in a position of power over his staff member.

But that has to be at best a perception in this case surely. If in ten years time they are happily married and have three kids, then that charge will simply be an embarrassment to all and sundry who raised it.  Vikki Campion has not been asked her own opinion about this matter either.  For all those who raise the issue of power imbalance, they’re surprisingly guilt free about how they use the power imbalance of the pen to say things about people who have remained stoically silent.  Perhaps Campion will give her version of events one day.

Of course “harm to others” is a foregone conclusion.  Barnaby’s wife and four daughters have been dreadfully harmed.  Let’s not forget that.  But then again, it hasn’t stopped any ALP member completely trashing Barnaby in public nonetheless.  There is no down time in politics.  No pity.  No quarter given.

And taboo 3?  That’s where it gets tricky.  Because all of the talk has been about what consent means, how we know when it’s truly consensual and what power imbalances do that.  And from what I can read it seems like the culture is pretty much making it up as it goes along.

Which is why the argument has switched so quickly to whether BJ abused his political power more than his sexual power.  You can see the shifty eyes on the Opposition benches, because there are probably a few skeletons rattling in a few closets.  Politics is the new rough god, and to fall afoul of him means damnation.  That’s where BJ’s Achilles heel must be.

The sexual taboos were supposed to be replacements for commands: the Thou Shalt Nots, that the sexual revolution purported to be rid of.  But in their place we have huge areas of grey, no agreement, and more surprisingly, a push for even more rules about sex than there were in the first place.  Go figure!  Turns out we are extremely religious.

Well, not surprisingly actually.  As the BJ event has proven, we haven’t let go of commandments just because we’ve jettisoned God in the West.  We’re just coming up with new commandments, new saints, new sinners, new heavens for the AJs of this world, new hells for the BJs.  We have new priests and prophets.

Most of all we have new scapegoats who must be sent out into the desert with – not our sins upon themselves, for we are the righteous – but their own.  And they must wander in the desert of no forgiveness for the rest of their days.  It’s no wonder BJ is digging his heels in.  Where else has he to go? There’s no place for forgiveness, repentance, absolution, penance or reconciliation in this godless wasteland.

For AJ the future of Western culture looks turbulent free.  For BJ, the engines are on fire and the plane is losing altitude quickly.