“The Establishment is appalled”
With those words in his most recent article in The Guardian, Australian public intellectual and journalist, David Marr, revealed just how the marginalised gay community moved so quickly to the cultural centre.
His statement is in reference to the storm surrounding the letter written by 34 principals of Sydney Anglican schools, that called for religious freedom laws in Australia to protect faith-based schools who have discriminatory staff policies when it comes to sexuality.
The backtracking, handwringing and confessions by the principals, after a public shaming, especially in the Sydney media, but also nationally, was reminiscent of The Crucible. Torturous to watch.
But it begged the question. How did an “establishment” institution, such as these schools, find itself so much on the outer?
Because, quite frankly, it is no longer the true Establishment. It may have money. It may have prestige, but the culturally influential Christian framework they think they espouse, the engine that drove the schools, no longer has the cultural power it once had. And if it continues to cross the new Establishment that money and prestige will fall away quickly.
Of course you never find out just how little cultural power you have until you try to leverage it. And the schools pulled the lever. And it broke off in their hands.
Here’s Marr’s quote in context (with links to the mea culpas):
The Establishment is appalled. Old boys, old girls and parents with kids at a slew of the most prestigious – and expensive – schools in Australia are demanding to know what’s going on. In the face of this uproar, the heads of Barker and Abbotsleigh have both apologised for signing the letter.
So there we have it. The most prestigious – and expensive – schools in Australia have said “No!” The true Establishment has spoken. And we know it’s the true Establishment because of the response by the former Establishment, backtracking, repositioning etc.
This new, true Establishment is not necessarily gay in practice. But it is committed to the central tenets of individual rights, especially in the areas of sexuality.
The irony of course, as has been pointed out by the likes of R R Reno and Charles Murray, is that those who belong to the new Establishment live like WASPs themselves (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), while all the time championing bohemian lifestyles and sexuality practices for others.
So the new Establishment marries members of the opposite sex; settles down; invests wisely,; has two or three kids who are set up for life with good schools, universities and career paths.
Yet at the same time the new Establishment champions – for others – the radical Sexular Culture lifestyle and practices that were once the domain of the marginal communities such as the gay community.
And as Murray explains, that lifestyle, without the money or man-management to buffer it, is killing communities across the West. But with money, good management and a deep social network, it’s a well-resourced vanity project to champion, and perhaps dabble in between university and that first serious job.
So the Establishment is appalled.
And the Establishment is confident to be appalled publicly, because it has been central in moving the gay community from the margin of the culture to the centre of the culture with breathtaking speed. There’s no backlash left to fear. At least none from anyone who has cultural traction.
The way to move through the culture is NOT to grind your way through the interminable layers between margin and centre, but to play leap-frog with the help of cultural champions within the new Establishment. This new Establishment that is now so appalled at the old Establishment.
Prestige and money has done this. But prestige and money has been smart enough not to narrate the gay rights story as an Establishment story fuelled by prestige and money, but as a poverty-struck marginal story.
Result? A blitzkrieg of stunning proportions that has left its opponents scrambling for cover and tactics.
A precipitous event, not a slippery slope, that has resulted in mainstream, conservative culture, especially orthodox Christianity, heading towards the margins – the cultural margins initially, but eventually the social, political and financial margins – at a rate of knots.
And if you don’t have a champion for your cause in the new Establishment? Then get used to the margins.
David Marr himself is gay – openly so. He is an Establishment figure himself. He is an old boy from one of the schools in question, Shore, in the leafy suburbs of Sydney.
And the same would be true of many in the mainstream media among whom he works. The cultural centre has simply pulled the trigger on old Establishment thinking and shot it out of the sky. And the death spiral towards the ground is painful to watch, even it’s a necessary pain to endure if it gets the church out of establishment thinking.