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Tasmanian conference on ‘wokery’ thrives after failed cancellation attempt

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Participants at the conference. Photos: Adam Reibel

Archbishop Julian Porteous and other speakers appear at rescheduled Christopher Dawson Centre colloquium

“Wokery” was the focus of the eighth annual colloquium of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies held in Hobart recently, which attracted its largest ever number of attendees, despite being “cancelled” from its original venue.

In March, Jane Franklin Hall at the University of Tasmania cancelled the event booking from its venue stating the conference topic, “Wokery: A Wake-Up Call for the West,” did not “align” with their “values.”

The colloquium eventually found a new home at Hobart’s Italian Club, attracting 70 registrations, significantly higher than last year’s event. It featured an array of speakers from diverse backgrounds, including teachers, academics, and other professionals.

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One of the speakers, Professor Ramesh Thakur, an atheist and self-described “proud Australian man of Indian heritage” said the fact the colloquium had been initially cancelled was evidence of the “power of the woke mob.”

“If you do not have the right to offend, you do not have free speech. Free societies cannot exist without free speech,” said the emeritus professor of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University.

Sarah Flynn-O’Dea.

“If you are determined to find offence, you will find it in every conversation, in every event.”

Professor Thakur said while being “woke” had originally denoted “a state of enlightenment on systemic privilege and oppression” it had been corrupted into being “a full spectrum assault on the values of empirical science, rationalism and objective truth.”

“Martin Luther King’s dream was that people would be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. Woke turns that on its head. Everything and every person must be judged on pigmentation and gender attributes.”

The main weapon of “wokery” was the control of language, he said, as evidenced in the push for “transgender rights.”

“Women’s rights would not be under threat if ‘trans women’ were honestly described as biological males and correctly pronounced.

“Trans women do not have the right to colonise all women’s sports and spaces. The war against women’s identity, rights, privacy and dignity is lost once you accept the science fiction of addressing as ‘she’ or ‘her’ a six-foot bearded man.”

Professor Thakur said coercing people by law “to genuflect to biologically false facts” was “reminiscent of communist totalitarian systems.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous spoke on “The Way of Beauty” arguing that beauty was the one remaining hope for a society no longer based upon belief in God and objective moral truth.

“Moral thinking has been turned inward,” Archbishop Porteous said. “It has not only become untethered from an orientation towards the transcendent, but has also discarded the need for a sound rational base. It is now grounded in the personal feelings an individual has about ethical issues. The moral order has become highly subjectivised.”

While the attraction to goodness and truth had been suppressed in post-Christian societies, beauty remained a powerful force for drawing people towards the transcendent, he said.

“When we encounter beauty, we are drawn towards that which is beautiful and taken further towards the source of this beauty. We are taken beyond ourselves. “The modern person struggles to find a way to the transcendent via the path of truth and even goodness. But there is hope and possibility in the way of beauty.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous.

Sarah Flynn-O’Dea, a teacher from Queensland and founder of Logos Australis, spoke on the need for classical education in the liberal arts tradition, as a means of creating a “true human culture.”

A classical education, she said, was underpinned by the three transcendentals—truth, beauty and goodness—and the cultivation of virtue.

“The proposition of classical education is actually radical cultural reform,” Ms O’Dea said.

“This is a good thing, it is needed. We do not want our children to grow up nihilistic, superficial or self-obsessed.

“We need them to be whole, well rounded, equipped with skills and knowledge. But more importantly, to be well ordered. To love that which is good and to hate that which is evil. To flourish, and to resist incoherence and disconnection.”

Director of the Dawson Centre, Dr David Daintree AM, said the initial cancellation of the colloquium from Jane Franklin Hall had done more good than harm to the event.
“Being ‘cancelled’ didn’t seem to do us any harm, in fact we almost doubled our usual numbers!” Dr Daintree said.

“I was impressed (but not surprised) by the quality of the papers from a wide range of committed teachers and other professionals who deal daily with the consequences of “wokery” and understand its sometimes dire effects on young people.

“Subsequently we’ve had nothing but positive comments. Many have told us that they’ll be back next year. The Dawson Centre meets a need.”

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