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How to be civilised: Freedom and liberty can be enjoyed by all

Friday, 24 November 2017

How to be civilised: Freedom and liberty can be enjoyed by all

Of the many wonders of western civilisation, the one that frequently amuses us here at the MRC, is that civilisation’s liberty and prosperity are enjoyed even by its harshest critics.

The sight of protesters against capitalism taking selfies on new iPhones or running from police in their new high-tech Nikes are imbued with the sort of irony that is delightfully apparent to anybody who has had even a cursory exposure to one of the other defining characteristics of civilisation: literature.

But while the benefits of the free and modern world seem obvious and indisputable to us, its history is not.

This week saw the official launch of The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, a legacy of Australian health industry leader Paul Ramsay, who died in 2014. It will create degree courses in two or three Australian universities, starting in 2019, studying the development of the freedom and prosperity we enjoy.

At the launch in Sydney on Monday, former prime minister John Howard said the centre was “not an exercise in triumphalism, but it is an exercise in the unapologetic espousal of what western civilisation has brought to mankind over the centuries.”

His former opposition counterpart, Kim Beazley, said it helped to fill a gap in universities.

“Universities these days talk about teaching and research - those are the expressions they use about the tasks that are before their academics and their students. We’ve lost a middle point that used to be strong in Australian universities and is there no longer. That’s the idea of scholarship.”

And another former prime minister, Tony Abbott, said the centre was unashamedly in favour of our civilisation.

The key to understanding the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation is that it’s not merely about western civilisation but in favour of it. The fact that it is for the ­cultural inheritance of countries such as ours, rather than just ­interested in it, makes it distinctive. The fact that respect for our heritage can no longer be taken for granted in our premier teaching and academic institutions makes the Ramsay centre not just timely but essential.”

In an approach that symbolises western civilisation’s love of debate, the centre will not restrict its services to the lucky undergraduates chosen for its courses. It will also run summer courses and events to “promote the appreciation of western civilisation”. We could think of nothing more useful and enlightening for those people who are oblivious to their own fragile good fortune. - Fred Pawle

Video below - Kim Beazley speaking at the launch of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, Sydney, November 20 2017.

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