Like others perhaps, I used to think that the ‘Resolute desk’ in the Oval Office of the White House was named to inspire the occupant to be ‘resolute’. A pleasing idea. If only… Instead, it is a daily reminder of exactly what’s missing from the current incumbent.

The desk is actually named for its origins. Built at Chatham Dockyards in Kent, UK, from the oak timbers of the British Arctic exploration ship, HMS Resolute, abandoned in 1854, it is an artefact.

Found by an American whaling ship in 1855, the Resolute was repaired and returned to the UK as a gesture of goodwill. The ship was eventually broken up and some of its timbers used to build the 1,300 kilo desk, which was a gift from Queen Victoria to then-President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Another gesture of goodwill.

Sadly, there is nothing resolute (ie determined) about the current occupant of the Oval Office who sits at the Resolute desk. Resolve is the missing characteristic of so many of Joe Biden’s actions, notably in world affairs. Slow-walking aid to Ukraine, restraining Israel in its fight to extinguish the Hamas terrorists, no resolve to contain Iran, failure of resolve to protect America’s borders, lack of resolve to help end the antisemitic riots on US campuses… Ironically, the only resolve Biden has shown is in the pursuit of self-harm policies in the name of the illusory scenario that ‘climate change’ is man-made.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, copies Biden’s failures of resolve. No apparent resolve to defend Australians and the Australian way of life. No resolve to tackle the challenges of Alice Springs and remote Aboriginal communities. Ad hoc and haphazard reactions do not amount to resolute policies.

And this is a West-wide failure of resolve. The Anglosphere, in particular, has allowed itself to be pushed back from the resolute defence of its values, mistaking a lack of discernment for tolerance. Throughout Europe, UK, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, massive migration flows have flooded the host nations, demanding rights without taking responsibility as the guests. The UK has effectively surrendered to ‘foreigners’ – which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they brought their own food, but it is a bad thing as they bring their own hate.

Where is the resolve to maintain social cohesion by host countries insisting on adherence to its rules and values? Arab countries, for one, insist on it, with the social imperative backed by legal sanctions. Not so us Westerners, thinking how liberal we are. Ignoring Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance which states that to maintain a tolerant society, the society must retain the right to be intolerant of intolerance, we’ll tolerate anything and anyone who comes amongst us, without discernment.

An example:

Inflamed by the notorious case of a Muslim woman falsely accusing a Sydney policeman of forcibly removing her face covering (June 7, 2011), the public bushfire over the banning (or not) of the burqa continued to burn. In the July 3, 2011 edition of The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is quoted as saying that police should have the right when circumstances legitimately require it, to demand the removal of any face covering, whether a helmet, a veil, or a balaclava (sporting or otherwise).

His moderate and commonsense approach was generally well received, but sadly, much of the language used in the debate around the world was inflammatory and the arguments muddled, emotionally charged and sometimes plain silly. The fire had been smouldering – especially in Europe – for some time. The French (after banning it in schools in 2005 and after months of legal processing) finally banned wearing full-face veils in public, except in places of worship, just months before the Sydney incident.

This volatility is due to the incendiary nature of the accelerants that are at the centre of the debate: religion, culture, tradition, tolerance, paternalism, misogyny, freedom of expression, security, individuality, feminism, and immigration are the most obvious ones. Ignorance and prejudice should also figure in there somewhere. All these issues are divided by values that are in irreconcilable conflict.

The hideous, hate-filled, pro-Hamas demonstration on October 9, 2023, on the Sydney Opera House steps was a dramatic example of how far we have allowed our resolve to melt. Not only by the lack of any protective action, but by the demonstration of a society infiltrated by a cohort that is at odds with Australia’s values and attitudes. Why are such discordant residents among us? Because Australia has lacked the resolve to filter incoming elements, a failure to discern.

The margin of tolerance for those deviating from the accepted cultural laws (including dress codes) varies, which is why some migrants are better integrated and accepted by their adopting societies than others. Importantly, it is the accumulation of deviations from a society’s cultural laws as much as any individual breach that attracts criticism, which can soon grow to intolerance and eventually hatred.

If we were birds, we would be wary of the ‘Channel-billed Cuckoo, which lays its eggs in the nests of the Australian magpie, Gymnorhina tibicen, the Pied Currawong, Strepera graculina and members of the crow family (Corvidae). Unlike many other cuckoos, the young birds do not evict the host’s young or eggs from the nest, but simply grow faster and demand all the food, thus starving the others. Often the adult female will damage the existing eggs in the nest when she lays her own and she may even lay more than one egg in a single nest’. (birdlife.org.au)

The broader damage of the absence of resolute leadership is to the stability of democracies. That’s not an original thought, of course, and the cracks are visible in the form of agitation by and voter support for the likes of far-left Senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & Co in America and newly elected extremist George Galloway in Britain, which British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak describes as ‘beyond alarming’.

But is it too late?

‘The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison,’ Sunak said. ‘We must face down the extremists who would tear us apart.’

The West is always too late. And too irresolute.

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