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My top 8 talks from the ARC Conference
A collection of my favourite moments from the three-day event
In my third and final (I think) post on the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) Conference in London, I’ve pulled together my favourite talks to share with you.
It was hard to whittle down, given we heard from world leading voices for three days straight on the topics of:
Family, social fabric and population
Affordable energy and environmental care
Free enterprise and good governance
Nevertheless, here are my top picks in no particular order, and why I think they’re important. Enjoy!
A Pro-Human Environmental Policy - Michael Shellenberger
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of energy expert and science communicator Michael Shellenberger, who heads up one of the best Substacks going, Public. I first became aware of Shellenberger on reading his book, Apocalypse Never, which I would describe as ‘environmental rationalism'.
In his talk at the ARC conference, Shellenberger reframed the climate narrative, suggesting that we need to take a pro-human approach. Known for his ‘realist’ perspective on climate and energy, Shellenberger debunked climate hysteria myths with data, characterising the climate change movement as a ”substitute religion” that attracts Cluster B personality disordered types prone to narcissism and histrionics.
Shellenberger suggested that our climate challenges are not insurmountable and proposed practical solutions, just as the Dutch employed practical solutions against sea level rise and now live perfectly fine many metres below sea level in some areas.
Arguing for nuclear energy as a clean and energy dense alternative to fossil fuels, he stated, “nuclear is the safest way to make reliable energy. If you want to reduce your coal consumption, increase your nuclear energy production, it’s that simple.”
Pursue the Supreme Good - Jonathan Pageau
In the only talk that fully addressed the folly and cruelty of the West’s pandemic policies head-on, artist Jonathan Pageau spoke about the importance of perspective in pursuit of the good.
Using the pandemic response, and the West’s particular preoccupation with ‘safety’, as an example of how a myopic approach can cause widespread damage, Pageau said, “We sacrificed and subjugated all other goods… that provide meaning and purpose for nearly two years in some places.” He added, “Safety is a good… it is simply not a supreme good.”
Pageau reminded the conference that pursuit of stuff and comforts and egoic pleasures never truly fulfils human beings. Rather, he exhorted us to instead lift our gaze beyond the ‘stuff’ to the supreme Good – a concept of ‘goodness itself’ that the religious and irreligious alike can relate with. All the other ‘goods’ must serve the supreme Good to be a generative, healing presence in the world.
Children Need a Childhood - Erica Komisar
Psychoanalyst and parent coach Erica Komisar described the child mental health epidemic and examined the underlying causes, identifying academic pressure and parental absence as two major drivers.
Komisar sees the wellbeing of the family unit as inexorably linked to the wellbeing of children. “There is no social fabric without healthy families,” she said, adding that “there is no substitute for parents spending time with their children.”
Komisar, who has written two books on parenting, offered practical solutions to improve conditions for kids and called for government policies that support families. This talk seemed very important because so often in the West we address the symptoms but not root causes. Komisar’s policy suggestions (she offered many) seemed entirely geared to addressing the latter.
The Boy Crisis - Warren Farrell
Warren Farrell told the conference that a cultural trend towards absent fathers (often as the result of divorce or births outside of stable marriages) has led to a boy crisis. “Dad-deprived boys are boys who hurt, and dad-deprived boys hurt us,” said Farrell, explaining that these boys are more likely to get involved in crime, drug dealing, bullying and mass shootings.
In contrast, boys who are dad-enriched are more likely to flourish. Fond of a rhyming couplet, Farrell emphasised, “Children need a dad’s time more than they need a dad’s dime.” He concluded by saying that when the sexes war against each other, everyone loses. Parents need to recognise that both mums and dads are indispensable to children, and should try to work as a team, even if divorce is unavoidable (he offers some practical tips for divorced parents to ensure kids get enough dad time).
Spoken Word - Joshua Luke Smith
Joshua Luke Smith’s spoken word interludes touched me deeply. Each day, he offered a poem speaking to the conference themes. This poem embedded below brought me to tears, and seeing the wet eyes in the room, did so to a good many others.
A poet once said to me, ‘poetry makes 2+2=5’. Another way of saying the same is that poetry, or any great art, bypasses the intellect and touches the heart. One of the things I loved about the ARC conference was that the organisers evidently understood the role and power of art in changing hearts and minds. In his address, Konstantin Kisin made a joke about destroying someone on Twitter “with facts and logic”. Everyone laughed because obviously, facts and logic rarely change a person’s mind. Mostly, you have to reach the heart before the mind can open.
The Necessity of Forgiveness - Amy Orr-Ewing
Author and theologian Amy Orr-Ewing’s talk is not featured on the ARC youtube page, but to my mind this was one of the most important speeches in the lineup. The ADH TV version is linked below.
The saying goes, ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.’ (Variations of this saying have been attributed to all sorts of people including Saint Augustine and Nelson Mandela).
Orr-Ewing argued that forgiveness is fundamental to a joyful and peaceful life. This topic might seem esoteric, but I propose that it is pertinent to many who have been aggrieved during the pandemic era by the actions of government, healthcare practitioners, employers and even family members. Her delivery is a little overwrought but I think the message is important.
What Japanese art can teach us about the Culture War - Makoto Fujimura
Artist Makoto Fujimura spoke about the Japanese art of Kintsugi as metaphor for personal and societal restoration. The Kintsugi master doesn’t just restore what is broken to its original form, but “instead highlights the fractures. They sprinkle gold on top, therefore accentuating the fractures and making something new out of the brokenness,” Fujimura said.
Rather than trying to go back to how things were, we would be better to make something beautiful out of what is, brokenness and all.
Western Civilisation - Panel
Panellists Jordan Peterson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, John Anderson and Os Guinness discussed Western civilisation in a broad ranging discussion touching on themes of power and oppression, government and God, and what makes the West different from other civilisations. Guinness highlighted the importance of the central theme of the conference, ‘better stories.’ “The West is in considerable confusion and uncertainty. People don’t have a sense of meaning as they don’t feel part of a great story or tradition,” he said.
Hirsi Ali described Western civilisation as a “cut flower.” She said, “cut flowers die... but we have the remnants, the symbols of Western heritage, and their seeds. All we have to do, those of us who inherited it, is to go and see them, grow them, nurture them, water them". Hirsi Ali also discussed her personal shift from atheism to Christianity, which she wrote about in more detail in a piece for Unherd.
Overcoming Woke Nihilism
Satirist and podcaster Konstantin Kisin told the conference, it’s time to stop fostering victimhood. “There are some people whose brains have been broken. To them our past is abominable, and our future is one of managed decline. My message is simple. How Dare You!? You will not steal my son’s future with empty words.” Cue laughter and applause.
Fighting Monopoly, Cronyism and Woke Capitalism
Hedge fund boss Sir Paul Marshall called for an end to “crony capitalism,” arguing that “predatory behaviour” in business and finance is rife. He argued that “free market capitalism is the greatest instrument of poverty relief that the world has ever seen”.
Panellists Louise Perry, Jordan Peterson, Mary Harrington and Stephen Blackwood discussed the modern rejection of sex-based norms and questioned whether this “progress” had in fact improved life for men, women, and children.
Doing the Most Good: Climate and Energy
Environmental economist Bjorn Lomborg argues that the huge sums of money we want to spend on the climate could be spent more effectively to improve human wellbeing. Lomborg also participated in a panel discussion on energy trade offs that delved more into renewables, nuclear and energy in the developing world.
In the wake of her success in leading the No campaign to victory in the recent Voice referendum, Australian Senator Jacinta Price rejected the politics of victimhood. She told the conference, “The way forward from here is no more separatism, no more dividing us along the lines of race, no more political correctness, no more identity politics… recognising that we don’t need another to empower us. We can do that ourselves, and we can do it very well.”
There was a panel on the third day which is not yet on the ARC YouTube channel, but which I’m hoping will be added because it was pure fire. A panel convened by Unherd’s Freddie Sayers and featuring bitcoin advocate and finance expert Robert Breedlove, economist Charles Gave and investor Manny Stotz discussed money. They did not hold back.
The speakers were in agreeance that central banks are a problem, with Breedlove telling the conference, “The elephant in the room is that we have central planning in the largest and most important market in the world.”
Breedlove stated that “inflation is how the government funds war efforts that people would be resistant to if you just sent them a bill,” arguing that holding your money in bitcoin “is the most effective way of voting against warfare.”
Stotz warned that central digital banking currencies (CDBC) will constitute “programmable money,” with the potential for expiry dates, set uses, and interlinking with social credit. “What this means is it takes away freedom,” said Stotz.
Gave pulled no punches, stating, “the central bankers are a bunch of criminals.”
It was great.
I hope you enjoy these talks as much as I did. You can browse the ARC conference YouTube channel for more talks here.
Read my previous posts on the ARC conference:
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