Nick Cater (“New cultural cringe fears the eyes of the world”, The Australian, 27/8) dismisses international law as the concern of “denaturalised sophisticates” who worry about what the rest of the world might think of them. This is what C.S. Lewis called “Bulverism”: dismissing a point of view by ascribing a psychological motivation to those who hold it, instead of addressing the view itself.
Australia did not sign up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to “appease” internationalists as Cater would have it, but because it enshrined rights which have long been fundamental to our democracy. These include the right not to be arbitrarily or indefinitely detained, and the right to know what we are charged with. Most Australians would regard these as essential to the rule of law, domestically or internationally. Yet in our treatment of refugees we routinely violate them, and we have been duly called to account. Contrary to Cater’s assertion, most Australians would see that as a fair cop.
Cater advocates a rugged-individual response: to ignore the law and the views of our global peers, and continue down the “sovereign” path to pariah statehood. Independent self-belief is one thing, but arrogant self-serving is another. If everyone is telling you you are wrong, at some point you have to ask yourself if maybe you are just plain wrong.