I recently saw a TV interview he did as a follow up. For the first four minutes things went much as I expected. Teo himself comes across in the interview as calm and well-spoken.
But then Teo claimed that assimilation went much better in America than Australia. The interviewer then asked "Why doesn't that happen here and what should we do?" What, in other words, is the solution to race issues in Australia?
Teo's reply hit me with some force:
If you go to New York you'll barely see a group of white Caucasians, whereas when you came here, 50 years ago, almost everyone was white and there was a very small minority group. I think things have changed in the last 50 years - the minority groups are almost the majority and I think people have to have a completely different mindset about that. You know the absolute typical Australian is no longer the white fella who's wearing a pair of boardies.
As I listened to this from a well-educated, thoughtful, Asian-Australian, I felt that I was being dehumanised. Teo, despite everything Australia has given him, looks to the future as one without white men like myself. He sees this melting away of whites as a positive development in New York and he wants the same here. And he said it not with venom, or as an emotional outburst, but casually, as if it could simply be assumed that white people did not count and that a world without white people would be better.
Which led me to another thought. It's possible, I think, that one of the reasons for the growth of a men's movement has been a similar sense amongst men of being dehumanised in modern society. Here is one example of such a view:
Men, argue McGill University professor Paul Nathanson and his colleague Katherine Young, suffer from the myth that they are the gender with the power and therefore cannot be damaged by criticism and ridicule. The physical, political and economic power that a small percentage of men do wield renders women, they believe, "either unwilling or unable to see men as fully human beings, people who can indeed be hurt both individually and collectively."
I think that helps to explain some of the sensitivities of the men's movement. For instance, many men's rights activists (MRAs) took the view in the case of the Italian liner that sank that men should not be expected to give up seats in the lifeboats for women. In particular, the argument was that women should not simply feel entitled as women that men should put themselves in harm's way for them.
My own view is that chivalry can be a higher part of a man's nature and so I'm less likely to attack it. But it does make sense, if you are reacting against dehumanisation, that you might kick back hard against the idea of male expendability.
Similarly, all this helps to explain why some MRAs pick on traditionalist critics of feminism. You would think that MRAs would identify feminism as the source of dehumanisation of men and focus their criticisms there. But often it is those traditionalists who are most opposed to feminism who get scrutinised negatively by MRAs.
Often, that's simply because many MRAs are liberals of some stripe who are taking the opportunity to marginalise conservatives in the movement. But I don't think that's always the case. Traditionalists see men as providers and protectors, and that can mean men making sacrifices for women. The danger is if traditionalists take the attitude that men should make those sacrifices regardless of circumstances.
There are some MRAs who are rightly critical of pastors who believe that men should be the fall guys, no matter what women have chosen to do. There are MRAs who are critical of conservative women who take it as a given, as an entitlement, that men will go on making sacrifices simply because they are men.
I'm not at all suggesting that traditionalists should give up on the idea of men as being protectors and providers. I do think that's significant in how men fulfil themselves as men. But we have to be aware that we are operating in a climate in which men are registering a sense of their dehumanisation. Such men will react negatively to anything that smacks of "men matter less" or "women get a free pass" or "women deserve benefits from men just for being women".
We need to be able to say clearly "no deal" when men are being asked to make one-sided arrangements with women, or when women are unwilling to contribute in a just and balanced way to relationships.
At the same time, we have to remind MRAs that it was clearly modernists, and not traditionalists, who brought about the changes to society which have dehumanised men. It was modernists who argued that men held an unearned privilege in society which had to be deconstructed. It was modernists who, seeing men as privileged, believed that all legislative efforts should be to the advantage of women.
MRAs might hear a conservative woman say "I want a man to go out to work for me" and react viscerally, but they should understand that what is added to this in a traditional arrangement is "and I will have his children, respect him as a husband and father, and work in a committed way as a mother and wife for our family".
Feminists might offer something blander "Men and women can do the same thing" and this might not hit the same MRA triggers, but behind this is the assumption that fathers are expendable within the family (no distinctly paternal role); that men won't get kudos as a breadwinner in the family; and that the aim is to deconstruct sex distinctions not to help men but because such distinctions are thought to uphold a male privilege which the state should deconstruct through legislation always favouring women over men.