Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Militant secularisation - worse than militant theocracy.

There are some things you hear about that you need to do a double take with sometimes.  Take an article I read today, for example.  Lady Warsi, a British MP, has called for Christianity to be given a more central role in society and government after the latest furore over the removal of prayer sessions before council meetings.  She claims that British secularisation is "that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities."

It's not strange to hear a religious conservative stand against secularisation; at the most harmless level you can take it, they believe supporting religion is standing up for core nationalist values, that religion plays a massive part in creating the identity of a culture and society.   However, the danger with allowing religion into politics and parliament is that it's supporting one particular religion over another; religious favourtisism has never been a fair system in government and usually involves other religions being at a disadvantage at large.  Using a theocratic system I am familiar with, the Brunei government favours its Muslim citizens, allowing better benefits to them over their smaller Buddhist, Christian. Hindu and atheist citizens.  Their reasoning is that Brunei is a Muslim country, built on Muslim values.  It's by no means a fair system.  And that's in a country where a non-Muslim population is at a significantly small ratio that an uprising against that unfairness would probably take many years to overcome.  In England, where religious diversity is far more, well, diverse, favouring one religion over another would light a powder keg of dispute.  In fact, not unlike the powder keg that one Guy Fawkes had attempted. 

And it's not just favouring Christianity as a whole that Lady Warsi is advocating.  She's organising a delegation to the Vatican to argue that "Europe needs to be more confident in its Christianity".  Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a trip to the Vatican itself an advocation for Catholicism being the preferred Christian denomination?  Historically, England turned Protestant under King Henry the Eighth in protest against Roman Catholicism.  Doesn't that imply that Protestant Christianity is far more important to English heritage than that of Catholic Christianity? 

Lady Warsi says she doesn't want a theocracy but that faith should play a bigger role in politics.  In what way?  It's fine if a person wants to practice their faith in private.  The problem secularists have with religion in politics and public office is that it interferes with maintaining government neutrality and fairness.  If faith was allowed to dictate what was moral, that risks pulling the country back several decades, if not centuries.  Religion as a whole has massive disdain for hot political topics such as equal rights for homosexuals and women as well as abortion and marriage, to name but a handful.  By allowing the religious right to advocate their faith in office, the worst case scenario would be to face having to fight for rights we already have. 

In the midst of this whole debate, there is one thing that strikes me as ironic.  Lady Warsi herself is a Muslim.  I wonder how her Muslim constituents must feel about her pushing for putting Christianity over her roots in Islam.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Fear and Understanding.

Phobia:  An extreme or irrational fear of, or aversion to something.

Last night, there was a programme on the BBC called The Magicians.  During the show, a magician swallowed a maggot and described its journey through his sinuses before making it pop out of his eye, with the camera close up so you see the whole eye plus maggot.

Cool trick aside, I didn't think it at the time.  You see, through the whole thing, I was getting more and more disgusted and agitated.  When the trick came to its final climax, I screamed and ran into the kitchen in tears.  Why the reaction?  Since I was a child, I have been terrified of maggots.  I remember the trigger; I was eating an outdoor meal with my family when a maggot came out of my food and crawled up my arm.  I didn't notice it until I felt it on my skin and when I realised, I freaked.  I didn't know what it was at the time - to my child mind, the only thing I associated with wriggling creatures was snakes (we lived in tropical climes).  When I screamed that there was a tiny snake on my arm, my mother took it upon herself to poke and tickle me, declaring she saw more on my body. 

I haven't been able to stand maggots since.  I had learnt about them not long after, but knowing they ate flesh did nothing for my fear.  Now I was even more convinced I didn't want them near me, despite reassurances that they were harmless and only ate rotting flesh.  That's the funny thing about developing a fear, I suppose.  No matter how much you rationalise it, no matter how much you think it's just a silly fear, when you are facing it, all reason flies out of your head. 

I guess I'm at a bit of an advantage with my fear.  Maggots aren't usually common to see around (here anyway - they were everywhere when I was growing up in Brunei), so sometimes I forget how scared I get around them until I see one.  There are times when I can take it better than others.  I enjoy crime dramas like CSI, so seeing a decaying body with a swarm of the creatures gets my hackles up, but not much more.  The difference with The Magicians I think is the fact it was a live studio audience at the time, combined with the extreme stunt.  But it was a stark reminder of how "not okay" I was with them.

In describing this to one of my best friends, she pointed something out to me with some irony.  I should be more understanding towards her and her phobia of spiders as a result.  It was a slap in the face, I have to admit.  I used to tease her about spiders and often cited my sadness and displeasure at her killing them when they were so easy to catch and release outside.  Using my own fear as her example, I realised how cruel I had been to her in suggesting she catches them and release them, because I wouldn't be able to do that with a maggot. 

It's strange how you get hit with a lesson you didn't realise you needed to learn.  I would still encourage her to face her fear, just as I would hope someone would support me if and when I have to see one again.  But maybe now I'd be a little more aware when I laugh when she screams at the sight of a house spider.  I know I don't appreciate being laughed at for screaming at a maggot.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Someone get this man a lesson in culture and sociology.

What do we have here?  A high ranking religious leader promoting bigotry?  When did this happen? 

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Setanmu, is telling people that whilst he's fine with homosexuals having a civil partnership, he thinks that they shouldn't get married and that is was not "the role of the government to alter social structures that had been in place for centuries".
"I don't think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can't just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are"
Hmmm.  What is the definition of marriage, I wonder...
Marriage (or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but is usually an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. (-Wikipedia)
That sounds pretty cut and dry to me as far as definitions go.  So what's the problem with allowing gay couples to be married?  Well, according to Dr Sentamu and many other religious people from other faiths who share his view, marriage is a sacred union as endorsed by their God.  And since according to his mind that God hates men sticking their dicks up other men's arses, or women having scissor sex, these people should not be allowed to have their long relationships made into marriage unions, and thus "endorsed by God".

(On the vein of opposition to gay men and lesbians, why are more people of extreme faith against the former?  Is it because penises are going into poop holes and not vaginas?  Is it because lesbians are stereotypically thought of as page three models and therefore it's hot?  Seriously, I am curious to know why gay men are more hated on than gay women.)

Dr Sentamu goes another step further and compares the government's interference on marriage values a dictatorship.
"We've seen dictators do it in different contexts, and I don't want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way."
Well, let's examine history on social change where the government was involved.  How about one that should be close to the Archbishop's heart - slavery and equal rights for black people.  Once upon a time, black people were thought of as lower than anyone with pale skin.  They were hunted and shipped out of their home countries like cattle, sold like property, abused, unheard, ignored.  It was a massive joke to suggest to a white man to let his slaves go free, or to give them a basic wage, or even just to stop sticking his boot in their faces.  Then what happened?  White people grew a conscience.  White people started recognising that it was wrong to abuse someone because of the colour of their skin.  White people spoke up and fought back for the rights of their fellow humans, for the sake of human decency.  Obviously, they were resisted.  They were scoffed at or accused of being "black lovers" like it was a sin (which it was thought of at the time).  There were fights, battles, wars.  And the thing with fights and wars is that they build up in scale.  The government would HAVE to get involved.  The government would HAVE to listen to their people.

As history has proven in the Western world, slavery was abolished but not without the backing of the governments.  Not without the changing of laws that allowed the atrocity to happen.  Yes, it took a very long time.  Even now, race crimes are not uncommon, but they are just that now - crimes.  You cannot deny a black person's basic rights to welfare, work, relationships, marriage based on the colour of their skin.  And that extends to other races as well.

How is that fight any different to now?  People are fighting in this day and age to help another disadvantaged group; the LGBT community.  They are still people, they are still humans.  You wouldn't know them to be any different to another straight person unless they told you.  And yet people still think it's okay to deny them the same rights a straight person enjoys, that it's okay to sneer at them, to abuse them, to kill them because they love the wrong gender.  The government has to get involved now because the public WANTS them to. 

The problem Dr Sentamu has with the government getting involved is that he knows the public domain is supportive of gay marriage. Hopefully in March, when the government has had their consultation regarding gay marriage, Dr Sentamu and the people who agree with this homophobic bigotry will see that social change can and will happen at a government level, but not because the Prime Minister is a dictator, but because the British public have voted for equal rights instead of religious privilage and bigotry. 

(Sourced from The Guardian)