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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Confusing the Issues

People often confuse issues, I find. Which doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, unless the issues they confuse are serious ones.

For instance, we often talk about democracy as some great reign of human rights and the rule of law, and I confess I do that, too. But at its core, democracy is about choice. If a country is democratic, today that means the public have freedom of choice - within mutually agreed legal constraints.

The more choice we give, the more freedom to choose. The more we restrict those choices, the less freedom people have to make up their own minds about their own lives. Using Facebook is a choice. Not using it is a choice, too. The decision needs to be ours to make as informed adults in a democratic society.

And as a society, we decide on what to give people freedom over by what we have come to term as human rights. Those rights which afford us dignity in life and transcribe the freedoms we should all enjoy.

Sadly, again, on this issue we often get confused, because although a democracy may enshrine these rights, it doesn't automatically mean these rights are shared equally by everyone in that society. Along with choice, democracy also means a mob majority.

We (i.e., the majority) also get confused by what equal rights mean. Take for example equal rights between men and women. Equal rights doesn't mean physical or mental sameness. It is not trying to straitjacket our natures into some superficial ideal.

The principle of equal rights means that human rights and freedoms are not subject to human strength, gender, or colour - none of these give precedence over who enjoys the freedom to these rights. They are our birthright simply by the fact of being alive.

It doesn't mean this ignores men are generally physically stronger than women; it just means strength and dominance is not a factor in enjoying our inalienable rights. The point is that just because men might be built stronger, it doesn't mean we abuse that by treating people physically weaker as different. Similarly women shouldn't use their weakness as an excuse, they should show their own style of strength.

This doesn't take away the freedom of choice if women want their man to be macho, and for them to be submissive. But just because men are built stronger than women on average, why should men enjoy more freedoms than women under the law? Whether women choose to use the rights afforded to them or not is a personal decision, those rights are enshrined in law to protect those that do, and as a standard for society.

The standard is that a man and woman are equal in terms of being human. The challenges the differences in their masculinity and femininity throw up makes for beautiful opportunities to come together, compromise, and compliment each other, each recognising and respecting the freedom of the other to choose.

I shouldn't have to explain to a man how greater the love is when a woman is by your side by her own free will - rather than through patriarchal dominance - as your human equal to work by your side.

One may decide to be the provider, the other the homemaker, or they may decide to both share the tasks through the different benefits their opposite genders bring, but this doesn't mean one is weaker than the other, or that one must forcibly subjugate to the other in their decision making. It's a team effort.

The Principle Difference of Opinion

Yet, it's a continued indignity that the minority still have to ask the majority for their rights: In many democracies women had to fight for their voting rights. And not supporting rights for others enshrined in law is the same as denying those rights we enjoy to others.

If men and women enjoy the right to marriage after the legal age of consent, then everyone of legal age should enjoy the right to marriage. In a democratic society, we should have that choice.

Moreover, people of a certain sexual preference should no longer feel they have to "come out" if they don't want to, either. It used to be necessary to raise awareness, but now hopefully the point has been made mainstream, people can be allowed their privacy; heterosexuals don't come out, so why should homosexuals need to?

When my children come of the responsible age to date, if they bring home the same gender, it won't need announcement, just acceptance. Their partner will be afforded the same respect and privacy any human being should be given.

People may think I do this because of my opinions, but I do it out of principle. Many confuse opinion and principle, and don't understand the difference between the two. I may, or may not, be of the same opinion as gays, or agree with their lifestyle, or even agree with the idea of marriage in general, but I will defend their right to enjoy the same freedom to choose as everyone else.

I can't defend my rights if I don't defend theirs. And they shouldn't have to petition for the right to choose when it exists for others. I don't do this because of my opinions (I try not to form opinions about any group of individuals, though I do), but out of principle.

You see, I can change my opinions easily as I do my appearance, but my principles are part of me, like the ribcage and its bone. Ten years ago I was a harsh critic of George W. Bush, and I still am. I marked him as savage and savant. But we differed on opinion, not in principle.

Bush was ignorant on subtlety, dumb on foreign affairs, and blithely racist during his two terms in office at the White House. But because he held certain principles that were sound, he could be reasoned with - if he had the mental capacity to understand you. As a man who sleeps with his Bible, I'm sure he does not sleep well with it every night.

Because Bush is not an evil dictator, or a genocidal maniac bent on mass murder, just a misguided, opiniated idiot who did a lot of damage because he wielded a lot of power. Yet, his principles on human rights were basically sound (believe it or not) he just needed to extend its application rather than curb it for national security. For me, the principle goes further: All born life, not just (American) human life, must be treated with dignity. And if my religious beliefs contradict me in that principle, then I change my beliefs, as well.

I don't think religious or spiritual belief does, however. Those differences are just interpretations and opinions on the way we should live life; all religions and faiths will share these tenements as the backbone of their teachings - otherwise they just become (or run the risk of becoming) a collection of outmoded rituals.

But, that again, is just my opinion, too.

Karmic Collateral Damage

I wrote in one post how our cultures have become so ritualistic that we seem to be acting like religious zealots over our skin colour and heritage, as much as we have over our beliefs.

And if you track the political developments of the British and Turkish administrations, the recent preoccupation with race is very clear to see.

Britain has started directly targeting and killing its own citizens against the war on homegrown terrorism, while Turkey has awoken its own Kurdish Titan from a seabed of slaughter. Both are political acts of self-defence, but the point is, what are we defending when it rubs against racial sensitivities?

Taken within the context that we are currently fighting a death cult that uses gang rape as a weapon, kidnaps women as sex slaves and considers children fair game, then you can't fault administrations that want to stem the tide of so-called (PEN)IS fanatics. Some believe Turkey entered the fight a little too late.

My brother lives in Antalya with his Turkish wife and two young daughters, and we speak on the phone a couple of times a week. He has relayed to me the tensions and riots and attacks that have raised their ugly heads in the region once again. My sister-in-law is a primary school teacher, and she worries not only for her daughters, but for the children she teaches.

Both, however, believe IS need to be stopped, and that we all need to do our bit. If Turkey became like IS, I don't want to imagine what would become of my two neices. They are free to wear skimpy outfits, have boyfriends, and one has started university this year, majoring in German literature. What would their lives be like under a regime like IS?

The problem arises when disgruntled groups turn their government's military action into racially motivated assaults because they are suspicious of the administration using the very real threat of IS as an excuse: Is the British Conservative government trying to start a war with Islam on its own soil? Are Turkish conservative politicians attacking all Kurds and not just the militant ones?

The answer to both those questions is no, but race-hate groups are taking advantage of misconceptions to cause unrest. The ideal notion of Islam is that there is no race, only the brotherhood of belief, so you would think racism rarely exists between Muslims - but that again is a misconception. The Saudis, who we have to thank for this brutal form of Islam currently infecting our streets, are some of the most racist people I've met.

But that's just my opinion: The Saudis come a close third next to the Chinese and Russians when it comes to racism. And it is the barbaric Saudi rituals interwoven into the plasticity of the Islamic text that has created a group of people who hurl homosexuals to their deaths from towers. Who burn fellow human beings alive, filming it for their perverted pleasure and to post online. Who have slaughtered tens of thousands of innocents - including last month the chief archaeologist at Palmyra in Syria, his 82 blameless years ended by torture and decapitation.

But am I saying we should somehow attack Saudi Arabia as a solution? No, again. Conversely, the only way to beat IS is to become more "Islamic": By spreading a message of human unity and cultural crossover is the only way we'll be able to neutralise the threat of our inhumanity to one another.

Because this is a human issue: The formation of IS is the karma from all rituals that holds race as an unbridgeable divide. The millions of Syrian refugees that have fled the IS reign in terror have been met with just as much brutality by the racist way Europeans have dealt with them. They haven't been decapitated or raped, that much is true - we just treat them like cattle in camps.

Luckily, we haven't started using Zyklon-b on them yet.

The Fat Reduction of Common Sense

I have been looking back at some of my articles and I see how many of the issues I talked about then are relevant today.

For instance, I am sure readers ten years ago were funning me over my insistence to respect copyright over the internet, and yet, here we are, at a time when the protection of intellectual property online is no laughing matter.

I was also insistent that this blog would not only be non-profit, it would make no money whatsoever because it uses a pop singer's name.

Sadly, the rise of social media has meant that a lot of companies are making huge amounts of money off all our names. Why do you think Facebook is free? It generates huge amounts of revenue from advertisers and from the personal data you are giving away freely simply to become a member of a social circle that is just an illusion.

We open up Facebook profiles and run ragged trying to compile likes. Why? What does it prove? Or we go on YouTube and post videos we haven't asked permission to record - believing them to be our property simply because we recorded them - and then boast about the views these videos get on our Facebook pages. We even "thank" these illusory shadows for the hits amassed as though it means something. Again, what does a few million accumulative views on YouTube actually signify?

Popularity? That somehow they are better or more successful than some other site? Isn't that a bit like a woman with large breasts having a breast reduction operation? What's changed? The woman will still be the same woman on the inside, the outward appearance doesn't change the quality within.

Similarly, no amount of likes or views will change the quality of the action that draws them. If that were so, there are many quality music acts on Facebook that are struggling to reach two million likes, while other pop acts who I wouldn't listen to even under threat of death have ammassed hundreds of millions. Does that mean one is better than the other?

I believe - possibly earlier than in another ten years - we will come to realise the futility of such sites to garner popularity. Popularity makes us feel good, for sure. But if we allow it to dictate our taste, or what we want to do, then we are simply a circus of the mob.

I wonder if the same people that would have laughed at me over my views on copyright, will laugh at this now? And what their views will be when the majority realises that what defines quality are the likes within, and not the likes without.

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