Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fine and Dandy (14/30)

"What did you do this year, Molly Norris?" "I blasphemed against a major religion and was then targeted for assassination!". There's this old saying I've heard of. Something about removing onesself from the interior of a cooking device if the ambient conditions within are unpleasant? Draw Mohammed day struck me as an idea that was passable - if you didn't think about it too hard. Yes, if your pet poops on the carpet you can rub their face in it (can you even do that anymore? That's probably abuse, man!). You can sometimes change undesirable behavior or change someone's opinion if you demonstrate to them why they're annoying/wrong. But you can' can't cure someone of their faith. Because faith isn't really a condition. For one thing, faith isn't inherently wrong. This will come across as "ethical theories 101" here, but there are some good arguments. From Grade 12 philosophy I remember the argument that while a skeptical trainful of passengers might allow themselves to be robbed (since each person within has no definite assurance of aid were he or she to resist), some [unsubstantiated] faith in their carriage-mates might lead to an effective resistance that could defeat a small gang of bandits. And once we can prove that some good may come of such faith, we can understand that philosophies which stress the maximization of "The Good" or "Human Happiness" might be obliged to say that faith is a net positive (and therefore, moral). But back on track here. If you imagine the goal of draw mohammed day as trying to get muslims in general to loosen up about depictions of a man who they are expressly forbidden to depict (and I believe expected to denounce the depiction of by others), I think it's helpful to have historical context. Draw Mohammed day plays off this stupid subtext of "the enlightened (Christian) west is already over this shit, get with the program already!". How well did Christianity do when someone decided to challenge the orthodoxy? That guy nailed 95 bullet points to a church door, which isn't even at all like making graven images of God or disrespectful drawings of Jesus on the cross. Was it with open arms and reconcilliatory dialog? Hmm, no try again. Was it with ~200 years of religious warfare?...oh yeah. That.

I guess it could be worse, I mean, someone could have made up....

Oh wait, they did. I meant to talk about that on 9/11 this year, but I was too busy laughing at the above video (awesome parody, in case it's not readily evident) and also trying to be constructive. I still don't have much to say. That's gone so far past "well-intentioned but ultimately fruitless" that I don't even...I don't even WANT to dignify it with analysis. I just wanted to show you that video.

I guess I'm not a fan of these fatwas, though. Which is what something like "draw mohammed day" could really be about (I think I talked about this already); showing solidarity with the people who have to hide for fear of violent reprisal because they exercised their right to free speech. I mean, what CAN we do? I'd say "maybe we could put some of these radical clerics on our own deathlists, see how they like it?" but I think the US army might have beaten me to the punch. And I don't think the eye for an eye strategy is really all that effective anyhow. But the pronouncement of death threats should really not be within the scope of religious freedom. And it should be within the realm of international law. I don't know how extensively the kind of person who pronounces a fatwa travels, but I think that as a matter of principle they should not be allowed to travel to countries where death threats and hiring assassins are illegal (like, say, Canada) without fear of arrest and prosecution. And yeah, it's a pretty huge shitstorm when you arrest a religious official (I will admit to a glimmer of hope at Richard Dawkins' suggestion that the Pope be arrested in England for being complicit in cases of child molestation. Arresting the Pope would certainly make for an interesting week in international politics!) but death threats and assassination orders are not laughing matters, and should not be allowed to go unpunished. PERIOD.

I suppose there is a little irony to be found in that I am suggesting one limitation on speech as a solution to another? But then I don't think anyone should be under the impression that we were free to yell "FIRE!" in a movie theatre. Criticism - ESPECIALLY that of political and religious dogma - is paramount to the health of society. The ability to censor others by threatening death? Quite the opposite.


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