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Keep poking the elephants…

Why do we write?

Why do we feel the need to make ourselves heard, we who call ourselves bloggers, journalists, pundits, satirists, topical commentators and cartoonists?

Why do we choose to broadcast our inner thoughts to the world, assuming the mantle of unelected spokesmen for those who remain silent?
Do we have the right to speak for them, just because they won’t speak for themselves, or are we ascribing a set of values to the silent majority that they simply do not share?

After all, we don’t all claim great socio-political insights or expertise in current affairs, (at least I don’t) most of us are just like everyone else who feels outraged by the unjustified and cowardly actions of despots, dictators, terrorists and murderers.The only difference is that when something in the news pisses us off, we use our posts, columns, pictures and words to fight back, registering our displeasure, pointing out injustice, or paying our respects in the best way we can.

Whether that means railing against the perversion of religious ideologies for twisted personal agendas, highlighting the ineptitude, stupidity and corruption of our political overlords, or simply pointing out the idiotic and offensive behaviour of those individuals in our society that we would rather not be associated with, one thing we all have in common is the wish to share our beliefs and ideas with anyone who has the time and inclination to read, watch or listen to them.

But should this need to be heard by the world at large mark us out as legitimate targets for the ones at whom we’re directing our unsolicited opinions, or should we, like medics on a battlefield, be considered neutral and somehow immune to the violent attentions of our persecutors?

I can barely even begin to imagine the abject terror that must have been felt by the Charlie Hebdo staff and their police protectors, whose lives were brutally cut short by men who so clearly fail to represent the values of a religion they claim they are defending.
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The idea that the teachings of any faith would allow for the indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed civilians, just because they were able to see the funny side of outdated theistic dogma, strikes me as the ultimate insult to the belief system they are allegedly defending.
Surely if you were to consult with almost any religious leader, irrespective of their denomination, they would all cite inclusion and love as the primary building blocks of their faith.
Islamic scholar, Dr. Khaled Hanafy, was in fact today quoted as saying;
” I call on Muslims to stage demonstrations that denounce this aggression. I urge Muslim Imams and leaders to take all the necessary actions to denounce the incident, to reassure the Europe community, to actively participate in protecting Europe media institutions against any threat and to denounce extremism and terror.”

We should by now be far beyond the point at which we need to violently disagree with something as nebulous as personal faith, force others to hold similar beliefs to ourselves, or deny them the right to question belief in whatever deity we choose to worship, because that only serves to increase and accentuate the divide between different cultures.
That diversity is something which will only get more widespread as our communities absorb more diverse colours, creeds and religions, making it a richer and ever more fascinating society in which to live.

The need that some of us have to broadcast our views on these topics, in a rational, non-confrontational and humorous way, should in no way be proscribed by the ones responsible for preaching the words of their chosen religion, no matter how much they disapprove of our arguments, for only through open discussion can we hope to achieve any understanding of how others see the world.

So I for one will never give in to the bullying tactics of zealots or fundamentalists, be they religious, social or political.
Not that I’m comparing myself to the courageous and dedicated staff of Charlie Hebdo or other publications that routinely brave the irrational hatred of the evil minority, but I will continue to proudly wave the flag for those of us that who aren’t afraid to occasionally poke the elephant in the room with a long pointy stick.

And I hope you’ll all keep doing the same.

 
 

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A warning from the present…

After my assertion that I would try to provide you with an antidote to all the dreadfullness on the internet in my last post, I have tried my best to avoid the sleazy, the odious and the downright awful that the web seems intent on forcing us to experience whenever we are drawn to that glowing hypnotic square.
But human nature being what it is, we can’t help being drawn to the sort of story that causes that little vein in our collective temple to start throbbing and the communal jaw muscles to clench involuntarily, because awful though some of it is, looking away sometimes just isn’t the right thing to do.
I have always believed that anyone ignorant of the Nazi holocaust should seek out those appalling stories and even more atrocious, harrowing pictures, however upsetting they may be, because they truly are a “warning from history”. In the same way that I don’t think anyone living through our current period of religious and cultural upheaval should shy away from confronting the horrors of what we as a race are capable of perpetrating on each other.

The dreadful things people are capable of never ceases to astound me and for that reason I feel the need to relate some reports that have come to my attention this week.
You may not think that you need more horror in your lives, what with the economic and weather related news stories that fill the TV schedules of late, but if we don’t stand witness to the folly of our times how will we ever learn to restrain ourselves from making the same mistakes again and again.

At the start of the week we were told of a British jihadist who allegedly committed a suicide attack in Syria by driving a truckload of explosives into a prison compound, a story shocking enough in itself, yet we seem so inured to the terror of war that it passes almost unnoticed across our screens, just another episode in the continuing horror story of our rolling news-fixated existence.
But surely nobody can ignore the utter awfulness of the story so eloquently related by Adam Pain on his blog today.
It may not be current (the report is from 2002) but the genuine shock I felt when I read the story this afternoon quite literally left me speechless.
15 innocent schoolgirls, forced back into a burning building by the so-called “religious police” in Saudi Arabia for failing to adhere to an archaic dress code, murdered by the state for failing to cover their hair and faces in their desperation to escape the fire.
I cannot begin to imagine the terror and betrayal they must have felt as they faced the stony faces of their executioners, the justification for their senseless deaths nothing more than something called “religion”.

Religion may bring peace and succor to those who practice it, but there is no excuse for using it as a stick to beat an entire generation or society into submission.

In yet another example of the savagery that lives beneath the surface of faith, another man in the war torn country of Syria made a choice that few of us will ever have to make.
When faced with the terrible choice of whether to surrender his family to the brutal rape and murder threatened by marauding terrorists in his home town of Adra, Nizar chose instead to detonate grenades, killing not only the invaders but also his family.
The thought of being forced to make this kind of horrendous choice fills me with a kind of rage at the human race in general that we should never have to feel.

When I first thought of writing this post, I had planned on using a report of a bungled lesson in suicide bombing carried out at a fundamentalist training camp near Baghdad, in which a teacher somehow managed to accidentally blow up himself and his whole class.
Initially I thought I could use it as a flippant aside to why aliens, after scanning our transmissions, decided we were too stupid to bother visiting because we couldn’t even manage to kill each other properly, let alone be much of a threat to visiting ambassadors from another world.
However, having rediscovered our propensity for horror and violence in the service of hate and intolerance, it seems insensitive.
After all, no matter how misguided the students at the world’s worst school for scoundrels were, they were all someone’s sons, someone’s daughters, someone’s parents, and we should try and remember that it’s the world that made them this way.
It’s everyone’s duty to make sure the next generation don’t have a reason to continue the cycle of violence.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Blogging, News, Social comment

 

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