Bravery of stupidity?
Just a short one this time. There’s been a story in the media recently about a ‘hero’ who attacked an armed robber in his shop and scared him off. This, apparently, showed great bravery. I don’t think so. I think it makes him an idiot. Cash in tills is insured. It means nothing to you. Your life, however, should, and if it doesn’t mean anything to you, I’m willing to bet it does to those close to you. I would be incredibly angry if somebody close to me did something so completely stupid. No doubt he’s currently enjoying milking his attention and approbation for being a complete moron.
Please do not feed the Mail.
The Daily Mail thrives on stirring up a mass of indignation and ridicule from a tiny pool of actual facts, sort of like the journalistic equivalent of homoeopathy, diluting the truth with so much rhetoric that it ceases to exist at all, while people still listen to it as if it’s working. Everybody knows bullshit has memory! It’s good at this at the best of times, but every so often, somebody in The Establishment has a brain fart and actually does something incredibly stupid that it completely validates the vat of bollocks that had been building in anticipation.
It happens all the time. Political correctness is essentially a good thing. It is institutionalised politeness, and a noble aim. It wouldn’t even be a problem if it restricted its mandate to preventing people using the word ‘fag’ about gay people or ticking off somebody saying ‘paki’ in an office, but thanks to the aforementioned neural flatulence, its name is instead sullied by thick people.
The thick people in this case are the government, a body of people typical known for their clarity of thought and perceptiveness (snork). Government lawyers are planning to argue in the European Court of Human Rights that Christians are not allowed to wear crosses at work as they are not an “essential component of Christianity”. I’ll pause and let you ponder that for a second. It turns out that rather than being the universally accepted symbol for the religion, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that beardy chap who lent his name to the whole thing, the cross is in fact an added extra to the faith, like not working on a Sunday, praying every night, or homophobia.
Now let’s move past that giant blob of stupid for a moment, lest it restrict our mental eye-line on the second, equally huge blob of stupid lurking behind it. The real question is, why the hell shouldn’t a Christian wear a cross at work, even if it is merely a peripheral of the religion? Presuming it isn’t hewn from an ancient oak tree and brought in on the backs of slaves, it is essentially harmless and often barely noticeable. The idea being perpetuated by the Daily Fail is that it’s a sacrifice ‘on the altar of PC madness!?!?!?!?’ (one of their favourite phrases; I think Hitchens probably has a stamp with it on), and you know what? I can’t think what the hell else it would be. Because here’s the problem…sometimes political correctness IS stupid.
This is what I mean by not feeding the trolls that lurk under the bridge of Right Minds. This story fuels both the “political correctness is stupid!” and the “Christianity is under attack!” bandwagons. The thing is, “it’s not” and “it’s not”, and rampant silliness such as this will do nothing to dispel the myth.
Homophobia and football
I lasted a few days without saying anything controversial, but fuck it, it’s who I am baby.
There are no openly gay men in the football league. This is a Bad Thing. There has been plenty of (completely legitimate) soul searching about the apparently homophobic atmosphere on the terraces and in the dressing room, but that’s not what I want to talk about. There’s a second, less commented upon reason that young gay men don’t find themselves playing professional football - or don’t admit it when they do.
If you’re a young man who is unsure about his sexuality, or sure of it but unsure of the way people would react or how you would show it, you will look for role models. Who are the most famous gay role models in our society? You have Alan Carr. You have Graham Norton. You have Gok Wan. If you asked any of them about their favourite football team, they’d giggle girlishly and tell you that they never bothered with that at school, darling.
That’s not me perpetuating stereotypes of homosexuals. That’s THEM. They exist in the role of the effeminate, slightly lewd, cackling gay men. If they are who a young man will look up to for inspiration when confronting and accepting his sexuality, what conclusions will he reach? He certainly wouldn’t feel he should be playing football. Alan Carr has been known to joke that he didn’t like football, but enjoyed the changing rooms. Our young man, then, must not only dislike football, he must be a pervert, a stereotype that homophobes take great glee in attacking. He must like fashion. He must speak in an exaggerated voice.
Now I know why they live these roles. That’s their job. Every celebrity fills some sort of colourless niche. Just as Alan Carr is a flaming gay man, Simon Cowell is the ice-cold bastard. Perhaps neither are really true. But if there is no legitimate and REAL gay role models in wider society - and I mean REALLY wide society, the sort that kids will be exposed to, I accept there are wonderful and inspiring gay men everywhere if you look hard enough, but kids tend not to - then there should be no surprise when young gay men don’t feel confident or acceptable in playing football. And that’s not just football’s fault.
Being taken out of context makes me angry.
I’m currently weathering a storm of tweets from strangers who are under the sorely mistaken impression that I think rape is comparable to abortion. Disgraceful. It was a line taken out of context, and a line which I will now justify.
I questioned why a lack of direct experience should prevent debate, with relation to abortion, and was told it was about infringing upon a woman’s bodily autonomy.
I replied that we have a justice system which is in the habit of infringing upon the autonomy of strangers all the time. Why, I asked, is abortion different?
I was told that laws are not made specifically to target the way that different genders use their body. I disagreed, and was prompted to give an example.
An example of the way that the law targets a specific gender, and its ability to use its body with impunity, is rape. If you agree that rape should be criminalised, which it goes without saying you all do, then you also agree that there are occasions that we may infringe upon the autonomy of one gender specifically, even if we are not part of it.
Read that back to yourself. That is REASONABLE. That is not condoning rape. That is not saying there is any practical, ethical, emotional connection between rape and abortion. It is saying that there ARE occasions that allow us to make judgements upon the autonomy of another, even if that specific exercise of autonomy is gender specific.
All very upsetting. Thanks for reading.
edit: I was wrong about rape being male only. My research misled me. The principle, however, stands: “there ARE occasions that allow us to make judgements upon the autonomy of another, even if that specific exercise of autonomy is gender specific” which is the important bit. Other examples would include past laws on gay and bisexual men donating blood (thankfully now repealed).
edit2: there seems to be some confusion about the example on other grounds. People are complaining that rape is similar to other violent crime in that it is using one’s autonomy to attack another, whereas abortion is solely a personal thing.
Now, the original argument is about the right that anti-abortion people have to condemn it. I was using the rape example NOT because of the manner or practicality of it (eg whether it was or wasn’t against another individual) but because it was, I believed, in the eyes of the law, something ONLY DONE BY MEN. That was the point of comparison. That it was gender specific. If I was right, and it was gender specific, then under the grounds of the opposing argument it could not be condemned. Hope that’s clearer.
Abortion and Women’s rights: a response.
My earlier entry about the above issue prompted a response from one of the writers at Shrillblog, which I’ll link at the bottom, as well as the original, since I’m not sure how to embed links. Here is my response to the response.
I hope this isn’t too long for people. I do sum it up succinctly in the last couple of paragraphs if you get bogged down. I just felt the need to confront a couple of things before I explained the conclusion.
It begins with the well-worn and depressing suggestion that “there is a significant problem with men offering opinions on the specific issue of another person’s bodily autonomy”. The idea that there should be a problem with somebody offering an opinion upon the way somebody else uses their body is ridiculous. Is our societal condemnation of murder not offering an opinion upon another person’s bodily autonomy? By all accounts, it seems we should allow them to murder as they please, for fear of crossing the boundary into expressing a view as to the limits upon their actions.
We do not, alas, live in a libertarian utopia. We must draw judgements upon the way that others exercise their liberty. We have laws. We have police. A lack of uterine empathy does not disqualify me from an opinion, nor does it in any way reduce the validity of it.
I hope I can be forgiven for what will be a blunt and shocking example. The vast proportion of rapists are men. Most if not all women will never empathise with a rapist. It is not possible. Partly for practical reasons that I hope can be avoided, but partly because it is an action driven by a wholly male, testosterone fuelled, violent power complex. It is an act that is created and enacted as a brutal and disgusting expression of male sexuality. Every woman would, however, feel completely within their rights to totally and passionately disagree with the way in which a rapist uses his personal autonomy to damage the autonomy of others.
Now let me be very clear. I am not saying that aborting an embryo is ethically comparable to a rape. I am saying that it is comparable in the way in which we may have opinions upon something that our gender could not possibly allow us to empathise with or understand. For the sake of clarity: abortion is similar to rape only in the sense that it is something done by one gender that the other cannot understand, and yet may (and should) still have opinions upon.
I must stress this. I am not comparing rape to abortion on an ethical level, and I would utterly reject any insinuations as such. I do not want to be criticised on the grounds that I have made a comparison that is somehow abhorrent and unfair. Please bear completely in mind the context and content of the comparison. I hope that it is understood that the example illustrates only that the train of logic that follows from “men may not comment upon female autonomy” eventually arrives at the station of women being unable to disapprove of rape, which is a horrific destination.
Finally, the body and crux of the debate. The response suggests a number of ways in which abortion *does* infringe upon the right of the individual, and indeed causes many individuals no small amount of harm. The anti-abortion campaigner knows this. Of course they do. If they don’t, then the fault is their own ignorance, not the view they subscribe to. The key point, however, of the whole thing, is not that anti-abortion people don’t infringe upon the rights of the individual, necessarily, it is that the rights of the individual are superseded by the perceived greater right of the unborn person. Nobody denies that preventing abortion is an infringement upon the rights of the woman, the claim is only that it is a lesser infringement than that of the woman on the embryo.
“But”, I hear you cry, “it isn’t a lesser infringement! The woman’s rights are far greater than the embryo! After all, it’s only potential life!”. Now, an important point, and one that needs to be shouted loudly and clearly. When we talk about potential life, and the ending thereof, it is not a simple matter. An acorn has the potential to be an oak tree. It also has the potential to be a park bench. The former is a potential that, in the natural, uninterrupted order of things, will be fulfilled. The latter requires some kind of causal intervention. This is the crucial difference between the loss of an egg or sperm, and between the loss of a fertilised embryo.
A fertilised embryo has active potential. It will, barring abortion, accident or illness, reach it’s human destination, as surely as that acorn will become an oak tree. A gamete has passive potential. It is not on the path to humanity. It is waiting; inactive. It is for this reason that the response’s comment “Yes, it’s a potential person, but I’ve got a whole army of potential people in my egg-laden loins, and no-one sheds a tear when I get my period” is false. There is a vital, incontestable difference between the potential life of a fertilised embryo, and the potential life of a gamete, and one that it would do the abortion debate good to realise. The glib dismissal of the value of potential life is too often wrongly accepted.
And so while the response is incorrect in denying the significance of potential life, it is also incorrect in suggesting that it is physical constraints that give something the right to life. As has been notoriously suggested, both by Peter Singer and more recently, a newborn can no more survive on its own then a 13 week foetus. It does not have a sense of identity. It does not have abstract thought. If we are drawing lines based on physical and developmental grounds as to whether something should be awarded a right to life, then organ development and physical size is an incredibly arbitrary place to start. Does a growing body only deserve to live once it has formed fingernails? Once it has opened its eyes? Once it first recognises itself in the mirror?
My dismissal of the response’s rejection of an embryo’s right to life is not a fully-formed counterargument as such. It is merely casting doubt upon the certainty with which people approach an incredibly complicated and possibly unsolvable issue. The criticism of anti-abortion is based on a flawed notion that a woman’s rights definitely supersede an embryo’s. There is no definite here. There is no definite on the other side either, of course. An anti-abortion person can say with no greater certainty that an embryo’s rights are more important. My point, then, in the light of this, was not that an embryo has greater rights, but that those who think it does are not intending to deprive a woman of hers. We cannot know for certain if the balance is more weighted on the rights of one side or the other, and so all we are left with is motivation and intention.
It is the criticism of this motivation and intention that I confronted. I argued that based on their beliefs, anti-abortion people are not depriving women of their rights. In making it into an actual debate about the balance of rights, the response wholly missed my point. It was a rebuttal of the rhetoric often employed by pro-abortion people. I wasn’t interested in arguing the answer, only in defending the intention of anti-abortioners, something which I believe I successfully did. Everything after that is misunderstanding.
Comparing abortion to the holocaust.
Oh look, it’s another in my series of ‘needlessly inflammatory posts’! The beef this time happened on Twitter. Somebody posted an angry comment about a woman who had compared abortion to the holocaust. Here’s why I think it’s a fair comparison…with a certain proviso.
There are many shades of grey, so I won’t be too flippant, but the gist of my argument is that IF you believe that abortion is the taking of a life that is on a similar level or identical to that of an adult person, then it’s a fair comparison. Obviously that’s a gigantic ‘if’. When we are considering the justification of a person making such a claim as the holocaust one, and are making judgements upon their character, as the person on Twitter did, you have to consider the side that the claimant is coming from. This isn’t about whether you think abortion is murder. It is about deciding: if somebody DOES think that, are they reasonable in equating it with genocide?
The answer is manifestly yes. If you believe abortion is murder, then the scale of death is astronomic. It is killing on a scale never repeated throughout human history, and it is ongoing and accepted as okay. The motivation is, of course different. It is not a killing based on the view that a group is ethnically inferior. It is a killing based on the view that a group *isn’t a person at all*. It should be immediately evident that to someone who believes abortion is murder, it should be considered one of the greatest and most horrific crimes in human history.
Now. Obviously this is all dependent on that big, hanging ‘if’, but that doesn’t matter. The original problem on Twitter was someone making a personal attack upon someone for daring to make the comparison. You can attack their logical basis for believing abortion is murder, and people will, all day long, but their emotional reaction to it, based on their belief, is untouchable.
n.b. I am neutral as always. The description was deliberately emotive to try and convey the genuine passion that an anti-abortioner may feel about the practice.
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands
Birmingham gave me a crunching headache, but I forgive it, because it’s really quite nice. Here are some thoughts.
‘Opposing abortion means denying a woman’s right over her own body’. Nope.
This is ill-advised, at best, but of all the arguments that appear in what is going to be an essentially never-ending debate, this is one that particularly bugs me. It is false to say that pro-lifers (or people who disagree with abortion, pro-life is as loaded a term as pro-choice) wish to take away the individual rights of women. Here’s why.
To make a broadly correct generalisation, those who disagree with abortion do so on the basis that whatever is growing inside the woman is a being with rights, and these rights make it unethical to end its existence. Can we accept that as okay? Now, following on from this, the suggestion that to oppose this existence being terminmted is an infringement upon the rights of the individual is wrong because it’s not just the individual we are talking about anymore. If, and obviously this is the vital if, you believe in the essential right to life and personhood of an embryo, a foetus, then the woman’s right to her own body become *challenged* by the rights of this new being. It is not a matter of “women do not have a right to their own body”. It is a matter of “women do not have a right oversomebody else’s body”.
All of this is conditional upon the premise that there is another person involved, and that’s fine. That’s something that people may legitimately disagree upon. But it’s incorrect to label anti-abortion people with such an authoritarian, anti-freedom ethos. To generalise once more, these people may hold beliefs on personal liberty as strongly as anybody else. The difference is they believe there is more than one person involved, and it is onthat basis, not any percieved hatred of women’s rights, that they make the claims they do.
With all that in mind, would people stop referring to anti-abortion as “those who don’t think women have a right over their own bodies”? Cos it’s bullshit. I saw it in the Guardian today. Anti-abortion don’t believe women, or anybody for that matter, has a right over somebody else’s body. Which, whether you agree this other person has personal rights or not, is not that fucking irrational or hard to understand.
MKET stupid article rebuttal.
Elf n Safety
People that read the Daily Mail are stupid. That’s a given, but there’s more to it than that. Among the DM based causes, one of them is the term coined by Richard Littlejohn, “Health and Safety Gone Mad”. Now the problem here isn’t the apparently fascist, monstrous, and ridiculous businesses/councils. It’s the great unwashed and generally greedy public that are forcing such organisations into restrictive regulations with the litigious culture they have created. There would be no need for such ludicrously specific rules if there weren’t morons out there that felt the need to attempt to claim a lifetime’s wages for stubbing their sense of injustice on a protruding nail.