Archive for category conservativism
Being a liberal is often associated, rightly or wrongly, with smugness or an air of superiority. For example, oftentimes this ‘superiority’ is the product of a comprehensive education in the humanities and sciences (dare I say a ‘liberal arts’ education)? When someone makes a reductive claim – attributing outcome A solely to input B – liberals often point out that there are causes C-Z to consider as well. What the reductive claim-maker hears is “you’re stupid and I’m better than you because you didn’t know that”. It is no accident that the forces of anti-intellectualism line up almost exclusively on the right.
But beyond the explanations for why there are reasons why liberals might be seen as arrogant when in fact we aren’t, there certainly does exist some legitimate arrogance that comes from the same source as conservative arrogance, or the sense of superiority manifesting itself in any group. When one associates with only those (or primarily those) that share your group monicker, one begins to believe one’s own propaganda. Tea Party groups really do believe, for example, that they are true patriots who only want government off their backs – that’s because they don’t read the polls that reveal them to simply be the new face of the religious right. Religious groups really do believe, as another example, that theirs is the ‘true’ interpretation of the holy books – that’s because they don’t recognize that their ‘proofs’ of their deity are the same as those of a competing group.
With liberals, the most vexing of these myths is the one about racism being ‘their’ problem. Namely, that being liberal makes you vouchsafed from racist thoughts or ideas. I can understand where this myth comes from. Conservatism, particularly when it comes to immigration and civil rights, is always on the side of the status quo – hence the name. Because an argument against allowing immigrants (which is often an argument against allowing certain immigrants) access to citizenship always carries with it the stench of anti-brown bigotry, those on the conservative side end up holding the bag for racism and xenophobia. The same goes for civil rights and access – it was conservatives opposing the Civil Rights Act, it was (and is) conservatives opposing lesbian/gay marriage rights, which leaves them tagged with repeated instances of bigotry.
Because liberals have been on the other side of these fights (by and large), liberals have become comfortable with the assumption that adopting this political stance is impervious armour against accusations of thoughtcrime. Indeed, when having drinks with a colleague and discussing politics, he made some offhand remark about how as liberals, we had to overcome racism from the right. He was visibly first confused, then alarmed when I suggested to him that, in fact, liberals are racist too. It might not look the same as conservative racism, but it still has the same effect.
It was with these thoughts in the back of my mind that I read this piece in The Nation:
Electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form is the unwillingness of white Americans to vote for a black candidate regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, ideology or party. This form of racism was a standard feature of American politics for much of the twentieth century. So far, Barack Obama has been involved in two elections that suggest that such racism is no longer operative. His re-election bid, however, may indicate that a more insidious form of racism has come to replace it.
In it, Dr. Harris-Perry (who I follow on Twitter) lays out an argument for why white voters, who supported Barack Obama in the first election, may be abandoning him now at a greater rate than they did President Clinton in the 90′s – despite the many political and situational similarities between the two. Given that so many of the ostensible reasons for withdrawing support are balanced between the two administrations, racism may explain, at least in part, any differences in voter support and approval. It’s hard to argue that race and racism have not played a role in this particular presidency far more than in others.
Because I liked both this article and a related one that more closely explored the racial attitudes of Bill Clinton more specifically and liberals more generally, I fired a quick message to Dr. Harris-Perry in support, because I knew that she was taking quite a bit of flack for her audacious temerity to suggest that liberals weren’t the immaculate paragons of fairness that we make ourselves out to be. Basically, just a “hey, I liked your piece in the Nation.” Didn’t even get a reply. No biggie.
It was a few short hours before a friend of mine sent me a seemingly-indignant message, asking me to defend my support for Harris-Perry’s article. She/he had procured statistics suggesting that all presidents lose favourability in their first terms (which the article doesn’t dispute), and that she/he saw more differences between the two presidencies than the article had pointed out. When I replied, briefly, that the article was more about the attitude I have described above, she/he challenged me to provide data demonstrating the racism at play. It was at this point that I simply gave up, as I wasn’t really interested in defending someone else’s work while trying to eat my dinner, and the article in question talked about the next election, not the current polling.
This exchange wouldn’t be unusual, except that I happen to know that this person is a regular reader. I say all kinds of unsubstantiated shit on these pages pretty much every day. While I do my best, I don’t always provide full citations for my conclusions or speculations, leaving it up to the reader to dispute them. Most of the time, this particular friend chooses not to dispute, even when I am talking about racial topics. However, this particular statement – a throwaway line of congratulations in a Tweet – stuck in her/his craw long enough that she/he went stats hunting.
So in the same way that Harris-Perry has done, I am openly speculating here that this kind of “prove it” attitude from liberals who spontaneously become skeptical whenever they have a dog in the fight (which, by the way, Harris-Perry wrote another piece about), comes at least in part from the cognitive dissonance at play when they are accused of racism. “I couldn’t possibly be racist,” they say, as though being liberal means you were raised on a different planet. We are all products of the same system. If someone points out that a behaviour has racial connotations, instead of reflexively reaching for counterexamples, perhaps take the time to consider the possibility, and engage in the argument that person is making, rather than the one you hear through your rage.
I will close with Dr. Harris-Perry’s words:
Racism is not the the sole domain of Republicans, Conservatives or Southerners. Not all racists pepper their conversation with the N-word or secretly desire the extermination of black and brown people. Racism is complex, multi-layered, and deeply rooted in the American story. Name calling is not helpful in uprooting racism, but neither is a false sense of moral superiority.
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Then again, sometimes there are stories that completely shatter my faith in humanity:
A row with uncomfortable echoes of the past is gripping the world of Germany’s student duelling societies after a club admitted a non-European member. Duellers in Munich objected to the fact a Mannheim club had allowed a member with an Asian background to join, despite his service in the German army.
Yep… that’s happening. Apparently the member in question is German enough to serve Germany in the armed forces, but not German enough to dress up in a silly costume and wave a sword around. The reaction of the club? Well I think we could all have predicted this one:
The clubs’ national association insisted they were not racist.
“We’re not racist, honest! We just don’t like darkies being in our clubs!” The story reads like the plot of a bad Disney movie (Erinner Das Titan maybe?), and just gets more ridiculous the further in you go:
Such societies are usually male and involve dressing up in traditional 19th Century outfits, as well as drinking and fighting with swords. Real swords are used and the men who join often sport a scar on their cheeks to show they have fought a real duel.
There was a feeling from the more conservative elements in Bavaria that, according to internal documents, members with “non-European facial and bodily characteristics” did not qualify as Germans and so could not join what the objectors see as a bastion of true German identity, our correspondent says.
It’s funny, many of the rampant anti-immigrant sentiment currently running through Europe hinges around the idea that immigrants won’t “assimilate”. That people whose ancestry hails from another part of the world (by the way, Germany – your ancestry is from Africa, so maybe you should put down the swords and pick up a drum) will refuse to adopt the customs and mores of the majority group. Since immigrants won’t take on native ideas, we should keep them out! Except here’s a guy who is trying to do just that – take part in a custom that is about as German as it gets, and he’s being forced out by the same majority group.
These kinds of attitudes come from a mindset in which culture is a static thing that cannot and should not change. This is a faulty view of the world – all currently-existing cultures are departures from ones that came before. Those elements of cultures that are valuable are retained (co-operation, family cohesion, respect for individual rights), and those that are not necessary for survival can be sloughed off (exclusion of outsiders, absolute power of the patriarch, tyranny of the majority). There can be debate over the merit of the individual component values, but it is ludicrous to suggest that any change to traditions is a destruction of those values.
The fact that this kind of story merits any discussion at all, let alone the tide of public opinion against the egregious racism on display by these clubs (or at least their conservative elements), is evidence of the fact of this cultural evolution. Time was, not long ago, it was considered entirely reasonable to exclude members of certain racial groups from “private clubs”. This practice still occurs, mind you, but only in those places where the light of modernity hasn’t quite penetrated the curtain of stupidity.
As with the story this morning, these kinds of attitudes will be consigned to the dustbin of history, and be seen as simply an odd curiosity of our ancestry.
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One does not have to plumb the depths of political rhetoric very far to expose the unbelievable hypocrisy and outright falsehood lying just beneath the varnished surface of its truisms. The right to publicly-administered health care is not slavery. Republicans are not better on the economy. The Harper Government™ is not tough on crime:
The Supreme Court of the Canada will hear arguments this week that will likely determine the future of Vancouver’s supervised injection site, known as Insite. The court will have to decide whether Insite is a health-care facility under the jurisdiction of the B.C. government, and whether closing it violates the rights of impoverished drug addicts.
Supporters, including the province, say a body of peer-reviewed studies has proven Insite prevents overdose deaths, reduces the spread of HIV and hepatitis, and curbs crime and open drug use. But the federal government rejects that evidence, arguing the facility fosters addiction and runs counter to its tough-on-crime agenda.
Those of you not familiar with Vancouver’s safe injection site should read Ethan Clow’s excellent analysis of the issue. I will do my best to summarize. As we learned from the United States in the 1920s (and from our own failed national experiment), prohibition is a really stupid way of trying to stop people from doing something. There are generally two ways of preventing an unwanted behaviour – enforcement and outreach. Prohibition puts the emphasis firmly into the first camp by creating stiff penalties for engaging in the unwanted behaviour. With respect to drugs, this means punishing those that use and sell drugs.
One of the biggest looming issues facing Canadians with the Republican North majority is the introduction of the omnibus crime bill. Basically, this bill calls for money to be funneled into the prison system, including the construction of new incarceration facilities. Of course, this comes at a time when crime rates are in fact dropping, but the RNP has a solution for that too - make more things crimes! Mandatory minimum sentencing is one tool in the arsenal of a prohibitive government – take legal leeway out of the hands of judges and force standard jail terms regardless of the severity of the crime.
The problem, as anyone with even the slightest insight into human behaviour and psychology will be able to tell you, is that people are generally going to do whatever they want if they don’t think they’ll get caught. When it comes to drugs (especially drugs like marijuana with negligible personal risk due to use), people will always want to get high, and unless you have cops on every street corner and outside every window, people will find a way to do just that. While drug use may be a bad thing (I think the issue is more nuanced than that, but let’s just grant the assertion for a moment), if your goal is to reduce drug use, your policies should be targeted at doing just that.
If you don’t think that drug use per se is bad, but rather the consequences of drug use (addiction, self-harm, overdose, loss of control) are bad, then you would likely favour an approach known as “harm reduction”. Basically, the idea is to find a way to allow people to do what they want but to minimize the negative repercussions. For example, alcohol is regulated in such a way as to minimize the damage – only licensed facilities may dispense it and staff must be trained to recognize intoxication; only people of a certain age may purchase it; purity of ingredients is inspected by the government – people still drink, but in a way that is much safer than it used to be before those regulations were in place.
In the case of Insite, the negative health consequences of intravenous drug use are mitigated by providing clean needles (that are not infected with HIV) and a safe place to get high. Needles are disposed of safely (rather than in the streets, where any number of things can and do happen to them), and overdoses are managed by professionals. It is certainly not ideal – ideal would be to have zero drug users – but it does save lives, reduce infection rates, and actually saves the city a lot of money. It is the kind of local control for a local problem that small-government conservatives and libertarians should applaud.
Not so the Republicans though. They claim to be “tough on crime”, but what they actually are is litigious on crime. They endorse laws that expand the role of the federal government to interfere in municipal matters and take discretion out of the hands of judges and place it in the (completely incapable) hands of elected officials. This is the kind of behaviour, of course, that Conservatives (note the capitalization) constantly accuse Liberals of; however, it’s only wrong when it’s something Conservatives don’t like. When it’s for their own cause, there is always some bullshit rationalization.
I have a friend who is a prison guard (actually I have a few, but I am talking about this one in particular) who was overjoyed over the RPN majority election. His rationale was that there would finally be attention paid to the state of the prison system, and no more coddling of criminals. Far be it from me to question his expertise in terms of what the inside of a prison looks like – he’s in one every day and I haven’t even visited. However, I think his assessment is short-sighted. The omnibus crime bill creates more criminals, it does not reduce crime. If anything, it statistically increases crime (convenient, when you have all these new prisons to fill) by creating new criminals. It does not reduce the harms caused by criminal behaviour, nor does it do anything to reduce the true underlying causes of criminal behaviour (income disparity, lack of opportunity/education, living conditions).
Both the political left and right undoubtedly want to reduce the incidence of crime. It is in nobody’s best interest for there to be more crime. However, one side of the political debate has chosen a method that is proven not to work, and does so in the name of being “tough on crime”. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we are all about to learn this first-hand.
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Imagine for a moment that your house is built on a garbage dump. Your home constantly reeks of not only the discarded foodstuffs and general refuse of our disposable society, but of the general human neglect that accompanies those places we prefer not to think about. All around you is the funk of abandonment, to the point that it permeates your pores.
In other words, you stink.
Now, imagine someone from outside your home notices your living conditions and clucks disapprovingly. You are not invited to social engagements, and are generally ostracized from polite company. Everywhere you go people turn up their noses and avoid you. Noticing this, you say “I know what the problem is! This garbage dump I live in is untidy!” So you pile all of the rotting compost into an organized heap, rake the dirty diapers into a mound, and arrange the biohazardous waste in an aesthetically-pleasing way that really showcases your savvy as a decorator and landscaper. “There,” you say “that should take care of the problem!”
The new leader of France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen, has barred skinheads from the far right’s annual May Day march in Paris. She confirmed for French radio she was banning “trouble-makers” from the first march to be held since she took over from her father Jean-Marie in January. ”They draw cameras like flies and naturally we would protect ourselves from such provocations,” she said.
Marine Le Pen has decided that the real problem with her ultra-right wing racial supremacist party is that there’s just too many skinheads around! They’re making all of the bigots in suits look bad! The depressing part of this story is, of course, that her plan appears to be working. As though people don’t really mind racism so much as they don’t like being associated with the ugly parts of it. Your heart almost goes out to those poor bastards – too racist for the ultra right-wing of the political spectrum, and now too ugly to even be seen.
But then I remember that given the chance they’d kick my teeth in and leave me on the side of the road for dead, so my sympathy doesn’t really extend that far.
A California Republican group censured one of its own Thursday, saying her words and actions since sending an e-mail last month depicting President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee have been potentially offensive, damaging and insincere. Capping a meeting Thursday, the Orange County Republican Party’s executive committee voted 12-2 Thursday to issue an ethics censure against Marilyn Davenport.
Do you want to know how you can tell that you’ve gone way over the line? Like, not just said something questionable or that could be potentially misconstrued, but have left tact and appropriateness deep in the distant past as you bravely rocket forward strapped to a jetpack fueled by pure racism? When you get disowned by The Republican Party for being too racist. That’s like having Mel Gibson take you aside and warn you that you might have a bit of a drinking problem. It’s like Glenn Beck calling you a conspiracy theorist. It’s like Michael Vick leaving you a note of concern about the way you treat your pets.
The Republican party is not necessarily racist, and I think I’ve pointed out this distinction before. There’s nothing egregious in the Republican platform that says “black people are inferior”, but their constant harping on “personal responsibility” as the primary explanatory factor for differences between the haves and the have-nots certainly dovetails nicely with racism. It’s not an accident that every time someone in the news says something ridiculously racist, it’s always a Republican. Republican political philosophy isn’t overtly racist, but it does ‘provide aid and comfort’ to racists. Conservatives hate hearing this - nobody likes being called racist. Most conservatives wouldn’t consider themselves to be racist, and under particular definitions of the concept they aren’t. However, there seems to be a great reluctance among conservatives to try and parse out why the racists always seem to come from their camp, and so much more rarely from ours.
It is a rhetorically unfortunate fact that both of the people mentioned in this post are female, because the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig” takes on a sexist connotation. My intent is merely to point out that no matter how much you try and ‘beautify’ something, it is still as fundamentally ugly as it was before you started (although I don’t personally find pigs that ugly). Trying to gloss over – I intentionally avoid the word ‘whitewash’ – the problem by tidying up the landfill that is your political position isn’t going to fix the underlying issues. If you think racism is a problem, if you think that your spotlight is too often taken up having to apologize for and distance yourself from those who are your allies but who say bigoted things, then you have to really look hard at why they feel at home in your house.
People aren’t shunning you because your dump is unkempt; it’s because you stink.
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Once upon a time, Canada had two major political parties – Liberal and Conservative. In the mid-20th century the Conservative party re-branded itself as the Progressive Conservative Party. With its economic stance set somewhat toward the right and its social stance being somewhere in the middle of the road, it catered well to those Canadians who identified as ‘centrists’, and tended its garden on the political right fairly well. However, as the NDP rose to federal prominence, the Liberal party was forced to make a rightward drift. Enjoying national popularity and avoiding divisive issues, the federal Liberal party was able to lay claim to the political center.
Facing obsolescence, the Progressive Conservative dropped the “progressive” label and united with the newly-formed Reform party – a party catering exclusively to those in the right wing – forming the Conservative Party of Canada. Because the far right had been all but ignored by the major political parties, the CPC was able to capitalize on a stumble from the Liberals and form government. Their popular appeal rested firmly on walking a tightrope between “Progressive Conservatives” – those with a conservative economic viewpoint but a centrist social viewpoint, and “Reform Conservatives” – what would be called ‘values voters’ in the United States (as though liberals don’t have values).
The problem with the Conservative party is that their base is fractionated – those who are turned off by hardcore social policy, and those that are growing increasingly tired of being slept on while they try and impose hardcore social policy. Until now, the CPC maintained their solidarity by publicly claiming to be socially centrist, whilst simultaneously whispering promises to the more extreme fringes of their base. Now, it appears that this facade is slipping:
Saskatchewan Conservative candidate says the federal government has decided to cut funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a decision he says was influenced by anti-abortion supporters. The decision on whether to fund the organization has not yet been announced. But Brad Trost, the incumbent candidate for Saskatoon-Humboldt, told the Saskatchewan ProLife Association’s annual convention last Saturday that anti-abortion supporters who signed petitions played a big role. In a recording of his speech, obtained by CBC News, Trost can be heard thanking those who had signed the petitions, saying his office was involved in spearheading the petition campaign along with other members of Parliament.
This is not an economic policy. Cutting funding to an international agency is a tiny drop in a much larger bucket. Canada’s foreign aid spending represents about 0.33% of GDP – falling far short of its pledge of 0.7%. Removing funding for one agency does not meaningfully reduce Canada’s budgetary deficit or national debt. Given the involvement of the anti-abortion lobby in this particular move, there is no conclusion one can reach other than the fact that this is an ideological move against abortion rather than anything that could be called economically conservative.
I won’t bother re-hashing all the arguments against defunding Planned Parenthood, except to say that the only thing this move accomplishes is to make it more difficult for people, particularly women, to get much-needed health care services. Abortions do not decrease when they are made illegal, and Planned Parenthood does not exclusively provide abortions – those kinds of services represent a tiny portion of a wide variety of health care procedures. But of course we are dealing with Conservatives here – facts and reality represent a similarly tiny portion of what informs their policy.
I’m not necessarily opposed to conservativism, although I do think it is a short-sighted and ultimately simplistic world view. Overdone conservatism, like overdone liberalism, can be incredibly destructive. However, a well-struck balance between the two opposite ideologies can move society forward in a sustainable and equitable manner. It is, therefore, with no small measure of sadness, that I am forced to announce the death of the Conservative Party of Canada. While Conservative in name, this party has revealed itself to be nothing other than the northern branch of the Republican Party of the United States.
The ugliest, most small-minded and hateful aspects of humanity are on full and proud display in the Republican party, and the Republican Party North (formerly the CPC) is pinning its future on the idea that Canadians are as stupid and short-sighted as our southern neighbours. Given that the CPC is polling around 40% (which, in Canada’s political system, is a majority – it’s because of the metric system), it appears to be a safe bet.
So if you’re Canadian and you’re not planning on voting in the upcoming election, or if you’re planning on voting Conservative in the upcoming election, please don’t tell me. With things like this happening in my country, I’m not sure I can maintain my trademark personal evaluation from ideological. If you’re so lazy that you can’t be bothered to stand up against the forces of stupid long enough to write an ‘X’ on a piece of paper, or so blinded by sound bytes and easy answers that you think that the Conservatives have anything resembling policies that will have a positive effect on the lives of Canadians, then I’m not sure I can know that about you without taking it personally.
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Crommunist is back from vacation, at least physically. I will be returning to full blogging strength by next week. I appreciate your patience with my travel hangover.
You don’t have to look far for instances of people lying to themselves. Whether it’s a drug-addled actor or an almost-toppled dictator, some people seem to have an endless capacity for rationalising what they did, no matter how questionable. We might imagine that these people really know that they’re deceiving themselves, and that their words are mere bravado. But Zoe Chance from Harvard Business School thinks otherwise.
Using experiments where people could cheat on a test, Chance has found that cheaters not only deceive themselves, but are largely oblivious to their own lies.
Psychology is a very interesting field. If I wasn’t chasing the get-rich-quick world of health services research, I would have probably gone into psychology. One of the basic axioms of psychology, particularly social psychology, is that self-report and self-analysis is a particularly terrible method of gaining insight into human behaviour. People cannot be relied upon to accurately gauge their motivations for engaging in a given activity – not because we are liars, but because we genuinely don’t know.
Our consciousness exists in a constant state of being in the present, but making evaluations of the past and attempting to predict the future. As a result, we search for explanations for things that we’ve done, and use those to chart what we’d do in the future. However, as careful study has indicated, the circumstances under which we find ourselves is far and away a more reliable predictor of how we react to given stimuli than is our own self-assessment. This isn’t merely a liberal culture of victimhood, or some kind of partisan way of blaming the rich for the problems of the poor – it is the logical interpretation of the best available evidence that we have.
Part of the seeming magic of this reality of human consciousness is the fact that when we cheat, we are instantaneously able to explain it away as due to our own skill. Not only can we explain it away, but we instantly believe it too. A more general way of referring to this phenomenon is internal and external attribution – if something good happens it is because of something we did; conversely, bad things that happen are due to misfortune, or a crummy roll of the dice. When seen in others, this kind of attitude is rank hypocrisy. When seen in ourselves, it is due to everyone else misunderstanding us. This is, of course, entirely normal – everyone would like to believe the best about themselves, and our minds will do what they can to preserve that belief.
The researchers in this study explored a specific type of self-deception – the phenomenon of cheating. They were able to show that even when there was monetary incentive to be honest about one’s performance and cheating, people preferred to believe their own lies than to be honest self-assessors. However, the final result tickled me in ways that I can only describe as indecent:
This final result could not be more important. Cheaters convince themselves that they succeed because of their own skill, and if other people agree, their capacity for conning themselves increases.
There is a pervasive lie in our political discourse that people who enjoy monetary and societal privilege do so because of their own hard work and superior virtue. This type of thinking is typified by the expression “pulled up by her/his bootstraps” – that rich people applied themselves and worked hard to get where they are. The implication is that anyone who isn’t rich, or who has the galling indecency to be poor, is where they are because of their own laziness and nothing more. It does not seem to me to be far-fetched at all that these people are operating under the same misapprehension that plagued the study’s participants – they succeed by means that are not necessarily due to their own hard work, and then back-fill an explanation that casts themselves in the best possible light.
Please do not interpret this as me suggesting that everyone who is rich got their by illegitimate means. If we ignore for a moment anyone who was born into wealth, there are a number of people who worked their asses off to achieve financial success – my own father is a mild example of that (although he is not rich by any reasonable measure). However, there are a number of others who did step on others, or use less-than-admirable means to accumulate their wealth. However, they are likely to provide the same “up by my bootstraps” narrative that people who genuinely did build their own wealth would, and they’ll believe it too! When surrounded by others who believe the same lie, it becomes a self-sustaining ‘truth’ that only occasionally resembles reality.
The problem with this form of thinking is that it does motivate not only attitudes but our behaviours as well. It becomes trivial to demonize poor people as leeches living off the state, and cut funding for social assistance programs as a result. People who live off social assistance programs often believe this lie too, considering themselves (in the words of John Steinbeck) to be “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” who will be rich soon because of their furious bootstrap tugging. While it is an attractive lie, it is still a lie that underlies most conservative philosophy – which isn’t to say that liberals aren’t susceptible to the same cognitive problems; we just behave in a way that is more consistent with reality, so it doesn’t show as much.
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Crommunist is back from vacation, but still slowly putting his life back together. I will be posting something every day, but don’t expect it to be up to my usual standard until next week.
So obviously this title will raise exactly zero eyebrows among those who have read my previous discussions of religion. I find so many aspects of religious expression hypocritical (accusing atheists of arrogance whilst insisting that the universe is created specifically for them, accusing others of immorality whilst maintaining a hideous behavioural track record), there is one form of hypocrisy that I find unique among the political right wing:
A florist in Riverview, N.B., is refusing to provide wedding flowers to a same-sex couple, according to the event’s planner. After agreeing to provide the flowers for a wedding, Kim Evans of Petals and Promises Wedding Flowers sent an email last month to the couple, saying she didn’t know it was a same-sex wedding and would have no part of the ceremony. “I am choosing to decline your business. As a born-again Christian, I must respect my conscience before God and have no part in this matter,” the email said.
The religious right has two gods: their own perverted vision of Yahweh as some kind of doting father cum eternally judgmental asshole, and free market capitalism. If one takes even a fleeting glance at the agenda of the Republican party of the United States (and anyone who thinks that Canadian Conservatives are functionally different from Republicans, or that the evangelical wing of the Christian faith is anything other than CPC boosters needs to pull her/his head firmly from her/his asshole and take a look around), one cannot help but be inundated by people who’ve never cracked Friedmann in their lives talking about “common sense economics” and the virtues of small government.
It is certainly defensible to hold these two positions in concert, although it should be fairly obvious that neither one is contingent upon the other. It does not follow, for example, that limited government is necessary because Yahweh deems it so. Conversely, being a laissez faire capitalist who believes in allowing the chips to fall as they may does not lead one down the path to accepting the supremacy of Jesus Christ. The conflation of the two non-overlapping positions is a carefully constructed marriage, match-made by the Republican party in an attempt to get a single-issue voting bloc.
Laissez-faire capitalism dictates that someone should attempt to make as much money from a potential customer as possible, provided that doing so does not break the law (well, strictly speaking it doesn’t, but I’ve never encountered a libertarian or conservative who believes that people should flout the law to make money). Considering that gay marriage is legal in Canada, Ms. Evans is behaving in a decidedly anti-capitalist way by refusing to provide a service to a law-abiding person.
Now I have no proof that Ms. Evans is a conservative. My suspicion in this matter stems from the fact that I have yet to meet any evangelical who does not also immediately grant the superiority of unregulated free markets. If she is not a conservative, she should be strongly condemned by conservatives for being anti-capitalist. However, the comments section overfloweth with supportive comments from her CPC brethren.
Dollars to donuts this is going to soon end up on a Christian website as a “prime example” of religious persecution against Christians.
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I am depressed.
I am depressed for two reasons. First, I am depressed that no matter how hard I work, I will likely never get as good at talking about issues of race and racism, history and the importance of advocacy as Tim Wise is:
The second reason I am depressed is that it seems like the forces of reason are losing the fight to the forces of revisionist history, post-hoc rationalization and short-sighted self-interest. I realize this post is much longer than what I usually post for Movie Friday (and has fewer jokes), but if you’ve found any of my posts on “the good old days” or the importance of recognizing black history, or really anything that I’ve said about race to be interesting (and the numbers suggest that at least some of you do), then you’ll absolutely love this clip.
Any of you who have watched any black beat poetry or other forms of spoken word, you’ll recognize that Tim uses a lot of their cadence and punctuated rhythm to get his points across. It’s not just a lecture – it’s verbal poetry. Amazing stuff, and I really really hope you watch it.
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There is a surefire way to ensure tyranny – undermine the education of the populace. When the people don’t have the tools required to determine truth from lies or to obtain their information from a variety of sources, they become dependent on the state to tell them “the Truth™”. We can see this currently happening in the Arab world, where state television in Libya is still being used to broadcast misinformation that is (perhaps fatally) undermining the cause of the pro-democracy rebellion.
One way to ensure a religious tyranny is to ensure that the populace doesn’t have access to adequate scientific information. Science is inherently hostile to religion, since the two are very different methods at arriving at answers. The scientific method involves testing repeated observations and inferring rules and laws from trends within those observations. The religious method involves arriving at a conclusion and then finding observations that support the a priori position. The problem with the latter method is that it is trivially easy to arrive at false conclusions and then justify them afterward. By ensuring that the public doesn’t have access to scientific knowledge, you can erode the cause of science and replace it with whatever system you like.
Enter the Conservative Party of Canada:
The public has lost free online access to more than a dozen Canadian science journals as a result of the privatization of the National Research Council’s government-owned publishing arm. Scientists, businesses, consultants, political aides and other people who want to read about new scientific discoveries in the 17 journals published by National Research Council Research Press now either have to pay $10 per article or get access through an institution that has an annual subscription.
Now this on its own is an incredibly minor development. The vast majority of people who access the scientific literature are scientists working at institutions that can afford to buy subscriptions. Furthermore, the lay public get most of their scientific information from people who interpret the studies that are now behind a paywall, so most people won’t notice the difference. This is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back by any stretch of the imagination.
However, erosion doesn’t work in giant leaps – it occurs gradually over time. One of the strengths of science is the ability of anyone who is curious to go back and investigate the source material. Someone tells you that a drug works to treat diabetes, you can go to the paper and check it for yourself. Someone tells you that homeopathy cures warts, you can go check it out for yourself. Someone tells you that the universe was created in the Big Bang, you can go read the papers. This process encourages skepticism and critical thinking, while increasing the trust that the public has in the scientific community (by increasing transparency).
By placing additional barriers between lay Canadians and the products of Canadian scientific researchers, the privatization of the National Research Council is inherently anti-transparent and anti-science. It discourages scientific scrutiny and question-asking, which are two things that the CPC really doesn’t like in the first place. If Harper can’t get a majority right now, at least he can do as much damage as possible with the limited powers he wields.
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This was too good to let go
Sadly, the people for whom this kind of speech is most needed are too stupid to understand all the big words that Rep. Markey used:
“Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to a bill that overturns the scientific finding that pollution is harming our people and our planet.
However, I won’t physically rise, because I’m worried that Republicans will overturn the law of gravity, sending us floating about the room.
I won’t call for the sunlight of additional hearings, for fear that Republicans might excommunicate the finding that the Earth revolves around the sun.
Instead, I’ll embody Newton’s third law of motion and be an equal and opposing force against this attack on science and on laws that will reduce America’s importation of foreign oil.
This bill will live in the House while simultaneously being dead in the Senate. It will be a legislative Schrodinger’s cat killed by the quantum mechanics of the legislative process!
Arbitrary rejection of scientific fact will not cause us to rise from our seats today. But with this bill, pollution levels will rise. Oil imports will rise. Temperatures will rise.
And with that, I yield back the balance of my time. That is, unless a rejection of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is somewhere in the chair’s amendment pile.
Science: making Conservatives wrong since the 1500s.
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