16 February 2006

So someone *does* read this stuff!

Kevin, I’m not sure that you understood the main point: I’m not agreeing with her in general, but she does have two valid points. Even a stopped clock tells the right time, albeit only twice daily.

I’m not sure how aware you are of the assorted “silent wars” which have gone on in Australia, such as the “ownership” of towns by one faction or the other (in Western Australia, the factions are historically Catholics or Masons, or to a lesser extent Closed Brethren), so that fronting up in “the wrong&rdquol; town meant that you couldn’t get a job or long-term accomodation there under any circumstances.

Nowadays, Masons have an image more along the lines of a kind of Rotary Club with a seldom-mentioned and benign spiritual dimension, and the Catholics (a few subtle hiring practices and the like aside) generally seem to have forgotten their duty to take over the world for Il Papa, but “back in the day” it was taken seriously. As seriously as a heart attack.

Now picture a whole country like that. Such places exist, and they exist specifically because of the absence of freedoms which we take for granted. There are several common political levers for the removal of said freedoms; in Europe of the Dark Ages, the lever was the Catholic Church (still the world's largest landholder); in assorted chunks of the Middle East, it’s Sharia; in China and the USSR, it was Atheistic Communism. There are others.

There are various ways of introducing these levers into a more relaxed political system; historically it has often been done with immigration and breeding.

I don’t much care which lever is introduced, I object to all of them and mention Islam there only because it’s topical.

Your parallel with The Asian Invasion is a bit is a bit of a mismatch. For what it’s worth, I have a disproportionate number of Asian friends (and also Africans); I’m not aware of any prejudice against them in myself. I have, however, zero interest in importing some of the cultural problems common in many Asian (or African, for that matter) countries.

Danna may well be raising the issue over personal xenophobia — I have no way of knowing — but if you read a bit of history you’ll see that the scenario she fears is a real, recurring one. To heck with the messenger, focus on the message.

I don’t have a big problem with theocratic rule. On average a militant theocracy kills fewer of its subjects than a militantly Atheistic regime, but I still wouldn’t have a problem with ”atheocratic” rule — if that was all which was involved — either.

However, I have a serious problem with any exclusionary theocratic (or atheocratic) rule.

It’s all very well to say “that’s called democracy” when faced with a democratic country voting to place itself under Sharia, because the instant that vote goes through, the situation is no longer a democracy. Sharia and democracy are mutually exclusive, just as Mao’s brand of Communism is, and just as the idea of a Pope as “King of Kings” is (and blasphemous, too, if I understand the theology right).

It may well be true that the process leading up to the end of democracy is in itself democratic, but we’d have to be terminally stupid to actually let it get that far. And if it does get that far, at what point should one start objecting? At the eleventh hour?

A good case could also be made for the proposition “one thing a democracy cannot do with validity is end democracy”.

Your point about the Aboriginals is an interesting one. Did they extend the courtesy to the assorted populations who predated them? Our ancestors certainly didn’t extend it to them. And despite patently ridiculous laws about one-sixteenth bloodlines and such, we’re well on the way to outbreeding them into oblivion ourselves despite Australia’s infinitesimal overall birthrate.

Your point about “in 50 years” holds no water, though. Many, many things have been planned out lifetimes ahead and actioned at the appointed moment. Not all of them, of course, but if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

I’m minded of a tale allegedly from one of the big English universities, wherein borers got into the huge beams in the main hall. The distressed maintenance people went hunting for replacement beams, but none could be had that large so they started casting about for trees which could be made into appropriate beams, also without much luck. So finally, they went looking through the University’s own forests for suitable trees in the hope that they’d be good enough. Finally, they found some, only to be told by the gamekeeper, “Y’can’t take those. They’re for when the borers get into the beams in the main hall...”.

On the “with the fundies” comment, In Real Life it is seldom the fundamentalist religions that cause the major damage, it’s much more typically the “political” machinery behind the far less fundamental groups will be organising the spread of propaganda, thinking up and propagating justifications for assorted excesses, causing provocations of all sides from behind the scenes to keep the pot boiling and so on, because left to themselves 95% or more of their constituency basically don’t give much of a damn about political esoterica; they have to be hyped hard and for a very long time before they’ll permit mayhem.

One of the clearest illustrations I’ve seen of this spirit is football hooligans. The differences between the teams basically amount to the colour of their clothing and that’s all, yet this is used as justification (by people who are not “fundies” in any conventional sense of the word) for hurting, even killing, supporters of the “wrong” colours.

The comment started “as an Atheist”, but have you really labelled yourself as being on Josef Stalin’s team? Are you really self-selecting as part of the Aryan race? I very much doubt it, yet every Atheistic regime which has ever been recorded has finished up by deciding to give Evolution a bit of a hand in clearing out the deadwood and getting on with improvements to the race, just as assorted theistic regimes like to “help” $DEITY with tidying up those blasted heathens which keep getting underfoot and asking awkward questions such as about the discrepancies between what said regime is doing and what $DEITY has had to say on the topic.

My recommendation is to scratch the “as an Atheist” as inflammatory and potentially misleading, and settle for “as a reasonable human being”... but while that may help your own status quo a little bit, you’re still facing the problem that the whole fracas is about control, not about religion.

The only solution which I’ve ever seen work is to give the politicians in question a rifle and send them to the front lines to sort it all out. Take them from Lord Farquad’ personally safe position of “some of you may die, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take” to put them where the rubber really meets the road, then see how they react.

«Digression: the one thing which the Starship Troopers movie preserved from the book was that only military veterans get to vote. They’ve experienced some of the real cost of botched political decisions, and they’re tough enough to not be blown hither and yon by every little zephyr of fear and panic. Modulo the need for constant war to provide enough veterans, it sounds like a good plan to me’.

So rather than finding a combat pit for the zealots and “fundies”, find a combat pit for the purse-string holders and back-room power brokers — zealots of convenience and traitors to “their” people — and I’ll be in there helping you to apply the oil. Lasting world peace would really be within our grasp.

Well... reality is generally more complicated than that, but I always like to end on a hopeful note. My goodness, this post has been quite an epic!

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