Put a stop to female genital mutilation. Full stop.

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

“Female genital mutilation: for the love of all humanity, how on earth is it possible for this to be happening in 2013? in the name of religion, apparently. Whichever god it is you follow, even if it is science, females have been created in that way for a reason. Who should have the right to change it? FGM in the USIn December 2012 the UN passed a resolution opposing the practice, and whilst the main practice occurs in Africa, a recent report gave official figures of 2000 girls seeking medical help in London in the past 3 years following the procedure. The appalling treatment of young girls in this way is beyond reprehension and demonstrates not a single ounce of respect for them as a human being. If would seem however that there is no recourse for these cases. Is it a too difficult subject to deal with because people are scared of offending someone because of ‘religion’? If it was down to me, whoever does this, including the mother and the father who sanction it, they should be tried for actual bodily harm, or in some horrific cases, manslaughter or murder.” Julie

africa_fgm

 

When it comes to difficult topics, female genital mutilation (FGM) comes very near the top. I did not know where to begin. I wavered. What could I possibly say when faced with such cruelty inflicted, perpetuated in part at least, by those who have been themselves submitted to the same.

This cycle of violence – seemingly endless — saddens me to the core.

For those who do not know what female genital mutilation entails:

  • the removal of all or part of the clitoris,
  • the cutting out of the surrounding labia (the outer part of the vagina)
  • the sewing up of the vagina (with a small opening left for bodily functions)

One of the key reasons for FGM being carried out is the belief that it will reduce a woman’s libido, therefore discouraging sexual activity before marriage.

Culture, religion and social norms collude in its perpetuation in some Muslim countries where the practice is prevalent. In part this is due to the high value placed on a woman’s chastity and modesty in those countries.

It beggars belief. I simply do not understand why it is necessary to mutilate a girl for her to be considered chaste and modest?

I am appalled every time another story appears in media about yet another British girl taken back to her parents’ home country to be physically and psychologically abused in this way. It has been estimated that more than 20,000 girls under 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year, and than 66,000 women in the UK have been submitted to the procedure.

While I do not know how this practice can be curtailed in countries where it is inscribed in culture and faith, I cannot understand how it is possible for Western governments to fail in protecting their citizens to such a degree. In the UK, the practice was outlawed in 1985, and yet there have been no prosecutions to date.

In the economic context in which we now live, with the recession seemingly endless, such issues are side-lined. This is a crime and those we put into a seat of power and give free reign to govern the minutia of our lives ought to be more proactive on this issue.

The first major inquiry into female genital mutilation was launched last month. The inquiry aims to ‘get to the truth’ about the lack of convictions three decades after FGM was made illegal in the UK. The Home Affairs Select Committee will challenge ministers and the police over inaction when it comes to charging ‘cutters’ or families who arrange the surgery. Some responsibility is being laid at the door of NHS staff, teachers and social workers for failing to do enough to curb the practice.

At an international level, the 2012 UN resolution is a step forward. However, it will only make a difference if implemented effectively in all countries, particularly those where the it is a common occurrence. So once again it comes down to a country by country approach, and lobbying for local governmental support in stopping the mutilation of girls and women.

The “cultural” argument does not stand up. Not to me. Not in this context. Not when human beings are being hurt unnecessarily. Some traditions are best left behind.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Russia’s Stance on Homosexuality

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

“Russia needs to get its act together. What the f**k? Is this the 19th century? This goes for the rest of the world, but they are the ones in vogue right now. In over half the countries in Africa, homosexuality is “illegal”. How can you make one’s sexuality illegal? Marching against Russia's Punitive Laws against HomosexualityThis is ludicrous. Some places even enforce the death penalty. Of course, this stems from religion – the plague of the world. Wake up! God is not listening to you. And if he is, he is a douche bag. Jesus is supposed to be about love. You a**hole.” Jonathon Saia

 

While I am very much in agreement with the spirit of Jonathon’s answer regarding the issue of homosexuality, being a promoter of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights myself, I think it is important to distinguish between our support for the gay community and our disagreement with the Christian position on homosexuality.

He is right to indicate that the Christian church ought to adjust its position on homosexuality, be open to change and rectify this instance of discrimination which results in appalling acts of violence and even in the death of gay people around the world by the hand of those who use religion to justify their heinous actions.

The Church could do a lot more to prevent this. But we should remember that not all Christians share the attitudes of the Church in this, as exemplified by the following: Why I Can’t Say “Love the Sinner / Hate the Sin” anymore. Many Christians are indeed as committed to equality and would want to see gay people’s rights and safety protected just as much as a non-believer would.

Furthermore, we ought also remember that many gay people are themselves Christians, and whilst it is a struggle due to the inherent contradictions that their faith engenders, it must be said that they are the ones who have the power and capacity to change things from within.

I am an atheist, so for me God is an idea created by Man in his own image – an
attempt to make sense of a world that can be unsafe, fragmented and uncertain. Since human beings are flawed, then all our creations are similarly so. In making God in his own image Man has also imbued this idea with his preconceptions, not to say prejudice.

But there is also another side to this idea, one that emphasises love, collaboration, solidarity and kindness. Many Christians, indeed many people that subscribe to other faiths too, tend to subscribe to this side of the coin, and do their best to curtail the first.

We shouldn’t make a habit of throwing them into the same basket with fanatics and fundamentalists that – had they not religion as an excuse – would have found another way to perpetrate harm on others.

Jonathon’s answer gave me a lot to think about, and I hope that my contribution will be of interest to him, as well as to the other participants.

Here are some snippets of the discussion that followed:  

navigator1965 says: Jonathan, Sorry, but your submission didn’t work for me. #6 I don’t see how your general disrespect for monotheistic religion and specific disrespect for Christianity materially differs from some other person’s general disrespect for homosexuals.

cineaste says: Because if God’s message is really saying, “I do not love homosexuals” as MANY Christians are vocal to say, than he is not worthy of respect.

Dotta Raphels :  Hi there, it’s good to read your takes here. I think what this project has done is give me a birds eye view into what people want me to see of them (at the end of the day, it’s exactly what you let out that is seen or perceived as you) That said, I respect your opinions and applaud your support to fundamental rights especially in the sexual orientation department and all.
I think when attitudes of “I don’t give a damn” is thrown around too much, it really may be a sign of something deeper and frankly, being frank many times offends.
As a follower and believer in the words and doctrines of Christ, it pains me to hear you refer to “God” as a douche bag regardless of intent, The one thing this project has been is REAL and intensely discreet in respect to civility and maturity.

IMO everyone has managed to make their point without disrespecting others beliefs or opinions.
To disagree is an absolute welcome, but lets do it with class. I have enjoyed your take and I hope the project has also opened you up to new horizons in regards to diversities and humanity as a whole. Thanks for sharing.

cineaste says: I am not speaking of people of faith in general. Many people believe in God and also believe that gay people are worthy of respect and love. What I am referring to are the people who use God as an excuse to persecute LGBT people. Hopefully he is NOT listening to them because ostensibly, theoretically, God is about love. But if they are truly doing God’s bidding, if this is behavior that God truly wants, than he is an asshole.

Susan Irene Fox says: Jonathon, as someone who is as intelligent as you are (I’ve been to your blog, so I know of where I speak – btw, loved the Myra Breckenridge post), you must be able to differentiate between the characteristics God and the people who misuse His name. As you so aptly stated, “Jesus is supposed to be about love.” In this you are correct. I am proud to be Christian, to be a follower of Jesus, and we are not all like the Christians who blithely toss around hate or judgment.

I would respectfully request that you not lump us all together, and please don’t judge the God who created and loves us all by the actions of the vocal and fundamentalist extremists who presume to speak for Him or for the rest of us.

Thank you, and thanks for sharing your opinions. We all have so much to learn from one another, it would be terrific it we could be open enough to do it graciously.

 

What is your take on this issue?

You have the stage. Make your voice heard. All opinions welcome.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Black Pride

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Black-PrideLade T: “Black this, black that. We limit our competition to ourselves. If White people have awards and events for themselves only, there would be a lot of noise made but when black people do it, it’s okay and it’s Black pride.
I think it allows for mediocrity.”

http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/26/project-o-article-103-lady-t-lagos-nigeria-scheduled-for-9-26-1200/

Dear Lade,

Although I understand where you are coming from with this, the truth of the matter is that black people are still discriminated against, so positive discrimination simply attempts to redress the balance.

Is it an ideal solution? Of course not. It would be better by far if racism disappeared altogether from society, but in the interim, something has to be done to promote rights and opportunities for black people, and yes black pride too.

I’ve read a few interesting articles on black pride that I will share with you. I hope you enjoy them.
About UK Black Pride: http://www.ukblackpride.org.uk/about/mission and on how a new religion was born in response to oppression: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/rastafari/history/slavery.shtml

You don’t have to agree with the premises of either, but it may make for an interesting read.
Warm regards and best wishes,
Vic

deaduramilade says: I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate non-white people (for lack of a better phrase) but we take it to an unnecessary extreme and we limit ourselves. For example, no one would say Mindy Kaling is one of the funniest Indian American comedians, they’ll say she’s one of the funniest comedians. Simple.
If she limits her competition to Indian American comedians, I don’t think she’d have actualized full potential.

studentlondon3 says:  I found your answer to question 6 especially interesting. Do you think we should stick to integrated events only? Personally I think it would help promote a sense of unity rather than the segregation I know many still experience – but that’s just me.

Dotta Raphels says: Hello Lade, bawoni? ekaro or ekasan…better still Kedu? for my peeps here, it’s all “hello” in dialects of my home land.
You my dear have made me so glad! I’ve been here and gone through a hundred and two entries and patiently commented on all…then OM gives me the icing with you…sweet!

Yes, it calls for mediocrity and as I’ve said here, many do not even know what black pride is, they use it as a crutch, but that’s another topic.
I love your insights and I admire your maturity and intellect…especially from one so young.

Keep on living and aspiring dear, a clear head and vision makes for a truly open way ahead and I thank you for putting your bit in here.

lensgirl53 says: Dear Lade, I have so enjoyed your post. (…) I also side with your answer to #6…we live in a world of double standards. What kind of statement does any one race make to be so intolerant of discrimination while touting to discriminate….not good.

And for a little humour:

No HeavenLet’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

9/11 Twin Towers Conspiracy

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

Amazing-Picture-of-the-World-Trade-Centre-Twin-Towers-Being-Built-in-New-York

Renegade Expressions: “I don’t believe Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. I believe that whole incident was a big conspiracy. I don’t believe planes brought down those towers.” http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/27/project-o-article-108-renegade-expressions-jamaica-scheduled-for-9-27-1800/comment-page-1/#comment-69409

I have to admit I was somewhat perplexed by your answer. Of course, everyone has the right to an opinion and the whole point of this project is to offer a platform for people to voice their own and begin an exchange. So… starting from this premise, I would like to request a clarification.
When you say: “I don’t believe Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. I believe that whole incident was a big conspiracy. I don’t believe planes brought down those towers.” do you mean:

1. That Bin Laden had nothing to do with the attack? (This I do not challenge. I am not aware of whether he was or not personally responsible for the attack, and now that he is dead, I suppose we will never find out for sure). However, did he not claim responsibility? For some reason I thought that he did. If he did indeed claim responsibility, on what basis should we question the truth of his admission?
2. What kind of conspiracy? Who were the conspirators? What motivated them to conspire and bring this about?

3. The planes definitely hit the towers. There is ambiguity in that third sentence, so could you please explain whether you accept that the planes hit the towers, but believe that the impact in and of itself couldn’t have brought down the towers, or do you have another explanation altogether for this?
I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to get back to me about this. I really am curious to understand your answer.

Renegade Expressions: Thanks for your comment Vic. I am going to try to answer the 3 questions you asked, my only request is that you do some research on this topic(9/11) online. You will realize that there is a lot of information out there that is contrary to what was ‘reported’:
1.Yes, I don’t believe Bin Laden had anything to do with 9/11.It was ‘reported’ that he took responsibility for the attacks. It was ‘reported’ that passports of the alleged attackers were found at ground zero. At least 2 of these attackers were later found to be alive and well in their homeland. It was ‘reported’ many years before he (bin laden) was ‘killed’ that he had kidney disease and was living off of a dialysis machine. Yet he was able to move about in those mountains and evade capture for about 10 years. My point is many things have been ‘reported’. I am not the type of person that easily believes the stuff i see/hear on the news.

2. As for the conspiracy. I won’t get into that, just do some research for yourself, you will be amazed with what you come up with. I am not telling you to believe any of the information you find but it can’t hurt to research it.

3. Yes, planes definitely hit the towers. As to what types of planes that’s another story. It may or may not be as ‘reported’. What I was saying in my original response was that the impact of the planes hitting the towers did not bring down the towers. The fire that was burning did not bring down the towers. The towers were eventually brought down by controlled demolition. Physics tells us that the fire could not have brought down those towers. Again just a little research or even information from the first responders (including firefighters) will tell you that things were not as it was ‘reported’. Whatever the TRUTH is about 9/11 there is no denying that many people lost their lives that day.

I hope my answers brought some clarity to my original responses. I really don’t wish to be even discussing this topic. I know it is a sensitive topic to a lot of people. I just responded because you asked.

HarsH ReaLiTy OM: So you don’t believe the news but believe online material written by any kid or disgruntled, bored wannabe journalist with no facts and who has never even been to new york? Interesting…

Vicbriggs’s Blog: I also struggle to understand why that is the case, especially when it comes to events that are well documented, where there is more than just the evidence of the powers that be, but also that of so many eye witnesses who have actually recorded these events for posterity. In a country where you have free press too, I very much doubt that governments have the ability to control the flow of information to that extent.
However, I do think that Renegate gave a better answer the second time around. There is some value in attempting to get to the bottom of things, even if he may be going the … don’t want to say wrong way about it, but can’t think of a better way to put it.
I have met many people who are fond of conspiracy theories. Most of the time they simply attribute to much forethought, intelligence as well as logistical power to the would-be conspirators.
What fascinates me is the reason behind this tendency to believe conspiracy theories. What gets people hooked? Is it simply the fact that it makes life more exciting? Is it that we all love a good story and the official line is simply never quite as exciting as the rumours circulating underground.
Would really love to find out.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Brokeback Mountain Whispers

Let’s Talk Opinion: in conversation with Project O

Bradley: www.howisbradley.com

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

It’s very difficult to narrow down to one, but, I feel most strongly about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights. In just the past several months a transgender teenager in Jamaica was murdered by an angry mob when he arrived at a party wearing women’s clothing; a Russian man was brutally beaten, had his clothes set on fire, his anus was slashed open and filled with bottles and his attack ended when a 20 kg stone was thrown onto his head; In Washington DC, my nation’s capital, two women attacked a drag performer, who was a gay man, by biting him on the thigh, and yanked him around by his hair while a bystander videoed the crime and encouraged the fight. I wish these were rare instances, but unfortunately as more cities and countries embrace equality rights for those who are LGBT, more acts of violence are occurring. Homosexual acts are illegal in 76 countries and there are still 5 countries in which the penalty is death.

http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/27/project-o-article-110-bradley-california-usa-scheduled-for-9-28-0600/

I feel strongly about this, and hope that the efforts of all communities will result ultimately in effective equality. The stories you shared are horrific. I simply can’t believe that this still happens in this day and age. Truly, deeply saddened that this is the case.

There was a somewhat hostile reply to one of my Project O comments in which I challenged a contributor’s use of the phrase “…even though I don’t agree with homosexuality.” Mandy, incidentally was writing this in the context of a church gathering where she spoke out on behalf of someone from the gay community, so I felt very warmed by her actions. But the phrase still irked me, so I decided to write Be happy. Be gay! in the hope that an exchange might ensue.

I didn’t get a reply from Mandy. Instead, another blogger decided to put me in my place. I gather she deemed my comment to be an attack on Christians. Well. I have to say, that even though I am an atheist, I do not make it my business to attack anyone, and – as a former Christian myself – I have sympathy with those who strive to keep their faith in an increasingly secular world. I am curious to know what you think of the exchange, particularly on the issue of homosexuality, if you would be so kind as to read it: God @TheTweetOfGod Sigh… maybe Nietzsche was right.

In support of the gay community – through what I write and through everyday personal interactions with others – I hope to promote healthier attitudes towards those whose sexual inclination differs from what is deemed to be the “norm”. My favourite haunt in London is Soho. There is nothing that I enjoy more than going on a gay-pub/bar/club-crawl with my best friend and his boyfriend. This has given me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people: gay, transgender, lesbian and bisexual. I feel grateful for the warmth with which they accepted me into their fold, and for the stories they have chosen to share with me. It’s opened my eyes to the obstacles they encounter, and gave me a better understanding of what they have to overcome in their everyday lives. Inspiring people.

This motivated me to be more vocal about difficult issues, defend the community and my own stance on gay rights whenever challenged.

Thank you for your post.  Insightful.

P.S.: On a lighter note… #BenedictCumberbatch goes Brokeback Sherlock, one for the boys.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

War! What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O.

Are all wars unjust or are some wars legitimate?

On the question of war. There is disagreement as to the legitimacy or lack thereof for the perpetration of violence of states against other states. States self-legitimate their actions through a variety of causes, which are oftentimes little more than thinly veiled excuses.

Here are some of the usual suspects:

1. Ideas: We are doing it for liberty, democracy,

2. Economic security: We can’t afford for oil supplies (or other scarce resources) to be in the hands of unfriendly governments,

3. Ethics or morality: He is an evil dictator who kills his own people,

4. Ideology – usually nationalism: We have a right to this land, it is populated by our people, they need our protection and we can only offer them security by taking over the land they populate.

5. Geopolitics – the zero sum game: We can’t allow the other Big Guy to have unchecked influence in that area for either economic, political or ideological reasons. Or: Land/Sea disputes: Historical ambiguity as to what belongs to whom, coupled with the discovery of precious resources on land or at sea can often result in war.

6. Security: We need to make a pre-emptive strike because the state in question is plotting an attack. Or: They are in our back yard so our security is under threat due to their external policy commitments. Or: Their political/ideological stance is destabilising the region which in turn is a potential threat to our security. Or: They have weapons of mass destruction. Or: They are building weapons of mass destruction. Or: They are planning to build weapons of mass destruction.

7. Politics – related to border security and economic advantage: They have elected or they have a government that is not of the right political persuasion (usually of the left, when the US would prefer a friendly and submissive right wing government or dictator), so we will attack to remove this government and institute one that would play the game by our rules.

8. Religion: God told me to. This is a holy war. (The Bushability effect) Of course, during the Middle Ages most wars were clashes between distinctive systems of belief, all vying for dominance.

9. Retaliation: They stole something of ours (oil / water supplies etc.) so we are attacking to claim back what is rightfully ours.

10. Civil Opposition: The government no longer has legitimacy, the people are against it. We are supporting the will of the people.

I cannot claim this list to be exhaustive so feel free to add to it. It is a start however.

International relations are anarchic. There is no way of policing how states act towards their neighbours or towards far away states that are deemed of interest. Before the Iraq war state sovereignty was respected in so far as states would not be threatened with war unless they ‘misbehaved’ externally. They had free reign on internal matters. The Iraq war changed that. Now no state is safe from external intervention. Syria is another example, and I am afraid there will be many more.

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This article has been written in reply to April, for Project O. Please follow the link below if you would like to read her full contribution: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/26/project-o-article-104-april-georgia-usa-scheduled-for-9-26-1800/

This is the Q&A I have focused on for this piece:

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

April @ http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com/ replied: “Being that I grew up during the Vietnam war, and experienced the debacle of the war in Iraq, I am strongly against war. I don’t have any unique thoughts, it’s just something that I can’t comprehend.”

Dotta Raphels says: “War numbs the human spirit period! Those whose lives have been touched by war will attest to this, war is not a good thing at all; many share your feelings. Still on 6, IMO we influence events in our everyday lives without even realizing it. I can understand anyone carving out a haven to protect their hearts or beings; sometimes it’s the only way we know how to cope with many dire situations which confronts us.”

Please Note: Let’s Talk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers – so it is all about connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If a topic catches your eye and you would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if like me you happen to be a former Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl ;)

To Question Or Not To Question?

Image

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Project O

This is my reply to a fellow Project O contributor on the question of… well: questioning.

To Question Or Not To QuestionDear Nellie,
Your point was a brilliant one, and that man ought to be ashamed of trying to stunt your questioning mind.
Teachers are supposed to provide a safe environment where their students can thrive, rather than use the classroom to enlarge their own (in some cases already overblown) ego.
You made a very important point and it is worth some additional thought: “Morals are ever changing, how do we ever truly know what we think is right?”
To question is an integral part of our humanity.

Being self-reflexive, as you were in this case, is how we strive for autonomy (self-government and therefore freedom!).

And yes, our norms and values are in constant flux. There is nothing that is sacred, that is: nothing is beyond being questioned.

As history advances, we ought to always ask ourselves: Are these norms, values, moral guidelines – if you will – inscribed in our laws and institutions, are they still valid? Do they offer answers to our most important questions about society, politics, economy, culture and… [make your own addition here]?
Hope you keep questioning, whether there are tyrants around that try to stop you or not.

http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/28/project-o-article-116-nellie-moriarty-north-carolina-usa-scheduled-for-9-29-1800/comment-page-1/#comment-65653

Nellie Moriarty: http://www.lowermiddlechild.com

“My sophomore year of high school I had a teacher named Mr. Slater. He thought his teaching was open-minded but in reality he simply taught from a different viewpoint. A viewpoint that was just as narrow minded everyone else’s. So one day when in his class I had an idea that differed from his, a simple seminar turned into a ridiculous shaming proved by Mr. Slater. The worst part was that the other kids worshiped him simply because he was different. I’ll never forget my point now: Morals are ever changing, how do we ever truly know what we think is right?”

Project O – Harsh Reality EXCLUSIVE: Interview with vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan

vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan on life, the universe and Opinion!

vicbriggs and AOpinionatedMan on life, the universe and Opinion!

I’m a story teller. I want to share my story with you. It may be mine today, or perhaps someone else’s. Ideas tail me until I give them space on the page and I can think of nothing more joyful than to send them chasing after you, make you smile, laugh, or shed a tear if that’s what you need today.

Project O : truth + fiction. After submitting my Opinion piece preview for the project (you can read this here: http://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/   ), I decided I’d delve a little deeper and see what I can come up for you. It soon became clear that an interview was in order.

Opinionated Man came to the virtual rescue. But. It always helps to visualise.

Disclaimer:

The interview below is between a fictionalised Opinionated Man and myself. To avoid any confusion, I shall refer to him as iOM. 

September 1, 2013. 10:03am GMT.

Altitude: 37000 feet (plus minus a couple of toes)

Ground Speed: 548mph

Somewhere south of Prague, nosing ahead towards Vienna; final destination: Iasi.

iOM walks towards me with an assured step. His shoulders move in rhythmic sequence one after another, as if driving his body forward, towards this place that contains me. I just stand here, watching him walk. Interesting. I never noticed before that he keeps his arms balancing slightly apart from his torso, that he walks tall and straight, carrying his height to its full.

Half way down the seat-path he twitches his nose and fans it with his hand. I laugh. Yes. This is one stinky plane. No two opinions about it. We could’ve chosen a better place for this interview, but needs must.

We await the lukewarm pretend-coffee liquid to be brought around. Once the green-coated, cherry-lipsticked, and rather grumpy Tarom stewardess (excuse me, ‘pilotical’ incorrectness alert!), ok: flight attendant leaves us; Lilliputian coffee cups in hand, iOM turns towards me and gets straight to the point. 

iOM: You are relatively new on the blog scene, having just celebrated your first month blogniversary. We first crossed swords over the question of women being crazy. In your opinion, did your background influence your position on the matter?

vicbriggs:  Very much so. My first instinct was to rebuff your claim, but that’s the lazy route. I remembered how a fellow thinker once dealt with someone who called her a feminist dyke (not that I’m suggesting here in any shape or form any equivalence between your view and that of her assailant). Rather than getting angry, she embraced the term transforming it into something positive: “Yes. I’m a feminist and a dyke. It’s wonderful that we live in a society where we can be one and the other, and be proud and vocal about it, wouldn’t you agree?” she said. It completely befuddled her wannabe attacker.

Opinion on gender issues in my country of birth, a small former Soviet republic, is still dominated, to my great chagrin, by a misogynist male population. It was tough growing up as a woman in Basarabia, but I think I owe my strength and commitment to women’s cause to that place. 

iOM: Are things different in that respect in your new home country?

vicbriggs: Things are much better in Britain. Women do have a voice here and their social standing is relatively better than in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, there are still many hurdles to be overcome. There is a backlash of conservatism against the advances of feminism on women’s rights.

Since the recession, some politicians have even suggested that women ought to return to the home as their rightful place. Women’s pay is still considerably lower than men’s in equivalent jobs. Whilst men do not have to sacrifice their career in order to have a family, many women are still faced with that choice.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if society viewed both men and women as equally responsible for the upbringing of new generations? I think a lot can be done to share the burden, and I do believe that men suffer because of these attitudes too. Many would like to have the chance to be more involved as fathers.

My last few years in academia have also thrown light on the difficulties female academics have to face. Male students are never told at the very start of their phd that they have to break through a glass ceiling and that those of their gender have a tough time making it in this ‘industry’.

iOM: In your previous piece for Project O, you recounted how your grandfather’s attitude towards his wife was the first prompt for your unearthing how important it is for people to be allowed to voice their opinions. What, if anything, in your opinion, acts as the Grandfather-figure for others today? What keeps people silent when they ought to speak out?

vicbriggs: Fear. There are many reasons why people chose to remain silent, or are compelled to be so. Fear, whether of rejection, of reprisal, of not fitting in, is a big factor.

States and their governments are well versed in using the power of fear to keep their citizens and/or subjects in check. The Cold War provided the perfect opportunity for both superpowers and their allies to curtail the rights and freedoms of their own people, whilst pointing the finger over the Iron Curtain. When “they have it worse than you” no longer served as an excuse, they found other enemies to scare us with into silence.

The war on terrorism provided the ultimate threat. When your enemy cannot be identified, you live forever in fear. The truth is that no one has as much power and opportunity to hurt us than those we’ve put in charge of our decisions, our laws, and ultimately – since politics now infiltrates every aspect of society – our lives.

This is why projects such as yours (Project O) are so important in offering others a platform, a voice. It is wonderful to be able to be a part of it, and I hope that it will encourage others to express their thoughts and beliefs, whilst respecting those of others.

iOM: Speaking of respect, what do you understand by it?

vicbriggs: Good question, and a difficult one to answer. I suppose respect starts with an open mind. Listen before you speak your mind. Do not judge people before they’ve had a chance to explain their position. Give them a chance to defend it. If you disagree, do so by approaching the issue at hand rather than going for the jugular. Never make it personal, even if at times it feels so. If we were all a little more willing to listen and to at least try and empathise with others, then we’d make the first step towards mutual respect.

iOM: You’ve had a chance to travel and interact with people from cultures and backgrounds other than your own. How did this influence your opinions, if at all?

vicbriggs: I owe a lot of who I am today to these experiences. It’s opened my eyes to other ways of life, other modes of thinking, to others’ ability to cope in tough circumstances. Travelling has made me feel closer to my fellow women and men. I am a better person for it.

iOM: You say that you are a feminist and a democrat, and that you can’t be one without the other. Does that influence the way you view nascent democracies?

vicbriggs: New democracies have a lot of work to do for their women citizens. Outmoded attitudes ought to be left behind. It is not easy. I appreciate that in societies where religion is an important factor there is an additional hurdle to overcome. But I stand by what I said If you are a democrat, you are a feminist.

A Modern Greek philosopher and friend once told me that you can be a Greek or a Christian, not both. Greeks have managed it somehow, so I think there is hope for new democracies to subscribe to feminist values without abandoning their beliefs. But they do need to adapt them to new realities.

iOM: And if they don’t adapt?

vicbriggs: If they continue to oppress and devalue more than half of their citizens, then they do not deserve the label. They may be something, but not democracies.

Women ought to fight for their right to an opinion. Men, if they have that right already, and even if they don’t, ought to join women in their cause. If we stand together, if we persist and never give up, then we are bound to succeed. “Constant Vigilance!”

iOM: If everyone is entitled to their opinion, surely some clashes are bound to happen?

vicbriggs: Absolutely. But as long as there is a mutual respect and a desire to listen and understand the position of your opponent or adversary, then opinion will be in good hands.

As I mentioned before, the one line I draw is on sexism, racism and homophobia. If you deny people of a different gender, race or sexual inclination an equal standing in the conversation, then you are an opponent unworthy of respect. You cannot expect to be listened to when you belittle others. You are entitled to your opinion, sure. But no one likes a dick.

iOM: The last question. Do you have anything more to add regarding the importance of this project to you and to the world?

vicbriggs: The fact that so many people have chosen to take time and participate, voice their opinion in this context , is inspiring. I am grateful to be a part of it.  We have so many projects of our own that sometimes we can lose sight of what is most important to us. Project O has prompted me to delve deep and consider what I value most and why.

I hope that you will be able to make this a return feature on your blog. Perhaps we can rename September as the month of opinion and encourage more writers to participate every year with new sets of questions related to this topic.

Thank you for initiating the project. And thanks to you all for joining in.

Our lukewarm cups long emptied, we said our goodbyes and Opinionated Man left to hunt down another blogger for their opinion. From theory to action, I landed in Iasi and sticking a protester’s banner on my arm tattoo-style, went of the Union Square and screamed my lungs out to save Rosia Montana from the greedy claw of gold-diggers (literally) and preserve this place of outstanding natural beauty for future generations. The future is too late a time to make amends. Begin now. Grab a cause.

You have a voice. Use it.

For a rather more humorous take on AOpinionatedMan’s Project O questions, follow the link to my original contribution: http://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/

And here is the link to all other contributions by my fellow-bloggers. Enjoy! http://aopinionatedman.com/category/project-o/

God @TheTweetOfGod Sigh… maybe Nietzsche was right.

 Humour will save us all in the end…

Dear lensgirl53,

Thank you for your considered reply to my comment. I will attempt to engage in what follows with the main points you make. Of course, if you feel that there are additional ones in need of consideration, just let me know, and I will happily oblige.

lensgirl53: I know this is controversial

Not at all, I assure you, if by controversial you meant your own contribution to the debate of course. The issue at hand is indeed a controversial one.

lensgirl53: but I can’t just let this slip by because of some people’s casual toss of the word and understanding of “prejudices”…

Nor should you let it ‘slip’, as you say. I am glad that you didn’t. As I’ve said many a time in the past: You have a voice too. Use it.

Do correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume that in this particular case by ‘people’ who casually ‘toss the word … “prejudices”’ around you meant me?

If I may be so bold as to protest.

In my line of work, tossing words around is not current practice. My choice of words in general is measured, and my use of this word in particular, particularly so, given the issue under discussion.    

Perhaps we ought to return to the context in which I appealed to the term. I said, and I quote: “As far as I am concerned, Man created God in his own image – and somehow seems to have managed to imbue his invention with his own prejudices in the process.”

Notice that I do not claim this statement to be a truth universally acknowledged. The above shows clearly that I do nothing other than simply put forth my position regarding the idea of God. It was important to elucidate this point, since my reply was to someone with a religious background, who had expressed a view coloured by that background, regarding a political and social matter of some import.

It would be helpful perhaps for me to clarify at this point why I felt it necessary to take issue with Mandy saying, and I quote, “…even though I don’t agree with homosexuality.”

She did not say that homosexuality is morally reprehensible. Had she done so, I would have rebutted in quite a different manner. I would have also taken a less genteel line in such a rebuttal.

What Mandy said was that she did not agree with homosexuality. Does not agree… on what?

Homosexuality is not a person, a political group with a manifesto, or an institution with a set of policies that one could disagree with.

Is it same-sex coitus that Mandy disagrees with? This would be an insultingly reductive view of homosexuality. I persist in the hope that this was not Mandy’s position.

Is it that Mandy disagrees with the existence of homosexuality as a counterpart to heterosexuality? Does she believe that heterosexuality is a ‘natural’ occurrence, whilst homosexuality is a lifestyle choice? If so, then this would suggest that, when she says she disagrees with homosexuality, what she means is that she disagrees with homosexuality as a valid lifestyle choice. I leaned towards this interpretation of her statement, and my comment on her article makes this plain.

Allow me to repeat that part of my reply which illustrates the above point:

“I struggle to understand what there can be to ‘agree’ or disagree with about homosexuality. Homosexuality is not a matter of opinion. You can’t disagree with homosexuality as if it’s equivalent to coffee-drinking, governmental policy on education, or… whatever-have-you: whaling! for example. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice.” (vicbriggs)

So far, so good. Now that you understand my reasons for engaging with Mandy on this issue, I will return to my later statement which incited your reply:

“As far as I am concerned, Man created God in his own image – and somehow seems to have managed to imbue his invention with his own prejudices in the process.”

As I have already indicated above, this statement is nothing other than a clarification of my position regarding the idea of God.

I am willing to acknowledge that since for me God is an idea, rather than an entity, and since I was writing a reply for someone for whom the opposite is the case, I ought to have taken pains to make the distinction clearer perhaps.

As for Man imbuing the idea of God with his own “prejudices”? I stand by this. I’m afraid that if you want to disagree with me on this, you’ll have to do it from within the framework of my argument rather than the Christian one, since my point is a philosophical rather than a religious one.

Suffice to say that all human beings are incapable of leaving their preconceptions fully off the table, and since this is the case, anything they create will necessarily be “imbued” with those preconceptions. Since for me God is Man’s creation, it follows that this idea is necessarily contaminated by humanity’s own shortcomings.

My statement was not intended to challenge anyone else’s faith. Everyone is entitled to make sense of life and death, themselves and the world in the manner of their own choosing. Religion does not do it for me, but I know it does work for others, and I’m not some militant atheist who requires for religion to be obliterated or else.

That being said, I am militant about maintaining a clear separation between public and private. Religion belongs to the latter and has no business dictating policy in the former.

I do take issue with those who use their faith to discriminate against others.

 

lensgirl53: Therein lies the difficulty of explaining our position on such delicate subjects as homosexuality that the Bible says is a sin…along with lying, murder, stealing, etc.

Actually, the Bible may say that homosexuality is a sin, but it does not say that it is a sin along with those others you mention. The sins you enumerate, as you well know, come from the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments. Commandment nr.9, lying: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” Commandment nr.6, murder:Thou shalt not kill.” Commandment nr.8, stealing: “Thou shalt not steal.”

Notice again, how I’m being pernickety about the choice/use of language and the context that language implies?

I do this because in choosing to enumerate homosexuality as a sin in the context of ten commandment sins, you are implicitly creating an image of homosexuality as a sin so great that it would be worthy of an eleventh commandment. If that was not your intention, then perhaps you ought to have referred to other sins that are not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, but appear in the Bible elsewhere. Consistency and parity of position would be appreciated in this context.        

 

lensgirl53: Now, I could start quoting scripture here but what would be the point? If a person does not believe in God or a Bible then those words will have no meaning. But if you are inclined to look it up…try the book of Romans and read it in its entirety.

The western secular world is in many ways also a post-Christian world, so you are mistaken in your assumption that the values and norms of Christianity as presented in its key texts have no meaning for those who do not believe. Meaning however does not equate faith. I am able to understand you and your beliefs and simultaneously adhere to my own worldview, my own set of “truths”.

Thank you for your suggested further reading. I was brought up as a Christian and have read the Bible and many other religious texts extensively as a result. In fact, at my last count, I had read the Old Testament (in its entirety) six times and the new one, almost as many.

I was a believer as a child, and then I grew up.

lensgirl53: As far as the desire of homosexual behavior….they may be inclined to a certain sexual orientation but the real sin is the act of immoral sex (hetero..and homo) The Christian perspective is that we should exert self-control in all things and when we fail, as we will do….then we are forgiven through our faith in Christ. Simple as that…a gift from a loving Father.

Interesting. Your explanation is insufficiently developed I’m afraid. I am still in the dark as to what, in your opinion, constitutes immoral sex. Care to elucidate?

My guess is that you make in the above a distinction between sex within marriage as moral, and church un-ratified sex as immoral, irrespective of whether it is a heterosexual or same-sex relationship? If so, where does that leave civil marriages, where the couple chose not to have a religious wedding?  

lensgirl53: And quit judging Christians, while saying that they “judge” others…it just isn’t so.

Quit judging Christians? I would ‘quit’ if I had been judging Christians in the first place. I’m afraid you have projected onto me and mine your own preconceptions of what un-believers ought to be like, what an atheist or agnostic may be expected to think or “believe,” and how they are likely to act around believers.

Please reread my comment to Mandy. Perhaps on second inspection you will be able to see that I do not judge her, and by extension, I do not judge Christians: http://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/be-happy-be-gay/

I have no interest in judging anyone. I am a thinker, a philosopher-in-training. What I try to do is engage with people at the level of ideas, which I find to be a fruitful and enriching experience.

Nor do I ever once say that Christians judge others.

Again, you appear to take it as a given that if a non-believer challenges a believer on any point, they are necessarily judging them, making some sort of personal attack. I can’t change your perception of this. Only you have the power to make that change. I can only refer you back to the above.

I have copy-pasted your comment before writing my reply in order to ensure that I do not attribute to you any words or opinions that you have not expressed in writing. Please be so kind as to return the courtesy and only claim that I say something when I do in fact say it, rather than when you believe it to be implied in what I say.

There is a distinction. And it is an important one: When I write/say something: that is my opinion expressed. When you write that I say something: that is your interpretation of my opinion, which may or may not correspond to my actual position.

lensgirl53: I would rather live as if there is a God to die and find out I am right, than to live as if there is no God to die and find out I am wrong!!

Therein lieth the crux of the matter: You believe that there is something to find out after death. I do not.

 

Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read my reply. Additions and corrections to the debate are of course very welcome. Until then, I bid you farewell.

*

Writing this article was made possible by Project O. To read my original contribution, please follow the following link: http://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/

For Mandy’s contribution to Project O, please follow this link: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/20/project-o-article-80-mandy-uk-scheduled-for-9-20-1800/comment-page-1/#comment-63799

To read other contributors’ Project O pieces, and find out more about the project’s inception and aims, follow the link below: http://aopinionatedman.com/category/project-o/

There is also an interview with vicbriggs and OpinionatedMan coming up in October. Will link it up to my blog as soon as it is published. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter for updates: @shardsofsilence

Be happy. Be gay!

Another day, another cause.

You can read my answer below, and click on the link for my adversary’s contribution to Project O: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/09/20/project-o-article-80-mandy-uk-scheduled-for-9-20-1800/comment-page-1/#comment-63799

Well. Let’s break the silence.

Dear Mandy,

There is a sweetness that comes across in your narrative voice. It is warming that you strive to better yourself despite, or perhaps because of – who am I to judge? – your religious  upbringing. This is why I am confident that you will take my comment in the spirit in which it is intended.

You say: “…even though I don’t agree with homosexuality.”

I struggle to understand what there can be to ‘agree’ or disagree with about homosexuality. Homosexuality is not a matter of opinion.

You can’t disagree with homosexuality as if it’s equivalent to coffee-drinking, governmental policy on education, or… whatever-have-you: whaling! for example.

Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice.

It is not equivalent to preferring skinny jeans to boot-cut, or vegetarianism to meat-eating.

It just is.

In matters of homosexuality, I subscribe to Freud’s view that all humans are inherently bisexual, meaning that everyone incorporates aspects of both sexes, and has the capacity/propensity to love both sexes both psychologically and anatomically. Heterosexuality and homosexuality both, developed from this original bisexual disposition.

All else: learnt behaviour.

As far as I am concerned, Man created God in his own image – and somehow seems to have managed to imbue his invention with his own prejudices in the process.

But even if you are a Christian, didn’t Jesus say “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”? Can’t find any indication in his teachings that this love must be confined to its heterosexual variant.

Regards,

Vic