Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Do Some Western Liberals Spit In The Face Of Muslim Liberals?

So, I'm on twitter as I tend to do and am currently looking at tweets by one CJ Werleman who is a "Columnist for Middle East Eye. Host of 'Foreign Object' on iTunes. Author of The New Atheist Threat." Apparently, people who speak out against religion are a threat. Who knew? And what is a "new" atheist? It's the same as an old atheist...but they haven't been jailed or killed thanks to secularization. Unfortunately, if you look a 13 Muslim countries in the world, atheists can be sentenced to death by the state. But, hey, who is to judge, right? That would get you labelled as a neocon Islamophobe in CJ's circles.

He also seems to have an absolute disdain for those Muslims pushing for reform within Islam. He seems to particular have a hate on for Maajid Nawaz of the anti-extremist Quillium Foundation. Meanwhile, he does seem to have a thing for ultra-conservative Muslim organzations like CAGE UK. That's pretty twisted and makes a mockery of the whole concept of being a liberal. A liberal supporting ultra-conservatives over true liberals? Absurd.

As far as I can tell, CJ Werleman sees himself as some kind of progressive while selling out any progressive who doesn't happen to be in the West. Apparently, to him, the Muslim world is one giant, homogeneous land where everyone wishes to adhere to conservative religious belief without question and completely shuns seemingly all Muslims in the Muslim world who would like to live in a secular, liberal, free society. How dare people want to live like that. No, these are brown Muslims. Their culture is different. They shouldn't have liberal ideas pushed on them...or even mentioned to them. They don't deserve anything better than what they have. All their desire for a better life, for change in their countries, their wish to have a society where they are more free to express themselves is just them being brainwashed by Western imperialists who are using concepts like freedom and secularism to control the minds of a few to overthrow the much better ultra conservative regimes that he seems to feel shouldn't be challenged...or something.

In this case, it seems that CJ Werleman and his devotees have abandoned liberal ideas and aspirations. They have forsaken their liberal brothers and sisters in Muslim countries in what almost seems like a ridiculous form of racism where brown people in certain places on earth who wish for change aren't deserving of the same support from liberals that liberals in the West give each other, or at least should. Apparently, CJ Werleman's hate of "New Atheists" is far stronger than his desire to support non-white non-Western liberals. He is more obsessed with hating one group than he is helping another who is deserving of support and help.

With "liberals" like CJ Werleman, who needs conservative enemies?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

"I Hate White People"

Just sitting here, watching twitter. I searched "white people" to see what I can see. Interesting indeed. I mean, I'm not even digging deep here. I'm just plucking stuff off the live feed as it goes by for the most part. So, I'm just putting this out there. I don't think I will comment. Yes, there are things I can say, but I also know what the pat answers will be, or my comments may be taken the wrong way. And please, just don't assume you know what I would say. You don't. So, I'll just let it be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Is This Cultural Appropriation Stuff?

Okay, in the last month we have had two high profile cases where this whole concept of cultural appropriation has busted loose. First, it was that African-American student at San Francisco State University that accused a white kid with dreads of cultural appropriation. Today, Justin Bieber was being ripped apart because he decided to sport dread-locks.

Now, here is what I can get behind. I know the whole black face thing is bad...and I get it. It has always had negative connotations. It's history is routed in insult. I can see why we steer clear of it. Got it. I'm on board. I understand why the Washington Redskin's logo is problematic, using a stereotyped depiction of a Native American as a logo is an understandable bad thing to do. I can even somewhat understand the uproar over those Native headdress knock off's that aren't really anything like traditional headdresses, just influenced by it, but I can see how they feed into stereotypes and can be problematic depending on how they are used, although don't see it as universally terrible.

But then comes the issue of dreadlocks. And that's where I stop and say no. That's my personal boundary on where I am NOT going to support people being upset.

In my 42 years on this planet, I've seen white people wearing dreads. It's not exactly some new thing white folks picked up. It's been around for a long time. In fact, it seems to me the word dreadlocks is about the only thing that has really been appropriated because seemingly any type of matted hair is called dreadlocks.

But, looking into the history of this varied hairstyle, there does not seem to be one clear, distinct culture it comes from. Love it or hate it, in this case Wikipedia does an interesting job of breaking down the assortment of cultures the "style" has been found in.

So, the question arises: When someone says that dreads are cultural appropriation, what culture is it exactly that is being appropriated?

It seem some folks say that the answer is "black culture" or "African culture". Wha? That's a pretty generic, all encompassing "culture". What even is that? I mean, African culture? How many countries are in Africa? How many cultures within Africa are there? How many cultures of people who originated in Africa but are now outside of Africa for a variety of reasons are there? Is the argument that there is one, giant, uniform African culture that has a copyright on this particular way of wearing ones hair? So, I don't really understand what this culture is. It doesn't account for the many, many, many cultures, sub-cultures, sub-sub-subcultures, etc that exist within any ethnic group. For that matter, all "blacks" aren't from one homogeneous culture anymore than all whites are.

So I object to these generic cultural claims that seem so wide sweeping, where blacks, or even crazier, the all encompassing POC (people of colour) and white seem to be the only two cultures that exist. And somehow, dreadlocks, or whatever you want to call hair that is twisted, matted, clumped together, or meticulously, artistically manipulated, depending on what the wearer is doing with them, are reserved exclusively for POC.  Does this mean ANYONE who is deemed POC is free to do something that appears like dreadlocks with their hair, but those deemed white aren't? I'm confused.

I've been seeing a lot of kids on twitter who are talking about cultural appropriation bringing up celebrities like Kylie Jenner, the Kardashians and some other people I don't know as examples. Apparently, they feel that when white people wear dreads, it's celebrated and seen as cool, but when black people do it, they are seen as thugs and hoodlums. Again, this is something I see as a pretty generalized view of things. I think it's far more complicated than that. But one problem I see is that way too many of these kids are watching really crappy TV and listening to terrible, terrible music.

Here is what I don't get. The Kardashians are olive/darker skinned Armenians. I would think they would fall under the category of POC. BUT, apparently, they are deemed to be white. Huh? How is this determined exactly? Who is judging? Who makes these calls? Apparently, because olive/darker skin Kardashians are seen as white, them wearing dreads is bad....very bad. Okay, well, here is one way to solve the problem...quit making stupid people famous! If they piss you off, don't watch them. When people don't watch them, they go away. Real simple.

Next thing that drives me nuts is when some say "White people can't judge what is and isn't cultural appropriation, only those who are from the culture being appropriated". Okay. Well, here is my problem with that. Does this mean that automatically, because someone says that something is appropriated from them, even though evidence suggests that this is just not true, they must be believed because they are perceived as a victim in this case? And as a result their view is above scrutiny and must be taken at face value and is the final word? There is no room for any criticism of their claims? As that Wikipedia article clearly points out, this wide range of styles melted down under one name has existed across many cultures for thousands of years. So, given that, yes, there is ample reason to challenge claims of appropriation. And it is legit. So, no, the accuser does NOT always get the final say and their view is not above being challenged.

Furthermore, what I don't understand is what exactly the problem with wearing the hairstyle is. We live in a world where cultures have mixed, blended, and influenced eachother since, well, culture started to develop in the human species. We learn from eachother, influence eachother, pick up ideas, etc, etc, you get the picture. There is going to be cross over in cultural practices. That's the way the world works. And right now, we live in a globalized world where cultures are colliding, mixing, influencing, and changing like never before. Ya, cultural practices will alter and blend. It's going to happen. It doesn't have to be seen as bad as accusers seem to imply it is.

I fail to see the damage that a kid wearing dreads is doing in the slightest. I have yet to have anyone explain how it is damaging. I don't understand how it can even be seen as insulting, although I have yet to actually see someone say that it is insulting...they just say it's cultural appropriation and therefore bad and white kids shouldn't do it.

When I was younger, I went to a ton of music festivals. And it was great. And at that time, dreads were quite popular with the damn kids. I would go to see bands and the bands would all have at least one person with dreads, and half the crowd would be sporting them. And it was black kids, white kids, hispanic kids, native kids, whoever, all wearing them, all experiencing these festivals together. No one was running around telling anyone they were appropriating anything, and everyone seemed to get along. What the hell happened? How did it suddenly become "This hairstyle for us, that hairstyle for you...NO MIXING!" When did the kids get so darn crazy. Why can't we go back to that getting along, sharing cultural practices, enjoying life stuff again? Why did it all go so off the rails? How are we getting divided when it seemed like we were united? Is the crime of a white kid wearing dreads so important that we must now divide people into who can wear and who can't wear this hair?

Furthermore, where does it end? How far is this going to go. Is everything we wear and do going to start being scrutinized and analysed and ultimately policed? Is the goal of the people who seem so mad about white kids wearing dreads to ultimately end the practice? Is the goal to compartmentalize everything based on the perceived or real influence of the practice or style? Are we requiring people to stay within a prescribed list of choices that conform to their particular "culture"?

There has to be a line. There must be a limit. Personally, I declare that this vendetta against white kids wearing "dreads" crosses a line, and no I will not feel guilty for that, and no I don't believe for a second it is because I am minimizing the voice of anyone and I am a racist jerk. I feel that I am basing this on well thought out analysis, common sense and logic.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Charlie Hebdo Misunderstood Again. Surprised?

When I saw Charlie Hebdo trending on twitter again, my eyes perked up. What's this? Now what happened? They must have said something that people don't like...again. Since they were shot up it seems that Charlie Hebdo is becoming more and more hated with every article they right or cartoon they draw.

This time around, they wrote what I thought was actually a darn good think piece. But, apparently, I'm one of the few who likes it. It's called "How Did We End Up Here?" and was written as a response to the recent attacks in Brussels.

Everyone who reads it seems to walk away with a different take. Most seem to be walking away with the idea that Charlie Hebdo is a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic rag that is filled with hate. I walked away feeling like "These guys get it." Funny how that is. And, as a result, I am most likely seen as a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobe as well. I'm not. Well, I hate the word Islamophobe to begin with because it's just plain wrong. It implies that disliking a religion is somehow bad. It isn't. Hating innocent people just because they follow a religion is. And that is what some are arguing that Charlie Hebdo did in this article. I disagree. Completely.

To me, the message is crystal clear. When outside criticism of Islam is seen as Islamophobic and racist and therefore is often shut down, and inside the religion you have people doing what they feel god wants them to do without ever actually questioning why god wants them to do it, then you have a double whammy. When it is taboo to question you have a problem.

In the article, the writer brings up three cases: A baker who buys a local bakery and decides that he won't serve bacon, a woman who wears a veil, and Tariq Ramadan, a "scholar" of Islam.

The argument is that all three play a role in a large mindset that does, in fact, lead to bad things. A baker who believes god doesn't want him to serve bacon and therefore will not sell it to others but doesn't necessarily know why or even question why this is so is just following orders blindly...in this case from an entity that probably doesn't exist...and is playing into a cultural norm of not questioning. That's not a universal cultural norm among all Muslims, but a cultural norm within a certain subset.

Then you have the veiled woman who puts on the garment merely because she is told that this is what she must do to please her god. She doesn't question why she walks around with it. She just does it. And even saying that "Hey, women wearing these things seems kind of, you know, mysoginistic?" tends to be deeply frowned upon and met with accusations of racism and Islamophobia. How dare question this garment! Obviously, there ARE Muslims that do question it, and who have decided not to wear the veil. The issue is with those that prescribe to the idea that questioning is bad.

Then you have the scholar who says that the religion is perfect, the Quran is perfect, and tries in every way to crush criticism of the religion from both the outside and the inside. He pushes an idea that Islam is above criticism while pretending to be all about openly discussing the religion. But the message is clear...don't worry, Islam is perfect and simple, submit to a perfect god, read this perfect book and you are on the right path.

Then you have the bombers in Brussels. They believed that by blowing shit up, they were doing the right thing...for god...for the religion...which is perfect and unquestionable. The mindset established by calling anyone who criticizes Islam an Islamophobe and thus shutting down debate, the "scholars" within the religion promoting the idea that the religion is perfect and discouraging criticism, and some of the followers who just don't question what their god is asking all create a dangerous mindset where among the good, the bad is allowed to flourish unquestioned and unstopped.

This is what Charlie Hebdo is arguing, and I think they argue it quite well indeed. And, given what has happened to them, the fact that even daring to draw cartoons of the prophet of the religion ended up in several of their staff members dead is the perfect example of what can go wrong when criticism of a religion is stifled or shut down, and when those within the religion refuse to ask questions or criticize as well.

I don't see anything wrong with what they wrote in the slightest. I don't see it as a broad sweeping attack on Muslims. I see it as challenging a certain mindset that does, unfortunately, exist within certain communities within the religion. But, UNFORTUNATELY, it seems to exist within quite a large portion of the religions followers, though not all.

The funny thing always, when it comes to Charlie Hebdo is the fact that when they criticize Islam, the world seems to go nuts. I keep having people say that ya, they are cool with Islam being criticized, but not like THIS! What does that even mean? Is there a guidebook on how to criticize the religion that we can all reference so we know the proper way to talk about the subject. And why aren't all of these same people freaking out when the magazine is critical of other religions? It's just writing about Islam that seems to bring the wrath of so many. It further shows that, for some reason, Islam is set in a different category, by both followers of the religion and well meaning left wing folks. This rush to absolutely protect Islam and Muslims from criticism is almost obsessive and an instantaneous response to any negative statements. And it's been like that for years now. But why?

One person on twitter told me that part of the reason it was so bad was the fact it ONLY talked about Islam. Apparently you can't write an article ONLY about Islam, you have to criticize all of the religions in an article on Islam. Who knew? Does that mean if someone writes and article criticizing capitalism, they also have to make sure they criticize communism in the same article or it's just bad and is attacking one idea/group? Does it make on a capitalistphobe?

As far as I am concerned, Charlie Hebdo made the right criticisms, asked the right questions and posed the right concerns at an important time. To deny that Islam is going through a terrible crisis right now is absurd. The way the religion is manifesting itself in many places in the world, as well as in the West, should be seen as concerning. Does this mean ALL Muslims are bad, scary, violent people. Hell no. Of course not. We can clearly see that isn't the case. No one can honestly argue that all Muslims are a problem. And Charlie Hebdo most certainly did not do that as well.

But, if we are ever going to figure out the crisis facing Islam, and the rough relationship it is having with the West at the moment, without a doubt we MUST look at the religion itself to see what it says, what people believe, how it exists, what path it is on, etc. Trying to find answers in all other places BUT looking critically at the religion is completely missing a major component of the trouble. Are there other factors? Of course. All need criticism. But to shield the religion itself from criticism when clearly it is an important part of this is ridiculous.

None of this is to say that Charlie Hebdo itself is above criticism. Of course it is open for scrutiny. But I do think that much of the criticism it is facing over this article is over the top and not well thought out. It's knee-jerk reactionary and seems to be based on a few elements seen in the article, ignoring the bigger picture, and writing it off as Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic and an attack on innocent Muslims. And that, right there, is also a huge part of the problem. In other words, the critics are proving the article absolutely right.

UPDATE: So, I've been thinking. This is Charlie Hebdo. Above, I took the article at face value and analysed it as such. At face value, I feel confident in my assessment. But what if the article isn't meant to be taken at face value? Maybe it's all sarcasm. Do they mean the opposite of what they say? Is this a possibility? Are we ALL missing the point collectively, both critics and supporters? After all, they are a satirical magazine that often uses biting sarcasm to get a point across. Hmmmm.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Atheist Ramblings: People Love To Hate Richard Dawkins

Ya, ya, ya, I know. You hate Richard Dawkins. Unless you are one of those people that love Richard Dawkins. Then you love Richard Dawkins. I can't think of many other figures who people either wildly love or people wildly hate aside from, say, Hitler. 

Where do I stand when it comes to Richard Dawkins? I like him. I just can't help but like him. To me, he is a likeable character. Others don't see that, but I do. I just like him, his style, his ideas, his intelligence and his cool accent. I do see him as a smart guy who says a whole lot of spot on things. Perfect? Of course now. I don't worship him as a messiah. I see him as a guy with ideas that I tend to agree with and like. 

Is he cantankerous? Yes, in a soft, gentle voiced kind of way. Is he more cantankerous than anyone he is challenging? Nine times out of ten (a number I am pulling out of my butt) the answer is no. 

Hey, there is nothing wrong with stirring stuff up at times, especially when it needs to be stirred up. And Dawkins is not afraid to do just that, no matter how much it pisses people off. And, frankly, sometimes the people that he pisses off deserve to have someone piss them off. And, more often than not, they are going to be pissed off about something anyway. 

Case in point: The most recent controversy that Richard Dawkins is part of where he was supposed to be a speaker at the Northeast Conference on Science and Scepticism (NECSS), however, he tweeted a video that has been deemed highly offensive (which, it is and it isn't. I thought it made some good points) and now he is no longer going to be speaking at said event. I wrote about the whole incident here at Reverb Press. 

Man, do I feel that NECSS made a bad move. Why? I felt that Dawkins actually handled the entire situation around the video quite reasonably. I see what he saw in the video and the message it sent. I get it. I understand. It counters extremist ideas and hypocrisy. It does so in a crude, yet rather humourous fashion, quite frankly. But, someone at NECSS didn't like it. And, as a result, Dawkins has been turfed as a speaker, which seems to be the way it is these days. It really doesn't seem to take much to get ditched as a speaker. One misguided tweet here or there, and bam, everyone hates you. And it seems that those getting turfed the most are people on the left being pissed off at other people on the left. What's the deal with that?? The left doesn't seem interested in actually talking and discussing things amongst one another. It just seems to have this script that all on the left are supposed to go by and if you don't, gawd forbid, you are in deep trouble, man. You are cut out of the pack, vilified, demonized, left for dead. It's a left eat left world out there, people. 

Now, I feel that I am pretty far on the left. But, come on my fellow lefties, you guys are sticks in the mud! You get pissed off and offended way too easy these days. People are condemning Dawkins saying he is his own worst enemy. No. He isn't. The left is it's own worst enemy and I feel like it's crashing in around me, going all bonkers. In fact, in many ways, I think people like Richard Dawkins are the only SANE ones left on the left.   

So, ya, fine, you don't like Richard Dawkins. You are entitled to not like him. Just, chill out a bit, okay. Not everyone is going to say everything you want them to say exactly how you want them to say it all the time. Getting pissed off and cutting fellow leftists out because they tweeted a video you don't like just doesn't seem like the mature and reasonable way of dealing with it. Let's chat, let's talk, discuss openly, debate, but this whole shutting people down and pushing them out? Really? Do we need to be doing that?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hey! Stop Circumcision Shaming! I’m Not A Mutilated Freak!

I’ve heard the often nasty rhetoric around circumcision by die-hard uncut penis lovers, and all I can say is, please stop with the circumcision shaming! I hear people say that circumcision on boys is mutilation. They say that it is child abuse to circumcise a child. There is, to some, a special place in hell or whatever suitable equivalent for those who have chosen to circumcise their child. Gawd! Stop it! Just, stop it, alright!

Look, I am a 42 year old dad who was circumcised when I was a baby. I do not see myself as mutilated in the slightest. I don’t feel for a second that I was abused as a child. I see no lasting negative effects in the slightest.

At the time I was circumcised, it was a relatively common procedure. For my family, it had nothing to do with religion. My parents were given an option and they decided to have me circumcised. The argument at the time is that it is easier to keep a cut penis clean. And, although I have nothing to compare it to, I do find that, yes, it is quite handy to have that flap of skin gone, quite frankly.
And as far as I am concerned, they did nothing wrong in choosing to have me circumcised. I was a baby. I did not know what was going on. I do not see any drawbacks to what happened. None. Zero. Zip. Nadda. It was not what I would call a traumatic event in my life. I had no clue. I have no memories of it. All I know is that I now have what I have, and I am quite happy and pleased with that. And I wouldn’t change it even if I could. It was a good decision on the part of my parents, I think.

Now, my wife and I have two sons. They have penises, as sons tend to do. We have not had them circumcised. Why? It’s just not recommended anymore. It was offered, we declined, and life went on. I wouldn’t change that choice either. But, I know there are parents out there who will make the choice, and the choice, although quite controversial at the moment, is not a bad one if they decide to go with it. They don’t deserve to be shamed or demonized for making the choice.

I often hear male circumcision being compared to female genital mutilation, a practice that is done in some countries where the clitoris of a female is removed. I would not compare the two in the slightest. I do see them as quite different. I don’t think there is any evidence that female genital mutilation is beneficial in the slightest. There is, however, evidence that male circumcision may help reduce urinary tract infections, and possibly help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and human papillomavirus, according to pediatric disease specialist Dr. Joan Robinson who spoke with the CBC.

Despite this, the Canadian Pediatric Society doesn’t recommend routine circumcision, which brings it in line with similar organizations in Europe and elsewhere. And that is fine, indeed. But for those who wish to go ahead with the procedure at least there is some evidence that it can be beneficial from a health and hygiene perspective.  There doesn’t seem to be many organizations containing the word Pediatric in it that are pro-circumcision these days. The times have changed. But, given the information available, there will be some who still choose circumcision. Is it really wrong? Are we really talking about what some see as the worst possible thing a parent can do for a child? I don’t think so.

Now, I am not advocating that anyone should get a circumcision. I’m not pushing circumcision on anyone. I am just arguing that for those of us who have had circumcisions, the idea that I or my parents are some kind of barbarous freaks and that I have been mutilated in some brutal way is nonsense and a tad insulting. No, make that terribly insulting, hurtful and ridiculous.  It is circumcision shaming as far as I am concerned. Anti-circumcisers are often spouting off about the evils of circumcision…while sitting next to people that have been circumcised. Hello? Are you listening to yourselves? Like, come on! Just….shut up, would ya? Just stop circumcision shaming! Some people are circumcised and that is okay. Deal with it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Folly In A Donald Trump Ban

So, the UK is deciding whether or not it will ban Donald Trump from entering the country. They are doing this because, well, Donald Trump is a loud mouth idiot who said he would close America's borders to Muslims if he was elected.

Now, of course, this is a stupid, stupid thing to say. Yes, Donald Trump is an idiot who says stupid, idiotic things.

But here is the deal, and why I think it's pretty hypocritical of the UK to look at banning the guy.

Donald Trump is a loud mouth presidential candidate. He isn't a leader. He's a candidate, and one that most likely will not make it into power.

Meanwhile, the UK is letting in actual leaders with real power from countries like Saudi Arabia or China that have actually DONE far worse than Donald Trump could possibly do. So, this idea of banning a loud mouth for saying stupid things while letting in horrible dictators who have done horrible, horrible things seems to be a waste of time and energy.

I do not like Donald Trump. I believe earlier even I referred to him as an idiot. And yes, indeed, he is an idiot. But isn't a despot. He isn't a brutal dictator. He hasn't sent people to their death for blasphemy. He hasn't sent anyone to any labour camps. He hasn't actually done anything but express a rather stupid, stupid idea.

Seems rather ridiculous to me to rush to ban the guy. Call him out for what he is: an idiot! But, it is completely hypocritical to tell him he can't come in, but openly embrace far more horrible people.