Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interesting Times

What an insane little world we live in. Just this past week a few things have popped up in the media that make me think the world is losing touch with reality. Indonesia has passed harsh laws - apparently adulterers can be stoned to death, and gay people face stiff jail sentences. Hmm. I'm surprised those "humanitarians" didn't get it the other way around.

An Indian athlete, also female - who failed a gender test for similar reasons in 2006 and was stripped of her medals. The test results were also splashed across world headlines in a pre-release "leak". Her athletics career ended and she was forced back into a life of poverty. She descended into depression as a result of the embarrassment and attempted suicide. It has taken her until today to try to piece together her life and broken dreams. In a press statement, she made an appeal that Caster Semenya not receive similar unfair treatment, that she be treated with honor and respect. And yet there are many who still maintain she had an "unfair advantage" by "not being female". Such statements are clearly fuelled by both Patriarchy and ignorance.

In the local press, Caster Semenya's gender test results were most insensitively leaked to the media and splashed all over the world's papers. How very decent of them, rubbing the poor girl's nose in the news that she failed and giving intimate personal details about the inside of her body so that no member of the public could be left in any doubt that there are doubts about her being female. Who cares that she is only 18 years old, faces the end of a hitherto fantastic future in athletics, has no other prospects as she hasn't even finished high school yet, and may even retreat into depression or turn suicidal because of this? No, getting that headline first is far more important. And isn't it a "moral duty" to report the news - whether it is true or accurate, or not - to a public hungry for something to gossip about for a few days?

Following this, we have the SA Department of Home Affairs announcement that an initiative to re-introduce censorship in the media is about to be launched by government. Apparently child pornography is going to be used as the excuse to ban all forms of porn in the public media in order to "protect children". Conveniently this minister did not mention that such a law could also allow government to ban anything else it deems "unfit" for public consumption.

Some foreign news items also caught my eye over the past week, and provoked some thought on the topic of selective morality, selective reporting and also how they differ, if at all, from censorship. Why did the media only seem to focus on the recent comment by Madonna to defend Gypsies in the Baltic - and fail to include her comment made in the very same sentence where she defends gay people? I know the crowd at her concert in question cheered and howled with outrage at the same time - but what's with journalists half a world away? What's up guys? Scared to tell the whole truth?

Ironically some US church groups hailed her for her humanitarian action, encouraging her to pursue this matter and continue making such statements - while also carefully omitting the "homosexual question" completely. How convenient. Is this a manifestation of the "flexible morality" of the religious right wing? What they are doing here is saying "racism is bad, but abusing gay people is just fine with us."

Would they have made such a statement in her favor if the fact that she addressed both issues had been mentioned? The world seems to be saying: Cool what she said about the Gypsies - but hey, don't worry about what she said about the queers - you can go right on abusing them.

Some heterosexual people must be wondering why gay people feel the need to defend themselves so aggressively while the "straight and normal" just continue with life. In fact I know they are, because one asked me this very question.

Could it be because the attack by the so-called "straight and normal" on gay people is so aggressive? After all, you get what you give - even something as seemingly unrelated as Newton's third law demonstrates this - and religious bigotry is the gift that keeps on giving.

What was Newton's third Law? "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". Meaning in social terms, that if you show me respect, then I will most likely show you respect. If you act out of malice against me, then expect some of the same. Perhaps the concept of karma illustrates this in a more holistic fashion, in fact in Afrikaans culture here, people say "die wiel draai", meaning "the wheel turns". I would prefer not to be the one under it, if it's all right with you - so if you stop hating us, we will stop having to defend ourselves against you. I think this is pretty much self-explanatory.

In more news from the foreign press, a UK mayor who reportedly tied to ban a gay pride event in his town of Doncaster a few months ago, has made the headlines yet again - this time for praising the Taliban for its "family values".

Unbelievable.

At the time of the earlier incident,"Peter Davies' decision to cut funding for Doncaster Pride was heavily publicised, he was forced to back down after admitting in a radio interview he had no idea how much revenue the event generated for the town." "I don't think councils should be spending money on them [gays and lesbians] parading through town advertising their sexuality."

Indeed. So now he has opened his big mouth again, and put his great big foot in it. Is this not reminiscent of the furore raised by right wing radicals like Errol Naidoo of the radical and anti-human rights "Family Policy Institute" around gay Pride festivals such as the Pink Loerie every year? Naidoo is well known for his fanatical defence of what he calls "family values", which in his view seems to entail the loss of human rights for "immoral" gay people.

According to Peter Davies, an English Democrat elected to the office of Mayor in June, people "should look to the Taliban as a good example of family values."

A Labour MP for Doncaster Central, Rosie Winterton, pointed out that the Taliban regime bans girls from attending school and punishes women who overstep dress or sexual rules with execution.

Defending the remarks, Davies said: "The point I was making was that even a regime as hideous as the Taliban at least appears to have some sort of decent sort of family affairs." "In fact, probably… they have an ordered society." "We in this country have created mayhem through lax social policies of disregard for marriage and the family and we have created mayhem in society."

Ordered society?

"Honor killings" of children by parents and relatives for wanting to marry a partner of their own choice - or for being gay or transgender. Beating and forcing women into lives of ignorance and submission. Yes, yes - I can see the family values this man praises the Taliban for... It seems to me all fundamentalists are alike - the only difference being which book they use as a blunt instrument.

I bet there are now many people realizing their mistake in voting for this man, but oh well, they have until the next local election to regret their short-sightedness. I wonder now if there are people in the pink community and liberals in South Africa who are feeling the same, because last Friday there was the cherry on the cake - "Zuma's God Squad", the NILC, announced in a newspaper article that part of its role in assisting government to "clean up society" and take on "corruption" and "moral issues" in SA, is to play a major role in "revisiting" (i.e. abolishing) liberal laws allowing abortion and marriage equality for gay people. It was almost possible to see the speaker for the NILC rubbing his hands with glee, and rolling up his sleeves to start cleaning up.

Will good people do nothing, and stand by while self-appointed "moral champions" trample the right to equality and liberty under the heel of their own hypocrisy? It is Wednesday already - and so far I haven't seen a single headline, media item or announcement by any public figure denouncing these developments - or complaints about Government's apparent support for the NILC. Government doesn't seem interested in denying anything, and it seems nobody is interested in asking them either, or in pushing the point. Zuma launched his new corruption hot line on Monday and manned it personally for a time - did anybody call to complain about the use of government resources by the four ANC MP's who are also committee members of the NILC in order to promote that organizations agenda? Did anyone call to voice their concerns about the threat against our human rights and apparent complicity of the government, as reported in the Mail & Guardian article on Friday? The apathy in the general public is tangible. So is the unease and concern in the pink community.

It seems that we are indeed living in interesting times. You do realize that the ancient Chinese origins of that saying show that it was meant as a curse? Whether this is to be proved true or false in our case will be decided by how it is handled by all the role players. Will the bigots and hypocrites claiming to represent a loving God and his followers proceed with this blatant attack on the freedom and humanity of us as members of society? Will public figures and social and religious leaders take a stand and defend our humanity against this unwarranted attack?

"All that is required for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing".

Will we see human rights triumph? Or will we witness the caveat in these words come to fruition?

Interesting times indeed.

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