Thursday, July 29, 2010

Imaginary Enemies

Imagination is the subject of today's article.

Ironically, people with the least imagination are also usually the most narrow-minded religious fundamentalists you could find - something which one would expect to require... imagination.

They can't imagine what it must be like to be a man attracted to another man, or what it must be like to be a man trapped in a woman's body. And what's even worse is that mostly, they won't even try.

They have some very firm opinions on these things, often criticizing such people out of hand, without even entertaining a debate - especially an objective debate - on issues surrounding the legitimacy of other people's needs and feelings about their own lives.

No really, imagine for a moment that you're out there telling people who have a different sexuality or gender identity to yours, that "it's all in their heads" and that they are somehow just "imagining it" - not just because of how you feel about these things - but because of what you believe in.

That's right - you're out there criticizing and chastising people, even opposing their right to be treated like human beings - because of something you have never felt, seen or heard for yourself - and have to use a great deal of imagination to even convince yourself it exists.

If you're bludgeoning people over the head with "the Word" - which strangely enough, is a book written by other people who were supposed to have been "inspired" by God to do so - a feat which must have taken a great deal of imagination to perform - and which must take a great deal of imagination to swallow as 100 percent true and "inerrant".

The whole thing reminds me of little kids who have these imaginary friends - except, as adults they have invented whole elaborate religions around them. Books to tell other people about their imaginary friends, people to do the convincing for them, and to "prove" their tales to other people who obviously need something invisible to believe in - even if they don't know it yet.

Most people go through life seeing imaginary friends, who turn around and do something to prove they aren't real friends. On the other hand, Leviticans and other religious extremists start out by making imaginary enemies out of everybody who doesn't see the world through the blood-tinted glasses they wear.

When it comes to religion and human rights, equality and justice - and imagination, I tend to think of John Lennon's song "Imagine". It says it all for me. Imagine how things could be. Imagine how other people you think are different to you are really not so different after all. Imagine how much better this world would be if we could all just live, and let live.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

D.W.B. - Driving With Blinkers

We tend to think that things are better today than they were long ago. After all, we have mobile phones, HDTV, Satellite communication and the internet, among many other things. Of course, not too long ago, we still used to have a more relaxed pace of life, lower stress levels and cleaner air and water - and also a certain level of respect for each other as people.

When we read about the DADT policy of discrimination which has many variants in military forces around the world, I think we are reminded that things were not always this way. Fifty years ago, being different was not always viewed as critically and with such a high level of paranoia and fear as some people see it today. From this we can infer that even today, despite DADT being in force, there are still many gay, lesbian and trans people in military service - even while closeted - they have always been there, and probably even more so.

It would seem to me that diversity is strength, and by having diverse people in your armed forces, we would have made your armies that much stronger. But oh well, your loss.

For people to imagine for a moment that there never were gay or trans people walking among them is nothing less than wishful thinking or driving with blinkers on. I know they may wish it was so, or that they even contemplate that all of a sudden, because of the "collapse of Western morality, blah, blah, fish-paste" we started "turning gay" and "weakening the moral fiber" of society. To their limited, shallow understanding - because they didn't know we existed, and were invisible to them - which in their minds means that we "never existed" before.

Of course, this is nothing less than pure unadulterated bullshit.

Why did we become visible? Because while the majority of us were invisible, hiding because of the negative attention one gets for being open and 'different', there was a visible minority that got bullied by the powers that be. We all know the legend of Stonewall back in 1969, and the riots that led to the birth of our civil rights movement. It was persecution and prejudice that forced the issue. Do that to any group of people long enough and with enough cruelty and hate and sooner or later they will reach a point where they will say "enough is enough!"

And that's the long and short of it.

On the topic of DADT though, I found the following post on a Facebook discussion about the modern US military and the poster's own experience as a gay man in the armed forces:

"The old couple that I met when I came out at 16 (forty years ago) told me that "friend of Dorothy" was popular in the Korean War. My friends who went to Vietnam tell me that no one really cared and that there were many gay couples in combat. It is only in the past thirty years since the Moral Majority came to be that soldiers have a problem with gay men serving. Of course, the official position has always been that homosexuals were not welcome. The young soldiers that I meet from Iraq talk about the importance of cohesiveness. But, soldiers I have known from previous wars knew that gay men could be discharged. They also knew that there was nothing wrong with it and they had a great sense of humor about the whole thing. My grandfather who was born in 1895 told me that "sex isn't anything new." "It's what you do that matters, not what you are." While there wasn't a good understanding of homosexuals in the past, there was a civil respect in the past for all people that is lost today. We have the fundamentalist Christians of the past thirty years to thank for that. Personally, I prefer Dorothy and friends. I'm happy to be a friend of Dorothy and proud of it."

Isn't it ironic and tragic that these soldiers, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, go to fight for their country - and then because of who they are they are discriminated against, persecuted and reviled? In earlier years they would have been recognized for their service to their country, regardless of things which should not play any part in that recognition - such as who they love, or what equipment is between their legs.

The sad thing to me is that people still have to fight for the right to be recognized as people, and to have their right to exist honored. It's tragic.

Some people say we live in a sick world. I don't think it's the world that's sick - just some of the people living in it.

Transphobia and homophobia is fear of the unknown. GET TO KNOW US, stop fearing, stop hating. That is my challenge to you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Agents Of Change

What are we in this world? Agents of change? Do we make things better, or worse? Or do we sit back and moan all day, doing nothing constructive and even worse, leaving the world unchanged and no better for our passing? We could go even lower by referring to our friend IdiOT Amin's "bloody agent", but I'm sure we can do better than that. So could he.

In South Africa we don't seem to have GLB groups leaving the T and I out - or discriminating, or abandoning us like in the USA and ENDA matter. The UK has "Stonewall UK" - a group that does a good job fighting for gay and lesbian rights - but that has solidly turned its back on the transgender and intersex communities, and occasionally even helped to attack them. Luckily we haven't seen this deplorable behavior here. Transphobia from the straight bigots in our society, yes. There is still plenty of that, but then, isn't there everywhere?

GLBTI is an acronym. Some use LGBT - and some sit on the sidelines and pick at the way people use these acronyms. It's so hard to please everyone and to keep everybody happy. People get annoyed by the order of the letters, people get pissed off because their letters are left out, or some other letter they don't like gets added in. If you're thinking how childish this sounds, you're not alone.

Should the gays get upset about who gets listed first? Should the Intersex be pissed off every time they don't get listed? Should we start using something like LGGBQPTA2XYZ etc? When kids come out they can say: "Mom, Dad, I'm alphabet soup"? Why should we care about the sequence if we are all supposed to be equal - or do the nit-pickers really want their letter to be more equal than the rest? Why do you think I prefer to use 'Pink Community'? No list, no acronym - no favorites - and it includes everyone. Some people have even accused me of abandoning transgender rights in favor of the gay community - I have even been accused of being a "traitor" LOL. By now I have learned to take it from whom it comes.

Once again why I prefer using "Pink Community", because it includes EVERYONE not hetero or cis-gender and is a hell of a lot easier to remember, pronounce and type or write than LGBTIQQ2AP etc, etc. Acronyms like that, while useful in extremely technical cases are otherwise a royal pain in the arse for activists and people who actually have use them every other sentence - which is probably why so many of them settle for using "gay" when they mean everyone in the PINK COMMUNITY. I challenge you to think of a better term that includes everyone, without it being some bloody ridiculous and annoying acronym that inevitably leaves SOMEONE out.

Yes, there are groups out there - and activists too - who only worry about their own little sub groups and letters within the acronym. But not me. Some groups completely ignore trans and intersex issues and the communities that go with them - despite the great big hugely obvious mountain of common sense staring them in the eye that shows how many of our trans or intersex (or any of the other letters tacked on) rights can be included and addressed within the scope of the work they do to fight for their own rights. Aside from the compassion and solidarity this would represent, think of how many more voices this would add to the cause of our human rights globally. More voices, more votes, more say. Need I elaborate? And while it may sometimes seem to my trans family that I am only fighting for gay rights, I fight for trans rights too - through my fight for gay rights - and I fight as hard for all our rights as if they were all for me.

So there are groups out there that leave us out. That's a challenge, and a disgrace. And an exercise in irony and hypocrisy for times to come. But how will things ever change if we just sit there in despair and hopelessness and say "they don't want to play ball with us"? Funny, how as a transwoman I am heavily involved in two SA pink community groups (and even president of one and on the executive of the other) - and also involved with several foreign GLBTI groups...

So wherever you are, there may be groups that aren't inclusive of everyone, inclusive of your group? So what do you intend doing about it? Yes, you.

Stop being an armchair critic and talk to your friends in the other groups - you do have friends in the other groups, don't you? Get involved with an advocacy group and be a trans voice within it. Educate them about who we are and how similar our needs are to theirs. Mostly these groups will realize their mistake and open up to you, but if they won't hear you, shout louder - or start your own group - and include everybody. Don't play tit-for-tat and repeat their mistakes and return their hostility in kind. Stop drawing battle lines between us and our allies.

Because outside this alphabet-soup minority group of ours, there are loads of people who will happily call us all "gay" and hate us regardless of however we see ourselves or how we feel about each other. And fighting in a burning house makes about as much sense as a caucus race and a white rabbit being late for anything.

There are lots of ways and idioms to describe this, such as "two wrongs don't make a right", but my all time favorite is a quote by Gandhi, who said: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

So what are you in this world?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wolves In The Fold

It's pretty hard to deny that a lot of the world's problems have roots in the activities of organized book-religions like Christianity, which are less matters of personal faith and more systems of control.

Yes, there are many loving, open-minded followers of this religion, and many Christians out there who follow its core beliefs of loving selflessly and accepting unconditionally. Unfortunately it is the intolerant minority which is shouting the loudest at present - the minority which claims it is Christian, but is far more Levitican in its belief system, which rejects Christian teaching and clings instead to old testament ritual in a frighteningly fundamentalist manner.

Despite making it clear the other day that I am not targeting loving, tolerant Christians for attacking the human rights and dignity of GLBTI people, or the Pink Community as we call ourselves here (which I have done by referring to "Leviticans") some folks - even gay Christians - still seem to get their wires crossed and accuse me of targeting them.

I have to wonder - is this a result of a) short attention span, or b) guilty conscience/martyr complex?

"I never have used my god as a weapon." They tell me. Good for you - but others do every day. And they also call themselves Christians, funny enough. I believe I addressed this topic in an earlier article I called "Will the real Christians please stand up?" Amazingly enough, I didn't get any death threats over that one. But still, I seem to get the impression that even GLBTI Christians don't like it when other people stand up for them against religious-based persecution. I still think they should rather get upset with the Leviticans among them instead. Don't you?

We know the Leviticans - the folks who call themselves Christians, but reject Christ's message of love and hope and get their jollies hammering people for things they see as far more important than loving their neighbor, or treating people as they would be treated themselves. They get their thrills doing unto others though. You know these folks, they are the cat among the pigeons, the wolves in the fold.

I call things as I see them, folks - the biggest attack on our human rights today comes from the religious right wing christian fundamentalist (aka Levitican) sector (and THAT IS the issue at hand) -which brings me to my point - if you aren't a fundamentalist (or Levitican) why are you taking it so personally??

Instead of attacking me for criticizing people abusing your religion and for making it into a weapon of hatred and oppression, shouldn't you be be taking them on as well?

Allow me to sum it up for you - religion won't leave us out of it - so why should we cut them any slack? Is it ok for religious personalities to move into politics to hammer and debase our humanity - hit and run or "drive-by" our rights and then retreat behind the safety of "freedom of religion" - and religious extremism and hostility remains a "holy cow" that we daren't fight back against? I'm sorry but that shit don't fly. If they want to destroy lives and even mastermind genocide as they have been doing in Uganda, and threaten our civil and human rights in my country, then I will damn well criticize them and expose them for the frauds and monsters they are.

So if you're sorry I don't call myself a Christian anymore, don't be - I'm not. To paraphrase the old patriotic mumbo-jumbo spouted in years past: Ask not what's wrong with me because I lost faith in your religion - ask what's wrong with your religion (or the people who run it) that I lost faith in it. And while you're at it, ask yourself what you can do to fix it.

I can't help it if you are upset by the truth - or my perception of the truth. I also can't stop you from offering to praying for me. After all, it doesn't bother me - it's your time after all, your effort and your business. But I'm certainly not going to prattle on here about my personal beliefs about life, the universe and everything to try to convince you (or myself) of what I believe, or to say what a shame it is you don't see things my way, spice it up with threats of fire and brimstone and eternal damnation - or promises of sweet paradise if you toe the line - or give my opinion on how lost I might think you are. You see, my beliefs are my own business, and yours should be your own business also. Quite frankly, I don't care what god you believe in - because it's none of my business. Just like what I do in the privacy of my own relationships - that is, when I'm lucky enough to have relationships.

And after all, I'm not on here to talk about religion - my part in this play is to defend the human rights of myself and those like me - and if you think I'm just on here bad-mouthing religion for no reason at all, I think you need to open your eyes.

These ultra paranoid folks even seem to think I am intent on advocating to take away their religious freedom. This is of course an outright lie - but I do oppose their "right" to destroy the lives of other people in the name of their religion. Big difference. But hey, that's not up to me, is it?

No. It's up to you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

South African Roulette

Today the world has been rocked by the good news that South African scientists have developed a gel, which if applied inside the vagina or anus of the female, will prevent HIV infections up to 39% of the time. While this sounds like an astonishing achievement, and a positive move in the fight against the pandemic sweeping Africa, this raises a few interesting points and questions for me.

1) The TV news this evening mentioned that 50% of the female test subjects were given the new gel and the other 50% a placebo. A placebo in this case would mean a blank, generic gel which has no effect or protective qualities at all. Bear in mind this was reported on SABC news, so while I am left wondering whether the people at the state's broadcaster slash mouth-piece, said too much - or whether they even got it right - however, this article is written based on the possibility they were correct.

2) It doesn't take much intelligence to figure out that the use of this gel in such a test - during sexual intercourse - would mean NOT using other safety precautions such as condoms, because then you would have spoiled test results in a test that would need definite results either way.

3) Of course, considering the point of the tests, proving HIV infection statistics using the gel, the female test subjects would have to be HIV negative to begin with, and all the male subjects would naturally have to be HIV positive - because to my limited knowledge, two HIV negative people can't infect each other with HIV, with or without any form of protection, no matter how hard they try. I could of course be wrong, as I am not a doctor, and therefore only an idiot.

Question: Considering these points, is it logical to assume that these scientists and doctors managing this little experiment KNOWINGLY and WILLFULLY gave half these test subjects an ointment or gel that would give them NO PROTECTION at all, and then told them to go out and have unprotected sex with HIV positive partners?

I suppose this is how you conduct tests on new asthma medication, give half the test subjects the new drug, the other half a placebo, tell them to stop all their other medication and go for a brisk jog every morning - and whoever gets sick or has an asthma attack can be treated in the facility performing the tests and regular check-ups, with medical staff on standby. If somebody dies - well, the legal department has already taken care of that, so it will only mean more paperwork and sending flowers and condolences to the correct address. Pity.

HIV/AIDS however, is not asthma. And regardless of whether there is a gel or not, any idiot these days should be able to tell you that despite the medical advances they have made in the past 30 years in the treatment of this disease - it still has no cure - with no definite cure in sight - and you only need to get it once.

Consider for a moment that you volunteered to help this HIV research program. If you were given the actual gel to test out, it means (in hindsight) you still only had 39% chance of not getting infected with HIV - even if you had otherwise unprotected intercourse with an HIV positive partner. First off, that's supposed to be the "lucky" scenario - also bearing in mind that while you are testing it, this is a new product which is clinically untested, which means until the test is completed and the results have been tabulated, there are NO GUARANTEES that it even works.

To me it still sounds like playing Russian roulette in a dark room with a pistol loaded by your worst enemy. Pardon me for saying so, but you would have to be either very, very desperate for money, not have anything to live for - or incredibly stupid to do this.

Taking this a step further, I suppose the gel is worth something in the continued fight against HIV infection, so I suppose a few lives lost here or there is worth the end result, isn't it - and it seems to me that in this case, the end justifies the means.

Again, 39% is still not really much good to me. I mean, the statistics show a significantly lower chance of people getting onto an airliner that won't reach its destination, and that's why people still fly Aeroflot. If people are going to rely on this stuff to keep them safe from the "groot siekte" then they will expect to see a major improvement in those odds. Come on, 39% still means that there is a greater chance of getting infected than not - some breakthrough. In the end, yes - use the gel whatever percentage risk they thumb-suck - but also use latex and good old fashioned common sense. Get tested first.

Now I feel really sorry for the poor sods that received the placebo gel, thinking they were given the actual medication. They would have had otherwise unprotected sex with an HIV positive partner, and most likely would now be sitting with HIV. As I said earlier, you only need to get it once, and it's game over.

I have to wonder what kind of medical care the test subjects who contracted HIV during the course of testing this "marvelous" new gel the people in Vienna are raving about, will receive from the developers? Assuming that money could make up for the promise of ill-health, life-long dependence on the anti-retro-viral drugs (which our clinics are out of stock of currently), and inevitable death from the disease - will they receive any financial compensation for it? I have to ask - how much is enough?

Then again, soldiers and cops don't get paid much to take such risks or to stop a bullet for king and country. I might be wrong, but this seems less likely to be fatal or crippling than taking such a test. By the same token, ordinary South Africans get hi-jacked and murdered all over the country every day, and there is a fair chance that you can get shot during a robbery at your neighborhood shopping mall - and the government continually claims that "crime is lower than ever". There is something sick about that sense of values.

Now I am sure the company involved in managing the testing made sure the test subjects signed a non-disclosure document, and indemnity form - and promised them tidy sums of money to participate and risk their otherwise healthy lives on this gamble. I'm also sure they explained the risks they took to the poor and possibly illiterate people they may have contracted to do the tests, and made sure they understood exactly what they were getting into. I am in no doubt whatever that they covered themselves from a legal point of view.

But to my sense of right and wrong, how right is it to knowingly give someone a placebo, tell them it will protect them from harm, tell them there is a possibility they may get shot - and then send them into battle wearing cardboard armor?

There is, in my view at least, something horribly wrong with this system.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Leviticans Blow It - The Vuvuzela, Twilight and Star Wars Fiasco

Is the vuvuzela an instrument of the anti-christ? Many people might think so, but most probably just at around 4am during the World Cup. Some however seem intent on taking this pet hate beyond a joke and dragging the idea down a few levels - folks like these, who even compiled a study on the issue. Yes, they actually went into a detailed analysis of the various kinds of animal horns from biblical times and proceeded to defame the harmless looking plastic sports fan accessory (rapidly becoming the infamous new "cultural weapon" of South Africans - and even human rights activists and protesters overseas). SA Rugby bosses (and even New Zealand) have already banned it (but probably not on religious grounds). Pretty soon, the Pentagon will probably label the vuvuzela a "weapon of mass destruction" and set about formulating plans to invade South Africa to destroy this terrorist threat to world peace. LOL, as they say in web-speak.

Honestly, you have to wonder at the level of paranoia and wilful ignorance prevalent in certain circles. The things some people in leadership positions and positions of influence will believe, and promote as "true and factual" - and the people who will summarily believe anything these people will dish up for them as "gospel truth", without bothering to check up on the credibility of either the source or the information - is simply mind-boggling.

So, the vuvuzela - a plastic mass-produced trumpet used by sports fans - is an instrument of Satan. Well, maybe - but I think Seth Blatter might object to being called Satan (some people have already compared Uncle Seth to Darth Vader, just more evil - so don't tempt me on this one). Actually, the thought has crossed my mind (albeit in one of those weird moments when I wonder where the coffee went) that perhaps this is some sort of clever Levitican marketing ploy to sell some new version of the vuvu, utilizing a cunning form of name-dropping to blend bits of Star Wars, Twilight and FIFA? What would it be called? A Vaderzela? A Vuvufang? A Seth-o-phone? What would it sound like? What would it look like? And, most importantly, would it sparkle?

But wait, there's more - the very same people at Kanaan Ministries (the group that brought you the study on the vuvuzela as Satan's trumpet, and which believes homosexuality is sinful and that gay people are demon-possessed, and promotes pray-away-the-gay "therapy"), have even produced a SERIOUS study on the Twilight movies and books by Stephanie Meyer to warn of the dangers of vampirism - and BEIN they actually believe in vampires! Not the completely fictional sort (like you would find in the Anne Rice novels) you understand - but the Don Henrie sort that live the lifestyle, wear stylish clothes, paint their fingernails black, and sip on a chalice of willingly donated blood now and then. And, in case you didn't know it, the central focus of the Goth and Emo sub-cultures is devil-worship and self-mutilation. Apparently they are all after our children too, they have been for years (but what's even scarier to me is - so are the Leviticans).

Religious advertising in any form whatever = evangelism, making me wonder who exactly is after who - and while these folks are decidedly paranoid, are we paranoid enough when it comes to dealing with them?

It seems that anything which is not based upon a central message of religious fervor, puritanical belief, or intolerance of some or other minority, is viewed as a threat and immediately connected to Satanism, witchcraft and whimsical threats to civilization. It reminds me of the father of the main character in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", who displayed an uncanny knack to connect (or manufacture) the "real Greek roots" of any and every word in modern English (he also found the most amazing uses for Windex, but that's going a little off-topic).

I heard on the radio news this morning that Uncle Bob (from Zim-BOB-we) has banned the Twilight movie because of Jacob's topless cavorting - and also banned gay rights from being included in the country's new constitution - but I'm not sure how true that is. The Twilight part, that is. I'm pretty sure it is, because we know how concerned Uncle Bob is about the morality of his citizens, which apparently is far more important than actually feeding them.

Oh, and in case you weren't aware of it, another of their studies focuses on the Star Wars movies as a secret plot by Wiccans to introduce witchcraft to children in a way that will entrap them into a life of devil-worship. Scary stuff, if you happen to have a low enough IQ to take any of this crap seriously.

It's amazing how only three items can define the image or presentation of a group or the religion it represents, isn't it? Suddenly, everything surrounding Star Wars, fictional vampires (I loved Brad Pitt in Interview btw), and the deceptively innocent looking vuvuzela - seem somehow dirty. Honestly, I am genuinely surprised (if not a little disappointed) to not have seen "serious academic research papers" on their site about Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga or Adam Lambert, to mention but a few. Oddly enough, I saw no attempts at addressing real-life problems such as global warming, government corruption, homophobia, consumer-terrorism by Eskom or ways to address the high crime rate in South Africa - but then, these groups rarely concern themselves with reality.

It is articles such as these which make me realize that it is no big mystery why such radical, narrow-minded, conservative and even extremist groups aren't taken seriously by the world in general. They belong in the same category as the aliens in Area 51 - just in off a flying saucer. Thing is, while normal, rational people at large do not take them seriously, these people are nonetheless weaseling their way into positions of influence and even government in order to find ways to make the rest of us "see the light" - and that is the part I find unsettling, if not a little frightening.

If you want to see something really scary though, you should mosey on over to the Christian Action Network website and browse through their newsletters, posts and other articles on how they view the current status quo in South Africa. You will see everything from the "homosexual agenda", to the latest news from the Gun Owners Association, to rants about "the Islamist threat", fictional works on "the persecuted church" and interesting new ideas such as "christophobia" and "homosexualism". The Family Policy Institute would be another stop on the tour of the asylum - but not too near bed time, mind - or you could have nightmares that might make even your Goth kids cry - and don't tell them you support democracy or secularism, or they might not let you out again.

If you do read these documents on the Kanaan site, which are presented as actual serious research - stuff that some churches and religious figures will construct very serious sermons around - I'm sure you will notice how clear it is they see monsters, threats to themselves and their fragile sense of reality, faith - and evil lurking in every shadow.

Wow - it must be hell to be a paranoid Levitican in today's world - LOL... or a vampire, or worse, a gay Wiccan vampire.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Leviticans - The True Face Of The Christian Radical Right

The other day, I found an entertaining description of the outlooks of various religions (or non-religions as it were) regarding the popular topic of fate, luck, providence, rather profoundly summed up under the eternal example of surfer-wisdom - "shit happens":

Atheism: I don't believe this shit!
Agnosticism: What shit is this?
Taoism: Shit happens
Buddhism: If shit happens, it isn't really shit
Islam: If shit happens, it is the will of Allah
Judaism: Why does this shit always happen to us?
Catholicism: If shit happens, you deserve it.

I hope my atheist friends have their sense of humor plugged in for this one, and don't crucify me for listing a non-religion among several religions! (Yes, I know, while atheism is not a religion, it is a belief system.)

Add to the list my old favorite, radical or extremist Christian fundamentalism, which seems to say: "Believe this shit - or you will go to Hell!" They also sometimes like to add: "...and we'll help send you there." Sometimes they will scratch their heads and wonder: "How can you possibly not believe this?" and treat others like they are the ones with the malfunctioning GPS. Weird.

I have also seen it said by conservatives that "If God were a liberal, would he have given Moses the Ten Suggestions?"

The thing is, yes - according to Christianity at least, God gave his followers the Ten Commandments (and all the ritual laws in the Old Testament, such as in Leviticus) - at first. Then She saw it wasn't working out - and sent Christ to start over fresh - and yes, Christ was definitely a liberal by every definition of the term. So chew on that, fundamentalists. If you're going to try to whittle down an entire religion to a few fundamentals to try to force people to live by - then at least you can make an effort to cherry-pick the right ones. Here's a clue - hate shouldn't be one of them.

Conservatives tend to get upset when people suggest that God might be anything but actually male - they see it as blasphemous and insulting, because - well, they see women as lesser beings, subservient to the masculine and for all intents and purposes, inferior. It is surprising how many women today share this insulting and inaccurate view.

The most powerful quote I have found lately on the topic is the following by Steve Biko: "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." By using this quote in this context, I ask: What better way to keep this world the domain of men, than by getting women (and gay and trans people) to agree with misogyny and to oppress themselves?

Christ was the New Covenant - in other words, a new arrangement between God and humanity. The trouble with this liberal arrangement is that for conservatives and religious fundamentalists, there are way too few rules for their liking. And this is precisely why they disregard the New Covenant entirely - and cling to the Old Testament mentality, rules and way of judging the world around them - while still effectively hi-jacking the label "Christian".

I think instead of calling themselves "Christian", they (or perhaps the rest of us) should consider calling them something else? How about "Leviticans"?

Apparently, according to one source I found on the web: "'Levitican' is a word coined by a SF writer John Scalzi for that brand of "Christian" who doesn't actually follow Christ's teaching, preferring instead to follow a couple of the laws from Leviticus instead -- the select ones that allow him or her to continue hating those folk he or she already hates -- Christ's sort of Christianity being so inconveniently about loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemy and stuff like that."

I find it to be rather fitting, don't you? After all, they liberally apply a coating of Jesus Christ to the obsolete ritual laws of the Old Testament, while dishing out hatred and intolerance - and calling themselves "Christian". No wonder the world in general - and also the whole mish-mash group identifying as "Christians" - and particularly moderates, are confused by this.

No, really - Christianity is supposed to be Christ-focused, at least by definition. Hello - the name CHRISTianity, meaning LIKE Christ or OF Christ, says it all. Is there ANYTHING at all that is truly CHRISTian in the Old Testament laws and rituals of a nomadic desert people? Or did the coming of Christ change all that? Because from what I can see, the "Christian" fundamentalists are neither following Christ NOR the "fundamentals" of what Christ tried to teach humanity - so how exactly are they Christian at all?

Love, humility, patience, compassion, tolerance. The preaching and sowing of the seeds of hatred, intolerance, violence and death are none of these things. This leaves me with the nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach that there is something really sick, twisted, diseased and disturbingly UN-CHRISTian about the Christian church today.

The Old Testament, in particularly Leviticus, is about ritual law, keeping record of sins and ritual offences and even trivial unimportant frivolities considered "minor sins" by the Hebrew society of the day. The New Testament on the other hand, by stark contrast, is about forgiveness and wiping the record clean. Obviously, this does not suit the Levitican mentality, which is about retribution and forcing people to pay for their perceived sins in this life, before God gets a say in the matter.

According to Mark Twain, "Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." Considering the above statement, heaven is sounding more appealing by the day - considering the rampant hate-mongering from folks claiming to be Christians, who are really Leviticans (Lucky for me, I quite like dogs). And while Puritanism may be described as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy", I am beginning to find the term "Leviticans" very appealing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A World Without Fear

Xenophobia?

What's that?

Recently there were some widely publicized outbreaks of violence in South Africa which were directed at foreigners living in the country, particularly illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Somalia. The term xenophobia was applied to these acts of violence, and many have taken it to mean only this sort of attack on foreign nationals living among the local population - attacks fueled by differences of nationality only. Sorry to burst this little nationalistic bubble - but that's not all there is to xenophobia.

Some very biased and obviously prejudiced people who represent South Africa at the UN and also in other offices of government have recently asserted that racism and xenophobia are far more "important" issues to address than homophobia. Comparing homophobia to racism, they say, is an insult to the victims of racism. Hmm. This appears to be one group having been marginalized and persecuted, recently liberated, and now looking for somebody else to be "better" than and to explore its new-found "superiority" over.

Are you hated? Are you marginalized or persecuted for something which you cannot help being, or for something that is as natural to you as breathing? Congratulations - that makes you another equal victim of xenophobia!

While racism indeed still remains a nasty aspect to modern life, homophobia is just as much a part of modern society, and just as nasty and every bit as unjust, cruel and inexcusable. In fact, those who now decry racism and xenophobia as their new war cries, while pooh-poohing the dangers faced by people they themselves are intolerant of under the terms homophobia and transphobia - by doing so only show their true colors all too easily. which colors you may ask? The colors of hypocrisy and prejudice.

The dictionary definition of the term "xenophobia" is:

"xenophobia [(zen-uh- foh -bee-uh, zee-nuh- foh -bee-uh)] An unreasonable fear, distrust, or hatred of strangers, foreigners, or anything perceived as foreign or different. – noun an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. xen·o·phobe (zěn'ə-fōb', zē'nə-) n. A person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples."

It doesn't take a genius I.Q. to realize that racism and homophobia - and any other "ism" or "phobia" that targets people for inherent differences and diversity, tries to separate people on the basis of their diversity, or persecute them for their differences - form a vital and integral part of xenophobia.

And quite honestly, anyone who indulges in xenophobia, whether it be racist or homophobic - obviously has no clue what it is like to be persecuted, objectified, hated or ostracized for something so basic as their race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. If they did, they would do the decent thing and live and let live. If they did, and still persecuted others - well, let's just politely say they are quite probably not very nice people.

If you're lucky enough to not be a part of some social or racial group which is not hated by somebody, then you're either very, very lucky - or from another planet, or possibly both.

Anyone who is curious enough to want to know how it feels to be hated should go onto the internet and look for a website belonging to a group that makes a business of hating some particular group. The best way to realize what it feels like to be hated is to go and look for a group or site that targets people like you for hate. That will be an eye-opener, I guarantee you.

If you're black, then maybe you should pop in at a skinhead or neo-nazi website to check out their policies page, where they will tell how "dirty" people like you are, and how dangerous it is to let you and your relatives live next door to them in peace because of how you spoil everything for them - or if you're gay perhaps you should drop in at a homophobic Christian group website, where they will explain to you ad nausea um how evil you are for "choosing a dangerous lifestyle" and "threatening" civilization, "the family" and their religion.

Yes, racism, homophobia, transphobia... xenophobia - HURTS, doesn't it?

After reading a few pages, I am sure you will know what it is to be hated, and experience the taste of intolerance for yourself. Actually by that time, I think you will probably even know exactly what is meant by the term "propaganda".

Yes, this is all propaganda, espousing and promoting the idea that a particular group, usually a minority, is somehow a danger or a threat to whatever social group the body or website is claiming to represent. Quite often, these views, even violent ones - are defended under laws protecting freedom of religion with the excuse that it is on the basis of personal religious beliefs that such hatred is promoted.

We all know that religious freedom is protected under the Constitution. Well, so is the dignity and human rights of all people and groups - including those who may or may not form a part of any religious group which happens to get its jollies from persecuting other groups.

The irony is that people's personal beliefs are supposed to be personal - not other people's business - which means all those folks concerned about who you're in love with, or what's on your mind (breasts, or cock or not), should be ashamed of themselves - about as much as those arrogant people that go out into the streets trying to "convert" people to their religion... If people are interested in buying a crutch, they will go to the store - they don't need some snake-oil salesman to annoy and intimidate them in a public space or try to shame them for not believing whatever it is they are trying so hard to convince themselves of.

At the end of the day, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia - they are all words for ignorance, intolerance, fear, anger and cruelty. The antidote to this poison infecting our world?

The opposite of the above - education, tolerance, confidence, love. At the end of the day, it rests with us to change things, to make a better world, to make a place where differences are respected and even admired - or at least tolerated. A world without fear.