Monday, September 7, 2009

Beating Ploughshares Into Swords

Is religious fundamentalism fascist in nature? Are religious fundamentalists prone to it? I have heard them being called fascists and agreed with it simply because of the general perception - and my own personal experience - that fascists aren’t very nice people either. I have often drawn comparisons between them - and I find it surprising that I never realized that they seem to genuinely have so much in common with our totalitarian friends who like to march under flags sporting propeller-like symbols – and marginalizing sections of society they don't like very much - whom they delight in pointing out how much "better than" they are.

To find examples, take a look at recent campaigns to strip social minorities of human rights or equality around the world (such as the recent Proposition 8 and the current Referendum 71 in the USA, and the violence at pride events in Russia and the Baltic states over the past three years) and you will find that the groups behind them are religious, fanatical, fundamentalist – and often racist and nationalistic as well.

People, particularly those who like philosophy, like to quote the old saying that “violence never solves anything”. Parents teach it to their children. The state tries to teach it to the populace – and then hammers them if they don’t listen, but is it true? On this point, the other day I saw a poster online that cast a different light on the matter, claiming "Violence never solved anything - except for ending Slavery, Fascism, Nazism and Communism." Phew. Profound, don’t you think?

The origin of the term "fascist" is from the ancient Roman "fasces" meaning a bundle, tied together to increase strength - meaning a symbol of strength and political power. Fasces. Hmm - remarkably similar to "feces", don't you think? Groups of people will often use force to impose their view or ideologies on those not willing to resist - and will pride themselves on their strength for doing so in the face of a lack of resistance. And yet when those who refuse to submit to tyranny make themselves heard, those wielding bundles of fasces soon find themselves in the dwang instead of just holding it.

Likewise, many argue that - well, arguing - is also a waste of time. We all know that it is impossible to achieve anything constructive by arguing with fundies about anything, let alone homosexuality, don't we? That topic is like waving a shark flag in front of a blue bull (sorry, little local SA rugby reference there). They will certainly never admit defeat, and they will just as certainly never change their minds about it their “Christian democratic principles”. No, they will retreat further into their favorite corner, quoting scripture in an attempt to try and make it look as if they know what they are talking about.

What does religion have to do with politics anyway? Other than control, I mean?

In my limited experience, I have found some arguments to be both enlightening and useful. For example, the arguments which took place on Facebook before the SA elections this year, between gay rights advocates and conservative political parties, revealed something profound that I am sure the general public didn't know about them. Revealed in broad daylight was the underlying hatred for those different to themselves, by the same folks who claim righteousness, godliness and often end emails with "god bless" and "Jesus loves you" - as well as their clear ignorance of the very people they condemn - and their refusal to accept them, or even to learn the facts about them. I do not deny that it is hard if not impossible to change the minds of people like that, but the hatred expressed in their own words in public forums indeed help us to show the rest of society what they are when stripped bare of their snobbery, pretense and veneer.

I daresay this played a role in reducing their percentage of the vote in the elections as many people ceased supporting them because of this - indeed, many Christian folk who did not approve of gay people expressed their utter disgust at the level of hatred evident in such religious political parties and their policies and took their votes elsewhere. This of course proves that argument, like violence in the example above (although I am not in favor of it) can sometimes have its uses.

In an astonishing coup, the ACDP has closed its official Facebook group and opened a new one with tighter security, actively preventing gay people from joining and airing their views about the party's restrictive and narrow-minded anti-gay and anti-diversity views. Clearly they have even less internet savvy than Erroll Naidoo, posterboy of the FPI, who last month simply threw out people whom he didn’t like (including us pesky gay and trans people daring to criticize his anti-gay actions) and then increased the security of his existing FPI group without having to go to the inconvenience of opening a new one.

Perhaps this is due in part to the debates which raged on their group wall recently, which clearly didn't do much for their public image. For months, pro-gay advocates soundly trounced representatives and supporters of the ACDP in debates on the civil rights of the pink community in SA, in which needless to say, the ACDP came off second best. Reams of prose and scripture were posted in a vain attempt to disprove quoted evidence and scientific fact, so much so that people were often left wondering what the argument was about to begin with. People advocating the death penalty for gay people "because the bible says so" didn't help their already dodgy image much - especially since by their silence, the admins seemed to agree with those saying it. They were exposed very publicly for their misogyny and conservatism and bigotry.

This move to close their groups to ACDP party members only is no less than an admission that they are unwilling to discuss their policies in public - or wth the public. It indicates beyond doubt that they are unable to carry on an intelligent debate without resorting to pre-programmed religious rhetoric and misapplied scripture quotations. Their rally to defend their anti-gay views, and their move to close their groups to the public, simply tells me that they must indeed have something to hide. If they really respected diverse opinion as they claim, they would not retreat behind closed doors to exclude interaction, would they? I wonder, what does it feel like to be a dinosaur? Ain't extinction a... female canine?

It is clear these fundies feel threatened and have initiated some kind of "laager response" as a defense. No more gay people to shoot down their false teachings or to show up the glaring holes in their arguments - and no spies to report on their plotting and scheming to generate a public following to support their rise to power in coming elections, whether municipal or general. Or at least, so they think. It would seem these folks are now at the very height - or depth (?) of their paranoia. But then, just because they're not paranoid, doesn't mean we're not out to get them... After all, we have that other agenda they keep talking about *wink* - you know, the one we're all a part of, complete with secret handshakes ad absurd um. Paranoid? Them? Never!

And yet these nice folks, many of whom are the decision makers and cognoscenti in their church groups, will insist that there is no such thing as anti-gay hate crime. That it is all part of the "gay agenda" to make gay people "look like the victim" in this epic war which they have declared on us. They will claim that there is no need for a hate crimes law in South Africa as there is in the USA, because the aim of such a law is to give gay people "special rights" above those of heterosexual citizens. They will say that homosexuality is an issue of religious "sin", and not a human rights issue at all (possibly because they object to the concept of human rights in toto). They will also say that they "hate the sin and yet love the sinner" (though how they manage to throw gay people's sin out the church without the gay person attached to it is a bit of a boggle) and that gay people are not victims, but perpetrators... frankly in my opinion, these people aren't really Christians anyway, because they put the strict observation of their own beliefs over the wellbeing of others.

Ever seen Christians thrown out of church for being heterosexual? No? But yet Christians are thrown out of church for being gay. Ever seen people fired for being too straight? Ever hear of some straight victim getting "straight-bashed" by a gang of rabid homosexuals? Or a man who was murdered and hung dead on a cattle fence because of his heterosexuality? Or a political party campaigning for Christian votes by promising to strip heterosexual rights out of the Constitution? No, you're right - we aren't victims at all, we must be imagining it...

I have noticed the interesting flags carried at "Christian" events of late - white flags with large blue crosses on - ostensibly some kind of "Christian" flag? Know the one I am referring to? Christian flag?? Christianity has a flag? Now where did that come from? Christian nationalism, perhaps? Are we back in the middle ages again? I have seen it paraded at marches to "defend marriage" and "protect the family" from what - love? I see it hanging appropriately like a wet blanket from flag poles outside fundie churches and "Christian" educational institutions. I feel tempted to call them "re-education" - or indoctrination centers. Telling as it is, I have noticed this disgraceful display at only fundie institutions and events.

By the way, have you begun to notice the uncanny similarities between Christian nationalism and fascism? It really is eye-opening. (They used to march in the streets under flags with cute looking propeller thingies on, too.) But aside from flags and cute fascist symbols, how does all this Christian nationalism compare to fascism?

I looked on my favorite open source ecyclopedia, Wikipedia for a clear definition of fascism: "No common and concise definition exists for fascism and historians and political scientists disagree on what should be in any concise definition." However, a few noteworthy characteristics are listed in considerable detail.

"Nationalism. Fascists see the struggle of nation and race as fundamental in society, in opposition to communism's perception of class struggle[66] and in opposition to capitalism's focus on the value of productivity and individualism."

- We all know how much the religious fundies decry the human right to individualism - they like to pry into people's personal lives, even concerning themselves with what goes on in people's minds, let alone behind the bedroom door. And the term "Christianist" was coined some years ago to describe the Reconstructionist "Christian nationalist" movement in the USA religious right wing and its investment in the US Republican Party.

"Authoritarianism. All fascist movements advocate the creation of an authoritarian government that is an autocratic single-party state led by a charismatic leader with the powers of a dictator." "The Italian Doctrine of Fascism states: "The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value."

- replace “fascist” in this paragraph with "Christian" and I think you will see my point.

"Social interventionism. Generally fascist movements endorse social interventionism dedicated to influencing society to promote the state's interests." "Different fascist movements have spoken of creating a "new man" and a "new civilization" as part of their intention to transform society."

- Don't forget the regular attempts to re-introduce censorship of the media. As a matter of interest, on Wednesday last week an announcement was made of a government intention to ban all access to pornography in public media supposedly “in order to protect children”. Now whether you like porn or not, I am sure even a child can see that if this passes you can say “bye-bye freedom” – once they have a foot in the door to start censoring everything they don’t like, we can kiss all civil liberties goodbye. Doesn't that word "transformation", as used by many charismatic churches and social groups lately, just send chills down your spine? It does mine.

"Indoctrination. Fascist states have pursued policies of indoctrination of society to their fascist movements such as through propaganda deliberately spread through education and media through regulation of the production of education and media material.[95][96] Education was designed to glorify the fascist movement, inform students of it being of major historical and political importance to the nation, attempted to purge education of ideas that were not consistent with the beliefs of the fascist movement, and taught students to be obedient to the fascist movement."

- Hmm. Enough said? I have spoken at length about Christian schools as indoctrination centers providing jaded and tarnished material to students before, and I think once again, if you replace "Fascist" with "Christian" you will see my point.

"Abortion, eugenics and euthanasia. The Fascist government in Italy banned literature on birth control and increased penalties on abortion in 1926, declaring them both crimes against the state.[101] The Nazis decriminalized abortion in cases where fetuses had hereditary defects or were of a race the government disapproved of, while the abortion of healthy "pure" German, "Aryan" unborn remained strictly forbidden".

- We all know how passionately "pro-life" the fundies are, on purely religious grounds of course *wink*. Who can recall the impassioned pleas of fundie groups calling for their supporters to tear off or deface all abortion clinic advertisements? Puritanical beliefs seem to rule the minds of these people, but what of the Song of Solomon, where he describes his love and physical attraction for his partner? Yet an expo in Cape Town promoting sexual health and vitality gets nailed by them as "anti-family" and "anti-Christian". Sexual health experts attempting to heal the rifts in relationships and even to save marriages from collapse are referred to as "perverts". I think that is a remarkable paradox. They seem to have got stuck on the part of the bible which says "thou shalt not" and missed the point of the parts that say in essence "thou mayest". Also, do not forget there are some fundies out there who would happily commit a pink genocide to satisfy their purist version of faith and religion.

"Culture and gender roles. Fascism tends to promote principles of masculine heroism, militarism, and discipline; and rejects cultural pluralism and multiculturalism.[111]Initially Italian Fascism officially stood in favor of expanding voting rights to women. In 1920 Mussolini declared that "Fascists do not belong to the crowd of the vain and skeptical who undervalue women's social and political importance. Who cares about voting? You will vote!".[112] Women were briefly given the right to vote until 1925 when the Italian Fascist government abolished elections.[112]Benito Mussolini perceived women's primary role as child bearers while men should be warriors, once saying "war is to man what maternity is to the woman""

- Ho-hum. Par for the course - this seems to echo almost to the word things said and advocated by the religious right. Women all subservient, no room in society for anyone who doesn’t fit in to the gender binary – and everything for the glory of the state – although in the case of Christian fascists (or Christianists), it will be for the glory of the Church and therefore, God. Even as recent as 2005 the "paintball pastor" Peter Hammond and his wife shamelessly promoted teaching little boys the ways of violence and encouraging aggression in them to become "soldiers of the cross", while fostering motherhood instinct in little girls, presumably as incubators for more little soldiers with little corsses of their
own. Are we at war? Well, are we?

"Fascists advocate the creation of a single-party state"

- As existing fundamentalist parties already reject equality of the Christian religion with other religions as "persecution of the Church" and "religious oppression" I have serious doubts about whether freedom of religion - or equal freedoms of religious expression - will remain a feature of an extensively edited Constitution. And as a religious party government at the head of a theonomy, it is unlikely that they will just graciously hand over power in a future election - especially after making all the desired changes to the Constitution... And one has to seriously consider this point when looking at the ACDP's move to prevent any open debate on its groups on Facebook - would they try to do something similar should they ever be in control of Parliament? That after all, is a fascist trait. The Nazis did it, the Comms did it, Musolini did it, Castro did it, Saddam did it, Ghaddafi did it - and the list goes on and on.

"Fascist governments forbid and suppress criticism and opposition to the government and the fascist movement."

- by installing the church as government I am sure you can see how they will interpret any criticism of Christian government as an attack upon their faith. See above my comment on the ACDP and its Facebook groups.

"Fascism opposes class conflict, blames capitalist liberal democracies for its creation"

- Religious political parties are trying to reach all classes of society and are adept at placing blame for class separations at the feet of capitalist policies - and the liberals of course, whom they attack for introducing a secular state and constitution. And don't forget the pink community, who they like to blame for everyrthing from crop failures to hail storms. They already blame crime and corruption and natural disasters on "sin" the granting of human rights to the pink community (whom they clearly don't see as human enough to be considered legally equal to them) and in not including "in humble submission to almighty God" in the preamble to the Constitution. Interesting hey? Aids? Yes, that's a gay disease - we did it - pity that straight people get it too - more of them apparently, but oh well, you can't have everything. I suppose they will soon add "global warming" to the list. We did that too. It's all the fancy cars we "statistically proven" affluent gay people drive, it's all our fault.

"fascist states pursued economic policies to strengthen state power and spread ideology, such as consolidating trade unions to be state or party-controlled."

- In this country currently, it seems that the trade unions do the opposite, by controlling the ruling party, which is significantly propped up by the Communist Party. Funny how many strikes we have had lately - and I hear the SARS is due next. Imagine that - if the tax man goes on strik, we must be in some dire straits indeed. It is also quite funny how religion permeates business, isn't it? With encouragement of prayer groups in the workplace, "Christian business forums" to link Christian businesses together and to promote "biblical values" in business. Conspiracy theorist, me? Never.

"Religion. The Nazi regime attempted to found their own version of Christianity called Positive Christianity which made major changes in its interpretation of the Bible which said that Jesus Christ was the son of God, but was not a Jew; they further claimed that Christ despised Jews, and that the Jews were the ones solely responsible for his death." "In Latin America, the most notable fascist movement was Plinio Salgado's Brazilian Integralism. Built on a network of lay religious associations, its vision was of an integral state that "comes from Christ, is inspired in Christ, acts for Christ, and goes toward Christ."[204][205][206] Salgado criticized the "dangerous pagan tendencies of Hitlerism"." "One theory is that religion and fascism could never have a lasting connection because both are a "holistic weltanschauung" claiming the whole of the person" - is Christian fascism not the perfect logical balance to bridge this gap? "...characterized fascism as a type of anti-religious political religion.[212] Such political religions vie with existing religions, and try, if possible, to replace or eradicate them."

- is this the origin of the radicals claim that "true" Christians will support them? The origin of the same thumb-sucked baloney that gay or trans people cannot be "true Christians"? Does this not indicate the malleability of religion? A twist for every tongue? A splinter for every eye. A cross for everyone? A noose for every occasion?

And lastly, my personal favorite:

"Fascist movements and governments oppose homosexuality. The Italian Fascist government declared it illegal in Italy in 1931.[125] The British Union of Fascists opposed homosexuality and pejoratively questioned their opponents' sexual orientation, especially of male anti-fascists.[126] The Romanian Iron Guard opposed homosexuality as undermining society.[127] The Nazis thought homosexuality was degenerate, effeminate, perverted and undermined the masculinity which they promoted, because it did not produce children.[128] Nevertheless the Nazis considered homosexuality curable through therapy. They explained it though modern scientism and the study of sexology which said that homosexuality could be felt by "normal" people and not just an abnormal minority.[129] Critics have claimed that the Nazis' claim of scientific reasons for their promotion of racism, and hostility to homosexuals is pseudoscience,[130][131] in that scientific findings were selectively picked that promoted their pre-existing views, while scientific findings opposing those views were rejected and not taken into account."

- Now doesn't all this look glaringly familiar? Particularly the bit about opposing homosexuality, the use of pseudo-science to do so, also including the false claim that a person’s inborn sexuality is a "curable" disease?

The BNP or British National Party currently in the UK claims to uphold Christian family values - and yet also enforces a racist employment and membership policy - and opposes gay rights. Interestingly enough it has ust this week announced that it will "review" this policy because it believes it will not be able to survive a court case. Hmm. Not because it is the right thing to do, then - but because it is cheaper. Quite an interesting take on politics and politicians, don't you think? The BNP is also linked and affiliated to similar openly fascist political parties in the European Parliament, some of which (including the BNP) also have seats in the Pan European Parliament. What does this hold for the future of the pink community - and freedom and democracy in the EU? Who knows - watch this space.

It seems to me that wherever religion and politics mix in one body, fascist values - and not "family values" - rear their ugly head.

Religious radical political parties in South Africa are intent on forming a religious fundamentalist government in some future election campaign - they are so set on it and so sure of themselves, they have even been bragging about it. They seek to turn the status quo on its head in this country. In doing so, they will end the secular government and society by replacing it with a Christian fundamentalist government. This will mean an end to that pesky little line dividing church and state, and the indications are there that many groups of people will suddenly find themselves declared outlaws and criminals, as is the case in most of Africa. I think the question "are Christian fundamentalist groups in South Africa fascist?" seems to answer itself. If all this is not fascism, then what is it?

These people who consider themselves "enlightened" and who indulge in hatred and persecution in the name of a loving God are themselves in the dark, they are victims of ignorance and the fear caused by ignorance - which gives rise to resentment and hate - and their ambition to act against us is fuelled by all of these factors brought together. I will say it again - IGNORANCE gives rise to FEAR and HATE - and fuels AMBITION.

If they were knowledgable and informed - if they were delivered from ignorance,
would they continue to hate us?

Perhaps some, the truly bigoted, would. But I believe the vast majority would not. Does this not make us all the victims of ignorance? Both us and them? Those who act out of it - and who make US the focus of it? Does this make us enemies? I would rather say it is ignorance and false information presented as fact - LIES - which are our enemy. We need to defeat the lies by perpetuating truth in its place. We need to replace the liars with soothsayers.

For me the struggle for equality and civil rights of the pink community is all about fact versus fiction.

The moment fact replaces all the hateful fiction used against us, there will be no more reason for those who hate and oppose our equality and civil rights, to continue doing so. There are religious faithful out there who believe in a loving God, those who are afraid to speak out when they hear their compatriots indulge in bigotry and persecution because it may draw unwelcome attention to them, or because they do not know what to do, or because they simply do not know the facts.

They do not KNOW.

Show them.

While it is the dream of some to beat ploughshares into swords and going on bloody crusades to rid the world of their social and political opponents, spilling innocent blood - it is still the pen which is mightier than the sword. Ideologies and societies are run on words and opinions. Like ancient Rome, which was run in part by an unruly mob swayed by the thrall of an arena, so too is modern society swayed by what they perceive to be true.

Some say that we can only dream about this. I say we can do more than just dream about it - we can make this dream of freedom from oppression and tyranny a reality.

Spread the truth. Educate the masses. Fear no more.


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