Media – where does one start?

Growing up behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, a person had to learn to ‘read between the lines’ of what the official news-media were reporting.  The alternative was being left with patently self-contradictory messages.  One little example:  the headline in a newspaper touted the Soviet Union as the most developed country in the world, while the newsstand itself was just by a big ‘inspirational’ sign that read ‘We will catch up to, then surpass the USA!’ 

In other words, keeping one’s brain from exploding from ‘doublespeak’ required that one began to construct filters through which to pass all ‘official news’.  And, it was all ‘official news’.  Of course, we had ‘freedom of the press’ – there were several independent sources besides the official government newspapers!  There was the Communist Party newspaper and there was the official ‘Union of Trade Unions’ newspaper, too!  Plus, we were told  we had freedom of the press!

When we came to Canada in the 1980s, we experienced something that we had then written off as just a bit of a quirk – but, looking back, I suspect it may have been a symptom of a malaise that is now causing the part of the illness of our ‘Western’ mainstream media sources.

I say ‘part’ because in my never-humble-opinion, there are several underlying causes….  It is not a simple situation.

So, what was this ‘quirk’?

When we came here, many Canadians were very welcoming of us.  Most were very nice – even if somewhat naive of the world situation, at least, it seemed so to us.  They would ask us a lot of questions about what our life had been like and offerered very empathetic replies.  We we would describe to them the type of censorship of the press that existed there – how difficult it was to actually find information on what was happening in world events.  They smiled indulgently and told us:  ‘It is the same here – just from the other direction!’

This seemed a singularly strange response to us.  We concluded it was just a poor attempt at trying to make us feel welcome.  But, because several different people offered me the same sentiments, it is something I have never forgotten – it did continue to bother me over the decades.

It bothered me because it showed an inability to differentiate between the freedom of the press and censorship.  It bothered me because it diminished the importance of protecting freedom of the press by a smile and a wave of the hand…. 

But it also told me that there was a danger that these people would perceive ‘right-wing bias’ where none existed.  That they would suspect it is there – simply because they are told that in Communist countries (which is their ‘opposite’) there is a ‘left wing bias’ – so here there ‘must’ be the opposite, ‘right wing’ bias…  This seemed to me to be both a twisted form of reasoning, lack of an ability to assess veracity, as well as an indication of undeserved self-deprecation.  Perhaps it was a kind of self-put-down:  considering one-self unworthy of actually asessing the situation using their own reasoning an therefore refusing to even try.  And I thought this was potentially dangerous….

It seems to me that this, or similar, faulty reasoning has permeated a lot of the learning institutions in ‘the West’ – that this ‘attitude’ is actively being taught in schools to our kids, teens and young adults.  And, it has been taught since at least the 1980s!

This started me thinking about how this attitude may have become come to be in the first place – why was this type of mis-reasoning never debunked by the intelligent people who were being taught it?  And then it occurred to me:  people will NOT question something IF they do not realize there is something to question!!!

Perhaps I am confusing things a little….  Let me explain this by going over a conversation I had with one of my high-school English teachers.  He was a 60’s hippy – all grown up and teaching American Literature now.  As we went over interpretations of differen novels, it became clear he was fiercly pro-peace (all war is evil, nothing is worth going to war over) and that he regarded the Soviet Union and the United States as pretty much ‘equivalent’ – economically as well as morally.  But, his in-born sense of fairness demanded that since he is part of ‘the West’, it is his duty to be critical of ‘the West’ – just as we, emigrants from ‘the East’ are critical of ‘the East’.

He and I had many interesting discussions – inside the class, as well as outside of it.  I’m afraid my inability to properly perceive ‘social boundaries’ meant that I asked some pretty direct questions of him – but he was genuinely a very nice guy and would discuss them with me in the spirit in which I asked them.

If this teacher is indicative of how the attitudes formed in other people of his generation, I don’t know.  However, it is interesting to entertain the possibility that he might… 

Part of the ‘culture’ of ‘the West’ in the decade plus following WWII was a significant amount of propaganda against Communism.  This went along with some pretty serious abuses of human rights – McCarthy and all that.  But that culture was also imbued with very positive things, like ‘patriotism’ and the knowledge that as horrible as war is, it is necessary to fight it sometimes…

It is one of those things we, people, tend to do:  we tend to bundle ideas together.  In this case, the ‘counter-revolution’ which happened – the ‘hippy movement’ – bundled the ideas of ‘freedom=good’  ‘McCarthyism is against freedom’ along with ‘patriotism’ and ‘necessary self-scacrifice in war’, ‘McCarthyism=right wing’, ‘facism=right wing’, ‘facism caused war’….  you see where I’m going with this. 

The Hippies (and, really, many pre-Hippies…Hippies were sort of the ‘trailing edge’ of this trend, but I don’t know the proper term to apply) rebelled against ‘the zeitgeist’ of their parent’s society – the good along with the bad!  And they were so busy rebelling against ‘the bad bits’ that they never noticed they did not reason things out…and that there even were any ‘good bits’ in their parent’s culture.

In other words, many of these people ‘bundled together’ all their partents’ era stood for.  They saw ‘rebelling against government control’ and ‘fighting for freedom’ to be the same thing as ‘rebelling against right wing ideas and people who espouse them’.  It never even occurred to them to question whether this reasoning is sound.  And since it did not occurr to them to question this, they never did.

These people then became the teachers of the next generation!

Thanks to the demographic ‘waves’, people who grew up on the leading edge (agewise) of this cultural wave have filled all the vacancies in Universtities and Colleges that were getting ready for the swelling numbers of the ‘boomers’ and they made sure to drum these ideas into the students’ heads. 

You want to question ‘government authority’?  Then question right-wing ideas!!!

Simply put, they failed to differentiate between the ’cause’ and the ‘symptom’:  since they saw ‘opression’ come from the ‘right wing’, they eqauted the two and did not reason any further.  This then became their entrenched dogma.

And they are still there, still teaching these same ideas… and they are senior enough to be in charge of approving the hiring of new professors.  Predictably, they select ones who think like they do.  After all, they must ‘guard’ the ‘institutions of learning’ against falling under the influence of ‘right wing McCarthyists’!!!

So, how did my conversations with my teacher go?  Rather well.  I walked away with a deeper understanding of ‘the West’ and its ‘internal struggle’.  But, I think I also had an impact on my teacher.  I recall that during one of our last conversations (the year was almost out) we were talking about the Soviet Union’s military backing of some of the most brutal revolutions in Africa. 

My teacher was dismissive of my criticism, saying it did not matter if the ‘new’ country accepted help from the USA or the USSR.  In his words:  ‘When you are hungry, it does not matter who offers you a steak.  You don’t ask about their politics, you eat the stake!’

To which I replied that the USA spends billions of dollars on foreign aid – a lot of it in Africa.  Sure, they do some bad things – nobody says they don’t.  But, they also bring in vaccinations, rice, beans – and books and teachers.  The Soviet Union also spends money on foreing aid in Africa.  But they never send food or books or medicine.  Instead of handing the Africans ‘a steak’, they hand them a gun and say:  ‘Your neighbour has a steak.  Go take it!’

All my teacher said was:  ‘I had not thought of that…’

The origin and nature of human rights

This is a most excellent video from StopAndLook which explores the origin and nature of our rights.

The author expresses the concepts eloquently and clearly:  human rights, at any given time, are what people agree they are.  Reaching a concensus is difficult. 

The origin of rights determines their nature.  This video explores the difference between the position that ‘rights’ originate with each individual versus the position that rights originate with the social group.

 

Though it is phrased differently, it is very simlar to the different attitudes captured in ‘Common Law’ versus ‘Civil Law’ legal codes:  very roughly, the ‘Common Law’ would be more closely aligned with the position that ‘rights’ originate with the individual whild ‘Civil Law’ is more congruent with the point of view that ‘rights’ originate from ‘the state’.

What is really important here is the difference in attitude between the citizen and the State.  A little bit of this difference in attitude is described in my post about the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’:  in a tax cut, the attitude is that the money is yours, and the government is able to accomplis the necessary ‘common goals’ using less of your money while in a tax rebate, the attitude is that the money is the government’s and that they have decided to give you a raise in your allowance.

This attitude, in my never-humble-opinion, is key in how the society evolves because it forms the expectations of the citizens towards the government, and vice versa. 

And this attitude is one of the ‘threads’ in this great big ‘knot’…

‘The Big Picture’ – terms and definitions

It is important – when embarking upon a long and convoluted description of something – to make sure that everyone following the discussion has a common understanding of what is being discussed.  This may sound fatuous, but – it is very common for people to use one word in several ways, to have a very different understanding of a principle or concept from what the speaker has.  Such a discussion will not be productive…

So, I would like to start by explaining what I mean by some of the words and concepts which I plan to bring into focus.

This post will continue to be updated as more posts are added.

 

Freedoms vs. Accomodations

Absolute freedom and the necessity to accomodate others if we wish to interact with them.  ‘Free Speech’ is the means by which we can arrive at a workable balance.

 

What does ‘Freedom of Speech’ mean?

This is just a clarification of what is meant by these words in the context of this discussion.

 

The origin and nature of human rights

This most excellent YouTube video (1st of 5-part series) by StopAndLook.  It contrasts the view that rights are inherent to the individual vs the view that rights are given to people by the state.  This results in very different attitudes (mindsets) between the state and citizen – and I contrast it to my post ‘Common law vs. civil law.  To further demonstrate the difference in attitudes, I also mention by ‘Tax cut’ vs. ‘tax rebate’  post.

Freedoms vs. Accomodations

This is part of the ‘Big Picture’ series.

‘Absolute Freedom’ can only be achieved by a person who is absolutely alone.  When a person has no others to interact with, they are free to do absolutely anything they wish – and they are absolutely responsible for the consequences of their actions.

What I mean by this is that if this person takes foolish or reckless actions – they are free to do so.  But, nobody will help them, as there is nobody else there.

Humans are social creatures – we build communities.  In order to get along, we agree to give up some of our freedoms willingly because we have made the judgment that it is in our best interest to do this.  So far so good.

Now, we have to find the balance between what we are willing to give up and what we are not willing to give up.  In other words, we have started a whole complex ‘freedom/accomodation’ balancing act.

After all, even if we give too many of our rights up willingly, make too many accomodations (or accomodate too far), we will feel oppressed.  (An example to illustrate this:  a young man willingly gives up his career to move into a different area because he wishes to be with the woman he loves.  Even though this decision was done willingly and happily, over time, he may regret the lost opportunities and begin to resent the woman he loves…  It may not even be a conscious thing – but it could fester, eventually put a strain on the relationship.)  

Obviously, this balance between one’s freedoms on the one hand and willingness to accomodate the community is not the same for every person…  Which is exactly why we have to be able to talk about it – openly and without fear. 

It is only through open and honest discourse that we can re-balance ‘freedoms’ versus ‘accomodations’.   And it is only by voicing our concerns that we can realize that the current ‘balance’ is oppressive.  Every society changes and continuously evolves – and as it does, this re-balancing will be necessary!

This cannot be accomplished without the freedom of each and every person to speak their mind, openly and without fear.  Therefore, I think the most fundamental freedom – the one which is key in maintaining and re-balancing all the other ones, is the Freedom of Speech.

What does ‘Freedom of Speech’ mean?

This is part of the ‘Big Picture’ series.

Each and every person must be free to speak their mind, seriously or in jest, regardless of who they are or what their ideas are.  I am fully willing to accept that spreading falsehoods or breaking confidentiality agreements can and should be prosecuted in civil court – that is the appropriate and necessary consequence  of this right to speak freely.  However, the key here it that is is actionable by the injured party, in civil court – not by anyone else, anywhere. 

There is a second part to this ‘freedom of speech issue’ – every person ought to have ‘freedom of speech’ on both the output and the input side, so to speak.  The ‘input side’, of course, is the ‘access to other people’s speech’.  Because, if a country were to allow each and every citizen to speak freely – but only in sound-proof cells where nobody can hear their voice – the citizens may be able to say what they wish, but it is not ‘freedom of speech’.

So, in my definition, ‘freedom of speech’ also includes the ‘freedom to be heard’ and perhaps most importantly the ‘freedom to hear others’ – regardless of what they may say.  As in, I get to choose whom I listen to – nobody else may make that choice for me!!!  To me, this is an essential component of ‘freedom of speech’.

Of course, because speech is the means of re-balancing freedoms vs. accomodations, those who wish to control the way a society evolves will allways seek to control speech!

Limiting our freedoms – making sense of the ‘big picture’

Have you ever found a bunch of strings so knotted up, it was difficult to tell which thread went where, how they connected – and how to untangle them?  Pulling on some strings just seems to make it more knotted up and incomprihensible… you had to pull a little bit on each one, switching back and forth, to figure it out and realize which ones wrapped around which other ones – and how, before you could make much progress in untangling it.

That is how I feel when trying to describe the ‘big picture’ of the current threats to our freedom of speech – which is the key that unlocks all our other freedoms.

Because the current situation we are facing – the various threats to our freedoms – consists of exactly the type of ‘tangled knot’ made up of several quite discrete (and a few of them frayed into several ‘strands’) ‘threads’!  If I ‘pull’ on one ‘thread’ alone, it will not clear up anything…  Therefore, I beg you, the reader, to keep this in mind and indulge my ‘haphazard’ and disorganized presentation – hopping from one bit to another, pulling a little bit on each ‘thread’ in its turn… 

Another problem I ran into while trying to write this up was just how long the post was getting… It became necessary to break it up into many shorter ones.  My fear in doing this?  I have tried doing this before, but never got all the ‘bits’ out because something ‘big’ happened that I wanted to comment on – or I never connected them up properly – or I went off on some tangent.

This one, however, is too important not to give it a try.

So, over the next little while, I will be posting a various, seemingly unrelated, stories – each a part of one thread or another which makes up this ‘knot’.  And, I plan to connect them up!  Perhaps in the last post of the series, perhaps as a separate page (like I am doing with the Aspergers posts).

Any additional information you come accross that you think should be included in this, or when I make mistakes which you could correct – please, let me know!  I welcome this because even though I think I see a pattern here, one person can never get the ‘whole’ of the ‘big picture’ without the help of historical perspective…which only comes centuries after the events.  

And our freedoms – they are in more danger of being eroded, one tiny bit at a time, than most of us are willing to admit.

We will NEVER forget!

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Aspies: if I know it, everyone knows it

One of the most difficult things for a young Aspie to grasp is that not everyone has access to the same information, nor is everyone taught the same rules for everything.  Even a mature Aspie, who is aware and tries to be mindful of it, can easily fall into this ‘trap’ and leave out bits of information that are ‘obvious’…

Let me back up a little:

Aspies, especially young ones, have difficulty understanding that not everyone reasons from the same baseline, has access to exactly the same information, using the same ‘rules’ as they do. 

It is hard to understand that ‘available’ information would be denied or inaccessible to others.  The corollary also holds true:  many young Aspies have a hard time understanding that information beyond what they know may be available to others…as in, that they do not have all the available information.

Predictably, this may lead to confusion – and frustration, misunderstandings, resentment, self-doubt…. 

I remember reading that one of the very early childhood tests for Aspergers is to take a candy box and ask the child what is inside.  The child will answer ‘candy’.  Then, the therapist (person administering the test) opens the candy box to reveal that there is a crayon inside instead of candy.  Now – this is the tricky bit – if the therapist were to ask the child at this point:  ‘If your mom came in and I asked her where the crayon is, where do you think she’d start looking for it?’

While many children would understand ‘the joke’ (it’s not really a joke, as it only satisfies the ‘unexpected’ or ‘secret knowledge’ aspect, which alone is insufficient to constitute a joke, but many ‘neurotypicals’, especially children, often mistake it for one),  the Aspie kids expected their mom to go directly towards the candy box to find the crayon

This is an illustration of the Aspie ‘if I know this, then everyone knows this’ blindspot.  It is becauseof this very inability of young Aspies to differentiate between ‘I know’ and ‘everyone knows’ that many ‘specialists’ do not consider us capable of ‘higher abstract reasoning’. 

Predictably, I think them stupid (this was the mildest word I could bring myself to use) for this patronizing, self-centered presumption:  Aspies are capable of extremely abstract reasoning!  Plus, most Aspies do learn this differentiation – perhaps using a different part of the brain than ‘average’ people, but we do learn it.  Perhaps we learn it at a higher age, and some of us learn it more easily than others.  Perhaps some of us learn it at an intellectual level, but still have a difficulty applying it at a mundane, practical lever… but this is NOT an indication of an inability to self-conceptualize, to ‘differentiate’ between ‘the self’ and ‘others’, as many misguided ‘specialists’ condescendingly and erroneously attempt to suggest!

So, having (hopefully) established that this ‘blindspot’ is not what many ‘experts’ pretend it is, it is still very important for Aspies and for people interacting with Aspies to be aware of this.

Many times, people think Aspies ‘arrogant’ for presuming that everyone ‘ought to’ hold the same views.  The corollary is that the Aspie may view the failure of other people to gather the same information, follow the same reasoning process (at this has ‘definite rules’) and arrive at the same conclusion to be a sign of inferior intelligence in other people.  After all, the Aspie followed this process without any difficulty – why couldn’t everyone else?  Or, perhaps more accurately, why wouldn’t everyone else do the same? 

It is not an attempt at being ‘haughty’ or putting other people down – the Aspie may simply not understand why other people would not follow the rules of reasoning to arrive at the same conclusion as they had.  So, either the person has chosen not to follow the rules of reasoning – and Aspies like to stick to their rules – or that person is unable to follow the process….  You can see how that could cause the Aspie to ‘appear haughty’.

It may alienate peers, care-providers or educators and make them not want to help the Aspie.  After all, they are trying to help this person, and getting this attitude in return! It may make the Aspie appear ‘arrogant’ and to ‘lack empathy’ – something that has also often been erroneously asserted about us by ‘specialists’ who do more harm than good  by misunderstanding their observations of Aspies and than basing great, sweeping theories on these misunderstandings.  If you ask me, they have failed to follow the reasoning process correctly!

I am not saying that adult Aspies should be excused for not properly compensating for this known aspect of ‘Aspieness’.  However, when kids are young, it would be unreasonable to expect them to have developed coping mechanisms to deal with this, as they may be too young to even understand that this is happening, or that it is something they should try to compensate for….  So, understanding the root of this attitude is important in order to not discourage people from helping – and also in teaching the young Aspie what is happening and how to compensate for it.

If the Aspie is not taught (or does not learn on their own) this lesson, they will never understand why it is that their ‘reasoning’ is ‘always out of step’ with everyone else’s.  This is not a healthy way to grow up. 

Either the Aspie will ‘learn’ that they are an ‘idiot’ whose ‘reasoning’ cannot be trusted.  After all, everyone else came to a different conclusion – and either the Aspie thinks, or someone close to them pointedly tells them that ‘it is higly unlikely that the Aspie is right and the rest of the world is wrong’.  In this case they will spend the rest of their life always doubting themselves and thinking their ‘reasoning’ skills to be faulty and untrustworthy. 

Or it might set up an expectation that the ‘rest of the world’ cannot be trusted and one must hide their opinions from it.  After all, every time you tell people your opinions, you are told you are being rude and then are ostracized.  Either way, speaking your mind causes people to be angry at you – so you learn not to.

Or, it may breed a complete contempt for the rest of the world in the young Aspie.  Or something similarly self-isolating…

Either way, it is not going to lead to the development of a  ‘healthy’ sense of ‘self’ for the young Aspie.  I do not know what the ideal solution to this is – or what the best ‘compensating behaviour’ would be, as these tend to differ from one Aspie to another.  The right age at which the Aspie is ready to deal with it may also differ greatly.   But, the ‘frustration levels’ of both the Aspie and the Aspie’s caretakers, educators and friends may all be reduced if this ‘blindspot’ is understood and addressed.

The ‘Censorship Creep’

People tend to react strongly when someone comes along and strips them of their rights.  Unless it is done gradually, over time… with reassurences at each step that this will ‘only be used in extreme cases’.

Laws are laws.  We must recognize what power each law gives the government – whether or not the government is claiming to ‘reserve it’ for such ‘extreme cases’ or ‘justifiable instances’ or not.  Because eventually, these laws will be applied to their fullest!

One such example is Australia.

Everybody is against child pornography.  We would also not like our young kids to be able to access regular pornography over the internet, would we?  We would all go to great lengths to protect our children!  That is part of human nature.  So, when Australia began to make sounds about the dangers of pornography over the internet and needing to protect our children from it, people listened – and allowed the government to pass some of the most restrictive internet censorship laws!

Of course, much of this was not enforced.  Everybody knew this was just a way to get at child pornographers – and to keep little kids off porn sites – and had nothing to do with limiting freedom of speech and expression!  Right?  Yes, everyone was obliged to install the ‘censorship software’ on their computers, but since the government was not enforcing much of these laws, people could choose to either turn it on or off.  So, no problem, right?

Except that last week (mostly unnoticed in the US pre-election frenzy), the Australian government announced that it is going to begin enforcing that the ‘censorship software’ be turned on!

Consider the implications of this – in order to censor something, the Australian government will have to scan it.  Therefore, any ‘sensitive’ or ‘proprietary’ or ‘private’ information will be accessed by a government bureaucrat….which opens an incredibly large potential for abuse – as well as goes against the inherent spirit of the internet.  Want to encrypt sensitive information you send over the internet?  That just might be illegal, because it would hamper the government’s ability to monitor the content…

Does it really do anything for the welfare of our children, to give the government this much power over our lives?

And it would be silly to speak up now – after all, it is a law that has been in existence for a while….there’s nothing wrong with a government enforcing its laws now, is there?  But, it started slowly and reasonably…. and next year, as it slowly becomes enforced, it will be too late to begin to protest against this law.

Let’s take another example – one that is not aimed specifically at the Internet:  Canada’s ‘Section 13’ of the Human Rights Act (NOT to be confused with the Human Rights CODE, like I have done in some of my comments in the past.  My bad).  When it was passed, we were all told it was simply a tool to root out neo-nazis and dangerous anti-semites… so we all nodded our heads and went along with it. 

The Human Rights Commissions/Tribunals – established as the guardians of Human Rights – were set up with the best ideals.  To make them accessible to people who have no means to afford a lawyer, they were made a little less ‘rigorous’ than a ‘real’ court.  At that time, it seemed a good idea to make ‘getting justice’ accessible to everyone…

But, the HRCs have now used ‘Section 13’ to force a Christian priest to renounce his faith and forbid him to ever – privately or publicly – comment on issues relating to homosexuality or marriage.  It has also been used to fine a restaurant owner who did not permit a patron to smoke cannabis on his premises – even though allowing it could have cost the restaurant owner his liquor licence.  It has aslso been used to try to force a doctor to perform a medical procedure for which he did not think he was qualified.  The list goes on and on!

But what is insidious about this ‘censorship creep’ is what it does to our society as a whole.  It rips us apart!

It gives those pompous apartchicks and busybodies the ability to wrap themselves in the cloak of righteous indignation and impose their will in ways that would otherwise not be tolerated! 

Here is an example of what I mean:  reccently, a College (well, University) radio station manager, Matthew Crosier, wrapped himself up in such a cloak of righteous indignation and got rid of a show which he did not like.  The reasoning?  Even though the hosts assured him they would comply with any policy he might impose on them, he retorted that – and I kid you not, this is a direct quote:

“We are not looking for people to conform to our mandate we are looking for programming that fits our mandate.”

In other words, Mr. Crosier is saying:  “Your obedience is insufficient – you must  believe what I believe, or I’ll kick you off the air!  Your actual behaviour is secondary to your political and personal views.”

This same person also refused to pass any actual complaints from listeners onto the show’s hosts – even with the names and contact info of the complainants redacted.  And, this is what he said about the fact that during ‘Canadian Islamic History Month’, they did a show about the Prophet Mohammad:

How do we build community by presenting the history of Mohammed by two non believers?’

And, there you have it.  Denying someone their right to speak their mind, because they do (or do not) belong to a specific religious group.

In my opinion, by making that statement, Mr. Crosier had himself breeched Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Code – but because his beliefs and views are in in agreement with those of the current elites, in whose hands the control over Human Rights issues lie, he will never be prosecuted or in any way punished for breaking the law.  We have seen it before…

Because this ‘creeping censorship’ is not about changing behaviour – it is about changing peoples’ beliefs! 

It is not enough to obey, you must also LOVE big brother!

One AK per child

No, this is not some sort of a perversion of the ‘One Laptop per Child’ initiative – a very positive effort to help fight poverty in developing nations by placing education within the reach of each and every child, and which I wrote about here.

Instead, one Kalashnikov rifle is the price Osama bin Laden paid for each one of the child slaves he purchased to work on his marijuana farm in Sudan.  Think about that next time someone offers you a toke.

Yes – child slaves.

This seems unthinkable – today, in 2008, there are still children being captured and sold to slavery!  Some of their stories are beginning to come out, like ‘Slave:  My True Story’  by Mende Nazer  and ‘Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America’ by Francis Bok.

You can read more in FrontPageMagazine’s story, ‘Child Slavery in the Sudan’ by Stephen Brown.  The callousness and lack of empathy of the slavers is difficult to comprehend.

So, how could it be that today, slavery could still be practiced so openly?

I suppose we can thank the ‘desert religions’ and their ‘holy texts’ for this!

Please, do not misunderstand me – most Christians, Jews and Muslims today unequivocally condemn the practice of slavery.  Francis Bok even says that he could only escape his slavery because a Muslim family which disapproved of slavery helped him! 

Yet, Christian, Jewish and Muslim ‘holy books’ not only permit slavery, they describe the rules of how it should be practiced.  And, because ‘it is permitted by God’, many people justify the practice today.

Let’s look at the Christian’s Old Testament (it’s Jewish counterpart being the Torah).  Thanks to the Society of Christians for the Restoration of Old Testament Morality, here is an easy link to their ‘Biblically Correct Family Values’ , which quotes: 

Exodus 21:7-8: “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.”

If you are confused by the term ‘maidservant’, note that someone is sold to become one.  (Just keep this in mind when reading other bits of the Bible, and the word ‘maidservant’ is used.)  And, we know what ‘bethroher her to himself’ means…

The Society’s ‘Biblically Correct’ pamphlet on how to treat rape victims is no less informative:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29: If a man find a damsel [that is] a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty [shekels] of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Note that it is her father who gets the fifty shekels. The rape victim herself is not even worthy to receive monetary damages.

In other words, the rapist has just bought himself a ‘wife’ by paying her father 50 sheckles.  And, she becomes her rapist’s ‘wife’!

But there is more – here is explicit command to obey one’s owner– especially if one’s owner is also a Christian!

1 Tim. 6:1-2: “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and [his] doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise [them], because they are brethren; but rather do [them] service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.”

My point is not that the slavers in this story are Muslims – there are all kinds of slavers in the world today, both religious and secular.  However, it seems that feeling justified in owning (and abusing) other humans who are enslaved, feeling righteous in this practice, truly believing that one has the right  to oppress others because it pleases God – that is a monstrous mindset. 

Yet, it is this very mindset which is at the root of both slavery and the imposition of religious law onto secular society.  Whether it be the medieval Inquisition or modern-day Shariathe mindset is the same.  People feel justified in committing atrocities because they truly and honestly believe this is the will of one God or another…

That is why it is essential that we do not allow our secular laws to become increasingly accomodating of religious laws or even religious sensitivities!  That is why we must fight against the creeping of religious rules – ALL religious rules – into governing the behaviour (and speech) of the people in our society!