Monday, 25 August 2014

Redefining jihad

In the West, the Islamic term jihad is almost ubiquitously associated with the extremism and fundamentalism that is a microcosm of the religion's diverse, global population, such as that perpetrated by the sadists and gangsters of Islamic State. Thus in this context jihad is uniformly associated with beheadings, suicide bombings, violent misogyny, and ethno-religious persecution. But this is morally a gross misnomer. Jihad in Islamic terms means struggle: the struggle for truth and justice, and ultimately peace. The brave Kurdish Muslims of the PKK aiming to defend themselves, alongside the Yazidis, from Islamic State genocide and barbarism, can therefore be described as jihadis in the true and honourable sense. As can the participants of the Arab Spring who have resisted authoritarian repression and corruption.

There is no sense jihad in the ideology of salafi-fascists who justify their brutality and hatred with propaganda of deceit, and who are committed to denying humanity, including Muslims, their basic civil and human rights. These thugs therefore must not be permitted to such a linguistic monopoly. In being granted it we portray their crimes in the terms they would prefer.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Richard Dawkins and abortion

Words matter. When I was nine years old, I was victim to a disability hate crime that was so traumatic it took me over a decade until I reported it to the police. The person who committed this offence knew that I had a disability, developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia). In a public place, they stated, in mind of self-care, social and mobility difficulties: "That child should have been abortion."

Disabled people regularly face, perhaps usually in more subtle and subliminal forms, the implication of their inherently burdensome presence, or facetiously, sympathy for the supposedly inherently unbearable nature of this existence. In their most extreme form, these ethos motivated the "mercy killing" of Nazi Germany's Action T4 regime (which is a relevant historical observation rather than a mere example of Godwin's law).

Of course, childbearers should not be shamed or stigmatised by their decision to medically end a pregnancy. This could indeed be because of a child's disability; severe mutations causing immense suffering within a very short lifespan. But persons with Down's syndrome are unlike these cases, given that many of them lead fulfilling lives in the shelter of relatives and friends who love and cherish them. They chosen and valued, with the implication that they are uniformly, innately shameful or defective being the most damaging influence on their quality of life. The greatest suffering they face is probably such ignorance and prejudice, which is why Richard Dawkins, if he is a humanist, should rethink the ethical basis for his remarks.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

I am not white

I am not white. I may be primarily Caucasian, but from my mother's side I am partially Roma, and from my father's I am partially Cook Island Māori. Thus I am mixed racedefinitely the Other. I am ashamed to have presented myself as "white" by default in the past, but perhaps the pain of the shame of my childhood was too much to confront.

My skin is darkly-toned, my nose is slightly wide, my forehead is slightly high. I therefore do not doubt that racism, at least subconsciously, singled me out for victimhood from the adults abusing their authority to perpetrate their other forms of institutional abuse and discrimination, all trauma which responsible for my mental health condition. "Jacob looks unwashed", they told my mother, who was literally described as "swarthy" by them. "He has dark rings under his eyes" was an issue. One attempted to scrub my "dirty", brown-skinned little hands.

I am Jacob Richardson. I am not white. I will fight for justice and shame you for your white supremacy instead.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Obama protects the torturers

"We tortured some folks", was Barack Obama's folksy admission that officials within the Bush administration and CIA sanctioned and orchestrated these systematically perpetrated international law violations and human rights abuses of their detainees. A similarly folksy response can be given to the question of whether they will be prosecuted for these felonies: Nope.

Shortly after banning the use of "enhanced interrogation methods" (one of the most fatuous and contemptibly evasive propaganda euphemisms even linguistically constructed) in 2009, the Obama administration outright refused to prosecute those who permitted and ordered barbarism such as potentially lethal waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation, and threats of violence and death against detainees and their family members, despite the use of torture most often resulting in false intelligence being provided by those subjected to them. To paraphrase former Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura: "Give me Dick Cheney and a waterboard and I'll get him to confess to the Charles Manson murders."

In 2009, Spain levelled (but then dropped) criminal charges against six figures from the Defense and Justice (how Orwellian) departments responsible for organizing the Bush administration's torture human rights abuses and war crimes. To me the vilest of them all is John Yoo, the Attorney General who through technicalities and legalese constructed the internal justifications that torture methods such as waterboarding were not implicitly constitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment", or illegal. It was Yoo who stated that threatening to crush the testicles of a detainee's child was fair game in the name of military intelligence gathering. But the UN Convention Against Torture says otherwise.

In refusing to prosecute these international criminals, the Obama administration abandoned any pretension that it would take the moral high ground regarding the contempt of international law seen in the Bush era. Patronizing, self-serving promises of "reform" or "resolution" will not do. Anyone who cares about the idealized basic ethical values of modern civilization should fight for the Bush administration torturers to be behind the dock at the International Criminal Court.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Assisted dying

Here is a boringly unprovocative suggestion: both sides of the assisted dying debate have good moral arguments and are more than often motivated by an ethical sense of empathy and compassion. Some on either side may be misguided to mutually accuse each other of representing extreme viewpoints to the contrary, with the proponents of assisted dying being painted as nihilistic eugenicists who seek vulnerable and chronically sick people's lives to be treated as burdensome and disposable, and the opponents viewed as religious fundamentalists committed to the perpetuation of aimless mortal suffering being imposed on the dying for the dogmatic and/or God-fearing sake of it.

In truth, it seems that the united concern of both sides, overwhelmingly, is the safeguarding of existential human dignity, a concern which is an extremely sound basis to have any moral or political debate about. In this paradigm, there is worry that allowing assisted dying will contribute to the social conditions that already victimize, dehumanize and neglect the well-being of the elderly and people with disabilities -- and on the other side objection to terminally dying people being paternalistically forced to bear excruciating pain and indignity at the end of life with no conscious self-determination to the contrary.

I come to the conclusion that the onus is on wider society to resolve these dilemmas. There would be small concern about vulnerable people being pressurized into death if defending the basic welfare and dignity of every human being was embedded into the fabric of life, as opposed to the selfishness and cruelty that frequently disposes elderly people into care homes that are often run for-profit, leaves disabled people languishing in poverty, and cattle manages mental health patients with sedation and institutional brutalization. To assure dignity in dying we must also ensure dignity in living.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Nazism and Israel

Nazi Germany's Holocaust of Jews provides a historical model of precedence with which to reticently observe the State of Israel's state-sanctioned racism, exiling and war crimes against the Palestinians. I make no apology for this standpoint. As Holocaust survivor Suzanne Weiss states:

" The tragic experience of my family and community under Hitler makes me alert to the suffering of other peoples denied their human rights today -- including the Palestinians."

 "The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Hitler started with that, but went on to extermination...
"Yet for me, the Israeli government's actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family's experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There's no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off, and deprived of human rights and human dignity."

It is true that there has yet to have been an industrial mass murder of Palestinians comparable to the Holocaust. But a systematic and cultural dehumanisation of the Palestinians (including Jews in the Palestinian territories!), which has motivated the murder, torture, rape and deposing of tens of thousands of men, women and children over decades is, in the practice of ethno-religious hatred it represents, wholly similar to Kristallnacht and Lebensraum. A second Holocaust could happen; the Balkan crimes of the 1990s has been the closest thing to it. The instruments of murder are hypothetical, but it is a willfully naive historical and sociological illiteracy to not comprehend how the enormity of the preexisting and historical crimes against the Palestinians could incite precise and observational comparisons to Nazi antisemitism, along with concerns that they could lead to atrocities even more unspeakable.

A Jewish man abused like an animal by the Nazis and a Palestinian girl abused like an animal by the IDF.
Or, if we prefer, we can give free reign to fascistic Israeli war criminals to defile and manipulate Nazi Germany's crimes against humanity, its victims and survivors, to facilitate their own.