The “Improvers” of Mankind

Posted by Anti Citizen One on October 17th, 2011

I have been thinking about moral crusaders and, despite their intention, their malign effect on everyone. I recently noted their confusion about alcohol and behavior. But in their superficial understanding, banning the symptoms of a problem is always the first step. For example, certain people I have talked to think that to reduce abortions, banning it would be a reasonable first step. As if it being legal was the cause of someone having an abortion. And similarly with divorce, violent movies, rap music, rock music, pornography, teenage sex… ban, ban, ban. Recently, the UK government is talking about having an opt-in Internet censorship, focusing on pornography.

I read in a Christian guide about happiness, that one should avoid alcohol because (to paraphrase) “just one drink can lead to an addiction.” Interesting. If we were to use that principle in a literal sense, we could take no action at all, since it could lead to addiction. But the literal meaning is not what is intended to be communicated to the reader. Of course, they intended to implied that the highly probable result of one drink is addiction and it will destroy your life! Best avoid it completely, rather than enjoy in moderation.

Talking to a Christian friend, they raised a few themes regarding this preference for abstinence over moderation by self control. Regarding pornography, my Christian friend disapproves because it will “change” the user in some way. They expect pornography will lead to addiction and it will change a person’s behaviour and thoughts. I can safely predict they think this change will be harmful.

On the subject of marriage, the fact that barriers to getting a divorce are reduced are a significant factor in the minds of people considering a divorce – leading to a direct causal link to an increased rate of divorce.

There are several problems with this conception of social problems and their solution. Firstly, there is only a very tenuous causal link, or no link at all, between the availability of alcohol, porn and divorce to the actual social problems they supposedly cause. Our reaction to these factors is largely culturally conditioned and they are merely a symptom, not a cause, of the underlying social problems. Without understanding the problem, it is all the more difficult in addressing it properly.

Secondly, and even more critically, experience shows us that banning these items does nothing to address the problem. For example, banning legal abortions causes people to get abortions illegally. The overall rate doesn’t decrease. Second example, banning alcohol in the US did not solve alcoholism. Sex abstinence programs do not decrease teen pregnancy rates. Censoring the Internet to protect children simply results in them circumventing the censoring system.

Thirdly, the moralists attempt at banning things they disapprove of results in worse social ills. Banning drugs and alcohol increases organised crime. Some studies claim US prohibition reversed a declining trend of the consumption of alcohol! Banning abortion harms women in unregulated abortions. Banning prostitution marginalises and endangers prostitutes. Regulating or banning porn removes the “almost mainstream” sector of pornography of it, which actually strengthens the more graphic sector of the industry. Alcohol prohibition increased drinking to excess.

When I point out a few of these problems with a moralist’s point of view, their responses was (to paraphrase):

I believe it, despite that.

So they cling to their social remedies irrespective of evidence or harm they cause. Sacred belief apparently trumps evidence. Not only do they not understand the actual cause of social problems, they don’t want to understand it. However they do seem to act in good faith; at least I can compliment them on that, even if their actions is misguided.

They mentioned their ultimate remedy:

The only real solution is when everyone believes in Jesus.

But I don’t take that at face value, since it is not only the belief in Jesus that is required but universal agreement to follow that moral code. Neither solution is achievable given actual human psychology and I fully expect they admit they are waiting for divine intervention to implement their remedy. However, this is not good policy in my view, since waiting for miracles is most unreliable.

Another interesting point is the moralists apparent need for extreme measures, rather than enjoying pleasures in moderation. Their asceticism is not based on a simple life is in itself good, but rather that the possibility of addiction to earthly pleasures must be avoided at all costs. As Christians say, people are “bad” and can’t help falling for addictions. The instincts must be crushed. “If thy eye offends thee, cut it out.” However, not everyone is slave to addictions and can control their competing desires through self control.

I want to argue that, despite moralists claiming they want to improve society, that is not their primary objective. I have already discussed how the moralists do not care if their remedy actually improves society and are willing to ignore evidence that contradicts them. If improving social conditions was their goal, they would have different remedies. They would learn better remedies and how to apply them. However, evidence links religiosity with many social ills; however, this is complicated because we cannot determine the exact causal direction and reasons why this is. It is circumstantially interesting but not conclusive. But combining these two types of evidence: “banning things to fix social problems usually backfire” and “more moralising societies have greater social ills”, I contend that these effects are two sides of the same coin.

A different Christian told me we need to ban things, in order to:

“take a moral stand as a society”

I imagine this is a more fundamental motivation than fixing social problems. This is incidentally very anti-biblical, because it contradicts its message (to paraphrase): “don’t judge people”, “let him who is without sin throw the first stone”, “turn the other cheek”, “forgive your brother 49 times”, etc. But the moralists persist in attempting to improve mankind, often with socially harmful results. Another attractive feature of the moralists world view is that social problems have a simple fix (that is, simple to understand, if not to implement), and they are usually the fault of other people – that part is critical!

I am an optimist: I think social conditions could, in principle, be improved. However, within the parameters of what constitutes an acceptable solutions as defined by moralists, actual improvement cannot be implemented. I say we should not seek to take revenge, as a society, on criminals. Moralists think otherwise. The TV series “The Wire” was most enlightening on this matter. They claim policing policy is not dedicated to protecting communities but only to fulfil political targets to protect the image of the powerful. A fictional attempt is made at quasi-legalisation of drug dealing but this is soon terminated as politically unacceptable, regardless of the fact that it improved social conditions. Art, in this case, reflects reality. Prisons are, according to influential voices, there to punish criminals. With this policy, no wonder reoffending rates are appalling.

So moralists are not allies of people who want to fix social problems. Even if they claim to want to improve society, their actions should speak louder than that. They do waste everyone’s time and block attempts to implement reforms that actually do work.

Anti Citizen One

PS I was influenced by many thinkers here, but one is probably too obvious and predictable: Nietzsche and his chapters “The Improvers of Mankind” and “Morality as Anti-Nature” are required reading in my book. Popper’s “Open Society and its Enemies” is also relevant. ‘And when they call themselves “the good and just,” forget not, that for them to be Pharisees, nothing is lacking but—power!’

PPS I started reading Spinoza’s Ethics but it is hard going. Just went I thought everything was getting profoundly interrelated and monistic, I watched “The Fountain” for the first time! I like!

Justification for Torture and Other Ramblings

Posted by Anti Citizen One on November 9th, 2010

It’s really grinds my gears when I hear attempts to justify torture. George W Bush recently said water boarding saved lives. This is NOT a valid justification for torture, simply because there is no valid justification AT ALL. (Well OK there probably are hypothetical situations that I might support torture, but they don’t occur in recent times, like the trolley problem.) Until this “torture is OK” attitude is fixed, any military interventions based on “liberating” countries, or criticising countries for human rights abuses is complete hypocrisy. We need to prosecute those who practise torture. Now.

No person shall be […] deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. US Constitution, Fifth Amendment.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Eighth Amendment

It is also questionable that we should be trading with countries that practise torture – we are complicit in their torturing (benefiting from oppression) and we supply logistics (airports for rendition, etc), equipment, diplomatic assistance that enables them to carry on torturing. Unfortunately, that includes most countries. This makes globalisation highly questionable.

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee. Beyond Good and Evil

The UK is apparently building two aircraft carries it doesn’t need. Since the government would be responsible for the cost of winding down the shipyards if the orders were cancelled, it is cheaper to build them, apparently. A third option that occurred to me: cancel the aircraft carries, keep the yards open and build something useful! At a last resort, it could be warships – but make them ships that are more appropriate to actual needs. On the other hand, wasting military spending would probably lead to a safer world. The MOD might be up for a nobel peace prize?

The government also said it plans to force “some” long term unemployed to do manual work for continuation of social benefits. The criteria of who exactly they plan to force into work is not exactly defined, as far as I know. The devil is in the detail. But considering we don’t have full employment, it seems unfair to force people to work, when there are not enough real jobs.

That reminds me of the university funding debacle. The university budget has been cut by 40% (£4.2bn from £7.1bn), with the costs passed to students. Most students will not have significant funds for their own development and will accrue large debts. This creep of debt to the majority of the population (not to mention the house mortgage system) is a form of economic slavery. The ban on collecting interest is one of the few things I agree with in the Qur’an and the Bible. Except most believers seem to have ignored this teaching. Although I have a love of learning (and therefore of free education), I see the current increase in university places as farcical, unnecessary and potentially counter productive as economics increases its hold on university policy.

To connect the employment and university issues, we seem to be training graduates for non-existent jobs. OK, some jobs exist that require that level of study – but too much is being made of the “need” for a degree to get a job. Most jobs don’t need it – it is only the under-supply of employment that makes competition for the job intense – and drives the need for practically superfluous degrees. Full employment has some interesting economic consequences. A job guarantee program might be better than forcing manual labour on virtual benefit slaves.

Rant concluded.

Anti Citizen One

“Violence is Never the Answer”

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 23rd, 2010

To provide a little perspective on the view “tolerance is always good”, “respectful discussion is paramount”, etc, here is a contrary view:

And I agree with him.

Anti Citizen One

Selective Intellectual Blindness

Posted by Anti Citizen One on July 16th, 2010

I recently had an infuriating conversation which revealed staggering selective intellectual blindness. I am reminded of the quote:

In certain pious people I have found a hatred of reason, […] But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors [the concord of things through discord] and all the marvellous uncertainty and ambiguity of existence, and not to question, not to tremble with desire and delight in questioning, not even to hate the questioner–perhaps even to make merry over him to the extent of weariness–that is what I regard as contemptible[…] The Gay Science, Aph 2.

I am glad to get that off my chest.


Chomsky: Perilous Power, Media Control

Posted by Anti Citizen One on June 19th, 2010

I reread Chomsky and Achcar’s Perious Power. The format of the book is a dialogue between these two intellectuals, which was subsequently polished and with addition of references to sources. It is a wide reaching examination of the middle east situation and international policy. Chomsky’s usual method is applied: examine a leaders rhetoric and then their actual actions to see if there is any discrepancy. He argues that the stated goals of western powers to bring democracy and human rights to the middle east is contradicted by a long history of hypocrisy in that regard. Of course, this continues today with various countries bullying Iran. Chomsky returns to a recurring topic: the most obvious definition of terrorism implies that the US and allies are the worst terrorist states. For example, Iran might have significant human rights problems and possibly threatening to use military power (although this was probably political grandstanding, not actual policy) but compare that to the US, UK, Israel who go far beyond threats and actually are militarily aggressive and have an overall appalling human rights record. The list of specific instances is too long for me to detail – just read this book! (or The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein). Until the US cleans up its act in human rights and military aggression, and its allies stop being accomplices to this acts, I place very little stock in the current US/UK military adventures.

Here are a few general ideas, they might want to consider to actually get back on track:

  • Military forces should be used as the last resort. The democratic route should be preferred. The rhetoric states this is policy, but clearly it isn’t.
  • Don’t perform military actions in other countries or kidnap people across boarders (“rendition”) – this undermines the rule of law. Drone bombings are extra-judicial killings. (US 14th Amendment – due process and all that)
  • Highlight human rights abuses then they are conducted by our “allies” (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, Pakistan) and not just by our “enemies” (Cuba, Iran, China). (Remember when Canada listed the US as a country that practices torture? The truth hurts.)
  • Replace military forces in occupied countries, particularly if against the popular will, (Iraq, Afghanistan, Tibet) with a UN force or withdraw completely.
  • Stop support (military, economic, diplomatic) to countries that occupy territory by force or use disproportionate force (Israel by US, North Korea by China)
  • Prosecute people who order or perform torture. (This applies to all countries, and it is where Obama’s credibility evaporated from my perspective.)
  • Encourage resolution of occupied territories – this could be achieved in Palestine by the US if they had the will. (See the US record on UN resolutions with respect to Israel)
  • Pay reparations to countries that you messed up with military action, supporting coups, etc. (Most colonial powers and the US would have a long list of candidates here.)
  • Don’t use collective punishment on countries using sanctions or military action (did someone say “war crime”?). (US on Cuba, US on Iran, US on just about everyone, Israel on Palestine.) This is taken to an extreme when countries elect the “wrong” government and are punished in consequence. Don’t ignore governments with popular support just because they are distasteful. (Hamas)
  • Prisoners are to have fair trials in civilian courts or the Geneva Conventions apply. Also the UDHR applies. In all cases, coercion should not be used.
  • Ban nukes.
  • In short, cut the double think and hypocrisy.

Oddly, most of these are already law or have been discussed many times at the UN. Unfortunately very little will be done until other issues are resolved: dependence on oil, the influence of businesses on politics and reduction of propaganda. I also read Media Control, which is more of an introduction to all of the above. It is very short – more pamphlet length than book length and not hard to read (in fact a bit too light compared to his other works).

Anti Citizen One

PS Chomsky always gets me in the mood for Rage Against the Machine: “I am the Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria”!

Faith School Admission

Posted by Anti Citizen One on October 26th, 2009

In interesting issue is being debated by the UK Supreme Court (yes there is a Supreme Court now): what rules can faith schools apply to school admission? It can be an interesting conflict in freedom of religion with freedom to attend competing with freedom to define a schools identity.

An article on the BBC outlines the Jewish school situation: can a convert to the religion attend an orthodox school that insists on Jewish decent on the mother’s side? Is this a case of freedom or of racial discrimination?

Other faith schools may be affected by the presidence in the above case. For example can a Catholic school insist on church attendance for admission? I am interested by the possibility that non-attendance might make a person more Christian based on the writings of Blake, Kierkegaard, etc. I was trying to recall the basis for church going on the Bible (within the New Testament) and I could not recall any; until I remembered I only have passing familiarity with the gospels and hardly anything in acts, etc. There does seem to be a contrast in institutional religion between the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Every instance of Jesus going to the Temple seems to highlight the gulf between what he stood for and what organised religion represents… Not to mention: “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts[…]” Luke 20:46

I was on a bit of a rant there after C S Lewis’s pro-institutional views….

Anti Citizen One

Recent Criticisms in Politics

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 17th, 2009

I noticed two news stories that really “grind my gears”. Firstly, the case where MEP Daniel Hannan called for the abolition of the British National Health Service. The government’s health secretary commented:

“I would almost feel… it is unpatriotic because he is talking in foreign media and not representing, in my view, the views of the vast majority of British people and actually, I think giving an unfair impression of the National Health Service himself, a British representative on foreign media.” Andy Burnham

Now, I find it odd that he presumes that politicians may not to talk to journalists that are from beyond the UK and also that politicians may not disagree with public opinion. And to voice disagreement with public opinion is “unpatriotic”? Very worrying signs… (hello, thought police…) Perhaps it would be better for Andy Burnham to stick to the topic of discussion without resorting to name calling.

A second case concerns David Miliband and his comments on Joe Slovo, a South African anti-apartheid activist. When asked if violence (or “terrorism” in the parlance of our time) could be justified in some circumstances:

Presenter Matthew Parris asked Mr Miliband: “Are there circumstances in which violent reaction, terrorism, is the right response?”

Mr Miliband said: “That’s such a hard question, ‘right’ has to be judged in two ways doesn’t it? Whether it’s justifiable and whether it’s effective.

“I think I’m right in saying that one of the ways in which the ANC tried to square the circle between being a movement of political change and a movement which used violence, was to target installations rather than people.

“The most famous ANC military attack was on the Sasol oil refinery in 1980. That was perceived to be remarkable blow at the heart of the South African regime.

“But I think the answer has to be yes – there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective – but it is never effective on its own.”

He went on: “The importance for me is that the South African example proved something remarkable: the apartheid regime looked like a regime that would last forever, and it was blown down.” BBC

He has come under fire from various sources, including William Hague, for apparently condoning terrorism generally. This is an instance of the slippery slope argument (and an appeal to consequences). But “violence is necessary in some circumstances” is as true as any other statement I care to think of. History of all peoples and places are full of illustrations that this is the case. To claim otherwise requires a total lack of the historical sense and gross double standards.

For example, Churchill planned civilian and military suicide attacks in case of invasion of the UK (Their finest hour, Winston Churchill, p149). Another case is the firebombing of Dresden and the use of atomic weapons against mainly civilian targets. Also the French resistance to Nazi occupation using sabotage and assassination. Attacks are called “terrorists” by one side and “martyr”, “liberation” or “freedom” fighters by the other. Chomsky and others questioned if states are capable of terrorism? Or even is there an agreed definition of terrorism? No, often there is not, because this would implicate many military operations/actions as state terror. (And “operation” is another case of “words as weapons” – implying they are competently and justifiably applied.)

Anti Citizen One

Rant on The Language of God by Francis Collins

Posted by Anti Citizen One on May 31st, 2009

I started reading Francis Collins’s book but its not going very well. I was interested of a tale of an atheistic scientist that found God. The first argument and apparent centre piece is based on an unusual mix of the meta-ethics, argument from analogy, argument from design, and a bit of the ontological argument. He attributes it to CS Lewis with numerous quotes from his books. (And I thought I was bad with my narrow selection of quotations!) I have outlined the argument in as clear form as I can by separating the two main threads, then I have proceeded to “kick the tires”. It has been a while since I have attempted this type of activity. I am motivated and intrigued by the authors repeated claims of rationality and his previous work as a scientist.

The existence of the concepts of good and evil are accepted by most people.
Humans act in an altruistic manner.
Human altruistic behaviour and the concept of good has not been explained.

‘The argument that most caught my attention, and most rocked my ideas about science and spirit down to their foundations, was right there in the title of Book One: “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” […] Disagreements are part of daily life. […] each party attempts to appeal to an unstated higher standard. This standard is the Moral Law. […] Virtually never does the respondent say, “To hell with your concept of right behaviour.” What we have here is very peculiar: the concept of right and wrong appears to be universal among all members of the human species[…]’

The concept of “good” is analogous to a house that has been designed an architect. The concept of “good” must also have a creator, which is God.
The altruistic actions are analogous to a house that has been designed an architect. The concept of “good” must also have a creator, which is God.

If the Law of Human Nature cannot be explained away as cultural artifact or evolutionary by-product, then how can we account for its presence? There is truly something going on here. Francis Collins

If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe – no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside ourselves. Surely this ought to arouse our suspicious? C S Lewis

Axioms: The argument relies on the axiom that the concept of good is universal. Unfortunately for this argument, counter examples exist – just look at existential philosophy. If we still use a weakened form of the argument, “most people believe in good”, we end up with an imperfectly universal “Moral Law” and therefore an imperfect designer. If we argue, “those existentialists are just deluding themselves”, the reverse argument is also allowable “the majority of people are deluded about Moral Law”. I don’t think this could be clearer:

My demand of the philosopher is well known: that he take his stand beyond good and evil and treat the illusion of moral judgement as beneath him. This demand follows from an insight that I was the first to articulate: that there are no moral facts. Twilight of the Idols, FN

So much for the universal concept of Moral Law. If only Nietzsche’s demand was more well known…

The other axiom is that people act in an altruistic way. Collins defines altruism as “the truly selfless giving of oneself to others with absolutely no secondary motives”. He cites Oskar Schindler and Mother Teresa as examples. Well I can think of one motivation: religion (they were both Catholic). Also, these individuals decided “they know best” in how to help people in distress. This generalising of a personal morality on to other cases generally seems very selfish to me!

Update: I should distinguish that the belief in a God (irrespective of the validity of belief) is a sufficient explanation in these cases. The existence of God is what Collins uses as the explanation of altruism.

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Luke 6:35 (my emphasis)

He wishes to succour, and does not reflect that there is a personal necessity for misfortune; that terror, want, impoverishment, midnight watches, adventures, hazards and mistakes are as necessary to me and to you as their opposites, yea, that, to speak mystically, the path to one’s own heaven always leads through the voluptuousness of one’s own hell. No, he knows nothing thereof. Gay Science Aph 338, FN

Argument from analogy: this is an unsure method of argument more suited to rhetorics. If the cases that are compared are not equal, the analogy does not necessarily hold. We must be particularly careful if we are comparing something like a house to something like “the concept of good”. On what grounds are we to compare “the concept of good” to any physical object, without invoking the characteristic of “design” which would be merely begging the question in that assumes a designer? This great quote from Hume rebuts comparison between the universe and a house but it might be equally applied to comparing a morality and a house.

…the subject in which you are engaged exceeds all human reason and enquiry. Can you pretend to shew any such similarity between the fabric of a house, and the generation of a universe? Have you ever seen nature in any such situation as resembles the first arrangement of the elements? Have worlds ever been formed under your eye; and have you had leisure to observe the whole progress of the phenomenon, from the first appearance of order to its final consummation? If you have, then cite your experience, and deliver your theory. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume

Argument from ignorance: In some ways, this argument should have been stated first since it is a simple logically flaw and not easily rebutted. If we don’t know where the concept “good” comes from, we can’t form any conclusion based on what we don’t know. If we allowed this, he might become religious based on an argument from ignorance but when an explanation emerges, is he compelled to renounce God? That would be absurd. This has been discussed many times before as “God of the gaps”.

Since this is an argument from ignorance, I could explain the concept of “good” being caused by extra-terrestrial alien interference. Although I don’t believe that theory, the flimsy supporting evidence is better than Collins’s no evidence whatever (in the context of this argument from ignorance).

Infinite regress: If there is evidence of an “architect”, what created the architect? The architect’s designer presumably. And who created that? And so on. I really can’t be bothered to flesh this out since this objection has been known for hundreds of years.

Some points that I found while flipping though the book:

“This principle [Occham’s razor] suggests that the simplest explanation for any given probelms is usually best. Occam’s Razor appears to have been relegated to the Dumpster by the bizarre models of quantum physics.”

This is a straw man of Occam’s razor. Does it only say the “simplest” argument is best? No. It doesn’t. And for a practicing scientist to claim this makes me worry. (If this really is Occam’s razor, the best theory would be “the universe is random, any pattern is a coincidence” and we can stop research since we have the “best” theory.)

“If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence. If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence. Atheism itself must therefore be considered a form of blind faith.”

Nice ad hominem tu quoque. But it is easy to restate this argument to say “religion can neither prove nor disprove his existence” and therefore it is “blind faith”. This refutes his own argument from evidence in one fell swoop. On the other hand, if God is “inside the universe”, science or atheists can comment on God’s existence. Oddly Collins seems to alternate between God being “outside the universe” and yet occasionally intervening in human affairs. Is he a deist or theist? From this quote, I don’t think he knows himself.

An alternative analysis I suggest is that “good” is a product of language to express social norms. Social and community norms exist in humans and other animals. Of the animals, we have the most complicated language – if we use a broad definition of “language”. The short cut to refer to community norms in language is what created the concept “good”. Not a big deal – and certainly no proof of God. My suggestion to Francis Collins: get a copy of Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” and read it (again, if applicable). I would have liked to have read his ideas on coexistence of science and religion but his first few chapters were so incoherence so I stopped and I don’t think I missed much by not reading on. But apparently he rejects creationism and ID. Perhaps scientists should say away from philosophy? (note to self…)

Anti Citizen One

PS I have less of a beef with religious people who don’t claim rational justification for God. This post obviously does not apply to you. 🙂

A Voice in the Civil Liberties Wilderness

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 27th, 2009

The UK Liberal Democrats are proposing what I think is a dream legislation on civil liberties. I can’t help smiling when I read the list of measures. If we live in an open society, all these civil rights should be a matter of course.

In a more philosophical sense, these reforms can avoid the concept of “natural rights” by considering they are “rights of the state” over the individual that must be abolished.

* Scrap ID cards for everyone, including foreign nationals.
* Ensure that there are no restrictions in the right to trial by jury for serious offences including fraud.
* Restore the right to protest in Parliament Square, at the heart of our democracy.
* Abolish the flawed control orders regime.
* Renegotiate the unfair extradition treaty with the United States.
* Restore the right to public assembly for more than two people.
* Scrap the ContactPoint database of all children in Britain.
* Strengthen freedom of information by giving greater powers to the Information Commissioner and reducing exemptions.
* Stop criminalising trespass.
* Restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers.
* Prevent allegations of ‘bad character’ from being used in court.
* Restore the right to silence when accused in court.
* Prevent bailiffs from using force.
* Restrict the use of surveillance powers to the investigation of serious crimes and stop councils snooping.
* Restore the principle of double jeopardy in UK law.
* Remove innocent people from the DNA database.
* Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days.
* Scrap the ministerial veto which allowed the Government to block the release of Cabinet minutes relating to the Iraq war.
* Require explicit parental consent for biometric information to be taken from children.
* Regulate CCTV following a Royal Commission on cameras. Lib Dems

Basically a work of genius 🙂 But the existing powers that be are likely to resist this attempt to moderate their influence…

Anti Citizen One

Censorship….. the Movie!

Posted by Anti Citizen One on February 19th, 2009

I was considering avoiding the controversy around Geert Wilders’ film “Fitna” but I have decided to brave the waters… The basic argument seems to be:

  1. The Koran contains statements that call for the spread of Islam and unbelievers to be killed.
  2. Act of violence are justified and inspired by the Koran (this is implied visually but not stated literally)
  3. Islam wants to impose its views on us [liberal Westerners]
  4. Being under threat, we must respond by defeating this ideology (as done to Communism)
  5. Muslims should renounce passages that call for violence.

Ban Ki Moon condemned the film for itself being extremist.

I want to add some observations that were not in the film.

  • The Koran has statements that non-believers should not be harmed.
  • Not all Muslims want to impose their beliefs on others. (On the other hand, extremists would say “then they are not Muslim” but anyway) See also 2:256, 18:29, 109:6
  • Getting inspiration towards violence from a holy book depends on the supply of the book, being told to read it and to take it seriously – and also to take a particular pro-violent interpretation. All this takes human influence. To say that words on a page are wholly responsible for violence is an over simplification.
  • Just because liberal views are “under threat”, it does not mean we should label the view as “evil” or attempt to defeat it. To do so is the antithesis of liberalism! As long as pressure comes from preaching and political action, why should a liberal society resist? Unless we don’t think liberalism can survive without being hypocritical? (Which is a possibility.)
  • Apparently some (most?) Muslim scholars do call for sections of the Koran to be interpreted and not to be taken literally.

When Geert Wilders attempted to travel to the UK to show his film, we was denied entry as he was deemed a “public safety threat”. I’ll tell you what is a public safety thread: a government who censors a descenting voice. If Wilders called for violence (he didn’t – I think?), he would be a loose canon – but it is the protests from hysterical people who feel themselves “offended” that are the threat to public safetly (even if there is a threat at all). The ironic thing is I probably would not have bothered watching this rather superficial film if they had not blocked his visit!

Anti Citizen One

PS There is an excellent audio episode of The Moral Maze concerning the origin of morality. (Titled poorly as “moral relativism”). Also, congratulations to them on the 500th episode broadcasted!