A Candle in the Dark

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Archive for the ‘rant’ Category

Storm – Tim Minchin

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Worth watching, if you haven’t seen it before.

Written by parseval

October 14, 2010 at 8:01 am

Posted in rant, videos

Not all opinions are equally valid

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In the context of any discussion or a debate, it’s essential to remember that not all opinions are equally valid; some of them are based on reason, rationality, empirical evidence and ethics, while others are based on ignorance, pseudoscience, superstition and religion.

The recent Delhi High Court ruling in India which ‘decriminalized’ homosexuality is a landmark civil rights milestone in India’s history which recognizes equality and affirms individual human rights. However, this is not enough. I hope that this judicial ruling is the first step towards eventually legalizing gay marriage, and granting equal civil rights to all citizens, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

However, what is sadly predictable is the reaction of almost every religious group, who readily unite in their moral outrage to condemn this ruling.

“We urge the union and Delhi governments to keep in mind the views of various religious committees while taking a stand on the judgement of the Delhi High Court,” Jain religious leader Acharya Lokesh Muniji told reporters at a press conference of religious leaders in New Delhi on Thursday. “It’s not that we don’t support independence of individuals but this judgment challenges the will of god”

Sharing the platform with Muniji was the president of Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind, Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari. The Maulana said that according to Islam homosexuality is a crime. “Such behaviour is against the moral values of our nation that is based on cultural and ethical traditions. The government should take our views seriously.”

Agreeing with him was Sardar Tarsem Singh of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. “Sikh religion doesn’t view homosexuals as criminals but we don’t encourage it.”

Father Dominic Emmanuel, the founder of Sarvadharma Sadbhav (Communal Harmony and Peace), said: “We have no objection or opposition to de-criminalisation of homosexuality because we never considered them (homosexuals) as criminals”. “However, we are also clear that we are against legalising it… because what they do is unnatural and against the design and will of god.”

But wait… Father Dominic is of the opinion that homosexuality is unnatural and is against legalizing it, but has no objection to de-criminalization? WTF? This sort of broken and contradictory thinking is exactly why one should remember that not all opinions are equally valid.

Frankly speaking, the objections against decriminalizing homosexuality are bereft of facts, logic and evidence; against human rights and promote bigotry. Religious groups should ideally have no say whatsoever in this issue, because India is a secular democracy, and we have a rational-legal judicial system, not one based on any religious text. Religious groups have no right whatsoever to impose their moral viewpoints as universal law 1.

Here’s a nonsensical petition which attempts to reverse the Delhi High Court ruling, filed by SK Kaushal, who happens to be an astrolger 2

The petition filed by Kaushal sought quashing of July 2 verdict of the high court legalising gay sex between consenting adults in private, which was earlier a criminal offence punishable with upto life imprisonment.

The petition contended that homosexual acts, by all standards, were “unnatural” and could not be permitted.

“No one can imagine the consequences of the unnatural acts. Even animals don’t indulge in such activities,” he said in his petition.

He said the high court judgement would result in spread of HIV virus as “it has been amply proven” that the infection was contracted through such sexual acts.

Really?

  1. How can it be unnatural if it occurs in nature? Also, the internal combustion engine is unnatural, but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal.
  2. ‘Even animals don’t indulge in such activities’ – Hogwash. There’s documented evidence of homosexual behaviour in animals. All he needed to do was google. Also, this is an irrelevant point.
  3. “it has been amply proven that the infection was contracted through such sexual acts.” – Gee, doesn’t that imply that we should ban hetrosexuality too? In any case, it’s pathetic that he doesn’t realize that decriminalizing homosexuality would be an immense step in preventing the spread of HIV in that population group.

There are some issues which I wish to address. First, why aren’t such silly petitions dismissed by the SC? Second, it goes to show how poorly we think of politicians, that it comes as no surprise that political parties are not taking an unequivocal stand on an issue of human rights. Then, when politicians, religious groups, or organizations calls for a ‘wider consensus’, it’s important to realize that human rights issues should not decided by popular vote, (ideally) the constitution should guarantee fundamental human rights by law, and the judiciary should ensure this.

Finally, I’m against labelling any opposition to the high court decision decriminalizing homosexuality as worthy of a ‘debate’, as that usually implies that there are two sets of comparable but opposing opinions.

Fact is, if you think that homosexuality should be a criminal offense punishable by law, then you are stupid and ignorant.

Notes
[1] – And yet they attempt to do this all the time, and sometimes manage to pull it off (ex. prop 8, blasphemy laws, etc). Which is one of the reasons I think religion is very damaging.
[2]- *Ahem*

Written by parseval

July 9, 2009 at 3:05 am

Posted in politics, rant, religion

Tagged with ,

It is finished

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I am finally done with all my graduate school applications. Now comes the long wait.

One thing that’s very clear to me now, is that ETS is an evil organization which uses its monopoly to squeeze out as much money as it can from prospective graduate students.

Why is there a need to pay 20$ per university whenever I need to send my scores? It would be faster, and easier, if they simply have an electronic database with the scores, and allow the graduate admissions office access to the details of the scores through the internet. Also, 12$ dollars just to find out how I did in the test? That is ridiculous.

Anyway, to all my fellow undergrad students who’ve applied, best of luck!

Written by parseval

January 7, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Posted in personal, rant

Tagged with

A National Disgrace indeed

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The last week had regrettably witnessed the brutal acts of violence committed by rabid Hindu mobs in the state of Orissa1 2 3. It started when the BJP accused that Christians militants had committed the deplorable act of murdering a VHP leader, Laxmanananda Saraswati.

First of all, I’m amazed by the tragic inanity displayed by the VHP & the BJP. Why didn’t they actually wait for some sort of investigation to come up with actual evidence about the murderers before they make a claim? Especially when the region has a history of religious violence.

Unfortunately, the claim that the murder was committed by Christian militants has led to large scale retaliatory violence. There is absolutely no justification for the type of violence displayed by the Hindu mobs in ransacking churches and murdering civilians.

As it turns out, a group of Maoists have come forward and claimed they had committed the murder (have they been arrested and questioned?). However, the BJP don’t believe them and want a thorough probe to determine the “real culprits”. This begs the question, why not demand such a probe from the start, *before* you make such claims? And if the BJP do have evidence to the identity of the murderers, why not state the evidence along with the accusation? Indeed, this was the line of questioning asked during a panel discussion with a former MP of the BJP, B.P. Singhal. He replied:

“I will not give licence to violence but on the ground if immediate redressal operations don’t take place, people react on their own,” Singhal replied.

What a weasel worded statement. Notice that, like most politicians, he didn’t answer the question. Besides, what redressal operation? Mob violence is NOT an acceptable reaction to an allegation of a crime! This, (and indeed, most of his statements) reeks of apologist talk. There have been some reports that VHP activists were among those who committed violence 4 5. What is needed from the party which made the allegation is a statement decrying violence, informing its members (and activists) that violence will not be tolerated and encourage them to cooperate with the police and paramilitary to maintain order and identify mob assailants.

That religion generally leads to violence is not new6, but in this case it is reported that there are some underlying factors which had been simmering away for quite some time, such as religious conversion of people from “lower” castes to Christianity, poverty and an opposition to cow-slaughters.

Let’s look at the conversion of the “lower” castes. First of all, I’ve never understood the caste system. Why do we persist in having a racist and discriminatory system of segregation? The caste system has absolutely no relevance in the modern world. Segregation and discrimination based on the caste system is a form of apartheid. Although caste barriers may have diminished in cities, there is still plenty of inequality and discrimination in rural areas7 8. As long as the label of caste exists, narrow minded bigots will continue to use it as a form of discrimination.

I don’t think there’s an easy way to address this problem, but I think a policy of education and affirmative action is absolutely essential. Perhaps not using the current model of fixed quotas for each “caste”, but a model which includes economic factors and deemphasizes the label of caste. For instance, one extreme example would be to abolish the caste system completely, and base affirmative action policies in education and employment on a combination of economic and social factors which are determined by using a set of measurable parameters in an objective manner for each individual.

So, people switching from the “lower” castes to Christianity is understandable. Maybe it’s for economic reasons, a chance to escape poverty or attaining a better social status, or for more opportunities, maybe they were bribed, or maybe it was even for actual religious reasons. It doesn’t matter. If many people are leaving the lower hierarchy of your religion, then maybe you need to realize that it’s a problem with your religion, rather than try to ban conversions or some other stupid measure. Besides, freedom of religion is a fundamental right expected in a democracy. People are free to convert to whatever religion they choose.

Going back to the same CNN-IBN discussion, Mr Tathagata Satpathy, an MP of BJD, said

Question: Isn’t it worrying that on the ground, the tribals and the Dalits are being used as a lab for a larger political experiment?

Satpathy replied, “The point is that if I am sitting in a chair and I want to grow so much that I move other people who are sitting besides me, they are going to object.”

He added it has become fashionable to speak against Hindus in order to be marked as a secularist. “Secularism doesn’t only apply to Hindus,” he said and added, “It applies to Christians, Muslims and everybody. The tribals and the backward classes had been living in the area without any problems for centuries. In fact, there was no problem till two years ago. Suddenly with the missionaries coming in from different parts of the state and the country, this problem has started coming up. I’m not talking against the missionaries. What I’m saying is that it is time they themselves take stock of the situation — whether they want to destroy the fabric of a peaceful society or be content with what they have.

(emphasis mine)

Be content with poverty, and a lower social status? Perhaps that’s the problem which Mr Satpathy missed, while casually mentioning the “backward classes” to have been living without any problems. Besides, he claims he’s not talking against missionaries, but wait … he is. Ah, the classic affirmation by denial technique.

The other issue is the objection to killing and eating cows. It’s extremely stupid to ban the killing of cows just because you think they are sacred. If I think think that noodles and spaghetti are religious, will you ban people from eating them? If you’re offended that someone eats cows, then too bad. Religious beliefs cannot be used as a factor in a rational-legal judicial system.

The kind of religious violence we see in places like Orissa is a great tragedy. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much hope for preventing such types of conflicts. Historically, conflicting religious beliefs tend to result in irrational acts of violence, and unless we can encourage rationality, freedom of expression and wean people away from imposing their beliefs on others, the view that the various religions are going to be “the language of peace, sacrifice and compassion” maybe an excessively optimistic one.

External references and notes

[1] Riots grip India’s Orissa region (BBC News)
[2]Kandhmal: Panic-stricken villagers hide in forests(NDTV)
[3]Christians hide in forests as Hindu mobs ransack villages (Guardian)
[4]VHP bandh: Orphanage torched(The Economic Times)
[5]Christian woman burnt to death by rampaging VHP mobs in Orissa(The Indian Express, via yahoo news)
[6] – Atleast, in my opinion. You’re free to disagree.
[7]India’s “hidden apartheid” (Gopal Guru, UNESCO journalist)
[8]India’s apartheid (The Hindu)

Written by parseval

August 30, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Posted in politics, rant, religion

The freedom to hurt sentiments

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Dr Abinandanan at the Nanopolitan blog recently highlighted two brilliant verdicts which upheld the principles of freedom of expression and free speech.

However, I was slightly saddened to read a story today on the arrest of a software engineer for posting ‘vulgar’ comments about Sonia Gandhi on an orkut community.

One held for posting obscene Orkut message on Sonia

The cyber cell of the city police crime branch has arrested Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid, an IT professional of Gurgaon, Haryana, for allegedly uploading obscene and derogatory text about Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on Orkut.

Congress activist Amol Bhokare of Pune, who saw the message, lodged a complaint at the Deccan Gymkhana police in December, 2007. Vaid was found guilty under section 67 of the IT Act.

First of all, I must point out that I have absolutely no idea about the content of his actual post. If he posted any message that threatened actual physical violence, then he deserves to be in jail.

However, (and this is speculation on my part, so skip this para if you want), if the content of the post was merely using foul or ‘vulgar’ language to express his opinion, then I strongly disagree with the decision to arrest him. One of the fundamental rights one expects in a democracy is the freedom to criticize any political leader without fear of reprimand. Most sane people already know that whatever Mr Vaid said was probably stupid and not true; indeed Mr Vaid’s posts were probably extremely ill thought out. But, what really matters is that parodies or criticism of politicians or respected national figures, either dead or alive, seems to be censored with great relish in India.

This leads to another issue which comes up with astonishing frequency, and that’s when the religious/moral/national sentiments are hurt. Did something which was printed hurt your beliefs in anyway? Too bad, learn to look away and ignore it.

Freedom of expression isn’t an ideal which permits ideas and concepts only as long as they conform to the general public opinion, but it means that *any* idea or opinion is permissible, irrespective of how silly, stupid or radical it is, as long as it doesn’t directly threaten physical harm. If your beliefs are fragile enough to be offended by whatever another person says to such an extent that you see it fit to censor that person, you’d be better off taking a deep look at if it’s really worth believing in the first place.

By the way, the actual section 67 of the IT act he was booked under?

67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form. – Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeal to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

I wouldn’t be surprised if every other bollywood film director was booked under the act.

Written by parseval

May 21, 2008 at 1:21 am

Posted in politics, rant

Marcus Brigstocke

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He is absolutely hilarious. I enjoyed this rant of his, which was pointedly incisive, yet wickedly funny.

Written by parseval

August 3, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Posted in humour, rant, religion

Pardon me?

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Criminals and other major Bush buddies, take note. If you ever get caught in your daily routine of lying, scamming, subverting justice, hiding evidence, deceiving the nation and other illegal activities, breathe easy. Your buddy is always there to bail you out of trouble1.

US President George W Bush has intervened to prevent Lewis Libby, a convicted former vice-presidential aide, from serving a prison term.

Lewis Libby, also known by his nickname, “Scooter” Libby, was found guilty in March of perjury and obstructing justice in a case connected to Washington’s decision to invade Iraq.

If you look at it logically, there’s no repercussion he faces by granting this pardon and mocking the judicial system. I mean, since every sensible person already knows him for what he is, he’s not going to lose any public support.

External Links

[1] – Bush spares Libby from jail term

Written by parseval

July 3, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Posted in bush, politics, rant