Sunday, January 22, 2006

Religious slave chains

Even though slavery is over in most parts of the world, there are still millions still wearing slave chains around the world, even in Western Civilization. They are just chains of a different kind of slavery, not political, but religious. And they give rise to social controversy.

Every religion has them, but some are worse than others. On the one hand, you have your chadors and burkas, which basically completely dehumanize women and makes them chattel. You've also got your nun costume. On the other hand, you've got your "empowerment" baubles like the cross of the Christian, the Sikh's knife, and the Jew's yarmulke.

Whether voluntary or coerced, these items are used to brand the individual to a religion, to override individuality and equate its identity with that of the religion. The bauble becomes a symbol of double religious dominance - the dominance of the religion over the person, and of the religion over the rest of society.

With the cultural war turning up the heat in Europe, formerly open countries are becoming more and more intolerent of the baubles. France especially has taken steps to ban them. Is this a reasonable attitude ?

For one thing, you have to consider that a lot of the flak comes from their use in schools. Schools are special environments which must be conductive to learning (not learning individualism or critical thinking, mind you, which would be a lot more helpful, but there you go). Dress codes, including against baubles, are defendable regardless of belief system or political position.

What about women who wear chadors in the street ? The issue of identification of criminals for law enforcment has been raised. Now I think that is not a very good argument. We might as well ban ski masks, for all the good that would do.

You can always ask someone to remove their chador to be identified, just as you would with someone wearing a ski mask. Chadors don't hide nearly as much of someone as a ski mask. Now you could make the case with a burka, maybe, but that's an extreme example.

Now when a society is freed from the Sharia or other religious restrictions, or when people move to a Western country, most people stop wearing their baubles. But some will still do it out of compulsion or brainwashing. It's easy to see banning such things as forcing liberation on these people, but I think that's a facile answer. All you're doing is the equivalent of censorship : fanning the flames of their already strong persecution complex, and creating a victimless crime. People who are brainwashed into seeing their religion as sole moral refuge will only be distressed when you try to take their blankie away. It's just bad all around for social harmony in the end.

The main problem is to free people's personal values first. Then, if they still decide to wear their baubles, it's a bizarre fashion statement, not an expression of an enslaved mind. It would ease my mind if that was the case. I would still find such baubles morally wrong, but I wouldn't be distressed by them. I would just see yet another creative weirdo. Maybe some feminist wacko would come up with the idea that the burka represents women's mediatic alienation from the world because of their beauty, or some shit like that. Then we could just have a big laugh at their expense. But you don't laugh at religious missiles.

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