More Than Just Survival

March 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The worst part of this story is that those involved quite probably believe that they’re acting in the best interests of the child involved. The poor kid is in a vegetative state and is not going to recover, yet ‘Priests for Life’ have spent hundreds of thousands on a medical airlift to keep him on a ventilator at a new facility – the hope is that he can die at home over the course of six months or so. The absolute best case scenario is that the child in question has such severe neurological damage that he has no self-awareness – the time, money and emotional stress has all been for nothing, but at least the boy’s problems have long since ended. The much, much worse possibility is that he is still self-aware, and is trapped in a body that can still feel pain but cannot communicate with the outside world; if that’s the case, then the parents, and the priests, are fighting for the right to prolong a child’s suffering unnecessarily.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with death. Sure, a happy, healthy life is the preferable option, but if that’s no longer on the table then painful, forced survival simply for survival’s sake benefits nobody.

Defending Those I Despise

March 2nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

An oddly appropriate trifecta of stories on my BBC feed today: the right thing for the courts to do, the wrong thing to do, and the consequences of the wrong thing being taken to extremes.

Just to be perfectly clear: the Westboro Baptist Church are a group of bigoted morons who seem to do nothing but harm. The woman who mocked a blind policeman about the attack which disabled him deserves nothing but the deepest contempt. The fact remains, though, that free speech is a protected right for all people. Not just those who we agree with, or even those who the vast majority agree with, but everybody.

Arresting someone on spurious charges is never acceptable, even if she demonstrated herself to be a small minded, offensive moron. Doing so because she behaved in such a way to a police officer is, in a way, worse – not only is it punishing someone for exercising their fundamentally protected right to speech (although she did do so in a profoundly unpleasant manner), it’s punishing her for behaving in such a way specifically to someone in power. A seemingly small thing, perhaps, especially when the vast majority (myself included) would feel the immediate urge to retaliate for her behaviour, but that’s the point: small things are the way that major abuses of power work their way in. If the police can’t be trusted to remain impartial, or, even worse, if the legal system expressly codifies greater protections for certain groups (as in the Pakistan blasphemy situation), the rule of law breaks down – why would anyone accept a system which protects others more than themself, after all?

The Week in Idiocy

February 11th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A veritable smorgasbord of moronic stories seem to have come to light this week, and I’m far too lazy to write individual posts of even the most mediocre quality:

  • Russia are, unsurprisingly, expelling foreign journalists who they happen to dislike. Although international denouncement is a perfectly reasonable reaction, I have to wonder whether the British government really has the right to comment when they too have a documented history of banning visitors based purely on their political opinions. Not to imply that I agree with anything I’ve heard said by Terry Jones, Geert Wilders, or Zakir Naik, nor to suggest that they are on the same level as a reporter for the Guardian, but the simple fact is that both countries are refusing to provide a platform for certain speech which they happen to find objectionable. Whatever happened to “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it”?
  • An American school is doing an outstanding job of reminding us why zero-tolerance is very unlikely to be workable in a world where issues are not conveniently and unequivocally divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I do see the theory behind the “no medical marijuana products on school grounds” rule – although I personally disagree with their logic, I understand why some parents and administrators would worry about the potential for abuse, which is much greater than for most other medications. The true stupidity, however, becomes apparent when the zero-tolerance rule is applied; logic and intent go out the window, and the letter of the law takes over. The end result is that a kid who has already moved schools in order to be able to get home quickly enough to take his seizure medication is no longer allowed to return to school after doing so because he is ‘in possession’ of the drug inside his body. Whichever way I twist it, I honestly cannot comprehend how the school feels this to be a decision which benefits anybody.
  • Apparently leaving a 14 year old to keep an eye on his 3 year old brother for half an hour is now worthy of an official police caution. How the police came to find out about this heinous crime occurring is not made apparent by the article. It does, however, raise the very reasonable question of how this issue would have been treated if it were the 14 year old’s own child rather than their sibling; not an everyday situation, of course, but one that makes clear the absurdity of the police involving themselves.
  • Japan has provided a fine example of how the idiotic superstitions of some can have an impact upon us all. Apparently the families of people who commit suicide are being charged large amounts to compensate landlords for the loss of resale value from the bad luck that the death bestows upon the building. I’m not even quite sure if I blame the landlords for this one – it might be considered somewhat callous, but if (and that’s a big ‘if’) the loss of property value is genuine, then I can understand why they want to be compensated, however stupid the reason – but even if it is the public in general who are at fault, the fact of the matter is that genuine economic value is being wiped out by the fear of evil spirits, and this is happening in one of the globe’s most technologically advanced societies. I’m left wondering firstly how people can really accept such utter absurdity in their day-to-day lives, and secondly why this can’t at least make for some nice cheap property in a city where I want to live?

Freedom of Asshattery

January 21st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Some men in Newcastle burned a copy of the Koran. From this, I can deduce that they were probably intolerant, bigoted and quite possibly racist – it’s one thing to offend in the course of making a point, quite another to offend simply for the sake of it – but I see no reason for it to become a matter for the courts. They happened to get off, but only due to insufficient evidence, not due to any legal or philosophical protection for their actions.

Simply put, “acting like a dick” is not (in general) a crime; if “acting like a dick to a certain group” is a crime, the legal system has suddenly created an order of preference. As the wise and holy sages of South Park so eloquently put it:

Either everything is okay to make fun of or nothing is.

Sure, these guys weren’t exactly ‘making fun’ – at best they set out to show their disapproval in a clumsy and overreaching manner, and very probably intended to cause deliberate offence – but the principle is the same. Either we are free to mock, to criticise and to offend anyone, or we must be polite and deferential to all. Attractive as the latter option may occasionally sound, a free society can only function based on the former. Half-measures simply breed inequality or set the ball rolling towards uniform restriction.

And Your God(s) Shall Protect You

January 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

If many fellow pilgrims are being trampled to death on a semi-regular basis at your religious festivals, it may well be a good time to rethink your system of belief.

Barrel. Fish. Shooting.

January 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

“My whole life, I thought I was a Capricorn,” the 25-year-old publicist said. “Now I’m a Sagittarius? I don’t feel like a Sagittarius!” It felt, she said, like a rug had been pulled from under her feet. “Will my personality change?” she mused. “Capricorns are diligent and regimented, and super-hard-working like me. Sagittarians are more laid back. This is all a little off-putting.”

I could not possibly allow myself to stoop to mocking these fine citizens. They have, after all, unlocked the fundamental secrets of time itself. They may predict at will the minutiae of life on this insignificant little planet, yet they do not impose their wishes upon us as they so easily could with their extraordinary gifts. They satisfy themselves with a life of quiet contemplation, realising in their zen-like calm that there truly is nothing more important than which celebrity just gained weight, or whose relationship will be the next to fail. Would that we could all reach such enlightenment.

I’d Make a Great Messiah

January 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

If someone wants to travel from the US to Cuba because it seems an interesting place to visit, that’s too bad. If, on the other hand, someone wants to travel there because they need to clear themselves of thetans, or because their chosen all-loving and all-forgiving deity will turn them into a pillar of salt if they don’t, that’s just fine.

It’s at this point that I would gather all my self righteousness and declare that we should start our own religion (with blackjack and hookers) to make clear the point that anything can be called by the name of ‘religion’ and that the law must protect all equally or none. Luckily, someone funnier than me already did so. So go and read his blog instead.

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