28 July 2010

Aussie lobbyists choose security over liberty

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

- Benjamin Franklin

With the recent Afghan War Diary leaks by Wikileaks, the Australian Defence Association (ADA) has accused Wikileaks editor and Australian citizen Julian Assange of jeopardising the safety of Aussie soldiers and possibly committing treason by aiding enemies of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). ADA executive director Neil James displays his powers of sophistry by arguing that the “[International Security Assistance Force]’s battlefield mistakes are the result of typical wartime tragedy, accidents and at times incompetence or personal failure, not deliberate or institutional policy”.

26 July 2010

‘Negative Capability’: Rationalism and a Romantic poet’s idea

One of the happy side-effects of watching period films is the curiosity they arouse in the viewer to learn more about the characters and their era – a rewarding practice some call ‘tangential learning’. And so it was that I found myself reading up on the 19th century English Romantic poet John Keats after watching Jane Campion’s beauteous film Bright Star (2009), a partly fictionalised story of Keats’s relationship with Fanny Brawne.

16 July 2010

'Hijab is Protection'

I'm all for cultural diversity and yes, I do deplore the accelerating homogenization that's taking place globally. But I draw the line at oppressive practices that are promoted on supposed ethical grounds. Especially when the promotion - or rather propaganda - relies on crude caricatures of gender.

Who should feel more insulted by this message? Women, for being condescended to as unwitting temptresses who, unless they obliterate their femininity, are powerless to stop the attacks of lustful male predators? Or men, for being collectively portrayed as exactly that kind of sex-crazed thug?


Image taken from the Raajjeislam website.

15 July 2010

Why secularism matters

Those of us who take our secular societies for granted need to be reminded that a great number of our fellow human beings live under governments that don't distinguish between politics and religion. That there exists cultures that conflate morality with one particular set of irreproachable, divinely-mandated rules. That those whom fate has cast into such a culture may have to pay a terrible price if their conscience should ever lead them to question and perhaps reject those rules.

07 July 2010

Culture viewed through the three 'E's

All of culture can be examined on the level of entertainment, education and edification. Some cultural products score highly in one ‘E’ while neglecting the other two, while some address all three to a more or less similar degree. Yet the general vibe is that (too) many areas of culture emphasize only one ‘E’: entertainment. Variety shows, reality TV, no holds barred cage fights, Michael Bay movies; all these vacuous descendants of the ancient gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum have now annexed vast tracts of the cultural landscape into their sphere of influence. Meanwhile those aspects of culture that focus on educating and edifying their audience are shouted down by the cacophony of the spectacle.