Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tolerating the intolerant 2: Birmingham

The desire of religious groups to enjoy religous freedom while curtailing others freedoms, especially freedom of expression has appeared again, this time in England.

The attempt to offer religous freedom seems to be treated with contempt by fundamentalist groups, all of whom seem bent on resuscitating medieval peasant mores, rather than the profound values and subtle wisdom found in the holy books such as the New Testament,the Q'ran, the Torah and the Guru Granth Sahib. Perhaps I'm being too generous here, but I don't believe these religions need thuggery to protect themselves.

But, as Mr.Rushdie discusses in his article, these religious thugs need the spineless protection of vote-hungry politicians, if these thugs wish to continue their repression of others' freedom.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The reach of human ignorance.

I suppose I'm rather a Kantian in my opinion of what we can know about reality. After reading this article about 'quantum flapdoodle', I've become more confirmed in my view that the inability of the human mind to fully to grasp the universe is as certain as is the physical reality of it's existence.

The result of this starting point is my search to find ways to describe reality that don't ignore the important stuff e.g. physics offers a description of reality but not the wisdom as to how to deal with it. Spirituality offers guidance, but based on highly questionable assumptions. As a popular song put it two men claim to be Jesus- one of them must be wrong. The shear breadth of competing religions, mystics and charalatans, all presenting arguements based essentially on an appeal to authority, leaves that field as a maelstrom of human confusion and ignorance.

A bright friend of mine suggested that this situation was temporary, and that exact knowledge would triumph. I replied that I was more interested in asking what we could learn about the universe, given the parameters of human ignorance. What do our limitations indicate about the nature of the universe we live in?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tolerating the intolerant: Holland

Holland has a reputation for being the most tolerant of countries. However, managing an intolerant group poses difficulties.
How does a society accomodate a group, or perhaps a sub-group, that advocates death to it's critics? To be consistant, I suppose the Dutch could treat militant islamists the same as it treats facist skin-heads.

It might also consider refusing immigration priveledges to those who do not sign an endorsement of the Dutch bill of civil rights.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

voting reform

The current Government here in Quebec is proposing to create a system of representation by population. Their system would retain a riding system, but provide for an additional list of candidates that would top up the number of MNAs to reflect the popular vote.

My approach is that we should keep the ridings, and assign the winners of each riding a seat in the house. Then additional members are chosen from the strongest runners up. In other words if Joe Smith wins his riding with 51% and Jane Doe comes in second with 48% of the vote, she would be likely to be chosen to fill out the seats for her party. If you vote for someone it helps the party, regardless of the outcome of the riding race. More over it means that voting helps increase the possibility of multiple representatives for a given riding. That certainly should encourage voter turn out.

On the other hand, ridings with low turnout would limit themselves to one representative, as low turn out means that the runners up would be unlikely to be selected. The exception here is that small parties( The Green party, the Christian Heritage party, for examples) might make efforts to get some votes in poorly served ridings. That would encourage the bigger parties to pay attention to all ridings.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Gay marriage IS political ( my first post)

This morning, I heard a short commentary about gay marriage on CBC radio 1.
Maude Murphy spoke about how she and her wife, as she termed her partner, were more interested in renovating the kitchen than subverting heterosexuals. That they spent their Saturday evenings playing scrabble and watching Hockey Night in Canada, rather than going clubbing.
She concluded that marriage was not a political issue, but simply one to be decided upon amongst families.
It was on this last point I had to disagree with her.
Deciding on who defines the family and how, is a political act; that is, if you accept that politics is how we decide to live together as communitities and societies, and that politics is not simply a horse race between groups of oily con artists.
What I'm getting at here is that people who oppose gay marrige feel it is the duty of governement to define marriage, and indeed, most other interpersonal relationships.
The fact that many of those same people- Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, say- think the state shouldn't impose labour or environmental laws on businesses presents a curious take on the notion of limited government.
But I think it naive to say that same sex marriage isn't political. For people who believe equality requires conformity, variations on the themes of love, marriage and family just aren't permissible. Politics includes what the government leaves alone as much as what it does.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster