Monday, June 12, 2017

Snippet posts 6/12/17: On love of Our Leader, anti-Sharia Marches and Russian Anti-Corruption Demonstrations

1.  Today's belly laugh:  First watch this video clip about Trump's cabinet meetings.  Then watch this spoof of it by Chuck Schumer (a Democrat, and the Senate Minority Leader) and his people.

2.  The media covered the anti-Sharia marches and the usually bigger counter-marches over last weekend in some detail.

If I took only the statements of the anti-Sharia march's organizers seriously, then what we watched in those marches was something utterly bizarre*:  Right-wing Americans were fighting for women's rights and the rights of LGBT people, while left-wing Americans were fighting for religious rights to stomp on those rights.

But if I took the only the statements of the counter-marchers seriously, then what we watched in those marches were right-wing Americans arguing for a ban on Muslims entering (or perhaps even currently living) in the US, while those who opposed the march were for human rights, including the rights of people of all religions to live in this country and not to be harassed on the basis of their religious beliefs.

A third way to evaluate those marches is to argue that laws based on Sharia -- or almost all religious laws which are over a thousand years old -- are, indeed, very bad news for gender equality or the protection of sexual minorities, but that the marches were not really about keeping such laws out, given that they are not currently part of the legal code in the United States and cannot replace the US Constitution.   So the second interpretation of the anti-Sharia marchers' intentions is most likely the correct one.

I have written earlier about the need to distinguish between anti-Muslim bigotry, which is deplorable, and the criticism of parts of Islamic tenets, which I see as the duty of a feminist writer, just as I believe that I have the duty to criticize Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism and even atheism when and if they are used to oppress women.  Which is usually in the fundamentalist interpretations.

That's one reason why I dislike the term "Islamophobia" and would like to see it replaced by "anti-Muslim bigotry."  All people should be treated fairly and equally, in terms of basic rights and respect.  But all ideas must be open for criticism, including religious ones.

3.  Russia is seeing the largest anti-corruption demonstrations since 2012 when they were violently suppressed by the government, writes the New York Times.

Reading the story made me remember several earlier widespread demonstrations against dictatorial powers in the past, including the 2011 and 2012 ones in Iran and the orange revolution in Ukraine.  When do mass protest movements work?  I mean without resulting in a violent revolution along the lines of the French Revolution?

It seems to me that they sometimes work, at least in the short-run, but that they are not terribly effective if the government is willing to use violence to suppress them.  But this is not something I have ever studied.  I welcome more information on that score.

What struck me about the Russian story in the NYT is this quote:

“Russia without Putin,” they shouted, while one protest banner said “Power must be changeable,” a reference to tightly controlled elections that mostly consolidate the power of Mr. Putin and his allies.

I have bolded the relevant sentence, because that is, of course, in the very core of democracy and the effectiveness of voting.  The hierarchical systems in democracies are acceptable, because the choice of those who are placed on top is supposed to depend on the decisions of those who constitute the base of the power pyramid, and because the rules covering that election are not supposed** to be based on wealth, on birth into a certain social class, on a particular religion, a particular race, sex and so on, but on the actual expertise and skills of the candidates.  Finally, the ranking is explicitly temporary, not eternal.


*Bizarre in the same way is bizarre when it relates some aspect of Wahhabism, say, which discriminates against women and then the next article is about how discrimination against women is AOK in the good old US.  It's also bizarre in the sense that the most likely religious laws that threaten gender equality in the US are those pushed by fundamentalist Christians.

**  They do depend on all those factors in reality, but at least a democracy offers us a way to challenge them.  A dictatorship, not so much.