France makes laws to push social responsibility, while US makes laws to screw the poor

This morning I saw an article on my Facebook newsfeed:

“It is now illegal in France for supermarkets to throw away food. They can donate it all to charities, or as animal feed.”

Underneath, as usual, was a list of related articles. One of them had this headline:

“It is now illegal to distribute food to homeless people in 21 cities.”

You seldom get a complete blog post more or less written for you in two headlines, but there you go.

Control, again

Ireland is set to vote in a referendum about same-sex marriage, and some other thing almost nobody can remember. It’s all about whether we should or shouldn’t allow people of the same gender to get married. The Yes side has dubbed it a question of marriage equality, the No side has dubbed it a question of anything but what it’s really about, screaming alarm over adoption and surrogacy, both completely irrelevant to and unaffected by the outcome of the referendum. This obfuscation manifested in both their claims of what motivates their opposition of the proposed amendment to the constitution, as well as their denial of what really motivates them.

While of course there will be exceptions, the vast, vast majority of those who are campaigning for a No vote, are motivated by a religious-based conviction that homosexuality is wrong. The Bible says it’s bad, the Church (in this country that of course always means the Roman Catholic Church) says it’s bad, therefore…

And this is where my disagreement with these views goes from “whatever, dude” to “stop, because what you’re doing is wrong”. That sentence above ends with “…I want everyone else to live according to my convictions.”

Of course, society often enforces legal prohibitions not everyone agrees with. We strive, hopefully, to limit such contested bans to activities that can clearly be shown to be harmful to the greater good if allowed to go unchecked. Murder and theft are two perfect examples of this. Someone else’s relationship with a consenting adult cannot possibly fall into this category. It’s clear the No side understand this, which is why there has been this remarkable distortion of the facts and intense effort to obfuscate the issue on hand.

But the truth is that a No vote is rooted in the very Catholic desire to not only live your life as you see fit, but to also force others to live their lives the way you see fit. This country is still steeped in that kind of approach.

On 22 May, I will be voting yes for a number of reasons relating to my conviction that deeply loving and committed couples should be able to make that relationship official, and that homosexuality is as normal a variation in the human condition as is being left-handed, though apparently slightly less common. Primarily, though, I’ll be voting yes because what consenting adults do with their lives is none of my fucking business. Society in Ireland crosses a line when it comes to control of individuals. We go way too far, still, in dictating forced organ donation onto women, in our interference with how people raise their children. A yes vote would be a step in the right direction, following a good few before it, and hopefully to be followed by many more in the future.

Bring it on.

If you can, and if you can bear it, leave

I seldom speak out about South Africa, but as my children approach adulthood, an option for them is going back to live there. Probably my main reason for leaving was that I felt every white person leaving, leaves an opportunity for coloured folk. It may be a brain drain, but as long as those white brains stay, the lack of candidates with the right training and abilities among the coloured population remains hidden. The brain drain is a necessary crisis, because I see no other way to force society into looking from birth to adulthood at the development, education and training available to the coloured majority. Opportunities and services in these areas are still woefully inadequate, woefully weighted in favour of whites.

To every white South African who has the means and opportunity (such as dual nationality, or skills that are in demand overseas), I would say: consider leaving. Consider it strongly. However, you need to be realistic over whether you can bear it, too. There are white South Africans whose souls are intertwined with the country to the extent that a separation would break them. If that is you, don’t go. There is so much good you can do right where you are.

Emigration takes more mental strength than anyone can imagine until they go through it. It’s the best but also the most trying experience of my life. If you’re like me, you will develop a complex identity that transcends nationality or ethnicity, and takes great mental strength to accept and become comfortable with – like becoming a seafarer rather than staying on solid ground.

It also costs a lot of money. We would likely have lived in comparative luxury, had we stayed where we were instead of moving to Ireland. Yet I am happy with my life, my shabby home.

My decision to emigrate was not rooted in only one thing. I wanted safety, I wanted opportunities for my children, I wanted a certain lifestyle. Yet undeniably, I also considered whether I was serving my birth country best by staying, or going. I believed going was best, and made the sacrifice. If you are considering the option of leaving, above all the other reasons you may have, you should also add to the decision scales whether your staying or going would best serve your country.

Best of luck, whatever you decide.

Dear Dundalk*, why do you hate children?

I am still shaken as I write this. I still see the nose of that car stopping no more than a metre from impact. I still hear my own angry voice shouting, swearing, gesturing to the green pedestrian signal, through which one car had already breezed, before this one, too, ignored traffic rules, and almost smashed into Adam.

As we walked on into the park, trying to process the shock, I knew probably those who witnessed the incident would be far more concerned that I dared shout and gesture like I did, it was just my dog that was almost run over, after all. Nobody would listen to my argument that the driver no doubt didn’t sit in her car, see me and my dog waiting to cross, and decide sure it was okay to run us over. No, she simply ignored the red light because she was careless, because she didn’t think. Nobody would think it could just as easily have been my child. Nobody would likely know how frighteningly often this kind of thing happens, because everybody who saw this happen was a driver, very unlikely to walk and cycle as much as I do, and see first hand how dangerous Dundalk’s cavalier approach to driving is.

I knew complaining would most likely garner nothing more than a shake of a head, tsk-tsk, it’s a disgrace, so it is, and then anyone who might have listened would carry on with their lives as before. Dundalkers would continue to claim to love their children, claim to put their children first, while driving with little regard for traffic rules, making cycling and walking dangerous. Parking their fat, lazy butts in cycle lanes. Smashing bottles in those same cycle lanes. Making parents fear for their children’s safety too much to let them walk or cycle, instead dropping them at school in their cars, poisoning the air those same children will breathe all day, depriving them of the most obvious chance to exercise and reap the near endless list of benefits that exercise will bring: move from home to school under your own steam.

Ah, we love our children, until we are asked to love them enough to sacrifice our convenience so they will have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, a planet remaining when they are our age which is still fit for human life. Until we are asked to suffer some inconvenience, show some patience, so infrastructure can be provided to make cycling a more attractive option. Until we are asked to sacrifice ten more minutes to walk or cycle with them to school instead of driving them as they sit passively in the back seat, getting fat, sick, and stupid.

When you strip away the bluff, we love our children, all right. But we love our cars much more.

*If you read this and go: “Hang on a minute, how dare you, I walk everywhere/cycle everywhere/walk my child to school/drive like a saint but am too scared to walk or cycle because of what you describe here,” you are obviously not the part of Dundalk I’m referring to. And you should join me in my outrage at the status quo.

Different

I’ve had two opportunities to ponder two things about me that are worth pondering. Both are related to being an outsider: I’m an expatriate, and I’m a mature student. The first ponderous moment was a survey I filled in. It focused only on my experience as expat, and even the pondering brought about more pondering about the subject of my musings.

All this pondering now has me thinking about ponds. And Doctor Who.

I digress, though: having recently commemorated the tenth anniversary of our arrival in Ireland, I’d say my expat label has matured to where my view on the matter can be considered informed. And the information I can impart is this: for all that I have an Irish passport, I am not Irish, and never will be. Because life has a weird and twisted sense of humour, I am also no longer South African. Leaving, living elsewhere, means I am forever changed. I am neither one, nor am I the other. My identity is that I am identity-less.

The second period of pondering was brought about by someone asking me what it was like to be a mature student. (This was perhaps ironic, in an Alanis Morissette kind of way, as I was just acquiring something rather immature to play a trick on my kids.) Being a mature student is a similar experience to being an expat. I am a student, I have a student card, I attend classes, but I am not a student. I’m late for class because the cat was sick and I needed to take care of her before I could leave, not because I partied last night and overslept because I only got in bed at 3am. I’m stealthily texting in class to remind my son of his haircut, not to flirt with my boyfriend. I don’t have a boyfriend – my husband would probably object if I did. That personal problem my classmate is facing – I’m helping my child through the same thing.

The commonality, I think, is that both experiences are of being different. Different is difficult, but I believe difficult is the entry fee for an awesome life.

I pay it with a smile.

Creation Magazine: Giving young people career choices

This edition of  Creation Magazine has an editorial titled Giving Young People Career Choices. It starts by recounting the tale of a young boy who was crazy about dinosaurs, wanted to become a scientist to study dinosaurs properly, but was told by his church youth group leader that studying science would harm his Christian faith. The article continues:

It’s a common idea that science harms the Bible, but it’s the total opposite of the truth. In fact, science itself came from a biblical world view that teaches a divine Lawmaker…cultures without this world view could not develop real science. Most brances of modern science were founded by creationists.

Notice the clause there, “real science”. It’s preparing the ground for a no true Scotsman defence to anyone who may take issue with that statement.

Notice also another classic thing creationists do ALL THE TIME – they make a statement which is true on the face of it, but doesn’t mean what they imply. It’s totally true that most branches of science were founded by creationists, because the entire world was creationist until relatively recently in history. There is also the small matter of dissent with the creationist view at a time being a life-threatening point of view to hold. The quoted statement is like saying someone jumped off a pier and committed suicide when in actual fact someone else held a gun to their head and said: “Jump or get shot.” You’re not lying, but you’re certainly not telling the truth, either.

In particular, rather than causing harm, learning the truth about dinosaurs actually strengthens our Christian faith… Fortunately, a friend gave this young man books and DVDs that explained how he could understand dinosaurs from the history of the Bible.

You may find this statement astonishing, supportive of creationism, until you understand that “the truth about dinosaurs” means “our official point of view on dinosaurs”. That’s like the official newspaper of North Korea saying: “Rather than causing harm, learning the truth about Kim Jong Il’s wisdom and leadership ability actually strengthens our faith in him. Fortunately,  a colleague in the office of the Party gave a doubting young man books and DVDs that explained how he could understand the sublime genius of Our Glorious Leader’s foreign relations strategy.”

It gets better:

That was the experience of another young man who grew up on a diet of creation information, and thus understood how to look at the world from a biblical perspective…when young people know how to think biblically, they are free to follow their passion for science…

In other words, he was brainwashed from birth and was conditioned well enough to twist any new information he was exposed to, to fit into the creationist box. When young people are conditioned and trained to keep their thoughts within a predefined cage, you can let them go out into the world, knowing they’ll carry their prison with them in their minds.

This sentence, however, sums up the way creationism and other cults keep their followers brainwashed:

Many young people are drawn to science, and Creation magazine gives them solid ground to stand on, and a wall of protection.

That wall is not for protection.

‘Nuff said.

Creation Magazine again

We have received our second copy of Creation Magazine. There are two general observations to make from this, about being an atheist in general:

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read about or met someone who moved from the Christian point of view to another, who did so on a whim. It’s almost always a huge thing, and in fact most people try their best to find a reason to NOT change. However, the majority of Christians will assume you just arbitrarily one day decided to stop believing in what’s been the foundation of your existence for as long as you can remember, and will offer you the cast-iron thing that will make you go “Oh, wow, I never thought of that. I guess I believe in the existence of gods  this particular god after all.” You will most likely have thoroughly studied and examined this cast-iron thing, and be able to list the reasons it doesn’t convince you in your sleep. That doesn’t matter, it will still be offered to you again and again.
  2. You will, especially when you yourself become more settled and relaxed in your new headspace, find there are Christians who should be held up as the poster people for Christianity, who live their faith and are confident in God’s control of even your godless life and feel no need to offer you pamphlets, books, magazines* or blog comments. I hold their convictions in high regard, even though I don’t share them. Those folks are the ones I hang out with, to whom I listen, including their inevitable spoken and unspoken – and most importantly, unforced – testimony of their faith.

Examining the whole magazine is pointless, as at heart it repeats issues and arguments I’ve looked at so many times I’ve lost count. Instead, I’ll write about the editorial only, as it highlights an interesting truth about how religions like this one work.

*That is not an allusion to this particular arrangement of receiving Creation magazine, which is a mutual agreement to examine information about an opposing point of view.