I can’t celebrate with you

There is nothing like an outsider to look at something a society does and go: “What the hell, people? Ew.” It can pop a bubble around you, inside of which something was just normal, just the way things have always been done, and open your eyes to how weird it really is.

I had a similar epiphany about Afrikaner school anthems a while ago, and when I mentioned to a Northern Irish friend that as a child, black adults would refer to me as kleinmies (little miss), and my brothers as kleinbaas (little boss). Believe it or not, my family were considered progressive, because we were required to be respectful to black adults, but while we were required to address white adult men as oom and women as tannie (literally uncle and aunt, but in practice simply a less formal title than sir or madam), black adults were addressed by their first name. It never occurred to anyone that this was strange, because it was the norm. The sheer, staggering brokenness of what was simply normal when I grew up, simply the way things were done, never really hit home until someone else said: “What?!”

You wouldn’t think, coming from a society as messed up as Afrikaners, that I could look at anything Ireland does and go: “What?!” You’d be wrong. In the same way you might describe the weird habit of Slovakian men whipping women with willow branches at easter, I describe the utterly bizarre Irish ritual of dressing their kids up in wedding outfits and dedicating them to their church.

To me, the horror is confounding. Here is an organisation which has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the sexual abuse that was rife in its ranks for decades (centuries?), that ran slave camps for women who dared fall pregnant without being married, that ran schools which indeed filled a gap in education, but was a gift wrapped in brutal abuse which caused festering trauma people still suffer from to this day.

This organisation then used the deference of the government of the time to make sure the victims of their abuse paid their own compensation. Let me repeat that: these feckers raped Ireland in every sense of the word, then cosied up to a spineless bastard to add insult to injury and make sure the long-suffering Irish paid for their abusers’ wrongdoings again. They were cynical, calculating and absolutely put corporation before people, more so than the most slimy banker you can imagine.

Parents across the country respond by dressing their little boys and girls up as brides and grooms every year, and watching in delight as they declare themselves dedicated to this stinking, corrupt pile of manure.

Forgive me if I don’t show enthusiasm for your kids’ confirmation pictures, or clap my hands in delight at how pretty they looked in their little outfits for their first holy communion.

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How not to evangelise to an atheist: Secularism is Atheism part one

If you haven’t yet, read this first, or you won’t understand what this is all about.

The title of the editorial is already problematic: Secularism is Atheism. From my perspective, that’s just silly at best, unintelligent at worst. Secular means not concerned with religion. Atheism means being convinced of the non-existence of gods. The writer uses an entire article, though, to justify the statement, but I’m afraid it doesn’t get better after the title. Continue reading

The truth about Dusty the Cat

The video was shocking, the pleading face of an innocent cat enough to break a heart of stone. Timmy, as he called himself on YouTube, filmed himself abusing both the family cats, but Dusty the Cat drew the most attention.

Worldwide attention.

4Chan was on it like a rash, quickly squirreling out the perpetrator’s real name. Then-forteen-year-old Kenny Glenn was outed, his address, phone number, his dad’s work, their names, all of it splattered across the internet. The cats were removed, treated by a vet, saved, rescued, and because the courts wouldn’t impose a penalty the internet community deemed fair, they punished him. Just desserts.

Or not.

It could also have been a teenager who roughed up his cats in a fantasy bravado, staging most of it, as the vets who inspected the cats after the fact believed. They found no damage, no bruising, no tenderness, and the cats’ skittishness was more likely caused by them being traumatised by being removed from their home. The courts didn’t impose a heavy penalty because they were being fair. The kid made a mistake, but even his mistake wasn’t as earth shattering as 4Chan made out.

It took me a while to dig this up [update 25/07/13: I just checked the site again, and it seems the extensive information provided, sketching an alternative version of events with clear, plausible explanations, has been repeatedly hacked and changed. Part of my point: there is no reasoned discourse here, there is no chance for any possible point of view but one to be aired. I have seen time and again that it is when people don’t have a valid point that they resort to silencing their opponents instead of debating the issue.], after I felt more and more uncomfortable with the hysteria I saw surrounding the whole issue. When you get to hateful actions and language like this, you have to ask yourself whether the truth has not been trampled in the mob’s thirst for sensation. Do you really think people who are calling his father a Jew, and in some places a Nazi Jew, are likely to have their facts straight? To consider all of them, and make a fair judgement?

Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever made a mistake you’re just grateful nobody ever saw? How would you feel if you weren’t allowed to learn and move on, but instead had a screaming posse of people (who clearly must all be perfect, because they have never made mistakes, and therefore believe nobody should ever be forgiven for making one) ruining your life because of one wrong thing you did? And where is 4Chan when this happened? And this? And this? Why are they hounding this child so? Does anyone else see that there similarities between what’s been done to him and this? How are these 4Chan bullies any better than the bullies that hounded those kids to their deaths? The bullies in the suicide cases were also convinced the kids they targeted were evil and wrong. When you start acting like they did, what your victim did or didn’t do becomes immaterial. The despicable one becomes you.

Don’t be a mindless follower of mob mentality. Teach your self to think. Learn to step back, calm down, and find the facts.

Edit, April 2013: I still get responses to this blog entry, and find it highly frustrating that people seem to misunderstand its message. This article is not about animal abuse, it’s about people, about mass hysteria, hypocrisy, and demonising.

For the record, I have no opinion on what the facts of the case are, and if what I wrote above gives the impression that I am taking a side, I apologise. Most of those who’ve read it seem to get the point: true or not, nobody anywhere even mentions the alternative version, allowing people to make up their own minds about what’s true. Instead, any kind of defence is written off as lies glibly accepted by the court because the accused’s father is rich. Of course, no evidence is offered to back this claim up.

For those who feel my closing paragraphs are not clear enough, I’ll spell it out: even if all the redeeming arguments made for this child are false, he still made a mistake, the same way all human beings make mistakes. At what point do we say: “He’s paid enough”? And before you answer that he can never have paid enough, imagine that you’re putting down a standard that will be followed for you, for your loved ones, your brother, sister, mother, father, your son or daughter. This child is someone’s son. Even if you feel the official sanctions were not enough, you are out of your mind if you think the torment he and his family have been put through by the baying, self-righteous crowd since has not been punishment enough.

Ask yourself also why you feel such a burning need to mercilessly torture this family, like them or not. If this child was guilty as charged, he was wrong. Whatever the truth is, 4Chan and its hangers-on were worse.