Sunday, 28 June 2015

Marriage Equality is the Natural Order of Things

The Supreme Court of the U.S. ruling on marriage equality has broken down another bastion of prejudice and bigotry. One of the most interesting aspects of it has been reading the opinions of the dissenting judges. Most of them appeared to be trying establish a position where society regressed to justify a reluctance to change the law. According to Justice Scalia the function of marriage was to facilitate procreation. And Clarence Thomas argued that denial of the right to marriage did not constitute a robbing of dignity and therefore a breach of human rights. It was interesting to see the Justices resorting to fallacious reasoning in explaining their dissent but barely able to contain their personal aversion to homosexuality itself. 

I strongly doubt there is any merit in the claim that marriage was principally designed for procreation. In early societies marriage was seen as a way of providing a companion and a work partner in securing a subsistence. So it was mainly a means of providing comfort and protection. Having children and building a family was just a natural consequence of that. Even in the American frontier men got married in order to have a companion and someone to cater to their domestic needs. It was widely known that the frontier prostitutes would take money to sleep with you but you couldn't pay them enough to come home with you and wash your undies. In the Bible Eve was created as a companion for Adam, so that he wouldn't be alone. And in the New Testament Apostle Paul endorses marriage for those unable to live a life of chastity and solitude. (Christianity's position on homosexuality is another matter but many churches are having to rethink their positions on that too).

Clarence Thomas' claim that the state cannot deny a person dignity seems confused at best. Is it not a State's duty to protect the freedom of all citizens. And would a denial of access to a freely available social institution not reduce a person's standing in society? To be stripped of your justly entitled rights is an affront to personal dignity. Justice Thomas will do well not to confuse pride with dignity. Dignity comes from elevation. You cannot be truly elevated if you are relegated to a lower status than others around you. 

As Michel de Montaigne wrote, "marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out". However marriage turns out; the choice should be all people's to make. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Culpable Caring - Holding Families of Killers to Account

The judge in the bond hearing for the Charleston killer commiserated with all the victims of the shooting at the Emanuel AME church. He stated that in addition to the the people murdered the family of the killer were also victims of the atrocity. According to him, they did not ask to be caught up in this tragedy. As an aside, there are reports that the judge who has previously been censured for using racist language has now been taken off the case. 

I don't see the family in this particular case as equally victimised by this crime. They may have been victims of issues in their own background and personal circumstances but with regards the killings they are equally culpable. They had in their care a young man who is misguided, deeply prejudiced and borderline sociopathic yet they appear to have done very little to seek help and counselling for him. Instead, they bought him a gun for his 21st birthday. It is little wonder that shortly afterwards he carried out a premeditated shooting to death of nine worshippers in a Black church. 

Even if the killer's father thought he might be being bullied and bought him a gun for self protection, it seems to be the wrong message to give to a troubled youth. It suggests that this was a household that endorsed violence; and was most likely very much steeped in it. Parents who expect that their accepting attitudes to violence won't influence, and eventually scar their own children are quite mistaken. Parents who are violent or routinely resort to violence are setting up their children to become caught up in a culture and lifestyle of violence. 

There are a lot of victims of gun violence and America's obsession with being armed. Statistics suggest threre are more victims of personal and domestic shootings than criminal shootings in America. That points to a society that has got it very wrong on gun control. However, families who don't do enough to look after their children who might be going through emotional turmoil and upheaval have to be held accountable for the havoc those children go on to wreak. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

No End to Violence?

There seem to be an ever increasing number of incidents of violence and lawlessness being witnessed and reported in the press on a daily basis. We've had families going on the run with gravely ill children, spouses refusing to truthfully declare assets in divorce court, stabbing in schools, a parent on the run with a child after losing custody, incidents of road rage, and a father shooting up a police station after losing custody of his son. 

There is a real concern that people are becoming increasingly prone to resorting to violence to resolve disputes. It really does echo back to 'Wild West' times. It is shocking the amount of violent imagery and language that is taken for granted nowadays. Whether it is in real life or online there seems to be little restraint applied when threatening violence. It is equally scary that most people who witness these threats actually find them amusing and fun. It is unclear if people are getting more violent or just have less of an awareness of the consequences of violence. While the media might not be singly responsible for this, the portrayal of violence in film, games and TV does appear to be a contributory factor. The preponderance of vicarious violence seems to transport otherwise docile people into a realm of violence they would never have hitherto imagined. The access to weapons has allowed some to actualise their lethal fantasies. 

The violence and lawlessness raises the question of whether some people are losing faith in the rule of law. An ever growing vein of selfishness and egocentrism in some people means that they see no reason why they shouldn't exact retribution where they deem it due. In many cases the public have seen a lack of action by the police on so called low level crimes as evidence that they are unlikely to see justice done if they report crimes. Police violence against certain communities has also eroded police authority in many quarters. And when certain cases do get prosecuted perceived incompetence by prosecutors or an excessive focus on winning cases rather than securing justice has left a lot of victims frustrated. 

There was a time when violence was mostly associated with abnormal behaviour but it seems to be getting more normalised these days. There is a culture of violence becoming ingrained in society. Language is increasingly violent. Entertainment is violent. Education has become violent. Violence is often a first resort in settling disputes. If the epidemic of violence is going to be tackled it will require whole societies to start changing the normalisation of violence in day to day life. It is down to individuals to change behaviours and attitudes. Both adults and children need reeducation on the harmful effects of violence. Until societies are prepared to speak out against the symbols of violence they will continue to suffer the ill effects of it. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Can FIFA Really be Cleaned Up?

FIFA the world body controlling football has been truly engulfed in scandal over the past few weeks. A number of executives have been indicted in the U.S. on charges of bribery and corruption, and their extradition is being sought. Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president dramatically offered his resignation just days after being reelected to a new four year term. One of his formerly close allies (Jack Warner) has indicated that he has provided documented evidence of corruption that will implicate Sepp Blatter. So it would appear that years of shady deals and manoeuvring have finally caught up with the organisation. 

While it is big news that FIFA's previously untouchable officials are now being held to account, corruption in world sport is not a new thing. The International Olympic Committee faced accusations of a culture of endemic bribery and corruption a few years ago. It has managed to shake these off and get back to business as usual. The world cycling body faced allegations of complicity in covering up widespread doping in the sport. It claims to have a handle on that now and is moving on. No doubt FIFA will move on from this without any substantial damage being done to the organisation. 

It is difficult to imagine how anybody working in football at an international level can claim not to have known about the culture of payoffs and influence peddling. In fact most country Football Associations have either been involved in or known of shady under the table deal making. Payments made to the Irish FA and allegations that Germany brokered an arms deal to get Saudi support for its World Cup bid have recently come to light. A New Zealand football official was charged with corruption following the award of the 2006 World Cup to Germany. While bidding for the 2018 World Cup the English FA wined and dined Blatter and Warner extensively. Franz Beckenbauer was suspended from football activities following his refusal to cooperate with an ethics investigation into the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Michel Platini the UEFA president did a deal with Blatter to not contest the FIFA presidential election some years ago. So it appears even if Blatter goes the culture of payoffs and shady deals is unlikely to go with him. 

There does appear to be a hidden agenda behind some UEFA members' very vocal calls for Blatter to go. And it has very little to do with ridding FIFA of corruption. Quite a few of the member countries resent the fact that they don't have more influence over decision making in FIFA. They don't believe the single vote per member policy recognises their status or accomplishments adequately. A lot of murmurings from UEFA seem to suggest that giving an equal say to the smaller member countries isn't very popular there. A case of 'some animals being more equal than others'. Look for moves by the UEFA bloc to try and change FIFA membership or voting rules once Blatter finally exits the field. It will be ironic that the current FBI investigation may be about to expose one set of unfair practices while laying the foundation for another form of unfairness.