Friday, July 22, 2011

The snake in the garden…

I nearly laughed out loud when I saw the headline “No religious freedom in SA.” In fact, I found it so amusing, I had to click on it and see just what this person was on about.
You see, South Africa is just about the most free country, with respect to religion (and many other things) I have ever heard of. Women walk down the streets in burquas, Hindu festivals are public affairs attended by everyone, Christian churches dot the landscape like freckles on a sun-exposed arm. Christian observances are marked by the government in the form of public holidays (two days off for Christmas [Christmas and Boxing Day], and Easter [Good Friday and Easter Monday]). Animist religions and sangomas coexist peacefully with better-known faiths and their leaders, and nobody tells my local supermarket it cannot have a kosher meat gondola or eggs my in-laws’ homes for their colourful statues of Hindu deities and other publicly-displayed artefacts of their faith.

OK, there is a wee fly in the ointment, a snake in the garden, if you will, and it probably won’t surprise you that the disruptive element in this country’s otherwise peaceful religious landscape are fundamentalist Christians. In a place where equality (including gender equality) is enshrined in the Constitution and the government provides a free court for people to bring their equality issues to, I see these people—very small numbers of them, mind you—picketing a women’s clinic that provides, among other things, abortion services. Never mind that it is none of their business, nobody is asking (or forcing) them to avail themselves of services, and that a woman’s right to her control over her body is, in this country, absolute. No, these busybodys, who make up a tiny minority of the population and would appear to have entirely too much time on their hands, have made it their mission to exercise their freedoms under the Constitution by attempting to frighten women away from exercising theirs.

The religious right wingnuts aren’t as powerful or visible here as they are in America, nor as numerous. Our media doesn’t find their antics newsworthy, so they have little clout. And that, apparently, is what the author of the whinging polemic referenced above is unhappy about: his lack of clout in bending the country’s educational system to his whim and forcing it into the consciousness of all of the children in this land, be they Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, or even more enlightened, evolved Christians. No, according to him, his exercise of his religious freedoms requires the violation of the religious freedoms of everyone else in the country, most specifically those who have children in the government school system. In other words, if the local school doesn’t teach all of the children his own personal religious view on matters otherwise considered scientific, then his religious freedom is being violated. I know—HUH??

There are, of course, private schools that will pander to this man’s religious delusions and, for the life of me, I don’t understand why he just doesn’t whisk his kids off to one if he finds the government schools not to his liking. Parents who insist on high academic standards for their children have been doing this for aeons, all over the world. And, unlike America where the schools are “free” because they are funded through taxation, South Africa schools are funded by the parents who pay school fees each term. Rather than hand this money over to the local government school and then whinge about the curriculum, why doesn’t this parent simply take the money to a school with a curriculum that better agrees with his view of science? Consider a school with a student body of 500 children, each of whom has two parents who think that because they pay out of their own pockets for the operation of the school, each individual parent has a right to dictate curriculum for the entire school. Imagine the chaos! Imagine the din! Imagine the education not imparted to the students? Unlike American parents who have to dig deep into their pockets to provide the kind of misinformation masquerading as education that this man wants for his children, South African parents can simply direct their education funds to alternatives that suit their personal prejudices and fantasies better than the government schools.

If I didn’t know better, I might be tempted to think this was a disingenuous attempt to stir the social pot a bit, a troll’s attempt to get a little controversy boiling, some sparks flying. But unfortunately, the rant has the unmistakeable stench of the mindset of one who cannot seem to grasp the point that to give him his way would be to trample the freedoms of the rest of the citizens. He cannot seem to grasp that government, which is answerable to more than just him and his own narrow little über-Christian mentality, must provide services to all in such a way that respects us all, and that failing to favour him is not, in any way, depriving him of his rights. His rights, after all, do not include being given preference over everyone else in the country.

No, this smacks of being the real deal, the dunder-headed thickie who thinks, like a small, spoilt child, that not getting his own way means that he is somehow being deprived of something to which he is entitled. Perhaps he is just too lazy to teach his children the phantasmagorical nonsense he prefers to believe over science and wants the school to do it for him; perhaps he is too lazy to take his kids to church and Sunday School where they can be taught their mythology as truth. Certainly he does not want his kids exposed to the religious-neutral concepts of science that are taught in schools today—perhaps he, himself, is too poorly educated and ignorant to effectively counter those insidious little facts and keep his kids on the fatuous straight and narrow.

I find it very interesting that neither the Muslim community nor the Jewish community, which both share the same creation story with Christians, have not come to support this push for substituting Genesis for genetics. And what about the Hindus, whose creation stories predate Genesis by a millennia or more? Why aren’t they out there, lobbying the schools and the government to substitute their traditions for the discoveries of science? Could it be they not only have a better grasp of reality, they understand the concept of respect for others in a way that is simply outside the ken of fundamentalist Christians?

Whatever it is, this guy needs to get a grip and realize that favouritism is not a right, religious or otherwise.

1 comment:

  1. Can I say "Amen", sister!? Living in broken right wing Califiornia's central valley I'd love to paper a few neighbors' doors with your comments. Keep them coming. But do you really think you'll wake anybody up? It takes a certain degree of arrogance and/or ignorance to assume the "right" stance. Norine


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