Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Eastern Promise 'Enlightenment' without Tits?

Oriental Rage & some local imitations!
ONE of my nephews has recently brought his Thai girlfriend over to Salford.  She came in late August and was soon to be soaked on a trip to Keswick in the Cumbrian Lakes, and was quickly bought a pair of walking boots at the local sales outlet 'Fat Face', and has now been furnished with warmer clothing for our coming winter:  'Why do you Westerners do so much walking?', she asked innocently.  Yet, the English weather is the least of the worries; she heralds from the Thai countryside from among peasant stock and specialist pig butchers, she herself used to shave the hairs off the pork skins to make the carcasses ready for the pig markets in the city.  In Thai politics, her father and consequently her family support the yellow shirts, and she told me that tradition and her devotion to her father naturally determines her own politics.  Her family is also Buddhist, which will have clear consequences for her own view of the world, and her values in it.  Is it not surprising that in less than a month in northern England she is already suffering from home-sickness?   This lass from Thailand was less than a month ago a fish swimming in the waters of an Eastern civilisation, with its exotic religions, clans and family traditions, only now to be cast upon the dry land of the English north, and the strange secular soil of present day Salford society.

Does then this quaint domestic example not form the basis to a a possible relativist challenge to the stern Enlightenment claims of my posting yesterday below entitled, 'Clamity Kate Caught With Her Tits Hanging Out!', in which I tried to lay out what I thought to be Northern Voices attitude to the European Enlightenment?  As Edward Said said in his book entitled 'Orientalism', can we claim that the 'West [and western values] are best'?

It is possible to argue, and is currently being submitted, that there is another possible version of 'freedom', to the one I put yesterday:  David Kirkpatrick in the International Herald Tribune, yesterday contrasted two alternatives in his article entitled 'Behind the clashes, two versions of freedom', and he writes:  'When the protests against a US-made online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad exploded in about 20 countries, the source of the rage was more than just religious sensitivity, political demagogy or resentment of Washington, protesters and their sympathizers here (in Cairo) said'.  Mr. Kirkpatrick added:  'It was also a demand that many of them describe with the word "freedom," although in a context very different from the term's use in the individualistic West:  the right of a community, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and values.'

In 2006, there was uproar in Egypt among Christians against the film 'Da Vince Code', which was seen as an affront to aspects of traditional Christianity.  There is in Egypt, as in many Arab countries, laws on the statute book that prohibit insults to religion as crimes, and there the State tightly controls the media.  Consequently, these countries find it hard to understand why the U.S. Government feels itself  constrained by free speech rules when it comes to silencing 'even the most noxious bigot', as Mr Kirkpatrick puts it.

When the walls of the U.S. Embassy were breached a week ago last Tuesday, a spiritual leader from the Muslim Brotherhood said:  'the West (had imposed laws against) those who deny or express dissedent views on the Holocaust or question the number of Jews killed by Hitler, a topic which is purely historical, not a sacred doctrine.'  In the case of the U.S.A. this is not the case because denying the Holocaust is protected as free speech, but it is true that in Germany and some other European countries it is illegal.  David Kirkpatrick in Cairo, writes:  '... the belief that it is illegal in the United States is widespread in Egypt, and the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, called for the "criminalizing of assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions".' 

The religious scholar, Mr. Mohamed, explained the position thus:  'Our prophet is more dear to us than our family and our nation.'

Does this then mean that publications ought to be censored and that we in the West should curb our free speech and limit our criticisms?  In Manchester, there is at present a small political faction nicknamed the Gang of 4, that is busily going around to the sales outlets, bookshops, newsagents and small left-wing printers trying to gag Northern Voices.  Last year, these people were involved in successfully preventing Northern Voices from having a stall at a bookfair in Manchester.  Unlike the mobs in Egypt, Tunisia and Jammu in Indian Kashmir they have not used physical violence and they have political rather than religious objectives, but they would use similar arguments to the ones being employed here by the Muslims - that they and their political beliefs ought to be protected from criticism and questioning.  Perhaps they, like the protesters in the East, represent a new Enlightenment to contrast with the one which we in the West have been brought up to believe in.  Perhaps Noam Chomsky today and Rudolf Rocker, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant etc got it all wrong? 

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