Sunday, July 17, 2011


I like contrast.  I’m a computer scientist and what we deal in primarily is abstraction.  We think of worlds in which a whole bunch of conflicting requirements, constraints, madnesses and tantrums make sense, then we make that world so.  Abstractions are about contrast, about drawing lines.  The lines don’t always have to be fine or clear.  The interesting abstractions overlap in many dimensions and differently at different times.  But nevertheless, the point is to say this kind of thing is definitely on this side of the line and that thing definitely on the other, even if we have to sweep some inconvenient mess under the carpet.  It’s how we build complicated stuff.

So here’s a contrast that appeals to me.  On the one hand, we have The Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, claiming that the religious are deserting our shores to gain religious freedom, just like what happened with the Mayflower (he really did actually say that).  He is “alarmed” by the fact that our nation is slowly closing the few final loopholes that enable discrimination on the grounds of things like what sex we are and what sex we like.  He is “concerned” about the “prevailing template of equality” because it doesn’t guarantee special pleading for religious institutions who want the freedom to discriminate.  This is how they seem to see it: they want freeing so that they can oppress other people, an astonishing sentiment.

On the other hand, we have Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society saying this:

“If by religious freedom the Chief Rabbi means religious privilege, it is clear that he would be happier in some kind of theocracy,”

I’d go a little further.  I’d say this is precisely what the Chief Rabbi means and exactly what he wants.

“Rather than fleeing this country, he should thank his God that he lives here and knows that he and his people are safe and free to practice their religion within the law.

“The equality laws that he disparages are a wonderful achievement and something that most people – including many Jews - welcome as progressive, just and long overdue.”

And there’s your contrast.  Those laws are an achievement.  That anyone could regard them as a step backward and actually demand freedom from the laws that protect others is beyond satire.  Secularists want everyone to abide by the same laws.  The religious want special laws for themselves and throw a tantrum if they can’t have them.  Contrast.

You can take your bat in, Sacks, you won’t spoil our game.  You can run crying to your mum and she can tell my mum if she wants, I’ve been dragged home by my ear before.  I’ve never tolerated bullies, though, so pardon me if I grin while your privilege is slowly but inevitably stripped away and I find you cowering in the showers like the rest of us. 

We all know that secularists are going to win so be thankful that we’re not the bullies you lot are.  We won’t deny you any rights we don’t enjoy.  We’ll even let you have a kick of the ball at playtime if you promise to play by the rules.

I bet you won’t, though.

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