Friday, August 31, 2012

Priests are innocent, victims are seducers

Says Father Benedict Groeschel, charmingly.

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case,” Groeschel explained. “Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”


Right. How does he know that, I wonder?  And even if it’s the case in some circumstances, does that mean that no abuse has occurred?  That the child has not been harmed?  That no crime has been committed? Does it mean that the man is no longer responsible for his actions?  That – put plainly – it’s OK to rape people if they’re asking for it?

Groeschel called the abuse “an understandable thing,” and pointed to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who he called a “poor guy.”

Yeah, poor guy.  He was allowed to get away with systematic sexual abuse of children over a prolonged period.  Poor guy.  According to Groeschel, who presumably doesn’t know any more than the rest of us so is making this shit up, it didn’t occur to anyone that Sandusky might be committing crimes by sexually assaulting children and that’s why he was allowed to get away with it.  Sure, nobody thought that raping and otherwise sexually assaulting children might be a crime.  Or might be, you know, wrong and needed to be stopped.

Groeschel pointed out that “sexual difficulties” were rarely prosecuted 10 or 15 years ago, and now if “any responsible person in society would become involved in a single sexual act — not necessarily intercourse — they’re done.”

So one rape is fine? It was better in the old days when people who raped children remained in positions where they could do it again? 

Rape me once, shame on me?

“And I’m inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime,” he added.

Their intention was not to commit a crime.  It was to fucking rape or otherwise sexually assault children.  Groeschel’s obsession with whether a particular act is illegal rather than whether it is wrong and harmful is simply obscene.  He’s a monster.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Local news

You can’t beat local news.  Look at this, there’s a Bermuda Triangle in the North East of England.  Only for pigeons, not planes or boats:

Hey, I live in the North-East England Bermuda Triangle for Pigeons!

Hm… there is one massive big fat pigeon that visits our garden every day. I wonder if he’s eating all the other pigeons?

The comments section for that story is the feelgood story of the year.  It turns out Jez found an injured racing pigeon in the garden. Various people told Jez who to contact and the situation was resolved when Jez contacted the racing pigeon website (racing pigeons have their own site?)

The other big news story around here is this crash:

Caption: Two Arriva buses – one double-decker, one single-decker  - collide in Northgate, Darlington, close to Boots.  No one was hurt. An investigation has been launched.  Picture: STACEY FLETCHER

My favourite line from the story is this:

No one was injured in that incident, although dozens of onlookers came to witness the spectacle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discovering privilege

Fizzygoo realised he was privileged.  He had a car which – for some reason – is associated with the gay community:

Less that six months after getting it, I was pulling on to a college campus and a young white man leaned out the passenger window of a large truck and yelled, “faggot,” at me as they passed by. So angry, so full of hate and violence was that word issued from his mouth, that I was truly afraid. I watched in my mirrors to make sure the truck didn’t turn around. I was shaking with the adrenaline.

I expect lots of us have had unsettling experiences like this.  Fizzygoo went a step further:

Once the truck was out of sight, that is when it hit me; gay men (and other minorities in general) have to live with that fear every day and the less ‘concealable’ the person of the minority is within the larger group, the higher risk for daily incidents.

This was a huge moment for me. It was the liminal temporal space between being aware that there’s a problem vs. seeing the problem first hand. For a brief moment my privilege was pulled back and I felt the problem.

Some revelation is good.  For example, blinding and surprising flashes of empathy, where we realise we’re privileged and didn’t notice it.  Most of us don’t make that connection.

He dismounts brilliantly:

So that’s it. That’s my realizing my own privilege (at least the parts I have become aware of…it’s looking to be one of those ongoing life-learning experiences).  That unless I’m driving in a Miata I largely don’t ever have to worry about someone targeting me for a hate crime. That I can walk down dark streets at night without, largely, having to be afraid. My privilege protects me from fear…but it doesn’t mean that that fear, for those that experience it, isn’t real nor is the source of the fear…those who would do harm to others simply because they are “different,” whether verbally or physically, not real. It is, and they are. And that’s a world I don’t want to promote.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thursday, August 09, 2012

My People

PZ writes about something close to my heart.  I came to be a skepticism activist through the traditional route.  The JREF and Randi in particular were a cornerstone in my education as a critical thinker. I looked forward to Friday when Randi published his brilliant Swift: a sort of proto-blog about the crazy things people believe and the inspiring and often hilarious things groups like the JREF were doing to change things.  Say one thing for James Randi, he’s a showman.  When he makes a point, it stays made.

I was pleased when JREF reorganised into a more professional outfit and argued that Swift should evolve to include new authors and more diverse topics.  In retrospect, I think I was wrong.  I think a lot of us came to think that the JREF was the centre of skepticism, that it legitimised skeptical activity through diligent and scholarly pursuit and that conferences like TAM were vital.

But I don’t think many of those things any more.  I was always uncomfortable with the JREF’s policy on religion.  It was a political one, an accommodationist one. There’s no good reason to exempt religion from critique. In the old days, I was pleased enough with JREF occupying a niche. The problem now is that it seems to be claiming it is mainstream skepticism and everyone else r doin it rong.

JREF: get back in your box and do what you did better than anyone ever,

Skeptics: be skeptical about everything.

PZ sums this up well:

Give me a good hardcore New Atheist any day. Those are my people. They’re skeptical about everything, and don’t make special allowances for the benighted believers.

Those are my people too.  They should be every skeptic’s people.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Literally adding insult to injury

First, look at this: for some reason, acid attacks by men against women are increasing in Columbia, leaving lives in ruins. It’s horrific beyond words.  Look at some of these quotes from the article:

The chemical burned off an ear, melted an eye, ate through her lower face and ruined her teeth. She now wears a skin-tight elastic mask, breathes through a straw-like tube that protrudes from her nose and walks the streets looking “like a monster,” as she put it.

How do you think she feels about it?

“I would like to go to sleep today and not wake up tomorrow,” she said. “The truth is life is too hard and I am alone.”

Some men aren’t even ‘brave’ enough to carry out the attacks themselves:

Her former boyfriend paid a small boy $1.75 to throw acid at her — changing the course of a young life. “I stopped going to school, I can’t work, I can’t depend on my own self,” said Vargas, wearing a scarf to shield her scarred neck and chin.

Changing the course of at least two young lives, I expect.  It’s hard to imagine a more callous story.

But then we inevitably get to the comments.  Look at this, for example:

This is not a gender issue. People hurt each other, it happens to men and women.
But for some reason we only care when it happens to women, which is a gender issue.

Sure, men get attacked too, so the fact that these women were attacked because they were women is somehow not a gender issue.  The real problem, of course, is that women complain about having acid thrown in their face.

because only men engage in violence against women

Some women are violent toward other women, therefore there can’t possibly be a problem of male violence against women. Outstanding.

I also am a man. but you know what? I am offended by you and your own choice to use this forum to cast acid as it were on the men of the world with your words. I didn't do this evil thing; tens of millions of other men all over the world have also managed not to throw acid or to be mean an ugly to girls and women all of their live.
It is not right for you to lash out at all men, or boys just because they are not girls or women.
I can not word this any plainer.

Oh, you’re offended, are you?  Well cry me a fucking river. 

He didn’t need to go further than “cast acid as it were”, since it weren’t.  He’s equating horrific attacks and the resulting injuries with being slightly offended on behalf of his fellow men by a post on a website.  He seems actually to want praise for not maiming women.  The point is just a dot on the horizon to him.

This man surely knows that the poster wasn’t accusing all men of throwing acid in women’s faces.  He also surely knows that this is overwhelmingly a form of attack used by men upon women. So what is his complaint?

He doesn’t like women getting uppity and spilling the beans,  He doesn’t want to accept the truth that men the world over are responsible for acts of violence and oppression against women.  He wants to hold on to his privilege, so he has to pretend that there isn’t a problem.  The fruits of his privilege are more important than women’s lives.

The man on a website who equates feeling slightly bad about a comment with countless women with ruined lives, suffering chronic pain and being shunned by society; the administrator who posts a ‘joke’ about rape on a site for rationalists and the people who join in the joke; the man in the pub who laughs at a sexist joke for fear of not fitting in.  These are the people who perpetuate the culture that treats women as second class citizens.

Someone on Ophelia’s site asked how we can turn this trend of violence against women in Columbia in particular and (I assume) in general around.  I’ve no idea. But I’m certain it has to start with men accepting the truth and our collective responsibility.  We should react to stories and comments like this with shame, not indignation, even if we’re not ourselves guilty of violence.