Saturday, November 05, 2005

Remember, remember

Today is the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. So what are we remembering? The story is immortalised in popular verse:

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

Fawkes was tortured for four days, and then (along with several others) given a show trial before being hung, drawn and quartered. In 1606, the anniversary was marked with a Sermon, and it became traditional to burn not just Fawkes, but also the Pope in effigy in remembrance of the event. Hence the second verse:

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!

You have to love that British anti-Catholicism, don't you? But it wasn't limited just to burning effigies. Numerous Catholics (and particularly Jesuits) were rounded up and tortured in the wake of the plot, and they continued to face oppression for centuries afterwards; it wasn't until 1778 that they enjoyed the same rights as other British subjects to own property, inherit land, and join the army. And even today, the Act of Settlement disbars Catholics (or those who marry Catholics) from the English succession. Fortunately, the anti-Catholic theme of Guy Fawkes' night is today largely forgotten; instead, its a night where we celebrate our inner pyromaniacs by letting off explosives and setting bonfires. And somewhat ironicly, Fawkes is remembered in popular culture not so much as a failed terrorist, but as "the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intent".

There are obvious parallels between the Gunpowder plot and September 11th. An (attempted) act of terrorism linked to an identifiable minority, sparking an attack on their civil rights... You really have to wonder, if Blair succeeds in bedding in further oppressive anti-terrorism legislation, how Muslims will be faring a hundred years time - and whether the Americans will be burning Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein (despite the fact that he had nothing to do with it) every September 11th...


Do you take pills every morning to make you such a wanker, or is it some sort of herbal concoction? Those poor Catholics weren't adverse to torturing themselves - although given that they primariy burned witches, I guess it's less concerning...

As for your ridiculous analogy to 9/11, can you tell the board how a bunch of Saudi Arabians represent a 'identifiable minority'? American Muslims are largely happy here - even after 9/11 - but again, don't let pesky reality intrude on your daydream. And as for Muslim 'victimhood' elsewhere - I agree. It's muslim women who suffer. Though, as usual, it's from their own community. Theirs is the tragedy as your play your game of cultural 'victimhood'. Facts from the recent UK honour-killing conviction:


Police say there is one honour killing a month

They are reinvestigating 109 cases of women who disappeared or apparently committed suicide, to see if they were honour killings

Women murdered in so-called honour killings come mainly from the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities but there are cases from Bosnia, Kosovo and Turkey

Suicide rates among Asian women aged 16 to 24 are nearly three times the national average, and double for 25 to 35-year olds...

Whether doused in petrol in Paris, or shot in a Copenhagen st, or married to men they don't know, it's Islam's women that suffer its 'tradition and beliefs' while the likes of you defend them. In all your whining about poor muslim MEN, have you EVER discussed the plight of Islamic WOMEN?? Or is that the wrong victimhood for little posts like this??

Posted by Anonymous : 11/05/2005 06:38:00 PM

Speaking of taking does anything in that post and any other post on here for that matter equate with defending the treatment of Muslim women?...I know that it is traditional to build a straw man on Nov 5th but I think you've got the wrong idea.

You've also missed the point. The treatment of those muslim men is important, not because they are muslim, not because anyone has a burning interest in the values of islam, but because they are human beings just like you and me.

If you allow their human rights to be trampled on, one day you could wake up to find that its you or someone close to you who has been imprisoned without trial, beaten, tortured, disappeared or whatever...before you scoff at this, have a look at the treatment given to that American (non muslim) peace activist by the Australians just the other day and for those playing at home, have a look at the law changes Howard is trying to ram through in Australia and that Blair is in favour of in the UK (and thats before we even mention the US) then ask yourself what countries little old NZ has been broadly aligned with, shares values with and gets a lot of its ideas from?

The practices I mentioned earlier are ones that should not be espoused by civilised countries. Yet the Ahmed Zaoui case has shown that even the New Zealand government will head down the same path if it thinks it can get away with it...and thats with an otherwise fairly liberal government...god only knows what the blue team would do if they were in charge they are even more willing to follow the lead of those bigger countries than Labour is.

That is the "pesky reality" that we are dealing with here...


Posted by Anonymous : 11/05/2005 08:41:00 PM

Wha-at? They're human like you and me?? You are a scholar. I presume you'll be rigorously quized on this astounding claim in your doctoral defence at Harvard... Are there any other philosophical gems you'd like to bedazzle us with, Descartes??

My point is precisely that because of the beliefs and practices of Islam there are millions of human beings who are not accorded such dignity. They live as sexual slaves, in arranged marriages, they cannot prosecute rape, they cannot do something as basic as uncover their legs in public, drive a car, obtain even a basic level of financial independence, etc. This to me dwarfs the 'much publicised plight' of someone like Ahmed Zaoui. Now if these human beings - women, as is so often the case - are happy in such lives, well and good. However, the literature, testimonies, stories that come out of Islamic countries speaks otherwise. It speaks of immense human suffering, and immense exploitation.

Confronted with this, one can do two things. The first is to dismiss it as a legitimate part of Islamic culture, as something we cannot presume to judge or question - or as something that by questioning, we reveal in ourselves the arrogance of a uniquely Western moral imperialism. This is the approach Idiot is so found of.

Secondly, we can see it as apalling, institutionalised torture, and speak out against it.

My point is precisely that if Idiot cannot summon the courage to speak out about oppressed muslims beyond Ahmed Zaoui and immigrants in North London, then he should be explicit about his reasons for it, rather than hoping nobody notices.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/05/2005 11:46:00 PM

I agree the plight of Islamic women is pretty terrible but the nature of blogs as with any other media is that people post about issues that fulfil certain criteria.

These would be that they are topical and nothing more important is happening at the same time, that they feel particularly strongly about the issue i.e. wants to get something off their chest, feel competent or knowledgable enough to post about it or perhaps feel they can make some sort of difference by raising the issue.

The fact is that most of the time, this issue is pretty non controversial (most people reading this blog probably agree that the plight of muslim women is terrible). It means that its not likely to get much coverage. Unfortunately thats the cold hard reality.

That said, I actually forgot about Idiot's comments earlier this year about "" Mukhtarin Bibi and president Musharrif's visit to NZ. The issue did end up on the radar and was covered pretty thoroughly. The profile it got here and elsewhere may have actually helped get the issue more media interest than it otherwise would have.

Another cold hard reality is that we probably can't make a huge difference to the plight of these women (which is not to say that we shouldn't try). What we can do is draw a line in the sand and say that when people immigrate here that behaviour is something they can leave in their home country.

When the media spotlight does happen to fall on the issue (e.g. Helen Clark visits the middle east, one of their leaders comes here or there's a cricket tour) that is the time to be reminding everyone of this issue.


Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2005 12:57:00 AM

Adrienne: there's no claim in the above that Europe's Catholic monarchies were any less barbaric than the English one - not that that in any way justified the torture of Catholics. What interested me was that Guy Fawkes' night was originally a festival of religious hatred. Fortunately, at least in NZ, this aspect has largely been forgotten.

As for the plight of Muslim women, I think Mike has already covered that fairly well. The brute fact is that I only have so much attention to go around, and so I have to focus on what is topical, on things I think I can make a small difference on, and a few pet issues. This means that many worthy topics get missed, but if I tried to post about everything that outraged me about the present state of the world, I would have even less of a life than I have now.

If you're unhappy with my editorial choices, I have two suggestions: 1) go elsewhere; or 2) start your own blog and write about the things you want to write about. Given that you clearly have something to say (and something that is worth saying, unlike 90% of bloggers), I suggest the latter.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/06/2005 02:57:00 AM

I barely have time to eat breakfast at the moment, so setting up my own blog will have to wait, much to the disappointment of thousands...

My concern isn't with your editorial choices per se - it's with your tendency to use your selected sources as moral instruction - which is why I am pointing to opposing positions. Anybody can cherry pick a bunch of stories to make muslims look oppressed, the US look like a tyrant, etc etc. However, in doing so, I suggest you neglect and obsure the complexity and character of such important debates. To present a point of view is fine. To dress that fragment up in the garments of the whole and use it as a stick to beat with is what I have problems with.

As for me 'going elsewhere', that's up to you and what you want. If you want a site full of cheering acolytes chanting 'down with USA' and the like, then it's better I do. However, if you want this to be a place were debate and argument threshes out the complexity of issues, then don't be so fucking precious.

Let me leave you with a thought: There's endless noise about Gitmo, but is the plight of a prisoner there any different from that of a Bangladeshi girl, married at 13 to a stranger, forbidden to leave the house, unable to refuse sex, beaten and abused, and WITHOUT ANY LEGAL RECOURSE TO CHANGE THINGS???

I would say not, and I would suspect that the reason people shout about the former and ignore the millions of like cases of the latter is that issues of freedom for females dosn't really register like it does for males, even for the 'non-sexist' left. surely, making such comparisons then could illuminate the hideousness of both circumstances, and also open a broad and informative debate on the way law can still engender slavery. These are the debates I would like to see, yet they're hard to find...

Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2005 03:27:00 AM

"I barely have time to eat breakfast at the moment, so setting up my own blog will have to wait"

But you have enough time to write screenfuls of abuse at Idiot/Savant for not pandering to your every whim... Yeah, right. Face it. You have the time. You choose to attempt to hijack other people's blogs rather than stand on your own two feet.

There are words to describe people who demand that others do their work for them. Most of them are rather impolite.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2005 05:35:00 PM

I wonder if he has time to drag virtual gunpowder under I/S's blog and virtually blow it to kingdom come...

Posted by Muerk : 11/06/2005 07:05:00 PM

Am I missing something here? I wasn't aware that we in the West could overturn Saudi Arabian laws, or even influence their opinion (for most of them, the fact that we disagree with them would indicate they're on the right track). If it's honour killings in the UK and European countries that are the issue, aren't they illegal right now? What exactly should I/S have to say about it - it should be more illegal? Personally I think Immigration should try to find some way of screening out guys who think their female relatives are their personal property, but that's not exactly a remarkable and noteworthy position. It'd be like blogging about how you eat with a knife and fork, or wear underwear most days.

Stopping Western countries from imposing police-state laws in response to terrorism, now that we can do something about, and it is a position that's disputed by other Westerners and therefore noteworthy. How pointing it out makes I/S a wanker isn't exactly clear.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 11/06/2005 09:39:00 PM

Oh no, here come the elite troops!

PM - I would suggest that you miss a lot of things, and my point isn't legalistic - it's that there is little awareness (or more depressingly, little concern) of the situation of females within Islam. If Idiot wants to beat his moral drum about human rights abuses by Western govts against Muslims, then to me it is worth asing why this is more of an issue than the immense social violence practiced against immigrant women by their communities. It's not a merely legal matter either - it's a matter of tolerance and awareness - police only recently in France have starting prosecuting imigrant violence on females after years of it being in the 'too hard' basket...

The reason I think Idiot is a wanker is that he endlessly harps on about the human rights of Muslim immigrants to the West (read male - few females will commit terrorist acts) while ignoring the rights most often violated - those of immigrant women. If that's an editorial choice, fine, but he shouldn't bullshit on about 'justice', and 'equality' then...

Anon - simply, you're a cock. If there is a comments page on a political blog, I would assume its not there for talking about the weather. Hijack my arse - as I said above, is this the cheering acolyte section or not?

Now, who's up for a discussion on the French riots?? Oh - that's right - we ignore violence when it's from the 'oppresed' sections of a society...

Posted by Anonymous : 11/07/2005 04:09:00 AM

"few females will commit terrorist acts"

Bollocks. Lots of suicide bombers are woman. Or does your definition of terrorism only include flying planes into bits of the US?

Are you seriously suggesting that we should ignore prejudicial treatment of racial or religious groups if anyone from that group does something nasty? Let's immediately give up on prosecuting anyone who's killed a white Christian male then -- historically they're probably the worst.

Finally, you know that you're preaching to the choir, right? I doubt that anyone who reads this blog has any tolerance for the way that woman are treated in some cultures (some Hindu areas still burn brides -- did your Feminist Studies 101 textbook not cover that?).

I/S does a good job, if you want more, offer to help.

Posted by Chris : 11/07/2005 10:21:00 AM

Ahhh yes, my beloved and dog-eared FEM 101 textbook does mention bride burning! And footbinding, too, and the other nasty stuff...

Preaching to the choir? No, I don't think so. My irritation is that issues concerning women's rights still play a muted second fiddle to the usual suspects ('Honour kilings? Terrible! But isn't Tony Blair a wanker...'). Try as one might to blow oxygen at these issues, they still generate miniscule interest compared to anti-Gitmo rage, for example. And, often as issues they're dismissed with sardonic references to things like Feminist Studies 101, as if to raise them was to show that you're marginal and adolescent - an impressionable and emotional teenager who'll come right. This isn't a choir to me.

As for female suicide bombers - your unintentional use of 'woman' - the singular - is closer to the truth. Ye, there have been in Moscow, and yes, a few in Israel, but again, it's fractional compared to the endless parade of men who blow themselves up. Why would a woman want 72 virgins??

White men? I like them. Stop being so full of leftist guilt. I would suggest that China (Chinese men) has had far more power for far longer than little old Europe...

Oh well. Back to FEM 101...

Posted by Anonymous : 11/07/2005 12:35:00 PM

Leftist guilt, moi? No, I just happen to have grown up in one of the last countries colonised by a European power, where the cracks of history haven't been entirely papered over yet. Those who forget the mistakes of the past, etc. I find it interesting that you assume it's guilt rather than outrage. I am I allowed to be outraged too, or is it just you?

"Woman" might have been a typo... I was actually thinking of the play "woman bomb", so it's not as Freudian as all that ;)

We are mostly on the same team, you know. Insulting people really isn't that clever a way to try and expand on your point of view.

Posted by Chris : 11/07/2005 01:13:00 PM

You can positively bristle and spark with outrage - that's fine! However - what outrage? And what country? Why don't you pour forth a torrent of invective?

As for 'insulting people', I rather enjoy it. Shakespeare was good at it, as was Dickens. Not to mention Oscar... I'm also actually trying to goad idiot from his cadaver-like equilibrium - would that he would insult me back...

Anyway, can't be bothered insulting you now, but will at some later date, no doubt...

Posted by Anonymous : 11/07/2005 02:38:00 PM

I can't wait. As for what country... read the original post above this one.

Posted by Chris : 11/08/2005 10:14:00 AM

Getting back to Guy Fawkes, a more logical connection would be, rather than with 9/11, with the IRA who alomst succeeded in blowing up Margaret Thatcher's cabinet in Brighton in the 80s. At least they all went for those in power rather than some cleaners in the WTC.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 11/08/2005 12:09:00 PM