Saturday, August 26, 2006

More foot-in-mouth from Clarkson

Russell Brown points his readers at Bob the Builder's latest foot-in-mouth incident (really, does he ever take it out?) in which he displays his bigotry and ignorance by saying that Muslims who wear burkas should "go back to Islam or Iraq". It would be funny - except that its pretty much official National Party policy, espoused by the supposedly liberal Don Brash himself.

But Clarkson isn't just a bigot - he's also a hypocrital one. In his Manawatu Standard interview (offline), he was asked about Palmerson North's long-running dispute about the cross on the top of the clocktower (don't ask), and had this to say:

"That's just ridiculous. Put the cross up there. I can't see any problem with that."

"I do have a bit of a problem with Islam religion-type people wearing scarves and burqas around the place. I think people should fit into the country."

So, public display of Christianity good, public display of Islam bad. But it's not just display he's talking about, but also enforcement:

"I think people in power should respect the Bible, they should respect the norm."

And yet at the same time, we have this:

"I don't practice religion, but I'm very tolerant of all types of religion"

If this is how he displays his "tolerance", you really have to wonder if he even knows what the word means...


I think he's right. Burkhas are a symbol of the most hideous oppresion of women, of their degradation and treatment as property, and they have no place in any civilised society.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/26/2006 01:47:00 PM

Oh please. To speak of free choice like that is to ignore all of the family and spousal pressure frequently placed on Islamic women to wear these monstrosities, often forced first upon them as children. Indeed some do choose to wear them, as some racists choose to wear nazi memoribilia. I fail to see how either, with their hideous connotations, contributes to 'freedom' in a society. Burkhas remain a revolting, debilitating, self-erasing prison for millions of women worldwide, and that shouldn't be excluded from a debate on their desirability.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/26/2006 03:28:00 PM

displaying a cross and having a Burkhas are different things, there could be a polic against one on a certain grounds that did not prevent the other.
And in a sense that we might not want to publish muhammad cartoons
"I don't practice religion, but I'm very tolerant of all types of religion"
goes with this
"I think people in power should respect the Bible, they should respect the norm."
Ie you respect the religion because of the magnitude of hte ofense possible.

Not that bob clarkson strikes me as a person that would have particularly nuanced political positions.

Posted by Genius : 8/26/2006 06:03:00 PM

Unfortunately however, attacks on cultural symbols generally backfire quite spectacularly, by raising the stakes for the community engaging in the practice.

I'm all for empowering women not to wear the burka, but going about it in this way is just bound for failure, and likely to entrench the garment as a symbol of resistance against those who would try and take it from their heads.

Just witness the situation in France. The only real options are accepting it, or acting like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/26/2006 06:07:00 PM

So, anon, where do you draw the line - are headscarves permitted when worn by Christian women? What about Brethren women? Christian men? Jewish men? Or are you asking for a ban on all religious headgear?

I think you'll find that some women really do wear religious headwear from pride. And would object if it was banned.

One other problem is that those women forced to wear it by community pressure might find that that pressure does not go away with the ban - so they'd find themselves unable to appear in public at all.

Posted by Moz : 8/26/2006 08:53:00 PM

"Burkhas are a symbol of the most hideous oppresion of women"- Now I get it. Bob the liberator, the tireless fighter for women's rights. See Iranian Leader Calls NZ MP 'Good Joker'

Posted by john : 8/27/2006 10:02:00 AM

Anon: The burqa may be a symbol of the oppression of women (though curiously, some of the women who wear them beg to differ - but I guess they must suffering from "false consciousness", right) - but even granting that, I'm not sure that there's any case for state interference. As John Stuart Mill famously said,

"The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant."

While people may not like the Burqa, it is difficult to make a case that it harms others. The harm is in being forced to wear it, and that's the harm that should be targetted.

More generally, this is a liberal society, where people can do as they please and wear what they like. Given the key role of dress in self-expression, and the dirty history of its regulation (yellow badges, sumptury laws), its something I'm quite happy for the government to stay out of.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/27/2006 10:44:00 AM

Genius: somehow, I suspect Clarkson would be singing a different tune if it was a crescent on top of that clocktower, backed by a Muslim majority. Though the possibility that things could be different and the shoe on the other foot (and hence the need for limits on majority power) is probably a bit too complicatd for him...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/27/2006 11:25:00 AM

Idiot/Savant: I would say that any woman who believes God will punish her for displaying her face or ankles in public in OBVIOUSLY suffering from 'false consciousness', wouldn't you agree?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/27/2006 12:47:00 PM

Anon: I'd say their beliefs were clealy false. But I'd also say that it doesn't matter. The liberal principle that people are the best judges of their own desires and interests rules out any argument from "false consciousness" - because regardless of truth or falsity, they are their desires and interests, and that is what is important.

(Further thoughts on this issue here and here).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/27/2006 01:32:00 PM

Well, your 'liberal principle' obviously assumes people are free agents to choose their beliefs - a typically male view, and one completely ignores the workings of power and coercion against weaker groups in society.

Secondly, if this prinicple IS true, what the hell is your gripe with Bob Clarkson? he's obviously expressing HIS desires and interests, which is "what's important". Surely he's as entitled to his own view as you? Indeed, if there's "no false consciousness", what the hell are you wasting your time for bitching 24-7 on this blog?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/27/2006 02:22:00 PM

Indeed Idiot/Savant, if you believe that there is 'no false consciousness, how can you denounce terrorism or the death penalty? Many societies belive it is just to kill in certain sets of circumstances (adultery, murder), are you willing to support "their desires and interests"? You really seem like a cartoon of the most appalling moral relativisms here... How do you denounce the death penalty from your standpoint? I'm curious here...

Posted by Anonymous : 8/27/2006 02:42:00 PM

please learn to read anonymous.

Your last two questions ( or were they bitche's? ) have already been answered.

If a woman/person wants to wear some kind of religous garment then they should not be in breach of some law.

The death penalty has nothing to do with personal choice or any of this burkha wearing business. It involves the stated getting involved in murder and any injustices or wrongfull convictions can not be put right.

please post again but why not get yourself a user name, ' cartoon bitcher' would seem to suit you very well.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/27/2006 05:49:00 PM

Anon: Power and coercion are things I am generally in favour of destroying insofar as it is possible to do so.

As for Clarkson, he is indeed entitled to his own view. And I'm entitled to disagree with it and point out that it is fundamentally illiberal. The state should not be regulating people's fashion sense, it should not be regulating their religious beliefs, and it should not be regulating their sexual preferences.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/28/2006 12:08:00 AM

Anon2: you (and the previous anon) seem to be confused about the meaning of "false consciousness". False consciousness is about thinking people are not the best judges of their own desires or interests, and that when they say they want X, what they really want is Y (which is also, strangely, desired by the person alleging false consciousness). Denying false consciousness simply means taking people's statements about what they want at face value. Note that this says nothing whatsoever about facts or ethics; it is all about desires and interests. Accepting that somebody wants to murder or torture does not mean accepting that it would be right or that they should be allowed to do so.

As for why we would want to deny false consciousness, it's because in a liberal society, we have a right to be wrong. We are allowed to be wrong about god. We are allowed to be wrong about morality. We're allowed to be wrong about what's in our own best interests, and what would make us happy. We're allowed to make mistakes and poor decisions, which lead us into misery, and even if others can tell us from the beginning that that is what will happen, they have no right to usurp our choices. And the reason for this is that they are our choices; we are the authors of our own lives - or at least feel ourselves to be - and such mistakes are ours to make. Provided we're within the bounds of Mill's Law and avoid physically harming others, then there is no warrant to intervene.

(The other reason we want to deny false consciousness is of course because it is the first step on the road to the gulag and the re-education center...)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/28/2006 12:48:00 AM