Saturday, 13 February 2010
Freedom means choice - not compulsion
There is a fire burning in Norway.
2 days in a row as many as 3000 muslims have been out in the streets, peacefully protesting against the harassment of muslims and the meaningless, repeated publication of the Muhammed charicatures, last published by Dagbladet 2 weeks ago.
There are numerous blogs about these charicatures. As you should know by now: My blog views subjects from a very different point of view.
First off, let me state that I am against printing of these charicatures.
Let me explain why:
1: Dagbladet's motivation:
Dagbladet is strugling financially, letting people go, and experiencing dwindling sales numbers.
Dagbladet decided to publish a severly offencive drawing of the prophet as a pig, writing in the Quran. This drawing was first posted on the PST facebook page (police inteligence and security service) by a group member. PST had originally censored several other posts, but let this one pass for 2 days, thereby lending it some official credence. Even though several muslims protested and expressed regret over PST's decicion. Let me point out that several muslims feel persecuted by PST in the context of the ongoing "war on terror". Additionally the second largest political party is the radical right populist FrP, with overt islamophobe tendencies, as well as a growing general racism in the public. All this adds to the situation.
So why did Dagbladet decide to publish this drawing? Because they wanted to cover the news story on the PST situation, as the publication itself states."The time was right," Could they have covered this story without using the drawing? Yes. Would that cause as much attention and high sales numbers? No. Could the timing had been worse? No. Dagbladet published the drawing based on capitalist motivations, under a false pretense of defending "free speech". Unwittingly Dagbladet allowed itself to become a tool in a right wing populist agenda.
2: The intentions of those who are pro the publications:
This is a very complex matter, and can only be understood if the reader, as me, understands democracy as a institution nourishing lazy, spoiled and apathetic people.
If you however, the reader, are a great believer in the state, police and democracy as the ultimate way of life, the following will most likely sound like crazy talk.
Democracy is nothing but a word, with little or no meaning to most norwegians. Until their personal way of life is threathened in any way by alien influence, causing fear of change they won't react. To them democracy means voting once every 4th year, then leaning back and flipping the bird to the rest of the world. To them democracy means no understanding, no respect and no willingness to perceive that our illusion of democracy is perhaps not the only alternative to dictatorship. Democracy to most norwegians means "my way or the highway". Do as we do, or we will bomb you, hate you and alienate you.
To most norwegians democray means no understanding for the damage imperialism caused, no understanding for what excluding the developing countries from trade has done to their economies. To them democracy means not understanding the realities of war, PTSD, cultural differences, poverty and social stigma.
To me, on the other side, democracy means responsibility. I have the responsibilty to talk for those who can't speak, act for those who can't act, and always staying alert and aware when it comes to the world around me. Freedom does not mean you can lean back and stop caring. Freedom means you MUST CARE.
And I care about the feelings of 1.5 billion muslims all over the world who feel intensely hurt by these drawings. I question the intentions of the people who are in favor the publications. They have no conscious intentions. They simply strike out against people they dont like, again under a misguided pretense of "freedom of speech". Their intention is not to help, or to cause islamic religion to progress, their intention is to state their dislike of islam. The continued publication of these drawing is not by any means a bridge builder, it's exclusively bombing the bridge.
Freedom of speech is the main argument used by the media and people in general, who are in favor of publication. Yes, the media may publish the drawings, but is it neccesary? And if so, why? The argument is if they don't publish the drawing, our nation is in grave danger. Of what? Being controlled by Islam? The line of argument is that freedom of speech itself is threathened. By whom? And how? Not printing these drawings would not cause approximately 200 years of democracy to collaps into a black hole. It would not cause Norway to regress into the dark ages. '
Because democracy is not static, it is a constant evolution. This is not a matter of no democracy versus democracy. This is a matter of adding, not subtracting, as a consequense of a pluralist society. There was no original threat to norwegian democracy from the islamic world, there was no outspoken, written message saying "we deny you your right to publish drawings of the prophet in the media, and if you do so, we will, by some magical and unexplainable means, brainwash 4.8 million norwegians to forget and dismiss 200 years of democratic evolution". Norwegians fear Islam, and thus as a threat, published the drawings to say "We fear you, we are flexing muscles to prove a point. We want to hurt you as much as we possible can, to prove our wonderful gift of freedom of speech, and not understand, or be willing to face, the consequences."
3: This brings me to consequences:
What are the conseqences of publishing? In Norway this means increased segregation, it reinforces the "us against them" mentality, and it strenghtens allready rising nationalist sentiments. It affects our ecconomy and unemployment rates. The publication and its consequenses, will slow down development of democracy, and decrease the inclusiveness so neccesary to maintain and build a functioning stable democracy. From being a nation who strives for inclusion in a quest of strengthening our freedom, we will now exclude and lose important and much needed international good will.
Internationally it will make it more difficult for Norway to use diplomacy with regards to muslim states, it can motivate increased recruiting of radical islamists and right wing extremists to their respective militant groups. To respect a persons religious belief, does not mean agreeing with what that religion represents and contains. Respect is the foundation of all comunication, and with no respect there can be no understanding. Personally I am an atheist, and I am still able to discuss religion with christians, muslims, jews, hindus and more. The publications propogates a false truth in the media, and this false truth will be a threshold and hindrance to integration. Why ask a muslim about his religion, when you are being fed racist propaganda by the media and politicians?
4:Freedom of speech.
This means you are free to state what you want, write what you want. This means the media could publish gruesome photographs of the two young girls killed and raped in Baneheia in 2000. They could, with freedom of speech on their side. But they didn't. Because it would cause the family tremendous pain, and it would cause the rest of Norway to have nightmares. And there would have been massive reactions, and demonstrations and threats would have been made to the editorial staff responsible. All in the name of democracy, and rightfully so.
Having the privilege of free speech, means freedom. Freedom means choice. Freedom does not mean compulsion - meaning "you have to, or else!"
Freedom of speech does not mean being an asshole, it does not mean you lose you ability to understand and respect others. Respecting others does not mean your democracy is in danger.
Hate and fear can threaten democracy.