Posts Tagged ‘morality’

Beijing-Style Censorship in Canada

March 1, 2008

Yesterday, there was a story in the news about changes to the Income Tax Act that will allow the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films it decides it doesn’t like, after the fact.  The bill, C-10, is now in the Senate, having been passed by the Commons unnoticed.  Now that it’s become public knowledge, some opposition MPs who voted it through the minority government first house are suddenly protesting.  It makes you wonder if they even read the legislation they vote on.  It also makes you wonder why the media didn’t pick up the story before it was passed.

This bill is a form of censorship.  There aren’t any criteria to determine which films will be rejected.  It will be entirely at the discretion of a panel set up by the government.  David Cronenberg says it’s the kind of thing you’d expect from Beijing.  This is clearly open to abuse to further political or social agendas.  For evidence you don’t have to look any further than who takes credit for making it happen.

Charles McVety is a clergyman and the president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, a fundamentalist evangelical group that seeks to restore “Judeo-Christian moral principles” in Canada.  He seems to be as interested in American social politics as Canadian, if not more, because on his Word.ca website you will find an ad for his new book, rather grandly entitled ‘Earthism’, which appears to claim that the disgrace of fellow clergyman turned gay crackhead Ted Haggard fits nicely into the ‘great falling away’ prophesied in the bible.  It doesn’t seem to matter how hypocritical and wrong these people are shown to be, they’ll still find a way to claim it proves they’re right.

His group lobbied for years to get these changes.  His contacts included people in the PM’s office, fellow fundamentalist Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and like minded backbench MPs.  Although he didn’t meet with Stephen Harper or Heritage Minister Josee Verner personally, the government finally agreed with the group.  Verner replied to his written materials by saying said she didn’t want to fund movies like ‘Young People Fucking’, for instance.

Conservative MP Dave Batters also cites ‘Young People Fucking’ as an example, despite not having seen it.  In a committee meeting with Michel Roy of Telefilm Canada, he said the purpose of Telefilm is to “facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society, films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families…”  He doesn’t seem to understand what a mainstream movie is.  A commercially successful movie is mainstream, because it appeals to a wide audience.  A film can be mainstream and be unsuitable for a seven year old.  Many mainstream movies have ‘mature’ content.  Although I agree the decision makers at Telefilm annoyingly seem to have their own preferences, and I’ve heard the evidence myself at trade forum seminars, this kind of censorship is not the answer.

I haven’t seen ‘Young People Fucking’ yet, but I will.  What I have read about it indicates that the title is probably the most shocking part.  It might just be shocking enough to get it noticed and help it break through to the mainstream – an achievement for a little Canadian movie in a Hollywood dominated marketplace.  Good marketing.  The easily offended moralists may unintentionally help that cause.

If McVety and the government want to talk about ending offensive tax credits or breaks, let’s talk about ending the free ride for religious organizations.  Churches and their affiliates don’t pay taxes even though they profit from investments.  Not all the money they receive is used for charity, and their idea of charity is often actually tied to recruiting new members and spreading the word.  They have also been havens for paedophiles.  Talk about offensive.

The long feared appearance of the moral right wing of the Conservative government may have come.

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Fear of the Void

February 10, 2008

The void must be a very scary thing to many, if not most, people.  As far as I can see, people believe in god because they’re afraid of the gaps in human knowledge.  They feel a need to fill in these gaps and that’s where god comes in handy.  Everything is defined and can be traced back to a source, even if it, itself, is undefinable.

I had a phone conversation with a family member a while back that turned into a discussion about religion, god, and society.  We disagreed, so maybe debate would be a better word.  She seemed to rely on the fact that I didn’t have all the answers as proof that her belief was justified and, therefore, that our society should be founded in religious principles.

At one point, I had her cornered.  She had no response and, suddenly, there was real panic and fear in her voice as she started accusing me of some violation of the rules or principles of debate, then found an excuse to end the conversation and hang up.  I realized that she didn’t just want to believe she was right.  For some reason, she needed to.

I don’t understand this fear.  I accept that there’s a lot we don’t know.  I even accept that what we know is dwarfed by what we don’t know.  I’m OK with saying, “I don’t know”.  It’s a perfectly valid, and honest, answer.  We gradually fill in the knowledge gap, or void, with facts as we expand our knowledge.

But that’s not fast enough or good enough for some people.  They want a complete package now.  And, if any facts threaten their complete, but false, universe, they reject them – often vociferously.  They seem to think the world will fall apart without one.  Some, who have been misled or lied to and then realize it, do have or let their worlds fall apart, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Even some people who reject god and religion continue their pursuit of perfection.  They need a perfect system or philosophy to replace the old one they discovered wasn’t perfect, or even real.  They need an irrefutable core that everything else can be traced back to.

But we are imperfect people in an imperfect world.  We do the best we can for ourselves and to balance our own needs with those of society.  We try to interact with others in a way that is as mutually agreeable as possible.

Maybe we will find a perfect philosophy or system one day.  Maybe not.  Until then, we have to accept our imperfection and make do with what we do know.  We should not accept a false system of belief that offers misleading perfection, or an illusory perfect world view.

A society based on lies will eventually come crashing down.  Better to bring about a soft landing than to delay the inevitable crash by trying to hold up the sky.

Disillusionment

January 19, 2008

People talk of disillusionment as if it’s a bad thing, but it should be good.  Disillusion, and it’s suffix-enhanced derivatives, is one of my favourite words.  It is misleading in its use, but revealing in its construction.

The Gage Canadian Dictionary defines disillusion as “free from illusion”, “freeing or being freed from illusion”.  Examining its constituent parts, this seems obvious – dis = not, remove;  illusion = false vision;  and ment = condition or state of.  So disillusion means not under – or free from – false vision, and disillusionment is the condition or state of not – or no longer – being under false vision.  In other words, disillusionment is clarity.  That’s a good thing, no?

Clarity is good, but we think of disillusionment as bad because when people see the truth after being lied to all their lives, they feel resentment or, perhaps, depression.  But, it’s not the newly found clarity that is the problem, it is the lies they’ve been taught by the people they should have been able to trust the most.  When the people you counted on to raise and teach you turn out to have been wrong, and to have given you a false vision of the world, it is natural that there will be negative sentiment.

When this happens people lose confidence in the old system.  But there isn’t a system in place to replace the old one so they may become cynical and adopt the attitude that it doesn’t matter, that there are no rules or limits on behaviour.  This, at least in part, is what happened in the 1960s and 1970s when, for the first time, large numbers of people questioned the institutions of their childhood and found them lacking.  But, they didn’t really have anything to replace them with.  There are those who would point to this and say, “See?  This is what happens without god.”  There are alternatives, though.

We need to teach children a new system of ethics based on rationality, common sense, and truth – not fear of a god or eternal damnation.  It has to be done from an early age, in school.  They should be taught how to figure out the right thing to do, rather than to follow like sheep.  In other words, they have to develop critical thinking skills so they can distinguish right from wrong.  Then, maybe, everyone can be on the same page in the future.

Of course, it will have to be done carefully.  I’m thinking of a conversation I had years ago with a French friend, in which I told her I had the impression that French kids throw away their Sartre when they read they are free and go out to wreak havoc, before getting to the part about responsibility.  She didn’t disagree.

This post appears in the Carnival of the Godless #87.