Reflections of a Pointy-Headed Intellectual
Now, to be honest and to give the devil his due, "pointy-headed" intellectuals tend to spend much time attempting to understand the issue before rushing off to solve an ill-defined problem or complex issue. We can be pedantic and plodding. We mull over the issue often at great length before coming to a decision-a penultimate one at that. However, recent history, actually all human history, points to the reality that people and politicians rush off with half-truths and mistaken notions. When challenged on their erroneous position, they mask their lack of thinking through an issue by assuring their audience that God is on their side. The masses hardly ever notice that those on the other side of this situation are also jumping to conclusions and covering up gaps in logic with religious or nationalistic language.
Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable [inalienable] Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." We mouth these words like some political mantra, but are these truths really self-evident? It wasn't even self-evident to Jefferson that women and slaves were created equal. If you set aside that misstep by one of the brightest minds of both the Revolution and of Western thought, what about other allegedly self-evident issues in our world?
Take female genital mutilation (FGM), known as female circumcision, which sounds better. For those of us in the West and not Muslim African, FGM is an outrageous, sexist, and sadistically medieval procedure. I can't imagine for a nanosecond anyone thinking that is anything but barbaric. Well, millions don't see it that way especially those in the Middle East and/or Africa. The motive behind FGM is equivalent to the medieval chastity belt. Both have their origins in the domination of females by males and a means of controlling sexual property. Now, that is self-evidently wrong to me but not many others. Where do you draw the line?
Speaking of sexism and drawing lines: one of the parts of the benefits package for suicide bombers is having seventy virgins greet them in paradise. Isn't that sexist? To my mind, it seems that employing women as a reward for suicide bombers is blatantly sexist. And what's with the virgin issue; are women better rewards if they are virgins? To complicate this sexual reward nonsense, some Inman is going to work out the problem created with the advent of female suicide bombers. I'm not sure that a fundamentalist female Islamist is going to blow herself up because of the promised greeting by seventy virgins.
Along with this sexism, what is behind the burqa, the veil worn by many Afghani women? Its function is to protect the women from possible infidelity. FGM and burqas have the same function of keeping women inline sexually. That is like blaming Eve for all sin. Why hasn't anyone considered doing something with the males who might tempt these women? You don't hear women demanding that guys go on high doses of saltpeter or wear some mechanical device to curb their sexual urges.
Another issue that isn't clearly self-evident is that all peoples yearn for democracy although Washington believes they do. In fact, democracy, as we define it, is extremely recent in human history. For most of humankind, democracy wasn't even a concept. Dictators and tyrants have ruled the area that Iraq occupies since the Sumerian civilization dating back to 3500 BC. It isn't even self-evident now to the neo-cons that Iraq is dying for Jeffersonian democracy.
There are a very real issue confronting the world's nations, cultures, and religions. However, before we assume that we stand on the moral high ground, subtract a handful of centuries in the West, we did many of the some things to women and minorities that we fain outrage today. The Inquisition in the West was far worse the Taliban truth and morality squads that once ran Afghanistan. The Christian Crusades were far more deadly than any jihad visited on the West including 9/11. In addition, while we decry Middle Eastern nations mixing religion and politics, we hypocritically do it all the time in America and see nothing wrong with it. Look at issues like school prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, gay rights issues, women's reproductive rights, right to die, stem cell research, etc.
Are there, as Jefferson maintained, certain universal givens when it comes to the human condition? If so, what are they and what should people do to accord all peoples these self-evident rights? Where do you draw the line when it comes to sexism, racism, tyranny, etc. within the world community?
This "pointy-headed" intellectual doesn't know where we should draw the line. However, at least, I know that we have to raise the question.
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