Saturday, January 10, 2015


So... the Paris thing. I have taken a while to get my thoughts together and I'll be honest – they're still not together. Here's why: the conflict I have between respect for the belief of others and the fact that those beliefs can include wanting to hurt, kill, suppress or generally restrict the rights of others. There are awesome people with crazy beliefs. There are assholes with everything they believe rooted in scientific norms. And all kinds of mixes in between.

But I feel we need to look seriously at beliefs and we can't disassociate them from actions. And I don't mean this applies to just one belief system. I mean all beliefs.

Let's take the Paris example. I read a lot of – don't blame this on Islam. These people were unhinged monsters. They were sick. Crazy. Okay so moving past the idea that pinning it on mental illness is just fine and dandy, for me this allows us to completely dismiss these people as monsters. Whatever we may think of them and their actions, they are human beings. And if several human beings can go this far, so can others. We need to acknowledge them first as humans. After all, there are entire nations now handing out some pretty horrific punishments under the name of Sharia Law. Are they not human?

I also read a lot of condemnation from other Muslims and rightfully so. And we know of course that, in so many places (including this example) moderate Muslims are so often victims of the extremists. That is so important to keep in mind.

And yet the same basic root of the belief systems that the moderate Muslims hold gave these people the justification for their actions.

Let me take it away from Islam for a moment because the danger is that we become Islamophobic and that is unhelpful and can be dangerous in itself. Let me move on to another example – Christians hating gay people. Now I know that not all Christians hate gay people. In the grand scheme of things, I imagine the percentage is likely to be pretty damn low. And yet they exist. Are these extreme Christians? Maybe. But their holy book says that men shouldn't lay with other men and it's a killing offence. So actually if we're going to take the Bible as the core of the religion, it's not that these gay-hating Christians are extreme. It's that they're Christians. The more relaxed are just picking and choosing what works for them because they're cool and they don't like hating others.

But those Christians, no matter how relaxed, must recognise that the root of their beliefs contains words that say we should put gay people to death. Now it's important to recognise that the bible likely didn't make a lot of homophobes who they are - but it enables them and justifies it and provides an argument for their hate.

We feel we should respect beliefs. But really when it's that kind of stuff, should we? Really? Stick that in a book and tell people that it's the word of a divine ruler and no matter how cool most people are, sooner or later someone will act on it.

Extreme Christians are just Christians who are actually following what it says. They aren't twisting it. They are Christians. Same with extreme Muslims. And likely with so many other religions. So we simply can't say that the beliefs or some religions themselves aren't a problem. That in itself enables things like this. It allows them to happen. Our automatic respect for beliefs leads to horrors.

We've got to stop enabling them. So how? Well some ways include rational discussion, analysis, satire, humour and general ridicule. A general intolerance of people being assholes. One really important way - leaving their club.

I was in Ireland when it was found out not just about the molesting priests in the Catholic Church but that the church knew about it and knowingly swept it under the carpet. The entire institution was rotten to the core. And yet on Sunday people in Ireland turned up to church as normal. WTF? If I was in a club and it was shown that the club liked to punch puppies in the face, know what I'd do? I'D LEAVE THE FUCKING CLUB. Doing ANYTHING else is supporting and enabling the crime.

It's not enough for moderate people of one religion to condemn the extremists of that same religion. Walk away. Stop being a part of it. Leave the club. Anything else is still supporting it.

The bottom line here is that being part of a group that believes people should be killed, maimed, are second-class citizens or whatever is being a dick, even if you personally don't subscribe to the bad parts. Have your beliefs and embrace your spirituality but don't support the institutions or the archaic and often barbaric foundations they were built on.

We shouldn't respect beliefs by default.

Beliefs, like people, should have to earn respect.

So where are we then? You can believe the most rational or most crazy shit you can think of and I think we should all be cool with that... until one of those beliefs restricts somebody else's life, advocates removing their human rights, suggests or provides justification for violence and murder or simply inhibits rational thought or compassion. When that happens, we should call your beliefs out as being bullshit and they can go fuck right off. We need to stop tip-toeing around those beliefs. They have not earned respect and so deserve none.

Instead, embrace your nice beliefs within yourself, be cool to each other, promote the awesomeness of humanity and take us to new and better places. And please call out the bullshit where you see it.

Love to all of you.


Juz said...

Oh my word! Your blog reminds me of mine. I also draw my life in cartoons (and I have depression). Thanks for sharing.


Bitter Animator said...

Definitely a similar blog. Really love your work there. I could especially relate to the November cartoon on freelancing.

Anyone popping by these comments should go to Juz's blog here:

Mr. Trombley said...

Big issues... I think Charlie Hebdo's reaction was mature and proper.

It's good that the killers, the Kouachi brothers, were arrested. It is terrible that the leadership remains immune. The difference between a country with the rule of law, where madmen like Elliot Rodger, Anders Brevik and others can be stopped is the ability to prevent violent ideological organizations like AQAP to organize. AQAP was, incidentally, also responsible for the 2012 attack on the US compounds in Benghazi.

Because I'm contrary, I have to make verbal trouble. Is condoning violence the mark of an evil organization? Today I was in a tiny Polish museum about the life of a man who was a teacher, painter and soldier. He fought for Polish Independence, WWI and WWII. When fighting for independence, there was no Polish Army but rather paramilitary organizations (united, strangely enough, in many ways by the Scouting Movement...). Was he a terrorist? Why did George Washington turn out one way, Ruhollah Khomeini another? I think there is something to do with freedom in there, but I'm not good enough a philosopher to get at it precisely.

What you're saying is uncontroversial and I don't want to pretend that my instinct to contrarianism makes you wrong. But there you go.

By the way, I (who used to blog at Loth Beg) moved my blog over here because I was embarrassed by some of the mistakes I made over there:

Bitter Animator said...

Mr. T! Nice to see you around! Will check out your new blog.

Mr. Trombley said...

It's nice to see you're around too! Feel free to leave a comment, I've always wanted one. If it helps, I think this is the best thing I ever wrote:

But it is concerned with why a technical bit of mathematical philosophy _isn't_ relevant to mathematical practice, so I doubt it will be a thrill a minute for you.

I actually have a draft of something I'd like an artist's opinion on, whether there's such a thing as talent. I can try to reason from my experience as a mathematician and teacher, what I know of historical artists (Charlie Parker, for instance), but it would be interesting to get a professional artists opinion. I'll work on that post right now, maybe it'll be up later today or tomorrow (depending on time zone differences, etc). If you want to wait until then to read, please do.