Archive by Author | davidwaldock

Guesting over at Jonny’s place again

After reading one of Jonny’s posts over at Leaving Fundamentalism earlier, I felt moved to write a fairly strong and personal response. However, it’s not my normal fare and I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods. Some of what I write is a little raw, and it makes reference to abuse which some may find distressing.

So, consider yourself warned and proceed if you want.

Being made to feel like you don’t exist

Straight Pride UK

This morning, this tweet was highlighted to me:

Being straight is not easy under the circumstances of our society due to the politically correct Government and the Gay Agenda
(@straightprideuk)

A very small amount of work reveals this to be a parody, but to be fair,* it must be so difficult being heterosexual in the twenty-first century in Britain. Let’s have a look at some of the challenges facing modern, persecuted straight people:

  • Straights get bullied in school for glancing at the opposite gender
  • Straights get bashed coming out of the pub because someone thinks they might be heterosexual
  • Straights can’t hold hands in public in case someone sees them and straight-bashes them
  • Straights can’t have their marriage recognised by the state as equivalent to those of gays
  • Straights get church leaders with loud media voices criticise their very existence
  • Straights aren’t portrayed on the television very often, and when they are they are often caricatures of stereotypes
  • Straights have higher incidence of depression, anxiety, other mental health problems and suicide because of they way they’re spoken about
  • Straights use alcohol, tobacco and drugs (both licit and illicit) more frequently than their gay counterparts
  • Straights are blamed for, vilified for and told they deserve to catch HIV/AIDS and die
  • Straights are being imprisoned, tortured, jailed and killed by African states because of their sexuality
  • Straights have to continually come out – it’s not a one off event, it’s something they have to decide to do (or not do) every time they meet someone

What other oppressions do straight people experience on a day-to-day basis?

*UPDATE (12 Aug 2013)

It may not be a Poe. But my point stands. See The Sordid Tale of How I was Censored by Straight Pride for more information.

Jobs creationists CAN do (on Leaving Fundamentalism)

After a conversation with Jonny over at Leaving Fundamentalism, this post was a write-up of the discussion we had. Preview here, read the rest over there!

This was originally intended to be a comment on Jonny’s post “5 jobs a Creationist can’t do”, but after an extended conversation on Facebook, we thought my thoughts might be better presented as a post in its own right, extending the discussion.

First, I understand the position that Jonny is taking; all other things being equal, young earth creationism (YEC) is intellectually incompatible with many disciplines. However, there are doubtless people who identify as young earth creationists who are in those disciplines.

An example which springs to mind is nursing (I know of several nurses who believe in YEC), yet effective nursing requires acknowledging that microbes evolve in response to antibiotics. Does this mean these self-defined creationist nurses aren’t really nurses?

What I think is actually meant is that holding YEC beliefs requires one to perform intellectual gymnastics in some way, or to compromise one’s beliefs in order to function effectively within one’s chosen discipline. I note that Answers in Genesis explicitly give this advice:

“Because of the intense persecution and potential discrimination, some have chosen to keep their biblical views “under wraps” until they receive their degrees.”

What does this look like in reality?

Read more over at Leaving Fundamentalism

Social Media and the Emergency Communication of Scientific Information: publics are doing it for themselves

Nothing new, I’m afraid, but a pointer to a paper I wrote on the use of social media in emergencies a while back. It may have some pertinence to recent events.

Social Media and the Emergency Communication of Scientific Information: publics are doing it for themselves

 

Dear Former Archbishop…

Dear Former Archbishop of Canterbury

Some notes on your piece in the Daily Mail, which I won’t link to because I don’t want to increase their hits.

You claim:

more than two-thirds of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.

Interestingly, this is the opposite of what you normally claim when you’re trying to assert that the majority of people in the country are Christian, and therefore you should be allowed to use your bigoted, offensive prejudices to set a social agenda which excludes minority sexualities from equality. On this occasion you’re seeking to feed the persecution complex that so many Christians like to assert.

The problem with that is that a minority, in technical terms, is a function of power, voice and visibility in society. People in same-sex relationships have been powerless and excluded from power structures for years, a situation which the institution you led sought to maintain (after all, homosexuals are sinners, and it’s wrong to facilitate sin by recognising it, right?).

Lack of visible role models, an absence of voice in the public spheres, and an inability to effect social change leads to a number of social outcomes.

Homophobia – allowing stereotypes and prejudice to negatively influence personal, institutional and/or social interactions with people who want or are in same-sex relationships – is legitimised when groups are invisible. This gives rise to bullying, physical violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people. And whilst I’m sure you’ll say that you deplore such behaviour, any actions or statements which perpetuate a state of inequality and powerlessness creates a fertile environment in which such behaviour can flourish.

As a result of this, LGBT people are at much higher risk for stress-related mental health problems (eg. depression and anxiety), a problem in itself, and increased use of non-positive coping mechanisms such as cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or risky behaviours, such as unprotected sex. As such, serious health problems, physical and mental, are more pronounced within LGBT communities, along with the associated higher rates of mortality and suicide, particularly in young people. Young LGBT people tend to do less well in the education system and are more likely to be made homeless by parents rejecting them.

Similar patterns have been observed in other minority groups, including ethnic, religious, gender and ability minorities. We know that legitimising even minor discrimination increases the social acceptability of any form of discrimination.

We have been countering this by fighting for small changes: LGBT characters in soaps, high profile community actions, positive news stories enabling politicians to come out and campaigning for changes in laws. Slowly, our voice has been heard, and things are beginning to change. However, young LGBT people still commit suicide at higher rates than straight cohorts, older LGBT people still don’t get the respect they deserve in care institutions and we are still at a disadvantage in society.

To contrast Christians – specifically but not exclusively the Anglican Church for whom you speak – have automatic seats in parliament, have historically had a massive influence over how society has been structured and are rarely out of the press. As a single example, the number of bishops and archbishops who’ve been given column inches to repeat their offensive, wilfully ignorant and factually incorrect bigotry over the last year has, I’m sure, contributed negatively to the self image and health of many in the LGBT communities. And whilst numbers of church attenders and self-identifying Christians are undoubtedly dropping, our society is still culturally Christian, caught up in the moral values of an increasingly secular society.

You go on to say this is evidence that

there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial.

Except that institution isn’t fixed, unchanging and constant. Marriage from five thousand years ago is not the same as marriage from five hundred ago, or even fifty years ago. Women are no longer chattels to be bought and sold, rape is no longer a socially acceptable way of taking wives and polygamy has been nominally (if delusionally) forbidden and unseen for the last couple of hundred years. As our concepts of relationships have changed, so have the institutions which formalise them in society. And now you claim that reflecting changes will change the institution beyond recognition.

You say that marriage has a

fundamental religious and civic meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.

Except that’s historically not true and I deeply offensive to the large number of (in your view, legitimate) marriages in which procreation does not occur. Contrary to your belief that “traditional” marriages are diminished by reflecting practice in law, you in fact diminish “traditional” and non-traditional relationships which do not confirm to your narrow, normative view of relationships. It is you who diminish the bond of love, not those who seek to join it.

There will be no exemptions for believers who are registrars. … Christian teachers … may face disciplinary action if they cannot express agreement with the new politically-correct orthodoxy.

Unfortunately, it’s not the job of the state to provide exemptions. Would you accept that registrars can opt out of performing mixed ethnicity or mixed religion marriages? I would hope not. Whether teachers like it or not, if the law changes, LGBT people will have the right to get married regardless of their views on it; just as teachers are expected not to bring their party political views to the classroom, so they’re expected to support and uphold the rights, education and dignity of all their students regardless of their backgrounds.

Frankly, Mr Carey, your entire message reminds me of the temper tantrum of a school bully who has been found picking on the weakest and most vulnerable members of the school, and who then tries to bully the teachers into silence when they challenge it. Your religious values – and make no mistake, the only objections I can see are values, for the facts cannot and do not support continued discrimination – are not a legitimate reason to perpetuate a social wrong.

What you regard as a dangerous move towards secularism is, for many people, one to be welcomed. Secularism isn’t about banning religion or excluding religious views from public discussions, it’s about broadening the range of voices to include the broadest possible cross-section of the people in that society. It’s about ensuring that no particular view, however significant from an historical perspective, is privileged and that all people are treated equally.

The sad thing is, Mr Carey, you are more concerned with maintaining a discriminatory, favoured voice, and the power that goes with it, than you are in empowering the dispossessed and allowing the silent to be heard. If I’m honest, this doesn’t really sound like the example of a Jesus who dined with tax-collectors and prostitutes.

I’m sorry that you feel that the campaign for equal marriage is going to inhibit your “right” to discriminate, but ultimately this isn’t about you. It’s about the LGBT people whose lives and health are put at risk by your attitudes and values. Lets focus on the victims here, not the abusers.

Yours sincerely

David W

Division of Labour: food, accountability and class

We’ve all watched the horse meat scandal with some horror, worried what the revelations of the food industry means for what we’ve eaten. Commenting on this, Jay Rayner noted,

…lurking behind the important questions that it posed … there was another narrative, dripping with snobbery and disdain: about the “lower orders” being both stupid enough to buy this cheap crap and unsophisticated enough not to recognise that eating horse is fine…

A friend challenged this interpretation, suggesting that “people chose to become lazy and disconnect from the food they buy and the supply chain that provides it.” I questioned whether this was an individual or group phenomenon, and said I’d expand my thinking further. So here goes.

Read More…

Why I Won’t Be Watching Children In Noses Day

If you want to give to charity, good for you, go ahead and do it, but you don’t need a massive forced-fun day of torture to do good.

Read More…

Celibate here, celibate there…

Today, the BBC asked, “Is it realistic for someone to permanently go without sex?”. I think they’ve asked the wrong question.

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One Flu Over the Piggies’ Nest: another vaccine melodrama?

Vaccination, media coverage and social and health consequences: here we go again?

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Theory of Critical Crapness

How are rubbish things, like The Only Way is Essex or Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, so successful?

Read More…

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