Monday, 25 August 2014

Redefining jihad

In the West, the Islamic term jihad is almost ubiquitously associated with the extremism and fundamentalism that is a microcosm of the religion's diverse, global population, such as that perpetrated by the sadists and gangsters of Islamic State. Thus in this context jihad is uniformly associated with beheadings, suicide bombings, violent misogyny, and ethno-religious persecution. But this is morally a gross misnomer. Jihad in Islamic terms means struggle: the struggle for truth and justice, and ultimately peace. The brave Kurdish Muslims of the PKK aiming to defend themselves, alongside the Yazidis, from Islamic State genocide and barbarism, can therefore be described as jihadis in the true and honourable sense. As can the participants of the Arab Spring who have resisted authoritarian repression and corruption.

There is no sense jihad in the ideology of salafi-fascists who justify their brutality and hatred with propaganda of deceit, and who are committed to denying humanity, including Muslims, their basic civil and human rights. These thugs therefore must not be permitted to such a linguistic monopoly. In being granted it we portray their crimes in the terms they would prefer.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Richard Dawkins and abortion

Words matter. When I was nine years old, I was victim to a disability hate crime that was so traumatic it took me over a decade until I reported it to the police. The person who committed this offence knew that I had a disability, developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia). In a public place, they stated, in mind of self-care, social and mobility difficulties: "That child should have been abortion."

Disabled people regularly face, perhaps usually in more subtle and subliminal forms, the implication of their inherently burdensome presence, or facetiously, sympathy for the supposedly inherently unbearable nature of this existence. In their most extreme form, these ethos motivated the "mercy killing" of Nazi Germany's Action T4 regime (which is a relevant historical observation rather than a mere example of Godwin's law).

Of course, childbearers should not be shamed or stigmatised by their decision to medically end a pregnancy. This could indeed be because of a child's disability; severe mutations causing immense suffering within a very short lifespan. But persons with Down's syndrome are unlike these cases, given that many of them lead fulfilling lives in the shelter of relatives and friends who love and cherish them. They chosen and valued, with the implication that they are uniformly, innately shameful or defective being the most damaging influence on their quality of life. The greatest suffering they face is probably such ignorance and prejudice, which is why Richard Dawkins, if he is a humanist, should rethink the ethical basis for his remarks.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

I am not white

I am not white. I may be primarily Caucasian, but from my mother's side I am partially Roma, and from my father's I am partially Cook Island Māori. Thus I am mixed racedefinitely the Other. I am ashamed to have presented myself as "white" by default in the past, but perhaps the pain of the shame of my childhood was too much to confront.

My skin is darkly-toned, my nose is slightly wide, my forehead is slightly high. I therefore do not doubt that racism, at least subconsciously, singled me out for victimhood from the adults abusing their authority to perpetrate their other forms of institutional abuse and discrimination, all trauma which responsible for my mental health condition. "Jacob looks unwashed", they told my mother, who was literally described as "swarthy" by them. "He has dark rings under his eyes" was an issue. One attempted to scrub my "dirty", brown-skinned little hands.

I am Jacob Richardson. I am not white. I will fight for justice and shame you for your white supremacy instead.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Obama protects the torturers

"We tortured some folks", was Barack Obama's folksy admission that officials within the Bush administration and CIA sanctioned and orchestrated these systematically perpetrated international law violations and human rights abuses of their detainees. A similarly folksy response can be given to the question of whether they will be prosecuted for these felonies: Nope.

Shortly after banning the use of "enhanced interrogation methods" (one of the most fatuous and contemptibly evasive propaganda euphemisms even linguistically constructed) in 2009, the Obama administration outright refused to prosecute those who permitted and ordered barbarism such as potentially lethal waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation, and threats of violence and death against detainees and their family members, despite the use of torture most often resulting in false intelligence being provided by those subjected to them. To paraphrase former Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura: "Give me Dick Cheney and a waterboard and I'll get him to confess to the Charles Manson murders."

In 2009, Spain levelled (but then dropped) criminal charges against six figures from the Defense and Justice (how Orwellian) departments responsible for organizing the Bush administration's torture human rights abuses and war crimes. To me the vilest of them all is John Yoo, the Attorney General who through technicalities and legalese constructed the internal justifications that torture methods such as waterboarding were not implicitly constitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment", or illegal. It was Yoo who stated that threatening to crush the testicles of a detainee's child was fair game in the name of military intelligence gathering. But the UN Convention Against Torture says otherwise.

In refusing to prosecute these international criminals, the Obama administration abandoned any pretension that it would take the moral high ground regarding the contempt of international law seen in the Bush era. Patronizing, self-serving promises of "reform" or "resolution" will not do. Anyone who cares about the idealized basic ethical values of modern civilization should fight for the Bush administration torturers to be behind the dock at the International Criminal Court.