Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rony Tan and the State - 1 - "The enemy of my enemy"

This is slightly tricky one for me.

On the one hand, I have no issue with anti-discrimination laws that spell out protection against hate-speech, or mete out greater penalty for hate-related crimes. As we here at the Barn ARGUE. ALL. THE. TIME, spouting and hearing shit unchallenged is the very reason people feel justified to hate, which ultimately underpins all the violence and harassment we face at hand. As Sparky notes on the puzzlement that the mothership of Focus on the Family expressed when they found out that their teachings were being propped up as the intellectual apparatus that motivated Uganda's deathly anti-homosexuality bill:
And, as we've seen before with Rick Warren, the Family and others who are up to their evil eyes in this particular vileness, they are now all shocked, SHOCKED, that their hate filled words could have encouraged such an awful awful thing.

Even accepting their protests as sincere (and I really really don't, because it's beyond belief that someone can espouse such hatred and then be shocked at the result), even accepting that they never ever imagined this could happen - well, what did they expect? How can they be shocked that constantly attacking gays, accusing us of preying on children, of trying to destroy society, leads to persecution?


Hatred does not come from a vacuum. The violent do not appear out of thin air. There is no mystery behind those that attack and hurt and kill us.

It comes from us, our society, our leaders, our culture, our language and our very selves. We have value - but that will never be acknowledged - that will never be truly BELIEVED - while there are so many voices that devalue us.

Hate will never stop until we stop saying, in a hundred ways, every day that hate is ok.

And so long as we keep saying hate is ok, we are responsible when that hatred leads to ruined lives.
On that count, I'm angered by what Pastor Tan has said and continues to say.

On the other hand, I do think invoking the Sedition Act and invoking police action as most foul, and I don't like how this has played out for Pastor Tan too.

As a free-thinker who has had personal investments in various faith in the past, I don't actually think it's wrong of religions to preach against each other, since fundamentally each more or less already believes itself humanity's answer to attaining peace. But I also do not think that arguing the superiority or rightness of one's religions needs precludes also arguing against violence or intolerance of any sort at the same time. People should be entitled to believe shit, preaching and saying shit should be challenged. But is the Act really the right sort of "challenge" to be up against?

I'm of the belief that the Act is crafted and employed more to force EVERYONE into acquiesce under a rather troubling paternalistic rule. If anything, the Act poses more problems for liberals attaining freedom, often in service of preventing a punishing spectre of civil war, race/religion inspired riot, etc. Using this legislative pressure tactic to demand an already fearful culture to cede more freedoms, often beginning with the attainment of a voice to speak, I think, is plain awful for all. I am not entirely naïve to believe that I live in a problem-free country where people are so mild that emotional and physical abuse is not enacted on some LGBTQ person everyday, but I simply don't think moving the masses into a darker age by keeping shit under wrap is the way to go.

Not discounting that Rony Tan was indeed an asshat for holding and saying those things (I'm not even entirely convinced by his apologies), and in another time and space perhaps warrants penalty, but I think in this scenario, and strictly for this Singaporean context, his strongest detractors are just using tools of a greater enemy to inflict wounds on another enemy. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, and I'd much rather not have to succumb to employing a strategy meant to hurt me as well on another person.

The equal-opportunist, fight-fire-with-fire, schadenfreude-lite approach to this worries me. In the same way it frightens me that some people's solution to the denigrative objectification of women is in the objectification of men, or the parallel of attempts to outlaw militant Islamic extremism by banning the Muslim veil. Ultimately piling on shit on more people doesn't make the already hurt hurt less, what it does instead is present a net increase in the amount of shit on a net increase in the number of victims.

So count me in on calling out Pastor Tan on his disinformation, but please count me out of rallying for State embargo. The last thing I need is for him to be or feel remotely martyred.

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