Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pakistan, YouTube, Censorship and the Sixties

Pakistan's at it again. I'm not going to rant about those intolerant foreigners and how perfect America is. We're not.

Here's an example of tolerance and free speech, as practiced in here in America:

(from PZ Myers, Pharyngula (July 24, 2008), used w/o permission)

Judging from what he wrote online, the associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has explained to his students that his is a fine, questioning mind and that anyone who doesn't agree with him is wallowing in "self-satisfied ignorance."

The nail pierces a consecrated host. If you're not a Catholic, that may not mean much. I am, and I'm not happy - at all - about what that professor did.

By the standards of some American sub-cultures, that's being very 'open minded.' Or sophisticated and intelligent, at any rate.

That professor's students, if they're smart, will keep their mouths closed, nod sagely at everything their superior says, and repeat it all on the test. If they're really smart, they'll start thinking on their own - at the risk of being accused of living in "self-satisfied ignorance."

Pakistan: Yesterday, FaceBook; Today, YouTube

That professor's counterparts in Pakistan have banned YouTube. It's got un-Islamic content about The Prophet, you see.

Makes perfect sense, once you accept the 'I'm right and all other views must be suppressed at all costs' attitude.

Again, I'm a practicing Catholic, and despite my view that sacrilege isn't nice I'm convinced that: Tolerance is a good idea. Even if the other person doesn't agree with you. (A Catholic Citizen in America (August 3, 2009)) Part of my position comes from my being part of a religious minority in this country. I also think that truth thrives in the marketplace of ideas - when differences of opinion are accepted.

Like I said, Pakistan's at it again. Yesterday their top brass blocked FaceBook, now YouTube is on the blacklist.

Given my background, I can sympathize with the angered Muslims there: but I don't think what they did is a good idea. Western civilization, at least, has gotten it into its collective head that 'tolerance' is one of the few true virtues: along with, perhaps, recycling and environmental awareness.

That's another topic.

What Pakistan did wasn't "tolerant," by Western standards. I think it's also stupid. Never mind the way that Pakistan is 'proving' to outsiders that Muslims are close-minded ideologues who can't stand ideas that aren't their own. By what I trust is a well-intentioned effort to follow their own religious beliefs: They are robbing their own people of opportunities to learn about the rest of the world.

And - large and ancient as Pakistan is - most of the world isn't Pakistan.

Jesus, Beer, India, and Religious Tolerance: This Might Work

Earlier this year, I saw a picture of Jesus: in a rather conventional style, holding a cigarette and a can of beer.

Sacrilege? Maybe. I'd never pay for a copy of the thing, but with that "self-satisfied ignorance" bit of performance art as a standard - seeing an image of my Lord kicking back in a manner familiar to many Americans is almost refreshing. But then, I'm a Catholic: I know that cigarettes aren't healthy, and that too much alcohol is bad for you; but in moderation? No problem. consuming them isn't intrinsically evil. (For me, 'moderation' in booze is just about zero - but that's me.)

That image showed up in India - where I'm pretty sure it was an effort to inflame Christians against non-Christians. (A Catholic Citizen in America (February 22, 2010)

The picture showed up in a children's handwriting textbook, in India. Here's a news excerpt I used in another blog, with some of that post's commentary:
"...The company that made and distributed that book made a really, really big mistake. India is one of those countries where deliberately offending someone's religious sentiments is illegal.

"Which may or may not be a good idea....
" 'Christians in India's northeast are outraged after a picture showing Jesus Christ holding a beer can and a cigarette was discovered in primary school textbooks.

" 'The image appeared in a handwriting book for children in church-run schools in the Christian-majority state of Meghalaya, where it was used to illustrate the letter 'I' for the word 'Idol'....

" '...Police said they were hunting for the owner of the New Delhi-based publisher, Skyline Publications, who faces charges of offending religious sentiment, local police superintendent A.R. Mawthoh told AFP.

" 'The Roman Catholic Church in India has banned all textbooks by Skyline, while Protestant leaders called for a public apology.

" 'The state government also denounced the publication.

" 'We strongly condemn such a blasphemous act. Legal action has been initiated against the publisher,' M. Ampareen Lyngdoh, an education minister in the Meghalaya government, said...."
(myFOX New York) [emphasis mine]
(A Catholic Citizen in America (February 22, 2010)
I'm an American, so the Catholic Church in India banning all textbooks from that publisher seemed a bit extreme. On the other hand: those things were being given to pre-teen children - and in the bishops' position, I'd want to have someone go over the textbooks to see if other intellectual land mines were planted in them.

What really got my attention in the news was that India was a place where someone could be charged with "offending religious sentiment."

India is a country where Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others have a choice: act like stereotype religious fanatics, steeped in "self-satisfied ignorance;" or learn to play well together.

Like I said, I don't think America is perfect - I don't think India is perfect, either. But a country's acknowledging that people can have religious beliefs and be able to accept differences in others impresses me. Notice: it's not having religious sentiment that's illegal; it's offending religious sentiment. Looks to me like America might be able to learn something from India here.

Back to Pakistan, FaceBook, YouTube, and the Information Age

I grew up as the last gasps of McCarthyism were echoing across America. In my youth, I was - unimpressed - but red-white-and-blue-blooded all-Americans who thought the papers shouldn't be allowed to publish anything uncomplimentary about America, and that all those foreigners who didn't agree with them should go back where they came from.

That sort of 'intolerance' has been replaced by the 'tolerance' of the trashed Quran. I can't say that I see much fundamental difference.

Meanwhile, over in Pakistan, whoever is in charge this week seems to have decided that Pakistanis shouldn't be exposed to un-Islamic influences. I didn't think that the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), as implemented, was a good idea - and I don't think that Web censorship is a good idea, either.

Addressing the sort of information control Pakistan's leaders seem to have in mind: It doesn't work. Sooner or later, the subjects will find out what's really happening - and then some of them will start wondering why their leaders didn't want them to know what the rest of the world was like.

With today's communication technologies, operating a truly closed nation is a challenge. North Korea seems to be managing it: but Kim Jong Il has geographic advantages that Pakistan lacks.

In any case, I don't think trying to keep 'the masses' in the dark is a good idea. The young, bright, energetic people may not like their 'benevolent' isolation. They'll find ways around the establishment's barriers - and that's one demographic that no sane leader would want to alienate. Remember America in the sixties?

Related posts:In the news:Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.