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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Never Confuse Ideology With Intelligence.

I briefly had a series of online confrontations today after helping a friend sort out their finances which left me with a truly nasty taste in my mouth.

After an hour of sitting with the said friend to advise on a couple of things to get them out of a situation (a very rewarding experience), I came back to find a series of responses on Huffington which demonstrated to me the depravity of so much of western dialectic (if it can even be rewarded that term) in the modern age. It's the kind of behaviour I just don't see in Persian or Arabic forums and it is sick to the core...

A seriously mentally ill man called Aldo Bianchini, 46, gouged his eyes out during a religious service in Italy in front of horrified parishoners. The priest said he'd never seen so much blood in his whole life. Doubtless there were children there and the man was obviously reported to be in profound physical agony.

On HP this was seen as an opportunity to not only mock and poke fun but to also behave as though the man's severe mental illness and suffering was the fault of Catholicism or religion in general. Typically, I lost my rag and decided bigotry needed to be named and that basic inhuman, depraved mentalities needed highlighting.

There is, at the heart of most humour (including my own), a deep vein of schadenfreude, that innate human ability to find something light in even the most painful of times. That was not what this was.

There is in men a unique desire to question, to probe, to challenge. It wasn't that either.

This was a series of disgusting remarks and jokes which showed the level to which people will now publicly make fun of human suffering if they think they can score a point off of anyone or anything. And the fact that it is now deemed acceptable conduct is a worrying sign of what is going on in lands as divided as the US. It has been said by better men than me that when you remove empathy from the human equation you breed fascism and dehumanisation. Jewish Italian holocaust survivor and hero of mine, Primo Levi, was obsessed with this subject for obvious reasons. After surviving Auschwitz for so many years after the war, Levi was to eventually take his own life.

I've offered to pay for one of the thugs involved to fly to Italy and tell Aldo Bianchini's family, face to face, what they wrote and to stand in front of that congregation and repeat their comments. I offered to have it filmed and put up online for the world to see. And I'd happily contact friends in the media to see if one of the mainstream broadcasters would be interested. I won't be getting any takers. People act with a mindless, spineless impunity online which they dare not enact in the physical domain of human society and then they claim virtues in it.

That to me has got nothing to do with religion or atheism, that is a matter of basic inhumanity and depravity; there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for that filth and I don't care whether the man was a Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim or agnostic - you don't use pain and suffering to enjoy yourself and score points.

But it raises for me a particular spectre of 21st century "atheism" which is nothing but thuggery and it needs naming.

I have a brilliant friend in a man called Paul. Paul hasn't a religious bone in his body yet is a volunteer police constable, a constant runner of charity marathons, a brilliant father and a wonderful husband to his wife. I admire him, I trust him, and I respect him. I've known him for 11 years now. Paul and I will have long and heated rows about philosophy and religion and politics then remember we both stand for a free and just world and have actually DONE THE WORK.

I look at men like him and such luminaries as Bertrand Russell and I see the chasm of difference between intelligent, thoughtful, even respectful dissent from faith and then I see these inheritors of Nazism and Stalinism and I deplore the existence of the internet. I know that's not entirely sensible, yet I cannot help but think that the anonymity the internet provides (and it really isn't that anonymous, actually) is so pure a form of cover that it permits the most putrid elements of the human species to spout the kind of base, evil crap that would otherwise land them in a courtroom if practiced in the street.

What riles me about these mostly uneducated thugs is that their arguments are never particularly informed and yet they ape a certain Dawkins-esque highbrow arrogance to which they frankly aren't entitled to; they've not read The Origin of Species, they don't know where western thought and science originates, they haven't read Aristotle and they haven't got a clue what the Jesuits were about or what debt we owe to Islam for shaping modern medicine. They are classic, old school book burners and fundamentalists - people who would kill thought rather than discover it first in order to refute it.

I don't know that a prayer for Aldo Bianchini will be heard or answered, yet I do know that what speaks volumes about me as a man is that the second I see violence calling itself wisdom I feel my stomach turn and every inch of my 6ft 2 Irish frame want to go on the offensive. It is the nature of any person with a basic moral fibre that they just don't give a damn what colour or creed a victim is. I say this for one reason alone: to remind myself that so long as I care what happens to the weakest, so long as I act as an observer of human rights abuse in Palestine, so long as I speak out against financial corruption and abuse in any system or faith or political party I will still be worthy of the name "Mankind".

Martin Luther King once said that "Until a man has found something he will die for he isn't fit to live". That isn't King's Baptist faith talking, it's the voice of all mankind speaking out as scripture says "Like one crying in the Wilderness".

And just as there are nasty, vicious, hate-filled people on this earth incapable of looking in the mirror, so too there are amazing and brilliant people of all faiths and none who strive to make this world a better place and will gladly go the extra mile to defeat the darkness inflicted on this world by mindless hatred and mockery.

You don't need to have God in your life to know what is evil; we know it when we see it.

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