Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Respect" Your Culture?

I watched through a 10 minute collection of clips from the "Innocence of Muslims" film that has been sparking riots, threats of additional attacks on the U.S., as well as supposedly driving the attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Cairo and Libya.  It was painful to watch.  I don't mean that in the sense of it was morally troubling -- it was really just very poorly done.  Painfully poor green-screening, and agonizingly awful sound quality, and it was extremely obvious that nearly every line that the actors spoke was dubbed over with something entirely different from what they're actually saying.  Mainly, I just wanted to see what the fuss was about.

It was almost as painful as watching the first 20 minutes of the The Secret, though that at least had higher production values.  That was painful because of the intensely burning stupidity.  This 10 minute collection of clips I saw was just plain weird and made no sense, and was pretty much laying out on the table the message without a hint of subtlety.  Nonetheless, as poorly made as it was, the immediate reaction to it (that too, from seeing only the 1-minute trailer) was to take it as an egregious insult to all Muslims that necessitates violent reaction.

It is funny when people who do this sort of thing say that there is an imperative on the part of others to respect their beliefs and culture.  This is funny because these are the same people who wouldn't dare extend the same courtesy to others.

Let's at least call a spade a spade here.  When someone says "respect" my beliefs/culture, what they really mean is "put my preferences on a higher pedestal than those of others."  This is why 100% of all gay-bashers, for instance, when their moral failures are brought to the fore, the response is that this is part of their cherished beliefs and you must respect it.  This is why 100% of all arguments against abortion have nothing to do with medicine or science, but religious values.  Of course, someone else's beliefs, feelings, culture, whatever, should not be respected because it's in your culture to hate it.  Yeah...  that's not a double-standard.

Take for instance, the Islamic edict that one is never to depict Muhammad in any way.  First of all, it's a misconception that this is universal to all sects of Islam -- it's actually not.  It's more of a Sunni thing, but it's actually not that reviled among most modern Shia groups.  It's a rule put forth in certain hadiths that was a measure to limit idolatry.  That too, it's actually supposed to be an edict against depicting any of the figures regarded as prophets in Islam -- that includes Jesus and Moses by the way.  Still, let's just say that it was the case that this is some immutable rule of Islam.  Either way, Big, fat, hairy deal!  Whatever is part of your culture has no bearing on what is part of someone else's.  You may have some compulsion not to depict Mohammed, or eat pork, drink alcohol, have interest-bearing savings accounts, whatever...  That applies to no one else.  Okay, so orthodox Jews don't work on the Sabbath -- but that doesn't apply to me.  Hindus don't eat beef...  fine, but they don't tell Christians not to.  When demanding that others abide by the same rules as your culture demands, what you're asking for is not respect, but for compliance.  You're not looking for others to display sensitivity...  you're demanding that they follow rules specifically designed to make you happy at their expense.

The reality here is that nobody is looking for fairness.  The more religious you are, the weaker you are in the face of criticism.  The more religious you are, the less you are willing to take differences in belief between you and pretty much anyone else as anything other than a difference between good and evil.  The more religious you are, the more incapable you are of allowing the same freedoms you have unto others.  It is incomprehensible to a staunch believer in any faith that the ability you have to believe what you want is the same ability owned by others to act according to a different set of beliefs.  The same power you have to claim that your god is great is the power that people with brains have to call you on your bullshit.  Don't tell me for a second you want people to "respect" your beliefs.  It's a lie, plain and simple.

Now it is fair to say that the intention of this particular film was to insult.  It was total crap, and it's pretty silly on anyone's part to take it seriously because it's just so badly done that it would be hard to imagine that it really convinces anyone of its message.  Still, it's fair to say that the idea of the film was meant to try and make Islam look like a total farce.  So the hell what?  That's worth killing people?  Protest in anger, write scathing words about the filmmaker, whatever...  but no... The first move is apparently to retaliate by violence.  If that is indeed your culture, then guess what?  Your culture is morally inferior, and deserves to be insulted.  End of discussion.

I suggest you people read the quote on the bottom bar.  There's a serious point here.  Cultural viewpoints, beliefs, personal opinions, social norms, etc...  these are all ideas, and they're all deserving of equal scrutiny. Scrutinizing anything means it can prove worthy of elimination from the sphere of consciousness by demonstrating itself to be inferior to other related ideas, and that's something nobody wants.  Well, you may not want it, but that doesn't change the fact that it should be done.  Indeed, it does mean you can strip away some things which are a good deal more nitpicky than murder and misogyny.  The point is that any culture, any worldview, any belief system, any philosophy has the possibility to be dead wrong on some topic.  It makes no difference that its part of tradition or your cherished beliefs or anything like that.  The fact that people don't get that is perfectly normal, and at the same time wrong.

You want respect?  Prove worthy of it.  Until then, you are not eligible to whine.