What Attack Ads Mean

16 May

By Evan Zenobia

OTTAWA—Imagine a regime that sets precedents in secrecy and closed-door activities. Imagine a regime that cracks down on free speech and represses dissent so much that members of the ruling party are afraid to deviate from the party line. And imagine a vast propaganda campaign that pours millions of public funds into glorifying the government and smearing the opposition.

Welcome to Canada, boys and girls! I’m going to let that just sink in for a moment.

That’s right, citizens. The Harper Government is dumping millions of your taxes into stroking Stephen Harper’s ego and bullying his enemies. And this most recent series of attacks on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau are just the tip of the iceberg.

Since the repression hit, the Harper Government has been shoving “Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” in your face. On your TV, on the radio, on the bus, the regime is hard at work trying to convince you that King Stephen is pro-active on the economy, and that he even has a plan that involves anything more than subordinating the entire country to Alberta’s oil industry. All on your dime, of course. Lots and lots of your dimes. The Canada’s Economic Action Plan media blitz cost tax payers 21 million dollars from 2011 to 2012 alone.

Though wasteful, such propaganda is not nearly as disturbing as Harper attack ads. The attacks on Justin Trudeau, though particularly pathetic and shallow, are not new. Throughout his reign, Harper bombarded the airwaves with smears against Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton, Bob Rae, Thomas Mulcair and now Justin Trudeau.

There’s two questions we need to ask. 1) Is it appropriate to run these attack ads? and 2) what is Stephen Harper afraid of?

1)      It is one thing to release attack ads during an actual election season. Smearing opposition leaders three to four years away from an election, on the other hand, is the stuff of unabashed third world dictators. The latest commercial, which juxtaposes images of Justin Trudeau posing for his charity boxing match with images of Stephen Harper pretending to be human heroically running the economy, is particularly reminiscent of fascist propaganda that seeks to glamorize strongmen while smearing any challengers as traitors. At your expense, this immature behavior is unacceptable.

2)      These ad campaigns, along with the new Tory blitz to reform Canada’ history education curriculum, show a profound distrust of the public on the part of the Harper Government. Harper clearly believes that his credentials don’t stand up on their own, and that without sixth-grade gossip-inspired smear campaigns, citizens will dump him the way he dumped Kyoto and the gun registry.

Stephen Harper is an immature bully. He attacks people he doesn’t like on the most shallow of grounds, and hey, if it doesn’t work and he ends up losing, who cares? “Screw you guys, I’m going prorogue!”

Grow up, Stephen.

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HARPER GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA POWER GRAB

7 May

By Evan Zenobia

OTTAWA—The National Capital Commission, which organizes large cultural and recreational events and activities like Winterlude, Mosaika and Canada Day, has been stripped of its power.

Thanks to the Conservative federal budget, the NCC will no longer run Ottawa’s Canada Day celebrations. The event will fall squarely under the thumb of Harper’s Heritage Department.

Why? Because “the feds  refer to the NCC as ‘locally based,’ and said the move was to ensure ‘a broad, national perspective is brought to these celebration.’”

Yes, God forbid Ottawa’s Canada Day celebrations reflect Ottawa’s character! Let’s be clear. This is a Harper Government power grab. The Conservatives want to sink their fangs into everything associated with Canada so that they can mold it in their image. They want to splatter their values all over any expression of Canadian identity. They want to wrap Stephen Harper in the flag, even if they prefer the Union Jack. This way, they can make present themselves as  immutably “Canadian,” and render any opposition to their projects as “anti-Canadian.”

I thought that the tories were supposed to be the great champions of small government, decentralization and devolution. I guess that just means shredding environmental protections and throwing Ontario and Quebec’s taxes at Alberta’s oil barons so that they can dump sludge in the water and ruin Canada’s international reputation.

This is Big Brother government in action. Harper doesn’t trust communities to organize their own events and activities, because he knows that his vision is not in tune with ordinary citizens. He has to shove his propaganda in his face. It wasn’t enough for him to flush millions of dollars with his grossly misrepresented War of 1812 commemorations. No, Lord Stephen needs Canada Day to reflect his crown-humping petro-fundamentalist ideology.

So look forward to Canada Day, Ottawa. Pff, what am I saying? After all, it’s not the Government of Canada anymore, it’s the Harper Government, why not call it Harper Day? And who needs concerts or fireworks, when we can just plop a big screen up on Parliament Hill and play a documentary about how great the tarsands are. Oh, and don’t forget some sickening 19th century loyalist salute to Elizabeth Windsor to top it all off.

So congratulations Ottawa. Harper just stole your 1 of July from you.Image

Most terrorists are Muslim? A response to the ignorance at Sun News

21 Apr

By Evan Zenobia

A terrorist threat lurks in our midst. Driven by religious fundamentalism, puritanical rage and a hatred for our freedom, justice and other Western values, they have left a deep scar upon the United States. They have razed their buildings to the ground, consuming their people in fire and taken the lives of thousands. They recruit American citizens, often the young and impressionable, to their despicable and murderous causes and dream of destroying so much of what generations have fought for and built. So extremist are they that they target the non-fanatic members of their own faith and people. And yet, even though they all carry a single ethnic profile, the government appears afraid to use this as a means to capture this deadly menace to our freedom.

            What is this menace? Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda? Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Party of God? Maybe Sikh fundamentalists from Punjab? Of course, it MUST be Chechen immigrants-turned Islamist marathon bombers, right? No, I’m talking about a much older threat. In fact, I speak of America’s oldest and most enduring terrorist movement: the Ku Klux Klan.

            In this brief outline of the history of American terrorism, I intend to demonstrate that 1) the Ku Klux Klan and its parallels are just as guilty of everything that we hate Al Qaeda and its parallels for, 2) Klan atrocities outweigh those conducted by Muslims on American soil and 3) it is illogical, unfair and unjust, given the historical record, to target Muslims with ethnic profiling to fight the war on terror.

            The KKK was founded in the aftermath of the civil war by veterans of the Confederate army under the command of “Grand Wizard” Nathan Bedford Forrest, the mass murderer of the Battle of Fort Pillow. The terrorists marauded through the South, lynching and flogging to death countless Blacks along with many white political opponents. Despite the efforts of the federal government, the white supremacists of the South were successful in their goal of catapulting segregationist politicians to power. Imagine, successful terrorism in the United States!

            So, long before Bin Laden or the Taliban, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants had already claimed the lives of thousands of innocent American citizens on United States soil!

            But this was all before the twentieth century, right? Ancient history, and we could hardly compare lynching and flogging to bombs and fire.

            But the Klan never disappeared. Every bit (if not more) religiously fanatic and anti-Semitic as Al Qaeda, the army of American white pride expanded their terrorist campaign to target infidel Catholics and Jews. As the movement swarmed across the country and even into Canada, terror reigned and crosses burned as more groups fell victim to Klan violence and atrocities, from immigrants, Aboriginals, Asians and Latin Americans to the Cajuns and left-wing activists hated for their anti-racist militancy.

            Worse yet, the Klan further mutated and began to conquer political power, directly taking control of state and municipal governments across the country while sponsoring others or supporting them by attacking and intimidating opponents. Poisoning democracy, Klan infiltration in politics empowered them disenfranchise and repress minorities. Pro-prohibition and viciously anti-egalitarian, America’s terrorists had realized the Muslim extremist’s dream of destroying American freedom and democracy. Yet Muslims, extremist or ordinary, were not responsible.

            But the puritanical façade soon degenerated and the Klan largely fell from political power, even if their racist allies remained in office. Terrorism continued and remained consistent as dynamite and fire soon replaced the noose as the primary means of keeping undesirables out of Anglo-Saxon neighborhoods. It appears that America’s army of white pride had concluded that it was more courageous to torch saloons and blow up Black children in churches than to gang up in white gowns, on a single Black man to murder him. Or perhaps it was just a more efficient means of killing.

            As the Civil Rights Movement flourished and anti-racist activism threatened white pride, Klan hatred, and terrorism, intensified. David Duke and the Citizens Councils of America attempted to present the world with a professional, clean-shirted image of white supremacy and hatred, turning in their robes for suits and ties and claiming to be peaceful advocates of “white rights”, much as Hezbollah operates today. Meanwhile, the Klan busied itself with blowing up churches, firebombing homes, assassinating peaceful activists and murdering children.

            And the terrorism doesn’t end! Since the end of the Civil Rights Movement, the KKK has continued to terrorize the country. They murder the elderly and children alike. Their hatred has spawned countless offshoots all of the same ideals and evils. From the Minutemen movement to the neo-Nazis, from the Militias to the Skinheads, and from gun nuts to the Tea Party, the terror reigns. They have turned their hatred upon the Latin American community, homosexuals and immigrants in general, including Arabs, South Asians and Muslims. Neither Blacks nor Jews have escaped their hatred or violence either; consider the murder of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg by former Klansman David Lane’s organization “The Order,” or the dozens of death threats leveled at Barack Obama. And let’s not forget what may have been the Klan’s most successful achievement: when Timothy McVeigh, Klan supporter, blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, taking 168 lives and injuring 450.

            So tell me, who is responsible for a century and a half of terrorism? Who has taken thousands of lives on American soil? Who has sown terror and hatred across this land? Who brainwashes the youth into serving in their twisted holy war? Is it olive-skinned Arabs? Bearded Persian Muslims? Boston-based Chchecens?

            No. The vast majority of terrorist barbarism in the United States has been and is the work of white Christians. How many shootings, perpetrated by honkies, have terrorized the United States, and even Montreal, in the past year? But we don’t ethnically profile against WASPs do we? They don’t get strip searched at airports. They don’t hear their faith and ethnicities degraded in the mainstream media. Their religion is not called a terrorist religion, nor is it blamed for all violence in the world. They do not get tormented at the border or suffer police harassment and suspicion. They don’t have to live with society hating them because others who happen to profess the same faith have done monstrous things. Hell, the Klan is protected by police during its rallies and parades, a perversion of justice that would (rightfully so) be unthinkable if Al Qaeda was substituted in a white pride organization’s place!

            So, the next time you hear someone on the news defending or promoting profiling against Muslims, or when wannabe President John McCain proposes trying American citizens as enemy combatants and stripping away their rights, think about how reasonable and fair that is given the historical record. Just because some who profess to be Muslims have terrorized the United States, it does not mean that all Muslims are equally guilty.

                Or should I just assume that you’re a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

Hugo Chavez, champion of the people

10 Mar

By Evan Zenobia and Qalina Tileli

OTTAWA—The people of Venezuela have lost their president. Hugo Chavez, 58, passed away on the 5th  of March, after a long battle with cancer.

Chavez was a tireless defender of the poor, whose presidency was marked by comprehensive campaigns aimed at eradicating poverty and illiteracy and expanding democracy in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.

So it’s no surprise that it was only moments after his body grew cold that Sun News and other notorious big-business liars media outlets carted out their most repugnant talking-heads to slander Chavez.

In Canada, Sun News unsurprisingly takes first prize in the contest for most outrageously libellous and hateful accusations against the late president. On the 6th  of March alone, Byline, the Arena, the Source and Charles Adler each devoted a segment to smearing Chavez, calling him a dictator and cheering for his death like all good pro-life conservatives do.

Here are just a few of the gems these odious propagandists churned out about the democratically-elected president who cut poverty in half and extreme poverty by 70 percent.

Chavez who crushed opposition, shut down newspapers, busted labour unions.” Ezra Levant, liar.

This is a glorious day that a horrible man like Chavez is now assuming room temperature.” Steven Crowder, “comedian,” “Christian,” racist and amateur union buster.

I’m sorry he didn’t take his good buddy Castro with him to hell.” Charles Adler, “Christian”

At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Stephen Harper, liar, mediaphobic politician.

It really says a lot about the priorities and real values of Canadian conservatives when they can’t restrain themselves from spewing the most dishonest and hateful bile about a man who never set foot in Canada. So, we’re going to dispel, one by the one, the slanderous myths conservatives have brewed up about Chavez, and expose the real roots of conservative hatred.

Hugo Chavez was a dictator

For a supposed dictator, Chavez was very democratic. He was elected president in four separate elections. To address the slander of vote-rigging, here’s what former US president Jimmy Carter said about Venezuela’s elections “[a]s a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” And, unlike Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, Chavez won each election with a majority of cast votes with very high voter turnout. All without robocalls or billionaires bankrolling him.

What’s more, Venezuela, under Chavez’s leadership, expanded democracy. Democracy in Venezuela is more than voting for professional politicians to squabble for four years. Chavez initiated a program of community councils and co-operatives, where people come together to make decisions affecting their community collectively at a truly grassroots level. Meanwhile, the Chavez government has actively encouraged high voter participation. Venezuelan democracy, then, is truly “rule by the people.”

Hugo Chavez repressed dissent

No, he didn’t. Unlike your standard dictator, who jails journalists, intellectuals, teachers and artists, Chavez did no such thing. Only five to eight percent of the country’s audience tuned into Venezuelan state TV (Still better than Sun News!). That means 92 to 95 percent of the country’s TV, and the bulk of its print and radio media as well, was fully independent from the government. But of course, conservatives consider letting the KKK march a litmus test for freedom.

Unlike the Harper government, there was no systematic attempt to silence scientists, and government officials actually spoke to the media!

Hugo Chavez has impoverished Venezuela in socialism!

Actually, the Chavez administration dramatically reduced misery. Chavez reduced poverty by half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent. Meanwhile, Chavez has also expanded access to health care end education for the country’s poor, mobilizing the country’s natural resources—once the private domain of multinational corporations and the country’s sell-out billionaire elite—to fund eradication of poverty. While poverty continues to exist, the socialism of the twentieth century reversed the spiralling economic devastation of pre-Chavez administration, and can only be considered a profound success in the fight against inequality and for social justice.

Hugo Chavez was an enemy of the United States

True, because the United States made themselves an enemy of him. In 2002, the US backed a coup d’état against Chavez, which was reversed by mass protests and mobilization in his defence. Meanwhile, US public figures and talking heads threw vitriolic attacks against the Venezuelan president, including Evangelical “Christian” Pat Robertson’s call to have him killed.

The Chavez administration nationalized foreign-owned petro projects in Venezuela and firmly took control of the nation’s oil and other resources. Using the oil wealth to fund democratic and anti-poverty projects, Chavez enraged the traditional elites and their US-based puppet masters. Chavez’s confrontation with the United States grew from governance in the interest of his country’s poor. What’s more, the Venezuelan government also provided free fuel to tens of thousands of low-income American families along with needy people all over the world.  Imagine that, governing for the people and not greasing the palms of the wealthy!

Chavez called Bush the Devil

Also true, and not necessarily ridiculous. Bush was a man who cheated his way into the presidency, lied to his country and the world so that he could bomb Iraqis and steal their oil. I don’t think that seems very illustrative of Christian virtue.

Conclusion

Conservatives don’t hate Chavez because of any passion for democracy. Conservatives hate democracy. The Sun News Network star pundit Michael Coren defended the jailing of Russian dissidents by the vicious Putin regime. Bush gained the presidency after losing the popular vote, and Stephen Harper prorogued parliament to prevent the elected representatives of the majority of voters from forming a government.

Conservatives hate Chavez because he challenged their vision and their values. Rather than selling out and subordinating his country to neo-colonialism and his people to exploitation, his government uplifted and empowered the masses of the poor. Rather than acting as a puppet for the ultra-rich, he invested in programs to combat poverty.

And it worked!

Chavez’s presidency is proof that a government can invest in common people rather than in billionaires, that fighting poverty is not futile and that the people, truly empowered, will not tolerate assaults against their rights, equality or freedom.

¡VIVA CHAVEZ!

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VIVA HUGO CHAVEZ

6 Mar

VIVA HUGO CHAVEZ

Celebrating Local Authors! Review of ‘The Bones of the Earth’

20 Feb

By Evan Zenobia

OTTAWA—If you’re a fantasy fan, history buff or an adventure aficionado, you won’t be able to put Scott Bury’s “The Bones of the Earth,” down.

The Ottawa author’s novel, which skilfully blends historical fiction, magical realism and swashbuckling action, follows a socially awkward barbarian youth in struggles against invaders, demons and dragons during the late sixth century. And while that may sound like the plot of an SNL skit, “The Bones of the Earth” is actually full of drama, heart-breaking tragedy and gore.

After the only life he’s ever known falls to pieces, Javor reluctantly travels away from his tiny village in barbarian lands towards the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. Javor’s journey takes him through fierce battles with both human and supernatural adversaries. Along his journey, his many experiences impart valuable lessons about life, relationships, politics, religion, magic and more.

All this makes for excellent, engaging plot that will keep the reader turning the pages without ever wanting to put the book down. Javor is a well-developed character with a personality distinct from most other heroes.

Javor’s character and personality certainly exhibits many traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the more mild forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The novel uses this to draw attention to social exclusion against people on the spectrum.

The novel also touches on racism by illustrating examples of Greco-Roman chauvinism towards Slavic and Gothic “barbarians.” Throughout the novel, Javor finds himself on the receiving end of xenophobic hostility, derision and snobbery from Romans. The author also brilliantly ties racism together with imperialism. Of course, Javor may be the only tall, able-bodied, fair-skinned, blond, blue-eyed, straight cisgender male to suffer discrimination for these traits in all literature. But then, it is a fantasy novel. On the other hand, such a stark juxtaposition to the usual direction of imperialist racism may have the advantage of moving to racists to understanding the errors of their ways when they see one of their own as a victim.

The author is relentless when addressing absolutism and imperialism, highlighting the vicious atrocities of the practices with vivid imagery and through the grim anecdotes of the barbarian victims of Rome. The novel, thankfully, does not fall to romanticizing the Dark Ages.

But while the novel is thrilling and its commentary astute, it is, it must be said, a “guy story.” There are very few female characters in general, and the ones who do exist are relatively one-dimensional. Emotional volatility is almost exclusively confined to female characters. Many girls and women are made into archetypical “damsels in distress,” saved only the masculine virtues of courage and self-sacrifice. In a world filled with dragons, trolls, vampires and gryphons, the independent liberated woman is still mythical.

There are exceptions. Javor’s village’s shaman is certainly nobody’s subordinate, although her character serves less as a model for feminine independence than as the author’s excuse to feature her throwing an orgy party. A smart move on the author’s part, and a good way to reel the “young adult” crowd in.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with “guy stories.” The novel certainly has a universal appeal. But I grew up watching Xena, and I always appreciate using fantasies to explore sexism and push traditional gender roles.

It certainly would have strengthened the novel’s subtle but stinging critique of Christianity to have included the absurdity and cruelty of religious attitudes towards women. The author sticks to knocking the rest of Christianity though.

But if you’re looking for something filled with adventure and subtle commentary to devour in the next week, pick up “The Bones of the Earth.” It’s available on Amazon or something.

Conservatives are hypocrites, Part I: A critique of political religion from a Libertarian position!

19 Feb

By Qalina Tileli and Evan Zenobia

Individual rights and liberties are the battle cry of Western conservatives and libertarians. In their war on social programs and equality, they accuse all government measures that don’t serve the rich of threatening individual rights, property and freedom. Yet they are also closet theocrats, yearning for the reign of Christian values over our laws and society. This is utter hypocrisy. And we’re going to use their own tools to show it. That’s right. We’re attacking their nonsense with their other nonsense.

I would like to share with you all a few brief thoughts on religion and liberty, and I hope that my writings, while doubtlessly consuming far too much of very valuable time better spent with loved ones or at least laughing at cats, will nevertheless be readable and somewhat interesting. Essentially, I intend to argue that religion, organized as a political force, is counter-positioned to individual liberty. I will begin with a brief theoretical explanation and reinforce my argument with historical examples.

In the very first place, religion calls for a form of obedience. There is almost always a form of ritual worship or adoration of at least one supreme, supernatural being, or at the very least, as in animist cults or more meditation-oriented systems like Buddhism or Chinese philosophies, a ritual adherence to strict rules and customs that regulate behaviour as a means of connection to the divine or supernatural. Without this obedience, the promise of salvation is more distant.

In and of itself, this obedience only constricts the liberty of the individual up to her consent. The individual chooses her faith and chooses to restrict her choice of dress, diet, or whatever else the religion demands. The individual may ignore certain rules, all of them, or convert. And while it is obvious that the way of life in a convent or a monastery is one of strict, prudish routine, and that it could be hardly considered as free as a supermarket, tavern or boardwalk, every member makes the free choice to live that way.

However, adherence to a religion presupposes the supremacy of that faith over all others. The faithful are promised that their way of life, divinely-sanctioned, shall be rewarded with salvation. Therefore, the conviction of the supremacy of the faithful’s position, of the correction of their obedience, naturally leads to the conclusion that everyone should follow the same faith; if the faith is perfect, ordained by a supreme power beyond human comprehension, then why should anyone opt for another? It is defiance to not submit to the perfect faith. Besides, is it not in the interest of the unfaithful that they be brought to the light, to be saved from eternal damnation?

And, at that point, religion, inherently supremacist in the belief of its own perfection, becomes a social project and a collectivist vision. While it remains the choice of the individual to follow the faith to the point he feels correct, the faithful, convinced that theirs is the only righteous path, undertake the mission to turn everyone onto that path. And why not? Those who choose not follow are wrong, and missionary work is in the interest of the common good.

Once religion has become a social project, and once it is assumed that everyone should follow the one true path because it is perfect, it follows that the law should also follow the one true path. After all, why should the laws of men, imperfect as men are, defy the divinely ordained and sanctioned laws of God? Why should laws permit sin? Why should society fall into ignorance and the peril of damnation when the perfect way of life can be written into law? When one assumes her faith to perfect, it becomes difficult to argue against this.

Of course, God’s law often does protect individual liberty and property rights. Commandments banning murder, theft and lying come to mind. However, religion carries a wide and diverse array of rules that limit free choice. Again, when an individual chooses this way of life, there is no threat to the liberty of the people. But legally-enforced religion does.

History is rife with examples of religious law codes and their repression of individual rights. Welcomed and demanded by the faithful and their shepherds the state has brought legally enforced bans on gambling, alcohol, foods, clothing, music, “blasphemy,” art, pre- and extra-marital sex, birth control, homosexuality, divorce, cohabitation and masturbation. From this short list, it is glaringly apparent that religion as a political force threatens, among other individual rights, free speech, free trade and bodily integrity.

It is worth noting that where religion reigns with legal authority, pleasure is almost taboo. Meanwhile, Opus Dei and extremist Shi’ites are revered for the devotion their self-flogging demonstrates. But, of course, masturbation is crime against God and the law. That’s political religion in a nutshell: feel free to cut yourself open, but if you play with yourself we’ll send you to jail and then hell!

On a more serious note, consider prohibition. In the United States, puritanical Protestants were powerful enough to push through a constitutional amendment banning the sale of alcohol in the name of the common good. It is now common knowledge that prohibition was a disaster that did nothing more than enrich the mafia while doing nothing to actually curb the negative effects of alcoholism. And it goes without saying that it violated the right of individuals to consume and purchase what they wished. Most Muslim countries still ban the consumption and sale of alcohol today at the behest of the devout and in the name of the common good and adherence to the perfect religion.

Consider as well the ban in the Republic of Ireland on divorce, repealed only after a narrow referendum victory in the 1990s, which the revered Mother Theresa herself ferociously opposed. This same country also maintained a ban on contraception until 1980.

The religious fear of sex does not end with the Emerald Isle. Virtually every society, perhaps excluding Pagan Rome, Greece and the Native peoples of the Americas, enacted strict legal bans against homosexuality and supposed promiscuity, inspired by the Biblical tales of God’s wrath against the Sodomites. In some US states, laws against cohabitation remain on the books. Islam takes first prize in violent hostility to individual sexual choice, with a Koranic death penalty for adultery.

Even dress is not off-limits when God’s law is involved. While it can be argued that bans on nudity may be legitimate to protect children (although, is the naked human body really so offensive and hideous as to traumatize the young?) religious law codes often seek to regulate hairstyles, cosmetics, the display of skin, and the femininity or masculinity of given articles. Again, Islam takes first prize here, with many Muslim countries enforcing the (ironically non-Koranic) veiling of women. Still, as recent as the Napoleonic Wars, the women of ultra-Catholic Spain were veiled as per the Biblical demand that women cover their hair or be shaved. In yet more recent times in Christian societies have come bans on cross-dressing, exposing women’s chests and regulations of skirt lengths.

Free speech, too, is ceaselessly under the attack of organized religion, which shields itself behind charges of “blasphemy.” As such, the state, egged on by the devout, has banned books, music, and all forms of art. Scientists, journalists and intellectuals have been blacklisted, arrested or executed as heretics or blasphemers. Recall the house arrest of Galileo, the repression of teaching evolution in the United States, the iron grip of the Church on Quebec’s intellectual development and its crusade against the Institut Canadien. Today, the Russian Orthodox Church shamelessly collaborates with Putin’s tyranny, complicit in the jailing of Pussy Riot musicians.

Even in cases where all this taboos are not legally enforced, the political power of religion still shapes society and represses individual liberty through stigmatization. It is dishonest to say that only the state can limit individual freedom and choice.

It is impossible to defend any of these regulations and constraints from an individualist perspective. They are only defensible on two intertwined principles: first, that they are mandated by a perfect religion, whose perfection is proven by the second principle that they advance the collective interest of society.

Religion therefore subordinates individual will, choice and freedom to the interest of the collective, in the name of addressing sin which is interpreted as a social ill. Because religion inevitable shifts from individual connection with the divine to a social project, reason becomes collective. As such, the problems that exist in society, such as addiction, perversion, blasphemy are not considered the personal failures of individuals to meet their responsibilities, but rather manifestations of sin that flourish because of collective impiety. There is absolutely no consideration of individual liberty in the reasoning of political religion. Religion in general and political religion in particular, is fundamentally collectivist.

Religion can be thought of as the earliest form of identity politics. It identifies the faithful with titles such as “Chosen People,” or the “Ummah.” This subordinates an individual believer’s identity to one of membership in the collective. It is also expected that the individual will sacrifice in the interest of the collective.

But these collective identities also divide the world into two groups, pitting the faithful against all others in an “us and them” mentality. Again, to assume one’s faith’s perfection is to assume the inferiority of all others, and it therefore follows that all those who believe and live differently are either stubborn fools or evil enemies of God. Therefore, it becomes legitimate to reduce their individual liberty to choose their own way of worship. After all, repression makes the prospect of conversion to a privileged faith more attractive, thus rendering the marginalization of infidels holy and part of the social project aimed at improving the collective. At its most extreme, this collective reasoning mutates into violence. Whether it’s Hezbollah, Zionist fundamentalists or Protestant fanatics in Northern Ireland, the collectivism of religion shoves the individual out of the way as it bulldozes rights and freedoms in the name of holy struggle on behalf of the faithful.

But, one might argue, isn’t political religion a conservative movement? Haven’t religious movements been loyal allies of the right? Indeed, Evangelicals were instrumental in Ronald Reagan’s victory and many conservatives and libertarians, including Ron Paul, come from devout religious backgrounds. However, many of these religious types are purely social conservatives. They have much less interest in reigning in government spending and reducing the power of the state than they do in preserving “family values,” which usually amounts to demands for prayer in public schools, teaching creation and abstinence, turfing out gays and banning porn and gambling, most of which is fairly antithetical to individual rights.

And of course, political religion has a very poor track record with other political movements. Consider the enthusiastic support of significant portions of the clergy and devout of the Catholic Church in Nazism and other European fascist movements.

It is clear, then, that political religion is a fundamental threat to individual liberties. Libertarians and others who claim to fight for individual liberty must not succumb to the temptation of enforcing God’s will. If we may assume God exists, and that God is good, let us conclude that God should want us to be happy as good parents wish for their children. As such, let us be happy, let us be free to please ourselves with God’s gifts. Let us be free, and reject all those who claim to speak for God and seek to impose their rules upon us.

The Maple Rag

"Just because you do not take an interest in politics, it doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you." ~Pericles

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