Video

Doctor Who’s Tom Baker: Funny Story 1 (video)

Tom Baker (who played Doctor Who from 1974 to 1981) recounts how Michael Wisher (a.k.a. Davros) managed to be terribly funny by having no sense of humor.

It’s been said that Douglas Adams was the quintessential British nutter, but Tom Baker gives him a run for his money.

Quite a lot of the people who work with me are dead — particularly directors. The word has got out: Directors who work with me often die mysteriously afterwards, sometimes in agony.

— Tom Baker

Michael Wisher as Davros

Michael Wisher as Davros

Maggie Simpson Says “I Want My Hijab!”

In the spirit of religious tolerance and total non-violence, I offer this Photoshopped image intended to make you think:

Simpsons-Hebdo-I-Want-My-Hijab-v14b-newI had buried this image in a long post where few would see it, but wanted to give it some signal boost since it could spark debate about the ethics of using cartoon characters to sell an idea or product, and broader issues. Some key points are: Continue reading

I Am Not Charlie: Further Thoughts

Simpsons-Hebdo-I-Am-Joe-Camel_v24b_525x379Weighing in on Maggie Simpson’s flag-waving for Charlie Hebdo. Do Maggs and Charlie really go together like vanilla ice cream & apple pie? Can Richard Engel, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Hanna-Barbera offer any insights?

This post was originally titled “Using Children To Market Toxic Products Is Wrong,” which seemed to confuse people. I was making the rhetorical point that Charlie Hebdo (the magazine) can be rather carcinogenic.

I sometimes feel like I lose people in a long post which ties together many themes. Understanding a thing by means of another thing is what thinking people do, but it does take time. To encourage readers to take that time, let me provide a brief map of where we’re headed:

  • Populism has its limitations; the majority is often wrong.
  • Combining the Maggie Simpson and I Am Charlie icons is something we should examine for signs of propaganda.
  • Juxtaposing Maggie Simpson with an actual Charlie Hebdo cover may reveal a mismatch.
  • To build a more civil society, we need to respect each other’s sensitivities and not intentionally desecrate each other’s images.
  • We can enjoy robust freedom of speech without giving license to hate speech.
  • Richard Engel made a useful comment about how the I Am Charlie phenom was perceived in the Middle East.
  • I portray Charlie Brown & Snoopy as serene I-Am-Charlie refuseniks who’ve put together the “puzzle pieces” and arrived at religious tolerance.
  • The Charlie Hebdo controversy occurs against the backdrop of a French law banning Muslim women from wearing headscarves (hijab) in some places.
  • The French are trying to create social cohesion by suppressing religion and imposing drab, secular sameness. I tie this in with The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • Religious freedom means the freedom to live life integrally, with all its colours and complexities on display. Suppression can lead to an anti-assimilation backlash.
  • France is still wavering between a number of polar opposites such as colonialism vs. multiculturalism.
  • What would it look like if Maggie Simpson waved a flag demanding the right to wear hijab?
  • French policemen wear uniforms, and so do Catholic nuns like Thérèse of Lisieux.
  • True égalité means not discriminating against a component of the uniform as a proxy for discriminating against the faith.
  • Joe Camel and the Flintstones are cartoon characters previously used to market toxic products (cigarettes).

So after the map comes the languid prose version… Continue reading

I Am Not Charlie

A meditation on balancing free speech with wisdom, compassion, and respect for human rights. Examination of the value of anti-vilification laws meant to foster social cohesion. Pushing free speech to 11, and a gratuitous Spinal Tap video!

Over the years I’ve tried to cultivate the capacity to look deeply at things, to avoid pushbutton positions on issues. In viewing media coverage of the tragic and unwarranted attacks on Charlie Hebdo, it was hard not to be moved by the millions of people and organizations who began sporting “Je Suis Charlie” banners in solidarity with those killed. Yet I couldn’t quite jump on the bandwagon. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I thought.

A couple of days later, I discovered I was not alone. There was a countermovement of people who felt horrible about the terrorist attacks, but also felt like total identification with Charlie Hebdo was too simplistic a response. Continue reading

The ACLU and Religious Freedom, Part 2

A tolerant society gives people the space to freely choose their faith or non-faith without fear of reprisals. It doesn’t punish minority choices.

There’s a sense in which I hate writing about the struggle to vouchsafe spiritual freedom. I would much rather write about art, music, or the joys to be discovered by exploring spiritual pathways. But there are people intent on closing off those pathways, so discussions of religious freedom (and how the ACLU has helped safeguard it) are sometimes needed.

In Part 1, much of our focus was on John E. LeMoult’s seminal study “Deprogramming Members of Religious Sects,” and on the ACLU’s parallel study of deprogramming which likewise led them to condemn the practice. We examined the case of Donna Seidenberg Bavis, a Hare Krishna devotee who was abducted by deprogrammers, but was later helped by the ACLU in getting compensation, with the ACLU acting to curb civil rights abuses by rogue attorneys. BRAVO ACLU!

Currently in the U.S., anti-cult tactics favour psychological coercion over physical coercion, but the principle is the same: If you can make it sufficiently painful for someone to remain involved with a minority faith group, they may recant simply to avoid further pain. If you can make them feel like a “member of a hated class,” they may recant in order to avoid being hated and discriminated against. This is the context in which we should understand the contemporary use of hate material vilifying religious minorities and their spiritual leaders. Continue reading

The ACLU and Religious Freedom, Part 1

The ACLU has often fought for the rights of minority adherents, including Eastern spiritual seekers. BRAVO ACLU!

I might not be able to avoid criticising some attorneys for harassing minority faith groups. But my purpose here today is to praise the American Civil Liberties Union for often coming to the rescue of minority adherents.

aclu_logoThe backdrop for understanding these issues is this: America was built on noble ideals of religious freedom which are part of its very soul. Yet, religious freedom is not a given; it must often be won and re-won by successive generations of immigrant groups or new faith groups which spring up indigenously. Counterbalancing the ideals of religious freedom, we sometimes find that conformism, populism, and authoritarianism lead America in a quite different, less flattering direction. Continue reading