Three stories today which make me wonder whether reason can ever be more powerful than prejudice. The first frames the following story:
Yesterday, my mother – a teacher at a very small private primary school – at the end of a non-school day, walked across a picturesque church green in Essex, just around the corner from the synagogue her parents used to attend, to find a swastika had been drawn on her car.
Only to conclude:
Please keep talking. Please keep learning. Please keep recording and sharing what you hear or see, whether it is heroic or harrowing, heartwarming or heartbreaking. There is no education without sharing information.
Then we have two institutions sharing information for utterly different purposes. First, we see how the Church of England is unhappy that same-sex unions be defined as marriage. As further background, meanwhile, and back in April, the Catholic Church was accused of this (the bold is mine):
It emerged this week that the CES wrote to nearly 400 state-funded Roman Catholic schools inviting them to back a petition against gay civil marriage.
Schools and teachers are forbidden to promote one-sided political arguments.
The CES has denied breaking any laws, saying Catholic views on marriage are religious, not political.
Finally, we discover from Channel 4 that an online game aimed at teenagers – where children as young as nine allegedly participate – includes graphic descriptions and language relating to sexual acts:
From that moment I was immersed into a whole new world of “cybering” (cyber sex). I had little cartoon boys coming up to me and saying they were feeling my boobs, following me to my bedroom and having sex with me, all without my permission or encouragement. At first it left me feeling slightly dirty and then pretty quickly, outraged.
Three examples, then, of prejudice taking over from reason:
- An apparent lack of first-hand experience of the true power and evil the swastika represents leads someone to daub such a symbol out of ignorance. Or, alternatively, in full knowledge of the fact that their acts will cause unending pain. Without speaking to the person or persons responsible, we cannot know the answer to the question we pose. All we do know for sure is that someone will now never feel the same about the community which she lives and works in.
- It would appear that upwards of half a million people in England and Wales have now decided out of prejudice – they, of course, would say out of faith – that people cannot choose who they would publicly love and spend their life with. What’s more, influential people in that body of belief understand that such views have nothing to do with politics – that is to say, are not debatable. As part of a belief system, they are outside – and excepted from – the reach of all logic.
- Virtual sex can be just as violating as the real thing. This is clear from the descriptions of the Channel 4 journalist. The prejudice of unhappy minds in sexual games of power and imposition overcomes the reason and sensibility that everyone is equal before the law; that everyone has a right to exist in the presence of their own humanely unassailable integrity.
Yet in each case, in our apparently modern society, the arguments can be upended with ease: the first is a case of a simply bizarre attachment to signs and symbols from the past (an eccentric hobby even, most of the time it would seem); the second has us accepting, as a thoroughly Christian culture, that miracles exist, that people hear the voice of God and that everything which happens on this planet happens for a divine reason (no medical cure sought here – nor, indeed, imposed by our doctors); the third, meanwhile, will surely have some of its adepts reaching for their virtual trollships as they defend the absence of any real physical harm in the process of online desensitisation thus described.
It’s so easy to couch prejudice as reason these days, isn’t it? I sometimes wonder if this is the consequence of a highly educated society. If we weren’t taught so effectively to argue our corners from any point of view, then not any point of view would be able to achieve a critical mass of distraughtly tendentious acceptability.
We have become a society where our deepest instincts – that is to say, our prejudices – have become our closest neighbours and dearest arguments. A society where most of us are now perfectly able to string together a pretty indecent defence of pretty much any viewpoint going.
Dressing up prejudice as patent and attendant reason is what modern politics, economics and business is becoming all about. No wonder we have a society where, after six million Jewish deaths and a nakedly cruel seventy years later, we can freely contemplate spreading oppressive signs and symbols all over again; where we can continue to seriously contemplate the futility of faith – and justify rank injustice in its name; and where we can argue that in a world of long-distance sex – sex which, even so, manages to contain within its absence of tactility the seeds of power that may lead to future acts of rape – at any age and at any time anything should be allowed to take place.
Is this really the 21st century? A world where Nazi glorification, belief in divine order and virtual rape coexist?
So it is I shake my head in disbelief.
Though not without a certain attachment to an ever-growing desire for reason all round.