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Posts Tagged ‘fundamentalism

Din nou, despre libertatea de expresie. Cazul Szegedi Csanád

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In ultimele zile am avut o discutie interesanta cu o prietena – si din acest motiv o continui aici. Se pare ca deputatul european Szegedi Csanád doreste sa-si deschida un birou parlamentar la Tirgu Mures. Toate bune si frumoase, numai ca domnul respectiv face parte din partidul extremist Jobbik, a declarat ca Transilvania trebuie sa apartina Ungariei si alte mascari de genul asta. Ca atare, vigilentii atitudinii civice din Romania s-au gindit ca e de bon ton s-o puna de-un protest. Prietena mea spune ca semnarea unei asemenea petitii (vezi aici) ar fi un lucru bun. Eu cred ca e un gest grav, indreptat impotriva dreptului fundamental la libera exprimare – iar faptul ca aceasta petitie nu cere o actiune legala din partea autoritatilor statului roman nu diminueaza gravitatea faptului.

Nu vreau sa fiu inteles gresit. Imi repugna pina si ideea ca unii oameni pot adopta sentimente, atitudini si discursuri de genul celor proferate de membrii Jobbik. Si totusi, nu uit doua vorbe de duh, care mi-au calauzit intotdeauna actiunile. Prima ii apartine lui Voltaire: ‘Nu sint de acord cu ceea ce spui, dar voi apara pina la moarte dreptul tau de a o spune’. Si ca sa-i ofer bunului francez o companie placuta, i-l alatur pe Larry Flint: ‘Freedom of thought is not freedom of the though you love, but freedom of the thought you hate – hate the most’.

Din punctual meu de vedere, lucrurile sint simple: domnul Szegedi Csanád este un parlamentar european, face parte dintr-un partid recunoscut si inregistrat legal, ca atare a protesta impotriva dreptului sau de a-si deschide un birou intr-una din tarile Uniunii Europene echivaleaza cu a protesta impotriva libertatii de constiinta, a libertatii de exprimare, a libertatii de miscare si a libertatii de asociere.

Desigur, se poate pune problema daca Jobbik ar trebui scos in afara legii. Sint sceptic in ceea ce priveste un raspuns afirmativ. Ar trebui scoase in afara legii toate partidele extremiste din Europa? Exista obstacole morale, legale si practice impotriva unei asemenea actiuni. Moral si legal, nu poti ingradi nici libertatea de constiinta, nici pe cea de exprimare, nici pe cea de asociere – doua drepturi fundametale, recunoscute prin Declaratia Universala a Drepturilor Omului (articolele 18, 19 si 20). Practic, este imposibil sa interzici unei imense mase de indivizi europeni dreptul de a exprima ceea ce gindesc. Sa nu uitam ca vorbim de un partid politic extremist (Jobbik) si nu de o miscare paramilitara (Garda Maghiara). Primul nu poate fi interzis, a doua poate fi foarte usor scoasa in afara legii, intrucit libertatea de exprimare si asociere reprezinta drepturi fundamentale, in timp ce nu exista un drept de a te ‘exprima’ prin actiuni paramilitare, violente.

Desigur, doua argumente pot fi oricind ridicate impotriva apararii dreptului la exprimare al persoanelor extremiste. Primul argument spune ca discursul poate face rau, poate rani. Desigur: e destul de dificil sa negi asa ceva si ca atare nici nu am degind sa o fac. Prin discurs poti rani – intrebarea care se pune insa este daca acest tip de ofensa poate fi scos in afara legii, iar practicantii sai pedepsiti. Sustin cu tarie ca moral si legal asa ceva e absurd. Evident, daca eu spun pe toate drumurile ca toate femeile sint proaste si ca toti evreii sint rai nu fac altceva decit sa ranesc. Dar pot fi condamnat pentru acest tip de rau? Imi aduc aminte ca in liceu uram celebrele oracole ale fetelor, incit la intrebarea ‘Ce baiat preferi, blond sau brunet?’, fara exceptie raspunsurile erau: ‘urasc blonzii’. Evident ca eram frustrat in calitatea mea de blond, si un timp am crezut ca n-am nici o sansa sa am o prietena din cauza acestui handicap. Cine nu intelege unde poate duce o asemenea frustrare nu a trecut prin adolescenta… Inseamna insa ca ar trebui sa interzicem femeilor sa spuna ca prefera brunetii doar pentru ca blonzii se simt ofensati? Desigur, e absurd. Nu mai putin absurd este sa interzici barbatilor sa spuna ca femeile sint proaste, sau albilor sa spuna ca albii sint rasa superioara, sau negrilor sa spuna ca ‘black is good, white is bad’.

Exact in acest punct intervine al doilea argument, conform caruia raspunsul la primul argument ‘misses the point’: problema nu este ca discursul ar putea rani pe cineva in sentimentele sale – problema adevarata e ca discursul poate convinge, ideile xenofobe pot fi diseminate, ura este contagioasa si astfel raul poate deveni fizic: exemplul cel mai bun pare, evident, Holocaustul. Un asemenea argument este gresit pentru simplul fapt ca face o confuzie intre un drept fundamental si posibilele sale consecinte negative in cazuri extreme. Sa nu uitam ca nu exista drepturi absolute. Libertatea de miscare, de pilda, e considerata un drept in cadrul oricarei democratii liberale; totusi, acest drept poate fi ingradit in diverse cazuri – cum ar fi de pilda catastrofe naturale, epidemii, si asa mai departe. De asemenea, aceeasi libertate de miscare care sta la baza cetateniei europene este un drept in masura in care nu este exercitat de prea multi oameni (!): de pilda, dreptul romanilor de a calatori, ca cetateni europeni, in tarile UE poate fi legitim suspendat daca 90% din populatie, printr-o miscare spontana, s-ar hotari sa emigreze in Luxemburg, de pilda (motivele morale si legale tin de apararea capacitatii tarii de destinatie de a mentine justitia sociala, ordinea publica, etc.). In aceeasi maniera, dreptul la libera exprimare poate fi confruntat cu o limita: atunci cind aceasta limita ameninta sa fie depasita, el poate fi suspendat temporar. Insa ‘the burden of proof’ este in terenul celor care vor sa il limiteze. Nu eu, sustinator al libertatii de expresie, trebuie sa demonstrez de ce ea trebuuie mentinuta si trebuie sa fie neingradita: dimpotriva, intrucit e vorba de un drept fundamental, cei care vor sa limiteze acest drept sint chemati sa demonstreze de ce trebuie limitat – altfel spus, sa arate cind o asemenea limita a fost atinsa. Deocamdata, in ultimii 60 de ani in Europa niciodata nu s-a atins aceasta limita: chiar in Romania si Franta, tari in care liderii extremisti Corneliu Vadim Tudor si Jean Marie Le Penn au ajuns in turul doi al alegerilor prezidentiale, de fiecare data sistemul democratic s-a dovedit destul de puternic pentru a nu atinge limita de care vorbesc. La fel in Austria, unde desi liderul extremist Jorg Haider si partidul sau au facut parte din coalitia de guvernamint in anul 2000, nici o politica ‘extremista’ nu a putut fi pusa in practica – inca o data, sistemul s-a dovedit destul de sanatos! Ca atare, nici acest al doilea argument impotriva libertatii de expresie nu poate fi sustinut. Cit timp hate-speech-ul nu atinge o limita a practicarii sale el este un drept, oricit de multi oameni s-ar simti ofensati.

Si totusi, in pofida acestor evidente, ne aflam in fata unor tot mai mari limite impuse libertatii de expresie. Ingrijorarea mea privind viitorul dreptului la libera constiinta si libera exprimare a opiniei nu este nefundamentata. Ipocrizia corectitudinii politice ne impinge catre un sistem absolutist si abuziv, unde ‘libertatea de expresie’ devine, contra lui Larry Flint, ‘freedom of the though we love’. Cu alte cuvinte oricine are dreptul sa spuna orice atita timp cit ne place noua – nu si ceea ce ne displace.

Un bun studiu de caz este ipocrizia feminista si cea ‘gender’. Cind am fost primit la o universitate americana din Budapesta, am fost obligat sa semnez o declaratie conform careia ma angajam sa nu am atitudini sau discursuri rasiste, xenofobe, in general – ‘hate speech’. Asta era politica universitatii, o acceptai – erai primit; nu o acceptai – nu erai primit, sau erai dat afara ulterior. Numai ca in curind aveam sa aflu ca nu totul se masoara cu aceleasi ustensile. Existau evident diferente: elementele cretinoide din Departamentul de Gender puteau foarte bine sa foloseasca hate speech-ul, un discurs anti-masculin, sa spuna ca barbatii sint asa si pe dincolo, sa celebreze operele de arta in care prin fata penisurilor se miscau lasciv foarfece sau penisurile insele erau spinzurate de pereti. Nimeni, insa, nu avea dreptul sa sustina un discurs ‘masculinist’, sa spinzure vaginuri, sa spuna ce naspa e femeia si ce slaba e ea. Ca atare, un tip de hate speech (al feministelor) este aprobat ca politica oficiala; tipul echivalent de hate-speech (masculin, sa spunem) este pur si simplu interzis, iar practicarea lui te putea da afara din universitate. Argumentele istorice privind asuprirea sint, evident, nesustenabile. Nu e un lucru nou, desigur, si am putea continua cu multe exemple: si in Franta a fi de stinga e considerat de la sine inteles; a te declara de dreapta iti inchide clar orice posibilitate de acces in universitati.

Ipocrizia se poate observa insa foarte usor atunci cind avem de a face si cu alte discursuri care nu le plac feministelor, deci nu numai cu discursul masculin: in acest caz, din senin, feministele uita ca discursul nu le poate rani doar pe ele. Un alt tip de discurs al urii este indreptat impotriva diverselor religii. Scandalul caricaturilor din ziarele daneze tocmai asta a subliniat: poti rani prin discurs, iar comunitatea musulmana a cerut dreptul de a nu fi ‘ranita’ – asa cum si feministele si alte grupuri gender cer dreptul de a nu fi ‘ranite’. Totusi, a vazut cineva vreo feminista aparind acelasi drept pe care il invoca respectiva comunitate musulmana? Evident ca nu; dimpotriva! Pe noi nimeni nu are voie sa ne raneasca! Pe altii, da! Ipocrizia e la ea acasa, carevasazica. Din nou, impotriva lui Flint, ‘freedom of though is freedom of the thought we love’.

Imi e teama ca spre o astfel de societate ne indreptam, si imi e teama ca ea nu va fi cu nimic mai libera decit sistemul comunist din care am iesit in urma cu 20 de ani. Nu cred intr-o societate in care libertatea constiintei si cea a expresiei se rezuma la libertatea gindului care ne place noua. Singura societate in care cred este aceea in care oamenii nu se pun de acord cu ceea ce cred si spun – dar apara pina la moarte dreptul fiecaruia de a o spune. Pun punct acestui post prea lung, cu o adinca reverenta in fata memoriei lui Voltaire.

Religion and the Public Space. A Response to George

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It is striking for me to realize that, although they are supposed to be the masters of human reasoning, most philosophers generally do not / cannot understand each other. Probably this is what is happening now to me and George and to our debate concerning the relation between religion and the public sphere.

Although I started this debate in Romanian, I am writing this time in English (a poor English, to be sure), not because of my audience (if there is such a thing), but because I respect George’s “larger audience” 🙂

Let me first explain the context. George considers that he has a say on the recent public debate in Romania regarding the problem whether we should keep religious icons in our public schools, or we should take them out. He thinks that we should take them out – period.

A few days ago I felt like answering George, because it seemed to me that there are some very interesting points with this debate. While recognizing that the questions George is raising (about the segregation potential of keeping Christian Orthodox icons in public schools, for example) are very important, I had a problem with the following excerpt from George’s post. The translation is mine, so probably it only approximates his words:

“I tend to think that the problem of the equilibrium between the majority’s right of taking decisions and individual rights is a tangent one here. I thus refuse to transform a situation that is related to the lack of education and obscurantism in a subject of political philosophy. The neutrality of the public space cannot be negotiated – especially when this space is extremely fragile”.

Now I had three problems with George’s ideas:

1) I do not think that religion is something related with lack of education and obscurantism, as George seems to think. From his assertion, it logically follows that every human being cannot be religious unless he or she lacks education and live in obscurantism. Conversely, there is no intelligent, educated individual who can be at the same time a religious person. So it seemed to me that, in order to refute George’s assertion, it was enough to show that there was at least one individual who was at the same time an educated and a religious person. And I think, in fact, that there are many persons in this situation. Unfortunately, in his response to my critique (that can be read here), all George is doing in order to answer my objection is offering an example of an educated, former religious person, now an atheist – Anthony Flew. But I really don’t see how George’s example is destroying my critique. George still didn’t prove that there is no educated individual who can’t be at the same time a religious person.

2) George says that he doesn’t want to transform this problem, which according to his views is related to ignorance and obscurantism, into a subject of political philosophy. I tried to show, in my critique, that the problem of neutrality of state in what concerns religious practice simple is a topical debate in political philosophy (whether we like it or not, many political philosophers discuss it at length). What is striking for me is that George, in his response to my critique, still thinks that it is not a problem of political philosophy. Well, I really recommend him to read more books in political philosophy (try Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, Will Kymlicka and others)…

And this is the response to another problem of George. He writes: “I said the scandal about icons shouldn’t be treated as a problem of political philosophy. I stick to my guns. I don’t know what parties Andrei would have in a debate. Secular and religious intellectuals? Should I remind him about the intellectual stars of the day maybe?”. Well, I cannot believe that George (who really knows logic much more than I do) is making a logical fallacy, called “the appeal to authority”. Be that as it may. Anyway, if Sandel, Taylor, Kymlicka, Raz, and Waldron are not the “intellectual starts of the day”, then maybe I AM between those ignorant persons with which George fails to communicate….

3) Concerning the neutrality of the state: George thinks that it must not be negotiated. In my critique, I tried to show that state’s dealing with religious practice (and with the presence of religion in schools) is not that neutral as it seems to be. I tried to show that, far from being an implementation of neutrality, taking religion and its symbols (icons, or Bible reading) out of public schools might well be a sort of discrimination against a social group and against a way of life. For example, if it is OK to teach the Darwinist theory in public schools, it is not clear at all why you cannot also teach the Creationist doctrine, too. Maybe teaching both doctrines is “more neutral” than just throwing religion out of school. This is not my example; in telling you this, I was / am relying on some lawsuits within the American jurisprudence, quoted from Michael Sandel’s Democracy’s Discontent (the quotes from Sandel are in English, so check my post in Romanian Scoatem icoanele din scoli? (Do we take the icons out of schools?), if you are interested).

But take now another example. As we all know, the secular state’s economic activities are build upon Christianity’s religious practice. In other words, we all work from Monday to Friday or Saturday, and we all rest on Sunday. The problem is that there are some religions which claim that their followers should rest or pray in another day – for example, Muslims have to pray a lot on Friday. Now, what we are supposed to do with a Muslim teacher? According to the idea of state’s neutrality, we are supposed to do nothing. This is because the state is considered to be neutral to the religious practice, so it is not interested in this problem. But the state is organizing its economic activity according to Christian religious week, not to Islamic religious week. So state’s neutrality is not… that neutral! What I wanted to say with all these is that neutrality is not something fixed. Sometimes state’s practices are neutral only to the surface. And because the meaning of neutrality is not fixed, it is and it must be negotiated, as long as we think that liberalism and democracy still mean something.

Instead of discussing these problems, George says that it is not the time to talk about them. Because “the public space in Romania is fragile”, he thinks that „before debating subtle issues of negotiated neutrality of the state, we should make sure we still have something as a public space in which issues can be discussed”. Two things I have to say here. First, George seems to make a step backwards and seems to accept that neutrality can be negotiated, after all. That is a progress. But second, he thinks that now is not the time to do this in Romania. George cannot understand that creating a public space is the same thing with negotiating a common accepted neutrality. You cannot just throw away different religions, cultures, and so on, and say that, after throwing away all these, now we have a public space. This is a theoretical, as well as a practical impossibility. The terms of neutrality are negotiated every day – and this is what creates public space. We cannot just create first the public space, and talk about neutrality only afterwards.

(Just a small comment about the public space in Romania: I am not that pessimistic about this problem as George is. I really don’t think that the public space in Romania is a “ruin”, and this debate, its mere possibility and occurrence, shows that the situation is getting better and better. I know that being pessimistic is a good rhetorical figure, which makes you very popular, but I do think that being realistic – or at least neutral? 🙂 – is a better thing to do)

Besides these topics, in his response to my critique George is making some further points. I try to respond now:

1) I accused George as being arrogant (well, I didn’t actually used this word, so this is his personal interpretation), in the sense that he believes that his truth is the only truth. In his answer, he complains that he cannot see “why it’s arrogant to hold some things to be true. E.g. that there is no anthropomorphic God”. And he goes on: “I struggle to communicate with people that have such beliefs and sometimes I fail – that was my point”. Well, the answer to George’s first question is simple, and it can be found in his last remark: nothing is wrong in holding some things to be true. What is wrong is to hold that your truths are “the only ones in town”. I think this is why George sometimes fails to communicate with religious people. In fact, George’s strategy of communication is identical with the religious individual’s strategy of communication: both of them hold some things to be true. But both of them are also emotionally related to their truths, both of them are fundamentalists, and none of them is ready to accept that he could be wrong, or at least ready to bracket for a while his truth. George is accusing religious people of having the same problem he has: the incapacity of being self-ironical. Irony means here accepting that you might be wrong, or at least the capacity of bracketing – or even laughing at – your truths. At least for a while…

George is saying: „Andrei thinks I’m wrong to associate religion on the one hand, and obscurantism and ignorance on the other. Well, I’m not so sure that the association is illegitimate”. Well, I am pretty sure this is not a good way to begin a conversation with a (religious) opponent. Yes, is arrogant. Yes, believing even from the start that your opponent is ignorant only because he holds some specific views is not respecting him. And the conversation cannot be possible.

2) Take another idea: “Religion as form of life and what not? Sure, it’s your time and your money, go play. But don’t think you have the right to put that in public schools on tax money. Not only that it is against the law, but this silent move – with all its hypocritical justifications – can only have [morally] dubious effects”. As I have already explained, I don’t see why you can teach the Darwinist doctrine in school, but you cannot teach the Creationist doctrine. I think teaching both of them is the real neutrality we are looking for. Of course, no child should be compelled to learn the creationist doctrine. Here George has a good point. This is why I think that, where applicable, the state should sustain religious schools (Muslim, Christian and other religious schools), with public funds (at the end of the day, religious parents pay taxes for education, too). In this way, every parent can decide to what kind of school he sends his child. I think this is the real state’s neutrality: not excluding some world views from schools, but incorporating them. And I don’t see why this should necessary mean segregation.

Just a note: I don’t say that this is the best solution; I am only saying that it can be taken into account. So I can exercise self-irony. I hope George can do this, too…

3) George’s final words: “Take a look at the photo embedded in the ‘fara icoane’ page. Fact is, I’m not open to negotiations with these guys. Sorry to make you sad, Andrei, if that shows I’m not a liberal, so be it”. Well yes, this makes me sad. Because I really believe in communication and negotiation. Even with these guys. Otherwise you have war.
One more thing. Maybe you are wondering, together with George: “I don’t know what parties Andrei would have in a debate. Secular and religious intellectuals?” I am telling you that I don’t take sides. I think that George and religious intellectuals are both right, nevertheless at the same time they are both wrong. What do I believe? Take another look at my blog’s motto: I believe I will have another glass of wine… really!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

noiembrie 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm