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JURIES ARE WORTH KEEPING

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The Jury System is a cornerstone of justice and liberty. However, they are also controversial. On the one hand, there are those who see the jury system as an integral part of a free and impartial justice system. On the other hand, there are those who doubt the jury’s ability to deliver fair and honest verdicts.

Let’s start with the obvious fact that juries are far from perfect. They are imperfect because the people who make them up are imperfect. Ignorance is one major problem. Opponents of the jury system argue, with some justification, that it is too dangerous to place the fate of another human being in the hands of people incapable of understanding the complexities of the cases they are judging. Often those tasked with deciding the outcome of cases lack the technical or legal knowledge to adequately interpret the evidence and testimony being presented to them. It has been suggested that in these cases individual jurors will often resort to pre-conceived beliefs or allow themselves to be influenced by jurors with more knowledge – whether real or perceived – than they have.

Ignorance, however, is an easily solved problem. Why not select jury members based on their familiarity with the subject matters under discussion? Someone who works in the finance industry – bankers, financial advisors, accountants, and so forth – would be more equipped to judge financial-based crimes than the layperson.

Then there’s the question of who can sit on a jury. In the United Kingdom an individual needs to be aged between eighteen and seventy, have been a resident of the UK for at least five years since the age of thirteen, and must be mentally stable to serve on a jury. It would more than reasonable to suggest that qualifications for jury duty ought to be more stringent than they are. It is more than reasonable to suggest that the age limit ought to be raised from eighteen to perhaps twenty-five (if not older) and that jurors under the age of forty ought to have certain intellectual qualifications. This would ensure that those tasked with determining guilt or innocence would have the wisdom and/or intelligence to comprehend the grave nature of the responsibility they have been burdened with.

Those who criticise juries also argue that they are prone to bias and prejudice. In one shocking case, Kasim Davey was jailed for contempt when he boasted: “I wasn’t expecting to be in a jury deciding a paedophile’s fate. I’ve always wanted to fuck up a paedophile and now I’m within the law.” (Seemingly it never occurred to Mr. Davey that the man he was judging may have been innocent). Likewise, it is well known that many African American defendants were condemned by all-white juries in the Jim Crow South.

However, much of this is a red-herring. Professor Cheryl Thomas, the director of the Jury Program at University College of London, spent ten years analysing every jury verdict in England and Wales taking into account the race and gender of both defendants and jurors. Professor Thomas concluded that:

“There’s no evidence of systematic bias, for instance, against members of ethnic minorities, or that men are treated differently than women, that if you live in a particular part of the country or you have a certain background that you’re more likely to be convicted than others.”

Besides, those who criticise the jury system forget that juries reflect the values and principles of their society. If juries repeatedly deliver unjust verdicts it is because there is a sickness in that society. The fact that all-white juries tended to convict African American defendants merely because they were black is a reflection on the virulently racist nature of that society, not of the jury system itself. Today, the legal system is careful to disqualify those jurors who may harbour prejudices that will inhibit their ability to judge the facts impartially. Courts are very quick to disqualify jurors who may know the defendant or alleged victim, those with emotional links to the case (i.e. a victim of rape sitting on the jury of a rape trial), and so forth.

Lord Devlin, the second-youngest man to be appointed to the English High Court in the 20th century, once described the jury system as “the lamp which shows where freedom lives.” The principle behind juries is that the individual ought to be judged by his peers based on community standards, not by the politically elite. Without juries, our legal system would be dominated by judges and lawyers. What lies at the centre of the debate over juries is the question of whether the whole of society or just the elite should be involved in the dispensation of justice.

TRANSGENDERISM IS NO BASIS FOR PUBLIC POLICY

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It has been over fourteen-year since David Reimer, the victim of an insane and evil scientific experiment, committed suicide. After his penis had been burnt off in a botched circumcision, David’s parents had turned to the infamous sexologist and social constructionist, Dr. John Money for help. Following Dr. Money’s advice, David’s parents agreed to allow a sex change operation to be performed on their young son and raised him as a girl.

Despite Dr. Money’s boasting that his experiment had been a success, however, David Reimer did not settle comfortably into his female identity. David tore up his dresses at three, asked if he could have his head shaved like his father, and engaged in all manner of boyish behaviour. David was bullied at school and, upon hitting puberty, decided that he was a homosexual (in reality, of course, he was heterosexual).

Finally, when he was fourteen David’s parents revealed the truth about his gender identity. David reverted to his masculine identity, broke off contact with Dr. Money whom he described as an abusive brainwasher, and received a non-functioning penis through phalloplasty. Unable to handle the immense psychological damage that had been inflicted upon him, David Reimer blew his brains out with a shotgun at the age of thirty-eight.

For all of human history, boy has meant boy and girl has meant girl. Traditionally, sex was used to refer to the biological markers of gender. If you were born with a penis and an XY chromosome, you were a man. If you were born with a vagina and an XX chromosome, you were a woman. One’s gender expression was thought to compliment one’s biological sex. A biological man would have masculine personality traits and a biological female would have feminine personality traits. These complimentary characteristics, among them body shape, dress, mannerisms, and personality, were thought to be produced by a mixture of natural and environmental forces.

Recently, however, gender theorists have begun to question the relationship between biological sex and gender identity. They argue that gender, which they see as distinctive from sex, is a social construct. Since gender refers to the expression of masculinity and femininity, gender is something that a person acquires. (Needless to say, this movement is driven by a pernicious post-modern, Neo-Marxist worldview). Under this philosophy, gender expression is the manner in which a person expresses their gender identity. Gender identity is expressed through dress, behaviour, speech, and nothing else besides.

Neuroplasticity provides the gender theorist with perhaps his greatest argument. If underlying brain processes are theoretically strengthened through repetitive use, it follows that gender identity comes from a narrowing down of potential gender categories through the repetitive use of certain brain processes. However, it also reveals a fatal flaw in the gender theorist’s (and social constructionist’s) philosophy. If the human brain is so malleable that an individual’s gender identity is constructed, then why can’t the brain of a transgender person be adapted out of its transgenderism?

The primary problem with gender theory is that it just plain wrong. The idea that gender is distinct from sex has absolutely no basis in science whatsoever. As Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychology/philosopher, has stated: “the idea that gender identity is independent of biological sex is insane. It’s wrong. The scientific data is clear beyond dispute. It’s as bad as claiming that the world is flat.” Men and women differ both at the cellular and the temperamental level. Unlike men, for example, women menstruate, they can have babies, and they show a slew of personality characteristics that mark them as different from men. David C. Page, the Director of the Whitehead Institution at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has even claimed that genetic differences exist at the cellular level asserting that “throughout human bodies, the cells of males and females are biochemically different.” These differences even affect how men and women contract and fight diseases.

The philosopher Alain de Benoist has also strongly criticised gender theory. De Benoist argued against the scientific errors and philosophical absurdities in his work Non à la théorie de genre (No to Gender Theory).

First, De Benoist points out that the gender theorists have used the fact that some gender characteristics are socially constructed to argue that all characteristics are socially constructed.

Second, De Benoist argued that the “hormonal impregnation of the foetus” (as De Benoist puts it) causes the brain to become genderised because it has a “direct effect on the organisation of neural circuits, creating a masculine brain and a feminine brain, which can be distinguished by a variety of anatomical, physiological, and biochemical markers.”

Third, De Benoist argued that biological sex has a profound effect on the way people think, act, and feel. In order to support their theory, gender theorists are forced to deny the natural differences between men and women. De Benoist wrote:

“From the first days of life, boys look primarily at mechanized objects or objects in movement while girls most often search for visual contact with human faces. Only a few hours after birth, a girl responds to the cries of other infants while a boy shows no interest. The tendency to show empathy is stronger in girls than in boys long before any external influence (or “social expectations”) have been able to assert themselves. At all ages and stages of development, girls are more sensitive to their emotional states and to those of others than boys … From a young age, boys resort to physical strategies where girls turn to verbal ones … From the age of two, boys are more aggressive and take more risks than girls.”

Furthermore, gender theory cheapens what it means to be a man or a woman. And, by extension, it denigrates the contributions that each gender has to make to civil society. Gender values give people ideals to strive for and helps them determine the rules that govern human interactions. The idea that men and women ought to be treated the same is ludicrous beyond belief. No parent would like to see their son treat a woman the same way they treat their male friends. Men have been taught to be gentlemen and women have been taught to be ladies for a reason.

All of this is not to say, however, that those pushing transgender rights do not have a case. They are right when they claim that the transgender peoples of the world face discrimination, prejudice, and violence. Some countries treat transgenderism as a crime, and it is certainly true that transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence, including murder. A reasonable transgender rights argument would be that transgender people cannot help their affliction and that society ought to treat them with kindness, tolerance, and compassion.

Unfortunately, that is not the argument that gender activists like to make. Rather than focusing on promoting tolerance, gender activists have instead sought to do away with gender distinctions altogether (which is, more likely than not, their actual aim). Using a very tiny minority of the population as their moral basis, the gender activists are attempting to force society to sacrifice its traditional classifications of male and female.

Transgenderism is clearly a mental health disorder. In the past, it was referred to as “gender dysphoria”, considered a mental illness, and treated as such. To assert the fact that transgenderism is a mental health disorder is not a denial of an individual’s integral worth as a human being. It is merely the acknowledgement of the existence of an objective reality in which gender is both binary and distinct. Unfortunately, this is not the attitude of those who influence public opinion. Consequently, programs for LGBTQ youth have seen an increase in youth who identify as transgender. The transgender journalist, Libby Down Under, has blamed instances of rapid-onset gender dysphoria on the normalisation of transgenderism in the culture. With a slew of celebrities coming out as transgender (former Olympian Bruce Jenner being a primary example), and with transgender characters being featured on numerous television shows, many teens and tweens have suddenly decided that they are transgender despite having no prior history of gender confusion.

Transgender youth increasingly feel that it is their right to express themselves however they please. And they feel that it is their right to silence all who dare to criticise or disagree with that expression. Cross-living, hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery are seen as part of this self-expression. Alarmingly, the mainstream response of psychotherapists to these children and adolescents is the “immediate affirmation of [their] self-diagnosis, which often leads to support for social and even medical transition.”

It is a classic case of political posturing overshadowing the pursuit of truth. Most youth suffering from gender dysphoria grow out of their predilection. Dr. James Cantor of the University of Toronto has cited three large-scale studies, along with other smaller studies, to show that transgender children eventually grow out of their gender dysphoria. The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual 5th Edition claims that desistance rates for gender dysphoria is seventy to ninety percent in “natal males” and fifty to eighty-eight percent in “natal females.” Similarly, the American Psychological Association’s Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology concludes that the vast majority of gender dysphoria-afflicted children learn to accept their gender by the time they have reached adolescence or adulthood.

It is not a secret that transgenderism lends itself to other mental health problems. Forty-one percent of transgender people have either self-harmed or experienced suicidal ideation (this percentage, of course, does not reveal at what stage of transition suicidal ideation or attempts occur). The postmodern, neo-Marxist answer to this problem is that transgender people are an oppressed minority and that they are driven to mental illness as a result of transphobia, social exclusion, bullying, and discrimination.

It is typical of the left to presume that society is to blame for an individual’s suffering. And to a certain extent, they are right. Transgender people are the victims of discrimination, prejudice, and violence. But it is more than likely that these abuses exacerbate their problems rather than causing them. One in eight transgender people, for example, rely on sex and drug work to survive. Is that the fault of society or the fault of the individual? The National Center for Transgender Equality claims that it is common for transgender people to have their privacy violated, to experience harassment, physical and sexuality violence, and to face discrimination when it comes to employment. They claim that a quarter of all transgender people have lost their jobs and three-quarters have faced workplace discrimination because of their transgender status.

In Australia, there has been a move to allow transgender children access to hormone-blocking drugs and sex-change surgeries. Australian gender activists – surprise, surprise – support the idea of as a way to reduce the rates of suicide among transgender people. The Medical Journal of Australia has approved the use of hormone therapy on thirteen-year-olds despite the fact that the scientific community remains, as of 2018, undecided on whether or not puberty-blocking drugs are either safe or reversible.

In the United States, a great deal of debate has occurred over transgender rights. In particular, there have been debates over what bathroom they should be allowed to use, how they should be recognised on official documents, and whether they should be allowed to serve in the military. In 2016, former President Barack Obama ordered state schools to allow transgender students to use whatever bathroom they desire. Similar ordinances have been passed in hundreds of cities and counties across the United States. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia are subject to ‘non-discrimination’ laws which include gender identity and gender expression. These include restrooms, locker rooms, and change rooms.

In March of 2016, North Carolina passed a law which required people in government buildings to use the bathroom appropriate to their biological gender. The US Federal Government decried the decision as bigotry and accused the government of North Carolina of violating the Civil Rights Act. The Federal Government threatened to withhold over US$4 billion in education funding. The government of North Carolina responded by filing suit against the government of the United States. The US government responded by filing suit against North Carolina. North Carolina received support from Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas whilst Washington received support from most of the northern states.

Pro-transgender bathroom policies are not limited to government, however. Many businesses in the United States have similar bathroom policies. Many large corporations, among them Target, allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. And they are perfectly prepared to enforce these policies, as well. A Macy’s employee in Texas was fired after he refused to allow a man dressed as a woman to use the female change rooms. Similarly, Planet Fitness revoked the membership of a woman who complained that a transgender man was in the female change rooms.

The most alarming trend of the gender theory movement is the attempt to indoctrinate children through changes to the education system. In 2013, France unleashed the ABCD de l’égalité (the ABCs of Equality) on six hundred elementary schools. In their own words, the program was designed to teach students that gender was a social construct:

“Gender is a sociological concept that is based on the fact that relations between men and women are socially and culturally constructed. The theory of gender holds that there is a socially constructed sex based on differentiated social roles and stereotypes in addition to anatomical, biological sex, which is innate.”

The creators of the program are smart enough to include the disclaimer: “biological differences should not be denied, of course, but those differences should not be fate.”

Fortunately, it would seem that many people are not taken in by this race to fantasyland. They are not taken in by the idea that the program merely exists to combat gender stereotypes and teach respect, and have protested. The French Minister of Education dismissed the protestors by saying that they “have allowed themselves to be fooled by a completely false rumour… at school we are teaching little boys to become little girls. That is absolutely false, and it needs to stop.” In America, The Boston Globe dismissed the protests against the program as being motivated by fear. Judith Butler event went as far as to say that France’s financial instability was the true cause of the protests.

And such a profound misuse of the education system isn’t limited to France, either. In Scotland, teachers are given guidance by LGBT Youth Scotland, children are expected to demonstrate “understanding of diversity in sexuality and gender identity”, and children are allowed to identify as either a girl or boy, or neither. The government of the United Kingdom has mandated that transgender issues be taught as part of the sex and relationships curriculum in primary and secondary school. Justine Greening, the education secretary, said: “it is unacceptable that relationships and sex education guidance has not been updated for almost twenty years especially given the online risks, such as sexting and cyberbullying, our children and young people face.”

It is in Australia, however, that there is the most shocking case of gender theory indoctrination. A great deal of controversy has been generated over the Safe Schools program. The program, which was established by the Victorian government in 2010, is supposedly designed to provide a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment for LGBTI students. It states that schools have the responsibility to challenge “all forms of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, intersexism to prevent discrimination and bullying.”

The Safe Schools program promotes itself as an anti-bullying resource supporting “sexual diversity, intersex and gender diversity in schools.” It requires Victorian schools to eliminate discrimination based on gender identity, intersex, and sexual orientation, including in terms of an inclusive school environment.

The program addresses the issues of sleeping and bathroom arrangements and dress code. In terms of dress code, the program states:

“An inflexible dress code policy that requires a person to wear a uniform (or assume characteristics) of the sex that they do not identify with is likely to be in breach of anti-discrimination legislation including under the Equal Opportunity Act (1984) SA”

Likewise, the program states on the issue of bathrooms and change rooms that “transgender and diverse students should have the choice of accessing a toilet/changeroom that matches their gender identity.” In addition, the program states:

“Schools may also have unisex/gender neutral facilities. While this is a helpful strategy for creating an inclusive school environment for gender diverse students broadly, it is not appropriate to insist that any student, including a transgender student, use this toilet if they are not comfortable doing so.”

The idea that a transgender boy or girl should be allowed to sleep, shower, and defecate in the same place as a group of boys or girls ought to ring alarm bells for everyone. It increases the risk of sexual activity, sexual assault, pregnancy, and the transmission of sexually-transmitted-diseases. There is a reason why schools segregate changerooms, toilets, and dormitories.

The tragedy of David Reimer reveals just how dangerous it is to ignore the truth in favour of a false and malevolent social philosophy. It is one thing to seek tolerance and compassion for those in the community who may be struggling with their identity. It is something else entirely to use the plight of transgender peoples as a means of cording society to change the way it categorises gender. And it is completely insane to allow a false philosophy like gender theory to be used as the basis of public policy. If we don’t want more tragedies like David Reimer’s, we should put gender theory out in the trash where it belongs.

WHY I AGREE WITH THE DEATH PENALTY

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February 3rd last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the execution of Ronald Ryan (1925 – 1967), the last man to be hanged in Australia. Since then, the general consensus has been that the death penalty constitutes a cruel and unusual punishment. Contrarily, however, it is the opinion of this author that the death penalty is not only just, but a key part of any justice system.

There are two main arguments against the death penalty. First, that it is an exceptionally expensive form of punishment. And second, that the death penalty leaves no room for non-posthumous exoneration.

The first argument is one of economics, not of morality or of justice. It does not argue that the death penalty is immoral, only that it is expensive. What this argument suggests is that a price tag can be placed on justice. That the most important factor determining a case is not whether justice is served, but how much money it will cost.

The way a society punishes murder is reflective of the value that society places on a human life. The life of a human being is not something that can have a time-based value placed upon it. It is something that has immeasurable value and purpose. The Norwegian mass-murderer, Anders Breivik, a man responsible for the death of seventy-seven people, received a sentence of just twenty-one years for his heinous crimes. A society that decides that the value of an individual’s life amounts to only one-hundred days is one that has no respect for the sanctity of life.

The second argument carries a great deal more weight. It is an undeniable fact that innocent people have, and continue to be, executed for crimes they did not commit. In the United States, prejudice against African Americans, Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, and other people often meant that justice was not as blind as it should have been. Furthermore, in an era before DNA evidence, convictions were based upon less reliable physical evidence and eyewitness testimony. And such evidence naturally carried a higher rate of false convictions.

There are two problems with the innocence argument. First, the advent of DNA along with other advances in forensic science has meant that the possibility of executing an innocent person is very low. DNA may not be foolproof, but when combined with eyewitness testimony and additional physical evidence, it makes a guilty verdict all the more concrete.

Second, the innocence argument is not an argument against the death penalty. Rather, it is an argument against executing an innocent person. It only applies when the condemned man is not actually guilty of the crime he has been convicted of. What it does not address is how a person whose guilt is certain beyond all possible reasonable doubt ought to be treated. When an individual’s guilt is that certain the innocence argument no longer carries any weight.

There are two primary arguments for the death penalty. First, that there are crimes so heinous and criminals so depraved that the only appropriate response is the imposition of the death penalty. And second, that the death penalty is an essential aspect of a just and moral justice system.

That there are crimes so heinous, and criminals so depraved, that they deserve the death penalty is self-evident. Carl Panzram (1892 – 1930), a thief, burglar, arsonist, rapist, sodomite, and murderer, told his executioner: “hurt it up, you Hoosier bastard, I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around.” Peter Kürten (1883 – 1931), also known as the Vampire of Düsseldorf, told his executioner that to hear the sound of his own blood gushing from his neck would be “the pleasure to end all pleasures.” Finally, John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (1942 – 1994) was convicted of forcibly sodomising, torturing, and strangling thirty-three boys and young men. The question, then, is not whether or not any individual deserves the death penalty, it is whether or not the state should have the power to execute someone.

The answer to this question is undoubtedly yes. It is frequently forgotten, especially by humanitarians, that the key aspect of a criminal penalty is not rehabilitation or deterrence, but punishment.

In other words, what makes a justice system just is that it can convict a person fairly and impose on them a penalty that is commensurate with the nature and severity of the crime that person has committed. What separates the death penalty from extra-judicial murder is that the condemned person has been afforded all the rights and protections of law, including due process, a fair and speedy trial, the right to trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, and so forth, regardless of their race, religion, sexuality, or gender. When a sentence of death is imposed upon a murderer, it is not a case of an individual or group of individuals taking vengeance, but of a legitimate court of justice imposing a penalty in accordance with the law.

What makes the death penalty an integral part of any justice system is not that it constitutes a form of revenge (which it does not) or that it may deter other individuals from committing similar crimes (which it also does not). What makes it just is that constitutes a punishment that fits the crime that has been committed.

IN DEFENCE OF CHRISTIANITY

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In 2017, the online video subscription service, Hulu, embarked on the production of Margaret Atwood’s (1939 – ) 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is set in the fictional, totalitarian state of Gilead: a society run by fundamentalist Christians who overthrew the previous secular state and set up a theocracy in its wake. For years, influential thought leaders and other arbiters of popular opinion have espoused the opinion that broader society would greatly benefit from the abolition of Christianity. It is my belief that such an occurrence would have precisely the opposite effect.

No group has criticised Christianity more than the New Atheists. Frequently deriding it as nothing more than “science for stupid people”, prominent New Atheists have ridiculed Christianity and dismissed its positive effects. Atheists and anti-Christians turn Christianity into a straw man by reducing it down to his most basic elements (they are helped, unfortunately, by those fundamentalist Christians who still assert that the earth is literally six-thousand years old). They then use this straw man to discredit the idea of faith. The philosopher, Sam Harris (1967 – ) argued in his book, The End of Faith that religious belief constituted a mental illness. More alarmingly, the British Scientist, Richard Dawkins (1941 – ) took things one step further by claiming that religious instruction constituted a form of child abuse.

The basis for much of Christianity’s negative portrayal finds its roots in the philosophies of the political left. A central tenet of the left-wing worldview is an adherence to secularism, which appears set to replace Christianity as the prevailing cultural belief system. (This is not to be confused with atheism, which denies the existence of a creator). On the one hand, secularism promotes both religious liberty and the separation of church and state (both of which are good things). On the other hand, however, proponents of secularism reject the knowledge and wisdom religious institutions can impart on the world. In a secular society, God can be believed to exist, but not in any sort of a productive way. God is something to be confined the private home or the sanctuary of one’s local Church. God is something to be worshipped behind closed doors where no one can see you.

Of course, anti-Christian rhetoric has been a facet of popular culture since the 1960s. Today, finding a positively-portrayed devout Christian family is about as likely as finding a virgin in the maternity ward. Christians are routinely depicted as stupid, backwards, hateful, and extreme. By contrast, atheists are routinely depicted as witty, intelligent, and tolerant. In short, Atheism is deemed as good and Christianity is deemed as bad. And, of course, this attitude has filled some with a kind of arrogant grandiosity. During an interview in 1966, John Lennon (1940 – 1980) opined: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

The mainstream media rarely discusses the persecution of Christians. Indeed, prejudice and discrimination against Christianity is treated with a type of permissiveness that prejudice and discrimination against other religions, Islam being a primary example, is not.

Christians are estimated to be the victims of four out of five discriminatory acts around the world, and face persecutions in one-hundred-and-thirty-nine countries. Churches have been firebombed in Nigeria. North Koreans caught with Bibles are summarily shot. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have faced mob violence, forced removals, and, in the wake of the Arab spring, the abduction of their females who are forced to marry Muslim men.

In China, Christian villagers were instructed to remove pictures of Christ, the Crucifix, and Gospel passages by Communist Party officials who wished to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.” According to the South China Morning Post, the purpose behind the drive was the alleviation of poverty. The Chinese Communist Party believed that it was religious faith that was responsible for poverty in the region and wanted the villagers to look to their political leaders for help, rather than a saviour. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Chinese Communist Party looked at their own evil and ineffective political ideology as the true cause of poverty in their country rather than blaming it on religion?). As a result, around six-hundred people in China’s Yugan county – where about ten percent of the population is Christian – removed Christian symbology from their living rooms.

Popular culture and thought in the West has attempted, with a great deal of success, to paint Christianity as stupid, backwards, dogmatic, and immoral. It is the presence religion that is to blame for holding the human race back. It is religion that is to blame for racism, sexism, and all manner of social injustices. It is religion that is the cause of all wars. So, on and so forth.

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I strongly disagree with this argument. Indeed, it is my belief that the abolishment of Christianity from public life would have the effect of increasing intolerance and immorality. Christianity’s abolishment will have precisely this effect because it will abolish those metaphysical doctrines – divine judgement, universal and absolute morality, and the divinity of the human soul – that has made those things possible.

Christianity and Western Civilisation are inextricably linked. In the field of philosophy, virtually all Western thinkers have grappled with the concepts of God, faith, morality, and more. As the writer, Dinesh D’Souza (1961 – ) wrote in his book, What’s So Great About Christianity:

“Christianity is responsible for the way our society is organised and for the way we currently live. So extensive is Christian contribution to our laws, our economics, our politics, our art, our calendar, our holidays, and our moral and cultural priorities that J.M. Robers writes in Triumph of the West: ‘We could none one of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, died, and buried, and then rise again’.”

The primary contribution of Christianity to Western civilisation has been to act as a stabilising force, providing society with an overarching metaphysical structure as well as rules and guidelines that act as a moral foundation. This shared metaphysical structure and moral foundation, combined with traditions and cultural customs, has the effect of bringing a country, a township, even a school or parish, together.

When Christianity lost its supremacy in society it was replaced by smaller, less transcendent and more ideological, belief systems. Where people had once been unified by a common belief, they have now become more divided along ideological lines. Religious belief has not been replaced by rationalism or logic, as the New Atheists supposed. Rather, people have found outlets for their need to believe in other places: social activism, political ideologies, and so forth.

The most prevalent contribution that Christianity has made to the Western world comes under the guise of human rights. Stories like The Parable of the Good Samaritan have had a remarkable influence on its conception. Human rights stem, in part, from the belief that human beings were created in the image of God and hold a divine place in the cosmos.  Christianity has played a positive role in ending numerous brutal and archaic practices, including slavery, human sacrifice, polygamy, and infanticide. Furthermore, it has condemned incest, abortion, adultery, and divorce. (Remarkably, there are some secularists who wish to bring back some of these antiquated practices).

Christianity placed an intrinsic value on human life that had not been present in pre-Christian society. As the American Pastor, Tim Keller (1950 – ) wrote in Reasons for God: “It was extremely common in the Greco-Roman world to throw out new female infants to die from exposure, because of the low status of women in society.” Roman culture was well known for its brutality and callousness. Practices of regicide, gladiatorial combat, infanticide, and crucifixion were all common. Seneca (4BC – AD65), Nero’s (AD37 – AD68) chief advisor, once stated that it was Roman practice to “drown children who, at birth, are weakly and abnormal.”

Christian morality has had a notable effect on our views on human sexuality and has helped to provide women with far greater rights and protections than its pagan predecessors. Christianity helped to end the hypocritical pagan practice of allowing men to have extra-marital affairs and keep mistresses. It formulated rules against the cohabitation of couples prior to marriage, adultery, and divorce. Unlike the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans, Christians do not force widows to remarry, and even allowed widows to keep their husband’s estates.

The Christian faith has been instrumental in the enactment and promotion of public works. The instigator of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) championed the idea of compulsory education and state-funded schools. Similarly, the Lutheran layman, Johann Sturm (1507 – 1589) pioneered graded education. Christianity has been the source of numerous social services including health-care, schooling, charity, and so forth. Christianity’s positive belief in charity and compassion has lead to many orphanages, old-age homes, and groups like the Sisters of Charity and Missionaries of the Poor, the YMCA and YWCA, Teen Challenge, the Red Cross, and numerous hospitals and mental health institutions being founded by the faithful.

One of the frequent criticisms levelled at the Christian faith, particularly the Catholic Church, has been that it has stymied scientific and technological development. In truth, Western science and technology have been able to flourish because of the influence of Christianity, not in spite of it. This is because the Christian belief that God created everything lends itself to the idea that everything is worth contemplating. It is certainly true that the Catholic Church has been hostile to those discoveries that do not conform to its doctrine. Galileo, for example, was forced to retract his claim of heliocentrism because it challenged the Church’s doctrine that the earth acted as the centre of the solar system. For the most part, however, Christianity has been largely supportive of scientific endeavour. Christian scientists have included Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543), Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630), Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642), Arthur Eddington (1882 – 1944), Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727), Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), Andre Ampere (1775 – 1836), James Joule (1818 – 1889), Lord Kelvin (1824 – 1907), Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691), George Washington Carver (1860s – 1943), Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895), Joseph Lister (1827 – 1912), Francis Collins (1950 – ), William Phillips (1914 – 1975), and Sir John Houghton (1931 – ), and more.

The forces behind the stratospheric success of Western civilisation has not been its art or music or architecture, but the ideas it has built itself upon. It is notions like the rule of law, property rights, free markets, a preference for reason and logic, and Christian theology that are responsible for making Western society the freest and most prosperous civilisation that has ever existed. It cannot survive with one of its central tenents removed.

12 ANGRY MEN

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This week for our cultural article we will be examining the classic 1957 courtroom drama12 Angry Men.

BACKGROUND

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12 Angry Men is based on a television play inspired by Reginald Rose’s (1920 – 2002) real-life experience as a juror on a manslaughter case in early 1954. It was first aired on CBS’ Studio One in September 1954.

It was inevitable that the television play would result in a film adaptation. With Henry Fonda (1905 – 1982) and Rose acting as producers, and with Sidney Lumet (1924 – 2011) acting as director, the resulting film was filmed in under three weeks and made for a paltry US$340,000 (US$2,961,823.49 in today’s money).

THE MOVIE

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12 Angry Men is a small film in every sense of the word. Twelve jurors are locked in a room on the hottest day of the year to decide the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father. As per the law, the vote must be unanimous. Initially, all but one, Juror Eight (Henry Fonda – the only real star in the movie), vote guilty.

It’s not that Juror Eight thinks the defendant is innocent, but that he isn’t sure. He argues that the boy had an inadequate legal defence and that they, the jury, ought to examine the evidence more closely.

Initially, he has trouble persuading the other jurors to change their vote. But, as they begin to examine the pieces of evidence, more and more of the juror’s find room for reasonable doubt. The film ends with a unanimous ‘not guilty’ verdict.

ANALYSIS

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12 Angry Men stands out in an era of sweeping epics and technicolour. It is a small, minimalist, black and white film shot mostly in real time. The mood is created through the creative use of camera angles, camera lenses, and editing.

At the beginning of the film, there are long, unbroken takes filmed from above with wide angled-lenses which give a sense of distance between the characters. They are dominated by the task ahead of them. As the film progresses, the takes become shorter, the camera moves steadily from above to below the action, and the focal length is decreased. This makes the film feel more claustrophobic. No longer at the jurors dominated by the task ahead of them, they are dominated by the force of each other’s personalities. As Lumet wrote:

“I shot the first third of the movie above eye level, shot the second third at eye level, and the last third from below eye level. In that way, toward the end, the ceiling began to appear. Not only were the walls closing in, the ceiling was as well. The sense of increasing claustrophobia did a lot  to raise the tension of the last part of the movie.”

12 Angry Men is primarily driven by its characters. Tension arises from body language, dialogue, and personality clashes. The characters represent an almost perfect cross-section of different personality types and temperaments.

12 Angry Men acts as a crash course on the parts of the US Constitution that guarantee a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.  It is never stated whether the Defendant is innocent or not but instead asks us to look beyond our biases and arrogance and examine the evidence closer at hand. 12 Angry Men symbolises how well the American legal system can work when people are prepared to look beyond their personal feelings use their integrity for its benefit.

THE PROBLEM WITH PACIFISM

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Otto Von Bismarck, the great Prussian Statesman, once observed that it is better to profit from the misfortunes of others than to learn from one’s own mistakes. With the current threat from North Korea, it would perhaps be wise to learn from the annals of history, and not repeat the mistake of following a pacifist agenda.

We like to see nature as a wise and fair judge which rewards the good, protects the weak and punishes the wicked. In reality, it is a callous and unpredictable maiden.  It should come as no surprise, then, that history shows the human-race to be inherently blood thirsty, violent, and cruel.  This violence is derived not only from competition over resources and mates but also from our social natures. This is an aspect of our character we share with our primate cousins. A team of researchers at Yale University, headed by psychologist Laurie Santos, revealed that primates treat outsiders with greater suspicion and disdain than members of their own group. This trait can also be observed in modern humans, as Santos observed: “one of the more troubling aspects of human nature is that we evaluate people differently depending on whether they’re a member of our ‘ingroup’ or ‘outgroup.’ He went on to explain how this leads to violence: “pretty much every conflict in human history has involved people making distinctions on the basis of who is a member of their own race, religion, social class, and so on.”

In 1942, C.S. Lewis published the essay “why I am not a pacifist.” For Lewis, the question of pacifism was a moral one. Take murder, for example, no one can intuitively argue murder to be wrong under all circumstances, but it is possible to make such a claim using rational arguments. Pacifism, then, is the irrational belief that violence can only be used for evil, and never for good. If this is the case, defeating a tyrannical power like Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany is evil because it necessitates the use of violence, stopping a man raping a woman is evil if doing so requires the use of physical force, and executing a serial killer is immoral because it violates his right to life. Any individual who takes such a position is not a moralist, but a coward and a fool. This type of peace is that of “Ulysses and his comrades, imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops and waiting their turn to be devoured” (Jean Jacques Rousseau, a Lasting Peace Through the Federation of Europe and the State of War).

When Patrick Henry, an American attorney and politician, gave his famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech, he asked: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” Pacifism presents nature as passive and just when, in reality, it is unkind, capricious, brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, bloodthirsty, and cruel. With the threat of North Korea looming over our heads, it may serve us to remember that those who do not conform to the laws of reality are always destroyed by them.