There are days when we all feel that the World is a pretty bad place, that nobody cares about other people and that it's only getting worse. Some people might have extreme-left or extreme-right tendencies and when days like these strike them, they are willing to blame "globalization", or immigrants which in turn does make the world a worse place. So, it is basically a paradox > thinking the world is bad can lead to making the world bad.
But is the World really, objectively bad? Is it possible that the World is objectively getting better, only people are getting more sensitive to the problems that might bother them, so thanks to the Internet which enables communication to others like themselves, they project their imaginary problems on the entire World? Of course, much more must be done, but in this post, I want to argue that compared to the past, we actually live in better times, but are somehow unaware of it.
As there are many factors which can influence view of the World – we’ll split this theme in a number of posts.
First: a DISCLAIMER: this post series will in absolutely NO WAY argue that since things are getting better, we should stop helping the poor, or curing diseases or giving animals more rights or being even more intolerant of rapists. Just because things are getting better, this does not mean that the work is done. Far from it. Actually, the only point this series tries to say is that things are indeed moving in the right direction and that forces behind these changes ("globalization", democracy, science, vaccines) are in fact improving the world and not hurting it.
So, let's begin. In this first post, let's try and tackle the biggest argument about the World being bad. This argument you can hear almost every day, probably even from your friends – people are dying of hunger and malnutrition, people are living in extreme poverty.
Yes, people are living in extreme poverty. It is not eliminated. Yet. But the World is getting there. Seriously.
One thing that has a big tendency to both annoy and to actually damage the World is the “It’s their culture” proclamation. There are real problems with it. Basically, this proclamation is often heard when trying to defend bigoted, racist, sexist or misogynist behaviour. Effectively we’re saying that people are entitled to their own culture, and the often horrific behaviour is simply the part of the culture, so we should all simply live with it.
By Nitin Madhav (USAID), exact source, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Most often it is used when somebody tries to criticise actions of Islam extremists and/or treatment of women in Islam, but it’s not limited to this use. It’s also used to justify circumcision, or teaching that God created the Earth is six days in schools. However, it’s lately mostly used about Islam, so this post will continue in this tone.
First of all, when you use this argument, you’re applying the different standard to the people you’re saying this about. A standard which is less strict about women’s rights, for example, than we in the West are accustomed to. This in of itself is bad, as basically people who say things like “this is normal in their culture” are guilty of racism of low expectations. It comes down to “these brown people, we just expect this from them, we cannot hold them to the same standard as us”. Well, isn’t this a repulsive thing to think and say?
Too often I have heard that without religion there can be no morality, that you cannot be a good person without being religious. So, let me address that point briefly.
Yes, religion does provide a set of moral values. But what is this “absolute morality”, you say? Well, as I understand it, absolute morality means that there are rules which are always in effect regardless of the circumstances. For example, killing a human being is always wrong, no matter the circumstances. Stealing is always wrong, no matter the circumstances. etc. You might say, something like “society needs rules”. Of course, society needs rules, and indeed, society does have rules, but any attempt to have absolute morality, valid for all situations ever, is inevitably an attempt to dictate rules onto others while claiming that your values are absolute, perfect and above all others.
When you add the doctrine that those that you value and other similar rules have been written in a Holy Book, as a Word of God Himself and as such they are perfect and cannot be changed ever, into the mix, I’m sure that you can see how such combination can be very, very dangerous for humanity.
While we might all potentially agree that killing a human being is always wrong, such is not the case with stealing, as many of us might consider stealing acceptable to feed a child who’s about to die of starvation, for example. And if you go even further into the things that some Holy Book has said, then you come to the highly controversial parts about how homosexual people should be put to death. Of course, this is where modern day priests come in and say that this is meant to be interpreted this way, or that way and not directly, etc., etc..
So, the absolute rules which may never be changed are interpreted to you. But when something needs “interpretation” it couldn’t have been too perfect, to begin with, could it?
Since this page doesn't particularly care about Religion, and in fact, it makes a point of mocking it in order to promote science and reason as opposed to superstition, you might expect that I would welcome Muslim ban from the US.
Oh, how wrong you would be.
First of all, this ban violates the Refugee Convention which requires the countries to take refugees based on humanitarian grounds.
Second, this ban violates Secular principles, meaning the separation of church and state. Secularity is a key principle in today's modern world and every modern Country's Constitution is secular. Because church (Religion) and state should be separate, religious beliefs (or lack of belief) cannot be the cause of discrimination. In simpler terms: once you allow the discrimination of one religion, a door is open to discriminate any religion and lack of religion, meaning Atheists could come under attack, same as Muslims are now.
Third, this ban is xenophobic, hateful and despicable. There were already many measures in place to ensure that no terrorist comes into the US and there was no real reason to do this, especially when you also notice that this ban does not apply to countries where Trump has business ventures.
Muslim Ban is potentially the first step on the journey towards a country where one religion is in fact more important than other religions and actually towards a country where church and state are so tight that the belonging to the “right” church assures you are above others.
I support the right of people to choose their own religion, as well as their right to give up their religion. Simply put, you believe what YOU want to believe, not what your Country tells you to believe.
In all modern democracies, one of fundamental citizen rights is that of a Religious freedom. There is no state-backed religion and there is no discrimination of people based on their religious beliefs. At least in writing, as something similar is undoubtedly written into Constitution of your own Country.
For example in my native Croatia, Article 40 of our Constitution says:
“Jamči se sloboda savjesti i vjeroispovijedi i slobodno javno očitovanje vjere ili drugog uvjerenja.”
which roughly translated means that freedom of consciousness and religion and free public display of said religion or other belief is guaranteed. Or in the US, with the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This is, of course, an important right. Let’s just remind ourselves briefly why. There was no small amount of instances through history when people who had religion different than the majority was persecuted and executed. This is still practiced today in some countries, for example Burma, where intolerance, discrimination and violence against Muslims is provoked by the Buddhist community (PDF). (ah, those religions of peace …). So, I believe we can all agree that freedom of Religion is important.
The thing is, Freedom of Religion also ensures the rights of people to change their minds about their religion. This basically means, if you have another religious idea, other than the one you currently practice, you are free to act upon that idea and leave your old idea behind, you are free to change your religion.
So, this is to me evidence that as far as countries are concerned, Religion is, and should be only an idea and it should have no more privilege when it comes to criticism, than for example, politics. And we all know that a lot of politicians leave their old political parties behind, only to spew criticism on them from afar.
This is only one example. You can criticize everything, so why should only Religion be spared? Why is Religion the only thing nothing bad can be said about?
As passionate Twitter users would say "Facebook is for connecting with people you went to high school with. Twitter is for connecting with people you wish you went to high school with".
This is my small collection of interesting twitter accounts you should follow. This is a "No Development" edition, meaning there will be no developers' or IT accounts in here. This is a topic for another post because there are so many "must-follow" developers and development accounts out there. So, on with the list. It is sorted in no particular order.
United Nations - @UN
"The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 after WW II by countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights."
Gates is a programmer, inventor, former CEO of Microsoft and a philanthropist. Right now he's trying to save the world.
Neil deGrasse Tyson - @neiltyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist, cosmologist and author. He tweets great stuff not only about space, but about science and humanity in general.