I am not proud of where I was born.

I am not proud of where I was born.

Another Saint’s Day is around the corner and I will yet again seem many people posting that they are proud to be soemwhere-ish – Scottish, Welsh, Irish, English or whatever. Most of these people will not be immigrants, indeed many will tend to harbour hostile feelings to newcomers to their country. However, surely it is only migrants who have the right to proclaim themsleves proud to be Welsh, French, American or whatever.

I am not proud of where I was born. I had no say in the matter and played no part in the choice. There was not one ounce of effort on my part in this acheivement, nor was it any evidence of any special skill or knowledge I had acquired.

Being proud of where you were born is just one step up from being proud in having been born. Being proud simply because you exist, a smugness and fuzzy warm glow of knowing, just like everyone else knows, you are not dead. A positive feeling born out of nothing whatsoever. A life’s acheivements must be exteremly meagre, and success paltry, if this is something to shout about.

Someone who navigated the globe, uprooted themselves and their family,moved and mastered a new culture and life, has something of which to be proud. They could honestly proclaim their nationality as a badge of some success. Those of us that never moved might correctly feel content and happy, possibly even feel lucky at our stroke of fate, but surely not proud. Indeed, if we face difficulties perhaps we should feel a degree of shame that we never tried to escape and make a better life elsewhere.

In the days of kings and commoners there was a use for this  phoney, national sentiment – it helped the common herd rally behind the flag and give their lives for the wealth of the aristocracy. It still can be the source of violence and can still be used to dupe the population. It allows our leaders to fool us that our interests are best served by allegiance to a flag rather than looking at our present situation. It is an idea which should be discarded as out-dated and odious.

So, while we have borders, let the new arrivals celebrate their mastery of a new culture and life. Those of us who were just born lucky will have to find some other way to boast. Those with no aceivements, the really needy and insecure can be proud of their hair colour, or the number of their fingers, if it helps. We will try not so show our disdain.

 

Let’s stop genital manipulation.

Let’s stop genital manipulation.

Figure published this week (1) reveals that in the UK 2491 cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) occurred last year between April and September in the United Kingdom. This is far too many and a report which speaks to unnecessary pain, distress and possible future disability. I applaud all those who try and stop this barbarism to young girls.

This is a major moral problem as it lets us know that the rights of children are being ignored. They are being mutilated without their consent and any benefit (religious observance, cultural tradition) accrues to the person organizing it, not to the child. Indeed, for the child, it can only be anticipated to be a negative event in their life. Children are not the property of their parents, they have their inalienable rights, like all people. The only difference in the situation of a child is that, in addition to rights,  their  parents also have a duty  (which they contracted to when they decided to make the child) to take care of the child until it is emancipated.

The child’s rights are largely negative, as with all of us, and are predominately the right not to be subject to aggression or violence. It is the parent’s duty to safeguard this right. Genital mutilation, cutting the child for the benefits of the parent, breaches ths duty of care and infringes the child’s rights.

From a libertarian perspective this moral problem is easy to resolve. Genital mutilation should stop and any parent who perpetrates this on their children is not adequately fulfilling their duty of care and someone else should consider taking this role.

However, it is a moral problem, not a gender problem. This is not an issue of gender rights. To see this as a gender issue blinds us to the many young boys who suffer the same fate. In the UK about 12,200 male circumcisions are done annually. This is not a minor procedure as often portrayed. About 3% of babies have some complication following the procedure, lower rates of infection are reported in around 1 in 50 cases (2) and each year about 100 boys die in the USA following circumcision (3). The long term sequeleae are also important with significant rates of psycho-sexual dysfunction  being recorded.

People often believe that their are health benefits from circumcision in males. Research has not shown this to be the case (4)

People often think the reasons that FGM is done is particularly related to curbing female sexuality. This is wrong. Male mutilation developed from the same drives to curb sexual drive and masturbation. Dr Kellog (5), of the breakfast cereal fame, wrote

“A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment… In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement”

So lets see this as a moral question. Lets fight to push FGM into the history books where it should remain, but let us not forget our sons while we protect our daughters and let us stop male genital manipulation at the same time.

Boy or girl it is the same crime.

 

 

(1) Sky News – FGM case reported every 109 minutes in England

(2) Boyle GJ, Svoboda JS, Price CP, Turner JN. Circumcision of Healthy Boys: Criminal Assault? J Law Med. 2000;7:301–10.

(3) Bollinger, D. “Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths,” Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies Volume 4, Number 1 (2010).

(4) Intact America

(5) Narvaez D. Circumcision: Social, Sexual, Psychological Realities. Psychology Today. 2011 September 18.

Peter Tatchell changes his mind.

Peter Tatchell changes his mind.

Peter Tatchell has form as being a clear thinker and one who is able to see through the morass of argument and counter argument to see the moral principles at the core of current debates. therefore when he announces that he has changed his opinion on an issue we should pay heed. He has changed his mind over the issue of the Christian bakers and the gay wedding cake. He had previously supported the penalization of the Christian bakers Ashers, in Belfast, who had refused to bake a wedding cake which had a pro-gay marriage slogan. However, Mr Tatchell has argued in a piece in the  Guardian that, while it is correct to oppose discrimination against people it is wrong to take legal action against the discrimination against ideas.

He is of course correct; our freedom to think as we will is the greatest right we have. It should not be constrained by any  agencies. While some of our acts may be considered unlawful none of our thoughts should be. As Mr Tatchell recognizes, there was no discrimination against the claimants per se, rather the Ashers had refused to promote an idea to which they objected. If the current court ruling stands, the logic is that it would be illegal for a Muslim printer to reject work printing  posters with comic portrayals of Mohammed, or for a Jewish baker to reject making a cake with holocaust denial slogans.

Obviously this case was not brought following any genuine act of discrimination and true feeling of hurt. The cake was designed and offered to a Christian bakery quite deliberately to try and create a legal case in the hope that this would shift and move the law. The intention, no doubt, was to try to make society less bigoted by using the law to signpost good behaviour. However, the law of unintended consequences should never be forgotten. It is precisely minorities who benefit most from recognition of the rights to freedom of thought and freedom of association. These are the rights that protect them from the majority’s desire to compel good and appropriate behaviour as society currently defines it. We must reject attempts to interfere with these freedoms no matter how well intentioned they may appear to be.