Monday, October 27, 2014

Time to bring back orphanages...

Removing children from abuse and neglect may well create other problems, but perhaps those problems are being created because we need to rethink how we care for such children.
I suspect the problem, once again well-intentioned, is the attempt to 'create' a substitute home for children who need to be removed from their parents, with foster 'parents.' The simple reality is that nothing can replace your parents and foster care is hit and miss. No doubt there are some excellent people who opt to become carers but there are also those who are doing it for the wrong reasons and who are less than adequate as substitute parents.
What is worse is that a child can be shunted from pillar to post with moves from one set of carers to another, creating even more trauma and dysfunction perhaps than the original circumstances from which they were removed.
In this less than perfect world with less than perfect human beings, I suspect many kids get far less than perfect foster parents. Instead of trying to replace something which can never be replaced, perhaps reworking an old approach might be the way to go.
Perhaps it is time to rework the old idea of orphanages. What children need when they are at risk is to be removed from risk and placed somewhere they feel safe. Preferably it is somewhere they can stay for however long they want or is needed. Somewhere that they can find stability.
The next thing children need after safety and security is to be fed and educated. With stability of their living environment this is easier to provide.
In addition, in this day and age, creating enlightened, optimal, happy, healthy, constructive orphanage environments is more than possible. The best of orphanages will never be a substitute for the best of foster parents but I would be prepared to bet that it is easier to create and maintain the best of orphanages than it is to create a situation where the majority of foster parents are of optimal quality and function.
The other thing about an orphanage is that there is no pretence. It is not a substitute for your parents and so children do not have to feel conflicted if they prefer to be there or even come to love those who are caring for them, as, no doubt, many might with foster parents.
The other advantage is that a child could be given a number of opportunities to return to their parents without sacrificing a happy foster home, i.e. they can always return to the orphanage. They have stability and they have certainty in a world which is uncertain and unstable on so many other counts.
Children are also sensitive about being different and never more so than when coming from dysfunctional homes. In an orphanage they are all the same. There is no 'foster sibling' who they might see as 'better' or 'luckier,' the children with whom they live are facing the same issues and problems and this offers opportunities for bonding more readily than being in so-called 'normal' homes. There is nothing 'normal' about a foster home no matter how good it might be.
It would be interesting to balance costs of orphanages compared to foster parenting and I would be surprised if the latter was more expensive. Even if it were, the crucial thing in trying to help children in need is providing them with what they do not have - safety, stability, certainty and the familiar.
Most people reasonably assume there is evidence of good long-term outcomes for children who come into contact with child protection systems. Why else would we...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Wet brings wealth and woes...

We left after lunch for the drive north to Mzuzu and wondered if the recent early break to the Wet for Lilongwe would remain as we headed for Kayelekera. It did.

There is a sigh of relief, almost palpable in Malawi when the Wet Season arrives because without it there is no maize crop and no money made and people go hungry unless the Government buys grain from elsewhere and just at present, the Government does not have much money. Well, it does for trips around the world for those in power but they are seen as needs-based, as in more necessary than repairing roads and feeding people, and so money follows power.

You do shake your head when you hear the President is spending a week or more in the US with an entourage of sixty and they are all staying at the Ritz, or was it the Waldorf Astoria,  in New York, where the Presidential Suite is $17,000 a night for the leader of the poorest country in the world.

But the President becomes a supreme being on election, the chief of all chiefs and the chief system is entrenched in this society like aristocrats and monarchies of old. No doubt the ordinary people do not mind if traditions are being honoured. One just wishes that those with power minded for them.

Having said that, with the new Government in place there are some signs of money being spent on ordinary people with some repair work to roads and new drains being built to carry away safely the huge amounts of water nature dumps on the country in the wet.

It was raining as we drove out of town but eased an hour or so on the road, only to break through in determined fashion as we drove up higher into the mountains outside Mzuzu,  some four and a half hours north of Lilongwe.  It is a logging area, the pines planted decades ago, and not well managed, but remaining still.

There was low cloud and mist along with rain as we made our way along largely empty roads. The price of diesel has risen dramatically in recent times and is close to what is paid in Australia, which, when compared to the amount people earn here, is an absolute, impossible, fortune.


So there were less private cars, less mini-buses, lots of bicycles and a few trucks and semi-trailers. Sadly, of the latter, more than six in recent days had not completed their journeys and lay overturned, some consumed by fire, on the side of the road. How many dead it was hard to say but it would be a few in that most semis would have a driver, his girlfriend and a mate and perhaps a hitchhiker, and a few crushed cabins made it clear that no-one got out alive and may well have been still entombed as we passed.

They drive too fast and the roads are not too bad, but far from good with the edges eaten away by rains in every Wet. You never know what is around the corner but, the local warning is to place tree branches from some distance on either side so you know the road will be blocked. There were a few stalled semis and trucks as we climbed through the mountains, no doubt because of poor servicing and all of the other problems which breed in Third World countries like Malawi.

The rains meant also less people on the side of the roads which makes the drive easier. Avoiding cyclists and pedestrian being perhaps more of a challenge than careering cars or trucks. There is nothing more off-putting than a woman on a bicycle in front, a baby strapped to her back, as she gets the wobbles, as they often do, and starts to weave around trying to remain upright.

The locals must have known the Wet would be early this year because the fields had been prepared for planting maize. In that 'needs must' way of Africa, the fields often run willy nilly, with trees and stumps left where they stand and the furrows dug around them. Why put all that effort into moving something when you can go around it? On the bright side, although it remains to be seen how effective it can be on the corruption continent, Malawi has brought in a ban on plastic bags.

What I do not understand though is why the plastic bags are not removed as they work! Surely that peep of blue plastic might, could, will interfere with the growth of precious maize. But the plastic weed of Africa is endemic and perhaps the corn has learned to grow around it or through it in that way of things in this part of the world.

It's can't be much fun for the locals in the wet. Some houses have iron rooves but most have grass and it must leak. The dry, red earth turns to mud because the rains are torrential. Even more, the talc-like consistency of the soil means much of it is just washed away into drains, onto roads, and where it should not be.

People sit around a lot in Malawi. It seems common in Africa. The men more than the women for needs must as a philosophy means people need to eat, clothes need to be washed, water needs to be fetched and children and men need to be looked after. But beyond what must be done, there is a lot of sitting around and talking. No doubt in such places people could, in ways they could not, in more severe climates where sitting around and talking all the time would have you dead in winter.

And so there is a lack of industry in the culture, a lack of effort expended without necessary gain. You see it even in the offices where people go to work, but not as they go to work in Western cultures - they go to work to do the minimum which is required, sadly not much and not enough, and then they sit around drinking tea or coffee, talking. They seem surprised at the industry of Westerners. Why would they not be? It is alien to their culture.

It also explains why so many African countries are basket cases. It explains why so many homes are barely maintained, why fields roam around trees and obstacles because the effort required to clear areas properly, would be considered exceptional to that which was needed. It would be considered unnecessary and a waste of time and effort.

And the ubiquitous donor aid industry has turned it into a mendicant culture where now if there is sit-down time, it happens with a hand held out for the international community to provide funds.

Another factor in Africa is that as the local saying goes, if one lobster tries to climb out of the pot, he or she will be pulled back down. You are not meant to be different. So planting more trees around your home or putting in a garden or establishing ordered fields would make you different and you would be pulled into line. A chief can be different. A chief can paint his house, order his fields, establish a garden .... but not ordinary people. And so nothing changes, not even for the better.

For the lack of industry is not because Africans cannot work hard. They can and they do, particularly the women who walk miles with huge containers of water, bundles of wood, sacks of maize or whatever else is needed, on their heads. Often with a baby on their back. And the men cycle up hills with passengers on the back, goats strapped to a frame, huge piles of timber, metal pipes, bags of coal and teetering piles of wood.  But all those things are required and they work hard for what they need to do and then they sit around.

But they can sit around because nature allows them to do it, generally.  The soil here is so rich that food is easily grown. Most of the farming is subsistence because there are now too many people, some 15million, in the small sliver of land which is Malawi. And the chiefs are still gods and hold sway. There is no way of organising farming because there is little spare land and the chiefs don't want things to change and the ordinary people cannot bring about change and so, nothing changes.

It is probably more depressing for outsiders looking on than it is for people living such lives who have never known anything different. HIV/Aids is rife here and cutting down Malawians of all ages, all of the time. A 25 year old Australian is likely to have never been to a funeral while a Malawian of the same age, will have been to many. One 25 year old Malawian I know has been to five in the past twelve months. I won't say it was all, or even any HIV/Aids but it might be. From the ages of eight to about fifty or so, and all relatively close family.

But the people look healthy. They can haul huge loads on their heads and backs and bikes for kilometres and they look robust and fit. Although perhaps there would be more on the roadsides if there were not so many lying ill at home. It is a life of sleep, food, sitting,  some working and sex. There is a lot of sex. Men and women alike seem to be promiscuous .... it is just the way things happen here.

Perhaps with so much death, illness, poverty and corrupt government, people are more inclined to have fun as and when they can. It is perhaps more of a pity that such fun is, for so many, so often deadly if not life-destroying even at higher levels as jobs are lost, careers founder - with Western employers who pay the highest wages - and those who have achieved something, come crashing down.

But then success is considered to be a sign of evil in this part of Africa and good fortune means, not that you are clever or work hard, but that you are in league with witches or the devil, or both. And so perhaps there is an unconscious self-destruct button, a hidden saboteur who will demonstrate that evil forces are not at work, by creating a situation where failure is guaranteed and success impossible.

And people shake their heads, shrug their shoulders and sigh - because it is never ever their fault.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

When the true evil is our lack of compassion....

Finding objects of evil seems to have always been part and parcel of human nature whether the witch-hunts of centuries past or the vigilantes of the Wild West taking things into their own hands.
But such recourse outside of law is always problematic because it is law which protects each and every one of us, however much of an ass it might be at times.
When people decide they can determine good and evil and particularly when they do not differentiate the act from the individual, we enter dangerous territory. There is no doubt that some people do terrible things, but a compassionate position would condemn the act and not the individual, believing that such individuals are mentally ill and while needing to be charged, taken to trial and allotted punishment, they are also deserving of compassion.
For when a society becomes selective about who is deserving of compassion, it debases the best it might be. The rage, fear and fervour about paedophiles is a case in point. Research shows many, if not most, were also sexually abused as children and yet in the 'repetition' of the crime committed against them, as so often happens with terrible psychological trauma experienced in childhood, many would have them as the most evil of people and in fact, less than human, when the very destruction caused by their wounds means they were and are probably amongst the most sensitive - too human in fact to survive what was done to them as children.
A civilized society condemns the act and not the individual.
Excerpt: Paedophilia has become the most obvious focus of vigilante activity in Britain since the turn of the century, with fears about child abuse heightened by tabloid newspaper campaigns and action made easier by technological innovation. The News of the World’s campaign in 2000 to allow the public to access information about paedophiles in their communities led to several attacks on individuals. Most infamously, a paediatrician in Gwent was forced to flee her home after her professional role was bizarrely mistaken as an indicator of sexual proclivities.

The modern sport is 'shooting the messenger.'

We appear to be living, increasingly, in an age of censorship and a tendency to reject angrily, that which runs counter to our current beliefs.


I have read more than once in recent times of people being abused for speaking out, whether it is to reject Israel’s behaviour in Palestine; the wearing of burqas and their ilk, both for and against; current separatist policy in regard to Aborigines, or a plethora of topics which have fallen, for whatever reason into the controversial ‘box.’


Some have faced physical violence and threats because of their views and all have faced verbal abuse to lesser and greater degrees.


Why so much anger? Why the need to label people as left or right; as racist or anti-this or that religion, race or culture? Why demonise those who voice another opinion to your own?


I have been called a bleeding heart, tree-hugging leftie on some issues and a red-neck, right-wing racist on others. I find it humorous. The one consistent factor is that I am always defending human rights, rule of law, democracy, justice and common human decency which means I can be at either end of the polarity or in the middle.

I believe it is called being human with an open mind, a capacity to reason, a belief in research and the application of huge amounts of common sense.


We are lucky in Australia because no Government is ever that bad. All get some things right and some things wrong. And I don't like anything about our current Government although I do agree on some points. But I also feel that demonising them is counter-productive and potentially destructive.


This need to categorise people is sourced I believe, in fear, and it is destructive. We also seem to have moved into an area when political correctness has seemingly educated and intelligent people defending a blatant human rights abuse like Islamic cultural dress codes, and refusing to accept that justice, freedom and human rights for Australia's indigenous people may well rest in new policies of assimilation and integration as opposed to elective separation, not to mention supporting the evil of Israel's occupation, colonisation and apartheid when the clear abuse of Palestinian human rights and freedom cannot be denied.


And why does the PC movement have such power? Because of vested agendas and interests which prevent, as self-censorship, intelligent people from making their own informed decisions and speaking out.


We now have PC 'police' within academia, government and various groups and organisations, aided and abetted by all forms of media, most of which opt to take one position or another, which villify if not demonise, those with differeing opinions to what is considered a norm.


For instance, a group like Amnesty International which purportedly supports human rights will defend much of Israel's behaviour because, no doubt, there is donor pressure. Ditto for their support, or rather, lack of criticism on another 'hot potato,' the plight of some indigenous Australians living so-called traditional lives. The latter is the 'baby' of academia where so many careers are now invested in the 'religion' and industry of Aboriginality, not to mention egos and prestige, that there is only one view.


An academic who rejects the 'black armband theory' of indigenous history must think long and hard about saying so and most opt for silence and self-censorship. Ditto for a scientist or doctor who rejects the prevailing theories on vaccination or something like chemotherapy, despite having vast data to support their position. The vaccination issue in particular seems to reduce many to frothing at the mouth hysterical rage, which reflects more than anything, the morphing of medicine into a new religion where any challenging of theology or dogma is ‘seen’ to be the work of ‘the devil.’


plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose …..or, the more things change, the more they stay the same!


Likewise for the doctor who comes to understand the value of non-allopathic medical methodologies like Homeopathy and Acupuncture. Or the scientist who questions the common beliefs regarding global warming and climate change.


Woe betide the anthropologist who dares to suggest that Aborigines killed or drove out an earlier race....woe betide in fact anyone who does not go along with the herd mentality and beliefs,  which so many agendas and systems now seek to impose.

And because people are increasingly frightened to think for themselves because they fear loss of power, profit, prestige or peer approval, they can support things like the burqa and its ilk, against all reason, common sense and justice.


Those who speak out against the prevailing views risk being burned 'at the stake' as happened in centuries past when the 'religion' of the day was challenged. Fortunately the 'stake' today is metaphorical, but don't be under any illusions that 'being burned at a metaphorical stake' in this day and age cannot do great physical harm in terms of destroying career, profession, reputation and relationships, both professional and personal.


Social media is a 'mirror' in many ways of the society and it has become common to de-friend or even block those who express an opposing view. It is ironic given that we live in an age where we believe in freedom of speech and have freedom of speech to degrees never before known in recorded human history.


As a psychologist friend said many years ago: Where there is outrage there is inrage. And that means, when a view is rejected by others with high levels of rage and visceral passion, there is behind it fear. And as in days of old, from whence the term originates, what happens all too frequently now is that the reaction is to, ‘shoot the messenger.’


Even those who should know better will now resort to ad hominem attacks, as if, in killing the ‘messenger’ the message itself can be rendered silent. It may have worked centuries ago when death could be applied as a literal solution, but it hardly works today.


I have long believed that ‘truth does out,’ and that robust and open debate is the way to find truths and where there is censorship - social, system or self-imposed - there is a denial of truth and a diminished capacity to reason.


After all, if those reacting with such rage are right, surely, through open, frank, informed discussion they will be proven so. Perhaps, as with orthodox religion in times past, the rage is because they fear they are, or might be wrong and their seemingly strong citadel is built of no more than fantasy.


The ‘monkey mentality’ of See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil actually translates, I believe, into becoming blind, deaf and dumb on certain issues and that is in no-one interests – individual or society.


Human nature is such that we find it harder to let go of our ‘dreams’ and fantasies than we do any reality, no matter how painful the outcome might be. And no doubt, when careers, egos, profits, power and professions are riding on it…then it becomes even harder.


But, as maxims come and go, depending upon the age and the stage of human development there is one which remains constant:


‘the truth will set you free.’


I cite this beyond any religious connection and do so because, that which denies, represses or seeks to destroy access to truth, imprisons us all.


Freedom of speech is probably the most important freedom and right, which human society has achieved to date and we betray it at our peril.


In times past, and still in some societies, censorship came from above, from the government or the leaders, civil and theological, but now, in the Western world, the world where people have the most freedom in general and the greatest capacity to speak freely, we are seeing censorship imposed from within, by the society at large and by individual to individual.


Self-censorship and social censorship have capacities to harm societies far more than anything which might be imposed from above. Any form of censorship limits freedom and nothing limits freedom more than a denial of one’s right to speak whatever it is, one believes, as long as those beliefs do not denigrate and demonise others.


There are ways of saying what one wants to say which neither denigrate nor demonise and no argument or position is ever substantiated by ad hominem, attacks on individuals in a personal sense.


Perhaps the greatest irony is that in this age of political correctness when people are so aware of and sensitive to, that which is called ‘hate speech,’ as it relates to culture, religion, race or group, we now have hate speech, often vicious and irrational, aimed at those who do no more than express an opinion which runs counter to a current prevailing view.


A civilized society does not just respect as far as possible, if human rights are not contravened, cultural and racial differences, but it also respects to the same degree, the right of each and every one of us to form our own opinions on any matter which we may consider to be important. Or not as the case may be.


Which brings me to another often forgotten and important maxim, whose origin is contentious but which stands on its own solid ground and here I paraphrase:


‘I may not like what you say but I defend to the death (mine not anyone else’s) your right to say it.’


We may not like what someone else says, but we do, I believe, need to respect and defend their right to say it, no matter how unpalatable it might be. And of course there is a qualifier in there in regard to anything which might accurately be defined as ‘hate speech,’ within a realm where much that is called hate speech is not, but is merely an opinion which is different and perhaps shocking, or unsettling, or troubling, or other than a prevailing view.


So, anyone who finds themselves outraged, disgusted, offended, appalled – pick any word which indicates a powerful emotional reaction – with the views expressed by others, would be wise to take stock and look within for the source of such a reaction, and find a place beyond the visceral where a measured, considered and reasoned response can be found.


There is something which many of us learned in childhood which is perhaps well-remembered:


‘Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.’


Words are used to convey ideas, beliefs, thoughts, opinions and while you might not like the message that they carry, they cannot hurt you.


Yes, ideas can be dangerous and perhaps that is something we all know unconsciously, but a society without a broad and varied spectrum of ideas is a society in decay and decline. The greatest human advances have come from questions, even questions where there are no answers for years, centuries, or even as yet.


The societies which fall are those which stop asking questions or demand others stop asking questions and which censor what can be discussed, how something can be discussed, what questions can be asked and, even worse, what answers may be found.


In the age of information, while recognising that there can be too much information, too much discussion, too much talking at times, we need to remember that there can never be too many questions, or too many differing views, if we are to continue to evolve and grow.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Why Islamic dress codes for women should be banned

I realise that those who came up with this idea of Australian women in general wearing scarves to support Muslim women, and those who support it are kind, generous, open-minded and caring people but the simple fact is that this is support for something which denies some Muslim women the right to live with the freedom they deserve.
It is akin with the repressions of times past when women were forced by social pressure to wear corsets, to control movement - a garment which harmed mother and often baby. It is a later version of the metal chastity belt into which men locked their wives centuries ago.
As a woman who grew up as the first generation in Australia to gain some gender equality and freedom I cannot find any solidarity with a backward dress code which is imposed only on women, not men, in the name of a religion and yet which is not sourced in Islam in the first place. In the generations before me women could not enter a church without covering their hair - hair long considered to be sexual enticement by patriarchy and a sign of the evil nature of women - neither was a menstruating woman meant to enter a church because she was unclean, and is still not allowed in Hindu or Buddhist temples in many parts of the world; was not allowed in a church after giving birth without undergoing a cleansing ritual by the priest, who could remove her unclean nature which resulted from giving birth.....
And so, when I see women who are not free to choose for themselves in a fundamentalist and patriarchal expression of Islam which demands they imprison themselves in clothes which restrict in some cases the ability to breathe fresh air, vision, hearing and in all cases, restrict the senses, movement and the capacity to absorb Vitamin D from getting sun on their skin, a deficiency of which predisposes to cancer and other serious diseases, I believe they need to be encouraged to be as free as the rest of us, instead of being encouraged to remain in their clothing prisons.
And to put such clothing on a little girl is criminal. In some cases as young as three where they can see their brothers run free with the wind in their hair and the sun on their skin and they cannot.
If such clothing were worn by men as well as woman one could not claim it is merely an expression of patriarchal fear and loathing of the feminine form. But it is not worn by men.
If Imams stated that no woman could wear burqa, niqab or hijab until she made a free decision at the age of 21 and that anyone harassing a woman who opted not to wear such garment, would be charged with harassment, and that any woman who chose to dress in this way could change her mind at any time without issue, I doubt anyone would have an issue with such clothing and everyone would support such a campaign.
But that is not the case and supporting such a campaign is supporting an abuse of human rights which is simply not to be tolerated in a civilized, modern world.
I believe that anyone who wore any of these garments for a week - most would only last a day, particularly in summer and men probably an hour - would throw them off and campaign to have them banned for public use. What people do in the privacy of their homes is their business. As the French have decided with their ban.
The fact of the matter is that the reason why we have modern democratic states is because people sensibly decided that religion and state should be separate. Religion is a private matter and should not be practised in any way which imposes itself on others. Australia is not an Islamic country where such dress is more of a norm and so Australians generally, and women in particular, because they remember the misogyny of their mother's generation and misogyny which still exists, are likely to be deeply offended by such a demonstration of patriarchy at its most brutal, if not evil.
It is worth remembering, since many cite as an example, the nun's habit, that it is nearly forty years since the Christian churches, including the Catholics, questioned this practice, no doubt because of complaining nuns, and declared that individual orders could decide whether or not to retain this garment, or discard it, or make it optional. It was realised that such restrictive clothing, and a nun's habit is akin to a hijab, was simply not suited to the work many nuns had to do, nor conducive to proper function in a modern world.
And let's remember that nuns, alike Moslem wives and mothers, were not out shopping in supermarkets, delivering and collecting children from school, breastfeeding babies, chasing toddlers around playground and doing everything that other Australian women would do in absolute freedom and comfort.
Those orders which were contemplative and closed off from the outside world where most time was spent in prayer and contemplation, with minor work commitments for the order, opted to retain the habit as a symbol of their commitment. All orders involved in working with the public where nuns had jobs, if not professions, opted to either discard entirely or make such dress optional.
No-one supports the harassment of the Muslim women who dress this way but that does not make this backward tradition acceptable either.
This campaign is a well-intended but terrible idea which supports a cruel form of misogyny which anyone of conscience should oppose.

How to treat your very best friend - your body

Here's a question. How do you treat your best friends? Do you mistrust them? Do you expect them to betray you? Are you always suspicious of what they might do? Do you at times fear your best friends?

Do you regularly check on them because you expect them to hurt you in some way? Do you get angry with them when they don't do exactly what you want? Do you ignore them for long periods of time, treat them badly, abuse them, hurt their feelings without caring?

Do you ignore their needs? Do you force them to do what you want even though they protest? Do you demand that they perform exactly as you want when you want? Would you use any means possible to silence a best friend if they tried to speak to you, tried to tell you something?

Probably not. You would not have many if any best friends would you?

And yet how many people treat their body in this way? How many people see their body as more enemy than friend, who cannot be trusted and when it speaks, is best ignored.

And they do this, despite the fact that your body is your best friend in your life and will be with you from birth to death in ways that you cannot gaurantee any other friend will. Should not such a friend be cherished, cared for and loved?

Most of us continue to love our best friends no matter what. We accept their failings, comfort them when they hurt, soothe their fears, listen to them when they speak and honour them with enormous respect. So why not do the same for your body?

Other friends and those we love may 'leave' in one way or another, death being most final, but we are in it for the duration with the miracle that is our body and yet too often people treat their body as if it were their worst enemy and not their dearest friend.

To be fair, science/medicine encourages people to believe that their body is 'other,' separate, and no more than a piece of equipment to be repaired when it breaks down, if possible, serviced from time to time but usually only when a warning light goes on; topped up as a bag of chemicals and never, ever to be trusted as a friend.

And yet if people treated their human friends as they do their bodies, no-one would be surprised if the friend became traumatised, confused, angry and resistant. We and our body are more like a universe than a machine and we are certainly more an organism than pure mechanics or a collection of chemicals.

It has often been said that we have to love ourselves first before we can truly love anyone else and a good place to begin is with the body. Thoughts, words, actions which demonstrate absolute love of and for and with your body, no matter how it 'looks' or what it is 'doing' or 'being' or how it is manifest, is a demonstration of love - love being connectedness, and the ultimate in love being ultimate connectedness.

If you believe in love for friends and family then don't leave out your one true and constant best friend - your body. You might be surprised when you start to listen, love and consider your body how much your health improves.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Why Islamic dress codes for women are evil

The issue of Islamic dress codes for women came up in conversation today and I seemed to shock some people when I said that I consider both the burqa and the hijab to be evil and, the hijab,  when imposed on young girls, amounting to criminal abuse.

It is seen as cultural insensitivity to criticise such things, I was told and in a free country like Australia we should accept the right of others to dress as they choose. I don't disagree with that, unless, as is the case of burqas for women and hijabs for girls, that right represents a fundamental denial of human rights, common decency and amounts to a health risk to boot.

It is, say some, about standards of modesty. And the truth is, this standard of modesty is sourced in a patriarchal religion and culture which believes men are superior and women are no more than sexual objects, who, if allowed to reveal their flesh or the odd loose hair, will reduce every man in sight to some sort of deviant sexual animal. The result of course being the fault of the offending woman and not the deviant man.

Well, Standards of modesty are fine but the fact is, if we really allowed freedom on dress codes then we would allow nudity which is an 'extreme' dress code. I consider the burqa to be an extreme dress code and for that matter, the hijab as well, particularly since both represent health hazards because they limit skin exposure to the sun which we know reduces Vitamin D absorption and which predisposes to cancer and other serious diseases.

There is an irony that we impose sunscreen and hat rules on children for their own good, although new research is showing the chemical cocktail of sunscreen is harmful and the lack of exposure to sunshine is reducing Vitamin D, and yet we support little girls being imprisoned in hijabs because it is cultural. Many things are cultural but it does not make them right.

I do think burqas and hijabs, beyond being health hazards are evil in the same way that circumcision of any child is evil.

I would be prepared to bet that if Islam decided men should also dress this way, the dress-code would change in a day, perhaps in an hour if it was a hot day.

And yes, I have seen the research, which supposedly says Muslim women are happy, nay delighted, to walk around covered up in 'blankets' or imprisoned by hijabs.  But, I would be prepared to bet that if Muslim women were given freedom to dress as they please they would give it up in 99% of cases. A few might continue but most would not in the same way Christian women, when given freedom, stopped wearing head-scarves or hats in church and went to services while menstruating and without being 'cleansed' after childbirth. It is called progress in a civilized world.

Burqas and hijabs are backward and cruel. I live in Africa and I travel in Africa and I drive through a Christian village and then a no religion village and then a Muslim village and in the first two men and women dress for climate and comfort in the same way. In a Muslim village the men are dressed the same as in the other two villages and the poor women and girls are wrapped up in the heat in horrible nylon hijabs, trying to do the same work in the fields, walking the same distance on hot, dusty roads, in hideous garments which are quite simply not required and in the climate, cruel.

And I sit too often in restaurants in Johannnesburg, seeing poor women in their burqas, trying to eat their breakfast by pushing food up beneath this blanket prison while their husbands, fathers and sons, sit by their side, dressed in light linen short-sleeved shirts and trousers, generally Italian by the look of them, eating their breakfast like any normal human being.

It is cruel. The only thing you can see are their eyes and I just feel so sorry for them. The burqa is pure evil and any sane woman, given the chance would never wear one and that is a simple fact of life. Ditto for hijabs and putting them on children is a crime - or should be a crime. And if that is culturally insensitive then I am prepared to be culturally insensitive in the same way that people were being culturally insensitive when they spoke out against slavery, child labour, repression of women and campaigned to free them all and for universal suffrage.

If being culturally insensitive means one is defending human and civilized values pertaining to human rights then perhaps it is time more of us were culturally insensitive. And if it offends those who deny others human rights then all to the good.

I am sure living where I do, that I am reminded more than most of how horrible things like burqas are. Every time I sit in a restaurant, and I do it often,  and watch these poor women trying to eat I want to go up and demand their husbands put it on and try to eat their breakfast.

Every time I see a Muslim woman struggling to work in the fields in a hijab while a non-Muslim woman down the road is free to do the work she needs to do, carry huge containers of water for kilometres, in sensible, cool clothes in stinking heat, I cannot help but be convinced of how evil such dress codes are.

 They reflect a primitive, backward and barbaric attitude to women which was once a part of all religions. I would have less of an issue if men dressed the same but they do not. It is the pure poison of patriarchy manifesting through religion.

As a counter, some will cite the pressure on young women in the West in regard to how they look and what they wear, but here is the difference, the woman in the West wearing six inch heels and tiny skirts has made a choice to do it and can change her mind at any point. The woman in the burqa or hijab has not made a free choice and she cannot change her mind. In many places she is likely to be flogged, hung or even beheaded if she tries.

So, to commit the sin of political incorrectness by speaking out against a 'tradition' which has no place in a civilized religion let alone a modern world ... does it matter if people are offended? Men raged, ranted and fumed and predicted all sorts of horrors if the evil of votes for women or education for women were to happen. But those who opposed them were wrong.

I believe all women, regardless of race or creed should have the freedom that I have and if that means pointing out what is evil in their religion, as was done I might add with Christianity which is why I and other women living in the West, and I might add, many in the Third World who are not Muslim,  are free, then so be it.

And I am sure many women get used to the hideous sweat box which is Islamic dress, but would they wear it given a choice? I doubt it. Sure they seem calm, at peace with their lot, although how much that is projection and how much is reality is hard to say. My mother's generation were oppressed compared to mine and they seemed calm enough, in public at least. That is how patriarchy works.
It is when you get close to women who are so subjugated, as I did living in India, with both Hindus and Muslims, that you realise how they appear on the outside is not how they are on the inside.
I think some people are prepared to believe the propaganda that women who dress this way are humble, modest, and doing no more than reflecting the humility and 'goodness' of their religion. Although if that were so then why is it just women? Why don't men dress the same?

And that is because the burqa and hijab are covers in more ways than one. They hide the truth of the titillation factor for husbands in particular and perhaps Muslim men in general, and that is the knowledge that underneath that plain and modest exterior there is the body of a woman dressed  in a way, that we in the West would expect to see in a woman who makes her living selling sex. In other words, as a whore.

Let me just say, think tawdry, whoreish, with, once they get home, six inch heels, skirts at crotch level and a taste in clothes of which your average well-dressed hooker would be proud. The true evil of the burqa and hijab is seen in such hidden dress codes where Muslim men can 'get their rocks off' because they know what is underneath.

No wonder Muslim men believe that it is necessary to cover up their wives and that if allowed out in the world there would be sexual chaos: the burqa covers up the reality of 'legalised prostitution.'
Beneath the burqa lives the shadow of the so-called modesty touted by patriarchal Islam. I have seen Arab women, wrapped up in their black rags, shopping in Dubai, London, Johannesburg - places I frequent - and since they do not have their own shops and are forced to shop with non-Muslims, it is easy to see what they buy in clothes and shoes and sometimes lingerie.

And perhaps the fact that they dress like 'whores' is what keeps Muslim men terrified and titillated.....obviously this does not apply to poor Muslim women but the rich, beneath the robes, could do business in an instant standing on any street corner. They are, these humble Muslim women, as often as not, beneath the drab exterior, ladies of the day and night of which most men can only dream. Except one presumes they don't get left a wad of cash on the side-table.

Although perhaps they do if they perform well, in that their credit card limit is extended for more lascivious clothes.
It is that hidden hypocrisy which to me demonstrates the true evil of it all.