Friday, October 28, 2011

The Right to be Born

What is called “the right to life” in anti-abortion circles is actually the claimed right of a non-viable foetus to be born. (Both sides agree on the right of a viable foetus.) The doctrine is espoused by some religious denominations as an article of faith rather than of logic or science. Morality comes into the equation, but only as the stepchild of a belief in Original Sin and a supernatural creator-god. The same faith sometimes opposes artificial (pro-active) methods of contraception, which leaves the moral position up in the air. If a creator-god forbids birth-control pills, spermicidal pills and morning-after pills, in what order of priority does he or it disapprove of them?

When does life begin? If the answer were “at conception”, why on earth should it be sinful to prevent conception? And, why delay it until after an approved marriage ceremony in an approved church? (Approved by the agents of the creator-god of the moment, that is.) Well, it’s because the agents themselves say so, they being uniquely qualified to know the mind of the god they inherited. Any debate quickly descends into a battle based on false premises. I myself claim to believe in Loki the old Norse god of luck and caprice. You can probably guess what his opinion is on this whole matter.

If life does begin at conception, there are practical problems that need to be addressed, and not just the problem of when to have one’s birthday parties. Every conception would require formal registration, lest a life be lost and not accounted for. Since conception is not immediately evident, every act of sexual congress would need to be reported. Of course that is something the average boy and girl are reluctant to tell their mothers, never mind some faceless bureaucrats in a Ministry (or Church) for the Preservation of God’s Children. Anyway, where would registration leave sperm-banks and their clients?

In the movie Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon faced down the argument that a sperm-donor might legally be entitled to parental rights over a baby conceived using his sperm. Logically, she said, it would follow that “all masturbatory emissions, where his sperm was clearly not seeking an egg, could be termed reckless abandonment”. That’s one for the church fathers to ponder!

It’s a nice paradox, that liberals (in the British sense of the word) tend to be pro-abortion and anti-war, whereas conservatives generally oppose abortion while being pro-war. A child once born must be protected from hardship and poverty in the soft liberal world, but left to take his chances in a laisser-faire conservative society. It’s relatively rare to find a consistent opinion on the sanctity of life, however defined. Perhaps all anti-war pacifists ought to be anti-abortion, and all supporters of wars ought to be pro-abortion. The latter set doesn’t usually mind bombing a baby the minute it’s born; the former would ban the bombing while frustrating the birth. Go figure.

The famous satirical book 1066 and All That reported the English Civil War as being a struggle between the Cavaliers (“Wrong but Romantic”) and the Roundheads (“Right but Repulsive”). The descriptions could easily be applied to the parties in the debate on the right to be born. But which is which? Hmmm. My old Norse god of caprice has just told me, “It all depends...”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Right To Life

My last blog noted that without freedom of speech, no other rights can be defended. I have been reminded that without life, no rights at all can be defended, so there must exist an inherent right to defend oneself. Sounds fair to me. Most human-rights professionals, though, say not. They take governments’ deprivation of human life as an abuse of the most fundamental right of all, on the grounds that without life, no other rights can possibly exist.

Enemies of state can be locked away in dark holes and tortured daily, while awaiting enough Amnesty International letters to set them free. Foreign troublemakers can be deported beyond the reach of all human-rights organisations, and even beyond their concern. But when you’re dead, you’re dead. No Amnesty letters can set you free, and no indignant lawyer can stop your expulsion. Punishment camps may be a living death, but they’re not the real thing.

The standard list (bill) of “human rights” appears in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by a voting majority of the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 as an ideal for all nations to aspire to. Not just aspire to, but actually work towards achieving: each member-nation of the UN within its own boundaries, and each keeping its fellow-members up to the mark.

The Declaration was drafted in the wake and aftermath of Germany’s recent wars of aggression, and was therefore supposed to be universal, not tribal -- supposed to apply to all humans, not just certain nationalities. In future, all nationalities were supposed to be equally protected. Aggressive wars were to be outlawed, since each nation had agreed not to take the lives of any humans, including nationalities not its own. The chief indictment at the Nuremberg War Trials of the Nazi defendants was not for the slaughter of the Jews, or Russian POWs, but for waging wars of aggression.

How ironic, then, that wars of aggression have become so common among the nations that provided the original prosecutors, and that their current governments despise the now-forgotten context in which the original bill of human rights was composed. If the Nuremberg laws were applied today, most NATO politicians and generals would risk being hanged. The changed circumstances make it difficult to argue for the right to life any more. It seems grotesque to criticise the application of “the death penalty” for domestic murderers in nations that have embraced the practice of mass-murdering unwitting foreigners without remorse.

The argument (for the right to life) has reverted to a tribal relevance. Our national governments may slaughter whom they like, but not their own nationals. Libyan civilians YES, local killers NO. For as long as we condone that policy, it seems trivial and unnecessary to try to protect the lives of local thugs. If we applaud the killers of innocent wogs and dagoes and rag-heads in faraway places, why not issue guns to every householder and tell him to take out every guilty mugger he can find. Watch the 1970s movie Death Wish, a model of encouragement for vigilante justice. “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Some ethnic communities are inherently more valuable than others. Our soldiers are heroes, theirs are cockroaches. We have the right to defend our lives and they don’t, even while we are breaking into their homes. Might is right. Right? Well, if might is indeed right, why can’t it be applied against an armed burglar in our homes? Hey, maybe he’s a Muslim. Then what? They don’t have rights, do they?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Freedom Of Speech (censorship in Cayman)

It’s disappointing to read of McKeeva’s lawsuit against Cayman News Service for defamation. The action makes no sense, and could well cause enormous damage to our Islands’ image overseas. Cayman is a much more sophisticated place than it was a generation ago when I had to fight censorship for criticising the ExCo of the day in the Chamber of Commerce Newsletter.

Ezzard called me “obnoxious” in the Legislative Assembly; Benson called the Chamber “a subversive organisation”. Dr Edlin pulled my Work Permit, and the Chamber had to scramble to prevent being closed down by the political establishment.

It was a serious dispute- but nobody sued. Presumably, the political heavies thought it would be too embarrassing, although it turned out to be embarrassing enough even without a lawsuit. Our criticism was robust but warranted. We called the new Labour Law “a lurch towards socialism”- which sounds hopelessly tame today but was inflammatory then.

Jim Graves, the Editor of the Nor’Wester magazine, had been expelled at the instigation of Jim Bodden a few years earlier. There was a big fuss over his Editorials, too - but nobody sued. Later, Jim Graves and I shook our heads over the irony that the very people who had brought him back to Cayman, after a few years of exile, were the ones now trying to get rid of me. “Well, that’s just what they’re like”, Jim said - meaning, Caymanian MLAs in general. “You today, me yesterday; who knows who they’ll go after next?”

There have been a couple of other victims along the way - and now it’s Nicky and Wendy, Daphne and Randy. Critics of our politicians can never relax, it seems. The faces change, but the censorship lives on.

The Protection Board, later the Immigration Board, was always the censors’ weapon of choice. Traditionally it was packed with anti-expats; as a general statement, all the immigration-related Boards still are. I’m surprised Randy’s Work Permit employees weren’t targeted for deportation, instead of the radio station being sued. Dear oh dear: no respect for tradition!

My persecution in the late 1980s was reported by the Jamaica Gleaner (“A Climate of Censorship”) and Offshore Alert (“ExCo Hillbillies”). Selected English newspapers were being lined up when the FCO quietly stepped in and called off the dogs. There was no coverage by Cayman’s mass media, of course. The Caymanian Compass shrank even further into its “see no evil” shell; the Chamber of Commerce was gradually subverted by political cronies and reduced to the lap-dog it is now.  

CNS is pretty much all we have, today. CaymanNetNews prints my weekly columns (several of which are politically incorrect, though not all) as well as its own sometimes very critical Editorials; Knal and I do our blogs. Otherwise it’s just the Wendy & Nicky show, and all the contributors to their forums.

I don’t believe the general public can afford to let their website be neutered. Cayman is a much more prominent target than it used to be, and censorship by what Offshore Alert is bound to call “Hillbillies” will become a hot topic internationally, sooner or later. If someone close to the citadels of power can get these lawsuits withdrawn, he or she would be doing Cayman a wonderful service.

It’s an axiom of human-rights activism that without freedom of speech no other freedoms can survive. As we know, human rights are as yet unrecognised by Cayman’s authorities. All the same, the sight of a human-rights-inspired Gender Equality Law being debated in the same month as an act of blatant censorship is way too bizarre to pass unremarked by many of our international critics.