Title: Editorial: Perpetuating ancient fear, ignorance and greed Credit: Jay Bennie Features Tuesday 22nd June 2004 - 12:00pm1087862400 Article: 304 Rights
In today's editorial endorsing the civil unions bill the NZ Herald makes an interesting statement that: "Those who believe that marriage is a divine blessing intended primarily for the creation and nurturing of children should not object to a different form of recognition for relationships that cannot produce children." The frustrating thing is those people do object, stridently. Why? Here's our theory. Back in the mists of time when the world was a scary place full of mysteries and the unexplainable, primitive minds with little accrued knowledge just could not understand, for instance, why the stars moved through the night sky and didn't fall like a stone or an apple. They didn't even understand why that apple fell to earth anyway. Or why we are here on earth, or what the earth is. They were ignorant yet still faced most of the challenges we face today, like feeding themselves, overcoming adversity, nurturing a family, tackling the future with confidence. So to come to terms with the natural world and things like misery and death and hope and fickle fate they took all their unanswerable questions and put them in a metaphorical box which eventually got labeled “God's will/Devil's work.” It was a kind of smoke and mirrors metaphorical box, because they really didn't understand what God and Devil were either. But for the time being it was easier and reassuring to cop out that way and let a few navel-gazing philosophers and religious thinkers somewhere bang on in endless circular debate and speculation. Over the centuries one positive result of all that religious thinking was that people learned to think. Also to speculate, debate and formulate. The brave, outward looking thinkers put their ideas to the test and became scientists and realists and forces for social development. The scared, timorous ones spiraled ever inwards putting up more and more walls (literally and figuratively) around their shrinking islands of philosophical certitude. The progressive thinkers and questioners refined their arts and turned them into sciences. Facts became even more important than beliefs, were recorded better and communicated more widely than ever before. It all snowballed. Better education, better health, less misery, longer productive lives, more time to develop skills and genuine expertise all led to successive flowerings of civilisations which uplifted and elevated much of mankind. The primitives who cowered in a cave fearful of a nasty death at the hands of shaggy beasts of the night eventually developed into confident, skilled folk who tamed the beasts and rode them out into the world Well, many of them did, but not all. Some folk clung to the old fears and palliatives. They couldn't bring themselves to step out into the brave new world. In fear and ignorance they buried their heads in pious tracts of received but unsubstantiated ‘wisdom' controlled by those who had created a powerful business out of stoking up fears and offering unsubstantiated solutions. Solutions which ultimately and primarily benefited those in control. The starving, pox-ridden and ignorant may have felt downtrodden and despairing but a penny in the collection plate bought them reassuring word or two. No matter how crap their lives were, there was apparently better to come. Grubby, starving, desperate peasant: “When will it come?” Splendidly outfitted, portly and self-proclaimed messenger of God: “Er, in the future... probably after you die.” Peasant: “Where will it be?” Cleric: “Um, in... um, er... Heaven!” Peasant: “How?” Cleric: “By God's will.” Peasant: “Are you sure?” Cleric: “Just shut up, stop thinking, and read this book. And give me 10% of your income and your firstborn to brainwash. Or I'll burn you at the stake!” Peasant: “Gulp, quick Gladys, give the man young Brian and a couple of groats!” All those groats accumulated to create lifestyles of sumptuous wealth and comfort for those in control. In palaces and cathedrals and gated compounds these control freaks hoarded and protected their knowledge and power and jewels. They also hoarded and projected ruthlessness, hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness. Occasionally one or two became truly enlightened and, if they weren't turned on and devoured by their associates, worked in practical ways to improve the lot of their fellow man. But most just worked the system. Supported the status quo. Commissioned a few more paintings and operas. Waved graciously down to the crowds. Luckily for those of us who who value genuine freedom and pure knowledge for all, outside the walls and down in the crowds were freer thinkers who slowly created a more realistic and workable world view and gradually the trembling multitudes decided to rely on sureties, not reassurances. Aspirin proved better than prayer at curing pains. Planting seeds more expertly worked better that getting some bloke in a cassock to raise his arms skyward while mumbling in tongues. Occasional throwbacks to more savage and brutal ways occasionally highlighted that man is an imperfect animal, but overall people's lives improved and were enriched. Eventually the descendants of the avaricious, the power-crazed, the religious and the royal came out into the real world, accepted the reality of this world, and combined the more wholesome aspects of their philosophies with the new knowledge to help their less fortunate, less confident compatriots. Control and power moved away from the palaces and cathedrals into the hands of ordinary folk, or their representatives. Sadly, just a few, even now, cling to their superstitious, simplistic and often illogical ways. Sometimes through ignorance, or inherited bigotry and intolerance, or fear, they cannot make the transition. Behind high walls and closed minds the create their own little environments where they can pretend that nothing has changed, that their way is best. They isolate their children from progressive thought and drum fear and loathing into them. They desperately try to protect the old, patently destructive ways. Shut off from complex reality they try to spread the chillingly simple poisons of separateness, exclusivity, arrogance, greed and hatred. They believe that their way of thinking is the only right way. They believe that anyone who isn't like themselves is unwholesome or threatening. They believe they have the right to restrict other's lives and force compliance with their own narrow outlook. They long for the days when people with their views and attitudes controlled the world and they would have reaped the benefits of special positions in society. And they know that if they speak their insidious, callous propaganda into the right ears they can still use other people's fears or lust for power to manipulate those people into saving their day. God-fearing Goebels spoke and the Nazi slaughterers tyrannised a continent and massacred Jews, gays, gypsies and others. Osama Bin Laden speaks and his barbarous acolytes terrorise the western world. George Bush speaks and the humongous US military carries the flags of Christendom and rapacious profit into the oil-rich lands of the “towell-heads”. Maxim, United Future and Destiny speak and a surprising number of New Zealanders, consciously or unconsciously, do their best to isolate and victimise others, to shore up the dark, impervious, medieval walls, palaces and cathedrals of ignorance and superstition. Now, call us precious, or commie peace-niks, or irreligious or weak, but here at we don't believe millions of innocent people should be shoveled into gas chambers because of their beliefs or race or nature. We don't believe ignorant vicious cave-dwellers should be left to spread death or misery around the world. We don't believe charismatic but immoral politicians should manipulate armies into brutal war and we don't believe bigoted, mean-spirited, ignorant or self-serving people should control the social climate of New Zealand. We do believe in equality, liberty and fraternity. And, some may be surprised to hear, we believe in the moral values of the Ten Commandments. Including the do unto others one. Jay Bennie Editor Jay Bennie - 22nd June 2004    
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