Great Quotes

Salman Rushdie on satire and religions

Earlier today, 12 journalists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hepbo, were murdered by terrorists angry that the publication had mocked their religion.

Salman Rushdie released the following statement, which seems perfectly apt:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

His words may offend and affront some of my Muslim friends. Nonetheless, he’s right. Freedom of expression demands no less.

By | January 7th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Public argument is relatively new idea

Really enjoying the recently published “New Ethics of Journalism.” Below is a good bit from Clay Shirky on the nature of public argument and debate. Many cultures in Asia and the Arab world are struggling as the Internet forces governments to concede to these public arguments.

Argument, of course, is the human condition, but public argument is not. Indeed, in most places for most of history, publicly available statements have been either made or vetted by the ruling class, with the right of reply rendered impractical, illegal, or both. Expansion of public speech, for both participants and topics, is generally won only after considerable struggle, and of course, any such victory pollutes the sense of what constitutes truth from the previous era, a story that runs from Martin Luther through Ida Tarbell to Mario Savio, the drag queens outside Stonewall, and Julian Assange.

Important to remember the struggle takes time.

By | August 30th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

John Stuart Mill on progress and rights

John Stuart Mill (Source: WikiCommons)

Here’s a favorite quote from the English philosopher who invented Utilitarianism along with Jeremy Bentham:

The entire history of social improvement has been a series of transitions, by which one custom or institution after another, from being a supposed primary necessity of social existence, has passed into the rank of an universally stigmatized injustice and tyranny. So it has been with the distinctions of slaves and freemen, nobles and serfs, patricians and plebeians; and so it will be, and in part already is, with the aristocracies of colour, race, and sex.

When we read this section in my ethics classes I like to ask my students what tradition or custom in today’s society will one day be stigmatized as injustice. Always a good discussion.

By | December 22nd, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

On the occasional need for polemic writing

I’ve always remembered a quote from Flannery O’Connor, the great author from the American South. O’Connor wrote interesting tales fused with themes of ethics and morality. Her characters often struggled with prickly issues of the Civil Rights era like prejudice, racism and the waning influence of religion. Often, her stories would take a dramatic twist at the end that would shock her audiences. In the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” for instance, a genteel family on a road trip are murdered by nihilist criminals on the final page.

Her quote occurs to me whenever I read or see anything that people respond to with shock and disbelief. She told an interviewer once:

When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.

I thought of her words again today when I read Mona Eltahawy’s article “Why do they hate us?” which details her perception of the mass mistreatment of Arab women.

By | April 24th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments