Saturday, July 31, 2010

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace has 1,225 pages. How many Twitter users do you think would read 1,225 pages?

Not that they would not read because they would be bored, but since Lev Tolstoy died in 1910, their grey matter must have evolved in such a way that its software perhaps lost ability to appreciate 1,225 pages of a masterpiece.

The other day on TV I watched a young man camping overnight (literally with a tent) outside Apple Store at George Street. He looked like a crack addict as journalists interviewed him. He wanted to be the first man to buy the newest generation of iPhone 4GS that is known to have a faulty antenna design.

A friend of mine sent me a web site link called The site advertises itself as:
“Ignite is a geek event in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.”

I watched one of the videos. A Chinese-American girl trembling with anxiety for catching up the five minute deadline, dropped her text on the floor, talked like a puppet, a soulless speech filled with statistics, uninteresting and torturous. She looked like a biology lab mouse trapped inside a labyrinth.

All these show one thing.

We became gadget-obsessed anxiety-driven freaks and our urban society is running on a short attention span culture.

Just about everybody, every hardware device, and every software on the Internet is desperately trying to grab the shortest possible time span dedicated to comprehension and expression.

Mobile phone became anything but a phone. It is now a complex device designed to shorten your attention span.

It beeps, it vibrates, it rings, it animates, it flashes, it scrolls, it plays. Ah yes occasionally people talk with it.

If texting or gaming is not enough we tweet, or re-tweet, or 'like', or follow, or stop following, or post a url, or post a YouTube link, or change security settings, or read RSS feed summaries , or email on GMail, or forward an email, or reply an email, or subscribe or register to a web site with a user name and password, or search Google, or search Google Images, or search Google News, or, or, ... Oh hell! I am tired.

I don’t even think anyone would be reading this blog post (not that I care), it is too long.

We look like hyper active monkeys trapped behind zoo walls desperately anxious and hopelessly discontent.

I think I am going to buy a thick book and read it. It may as well be Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Church and State

Australian Democrats nailed it. They have the most comprehensive policy to ensure separation of Church and State, I wonder where Greens stand:

"The Australian Constitution prohibits the Commonwealth from making any law for establishing religion, imposing religious observance or using religion as a test for office. However this has not guaranteed a secular state and boundaries between church and state have become increasingly blurred.

The Howard Government shaped its response to refugees in terms of Australian values which it said were Christian. Exclusively religious chaplains were funded in government schools and all states give as of rights to religious instruction in school hours. Schools are prohibited from providing meaningful activity for those who opt out.

MPs, including prime ministers, have openly declared their religious allegiances and parliaments around the country still pray before each sitting that their deliberations are overseen by God for ‘...the advancement of Thy glory’.

Organised religion is exempt from taxes for their commercial businesses. Earnings for the 10 biggest religious groups were estimated at $23.3b in 2005, costing taxpayers untold sums in lost revenue that might otherwise be spent on services."

The following is my wish list and all seem to be endorsed in Australian Democrats' policy:

We need constitutional reform to ensure separation of Church and State. 
We need tax system reform to remove exemptions for church organisations for profits made from purely commercial operations.
We need replacing prayers in Federal Parliament with period of reflection on the importance of ethical practice.
We need obliging church organizations providing publicly funded services such as hospitals and employment placement to not discriminate on religious grounds in the services they deliver or the people they serve and employ.
We need abolishing grants for proselytising such as the $8m for Catholic World Youth Day.
We need adherence to the fundamental principle that children should not be inculcated in religion before they are mature enough to make judgements on particular belief systems.
We need confining religious instruction or education in government schools to after school hours, changing parent permission to opt in rather than opt out and encouraging ethics education in schools.
We need  the principle that government should be policy neutral when it comes to religion – between different religions and with those of no religion.
For more info refer to:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Death of an Atheist

The following post from the Freethinker web site is distressing.

"A young muslim, who had been investigated by his employers at Male International Airport in the Maldives for apostasy, was found hanged from the airport’s control tower yesterday (14 July 2010).

In two emails sent to an international humanitarian organisation on June 23 and 25, Ismail admitted he was an atheist and desperately requested assistance for a UK asylum application. He claimed to have received several anonymous threats on June  22.

In the emails, he said:

“I foolishly admitted my stance on religion to work colleagues, word of which had “spread like wildfire.” A lot of my close friends and girlfriend have been prohibited from seeing me by their parents. I have even received a couple of anonymous phone calls threatening violence if I do not repent and start practicing Islam … I cannot bring myself to pretend to be I am something I am not, as I am a staunch believer in human rights. I am afraid for my life here and know no one inside the country who can help me."

This sad news brings back the question of how much religious fundamentalism should be tolerated in secular societies.

In secular democratic societies people with strong religious convictions enjoy and share the freedom of expression and civil rights with other citizens who may not necessarily share their faith.

Islamists cried for 'freedom of expression' when French banned 'burka' recently, but when they have the numbers religious fundamentalists act like monsters who would not tolerate opinions other than the bigoted preaching dictated by their faith.

Source: The Freethinker

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Borders of irrationality

This is from a local newspaper North Shore Times:
“ORTHODOX Jews in St Ives could be freed up to leave their homes on the Sabbath and other holy days if a proposal to create a religious zone ringing the suburb is approved by Ku-ring-gai Council.

The Jewish community wants to create the zone, known as an eruv.

Once physically inside this zone, orthodox Jews would be able to do otherwise forbidden activities such as pushing and carrying objects including car keys and tissues.
The plan requires the installation of 27 poles of 6m height and connecting wires.”

Richard Dawkins said "Tradition has its place, but not where factual knowledge is concerned." and continued:
"There are many ways in which people differ from one another by virtue of traditions handed down through the generations, and these are often admirable and worthy of respect. But there is a qualitative difference between a cultural tradition and factual evidence, and we should not feel obliged to respect, or encourage the perpetuation of, beliefs about reality which we know to be untrue, simply because they form part of a tradition, even an ancient tradition. When you put it like that, I find it hard to imagine how any person of goodwill and intelligence could seriously disagree. Yet because it is usually not put like that, there are many people, even non-religious people, who have been duped into confusing the ‘cultural tradition’ side of religion with the ‘statement of facts’ side, and endowing both with the respect due only to one."
But do we need walls, wires to divide the greater society we live in based on irrational belief systems and do we have obligation to respect such nonsense even though they may merely be seem cultural elements of a tradition?

Original news link