Let me firstly stick in some dictionary definitions for reference, they may come in handy later:

dis·crim·i·na·tion (dĭ-skrĭm’ə-nā’shən) –noun

1. an act or instance of discriminating.
2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

big·ot·ry (bĭg’ə-trē) –noun, plural -ries.

1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

rac·ism (rā’sĭz’əm) noun

1. the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races
2. discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race.

ho·mo·pho·bi·a (hō’mə-fō’bē-ə) n.

1.Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
prejudice against (fear or dislike of) homosexual people and homosexuality

I watched the furore surrounding the UK Celebrity Big Brother and racism row earlier in the year with some interest. I was sort of minded to post but never seemed to quite get around to it. I did not watch the actual program because it’s shite. This does make it a little tenuous that I should see fit to comment but it is less the events of the program and more the events in the world at large that I wished to subject to scrutiny and that I did watch with some interest and growing concern.

For the non-UK residents what happened was that one of the contestants of Celebrity Big Brother who was an Indian actress had a number of contre-temps with a couple of the other housemates who were, shall we say, of the more cerebrally-challenged variety. Many comments were made, some may or may not have been taken out of context but the accusation of racism was levelled and the program was accused of bringing Channel 4 and broadcasting into disrepute etc. etc.

I am not going to analyse whether or not the comments were racist, that is for those who watched the program to discuss in the context of which they were made, I highlight it because I do not feel that the debate afterwards was a valid appraisal of racism in our society and what we should do about it and it came at a time when bigotry was so openly rife in society and nothing was done about it. In fact the whole issue seemed to the media and public at large assuaged by the fact that Shilpa Shetty, the Bollywood actress in question, won the competition. It was as if this was somehow proof that Britons at large could not be racist ‘because the darkie had won, innit’, this, at best, rather patronising attitude of the politically correct and at worst offensive and bigoted mindset of the populist right seemed to me to illustrate all the more just how entrenched racism really was and how accepted it is at every level.

What was worse was that in the news in the very same week debate was raging about gay couples being afforded the rights of adoption afforded as standard to straight couples. This move had marked initially something of a turning point for gay rights because the issue of children and homosexuals has always been difficult for the ignorant to accept. The abolition of Section 28 in 2003 was an issue fought over with some vitriol and in fact the House of Lords had already overturned the Commons attempt to repeal the law in 2000, this was an issue about the supposed ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, an ammendment to existing legislation regarding Local Authorities in which the amendment stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” It is the second part that especially contentious and meant that it could be used to censor in cases where the protrayal of homosexuality was anything other than an abnormal state of affairs.

The tackling of the adoption issue was seen as the next valid step. However due to some aggressive campaigning by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, head of the Catholic church in England, who claimed that Catholic adoption agencies would rather close than consider gay couples as candidates for adoption, the government was forced to climb down a little despite their rhetoric to the contrary and put in a caveat that adoption from Catholic orphanages was not subject to the same law on discrimination until the end of 2008 when the laws properly come into place anyway. This is like saying ‘well we don’t like the fact that you are a rapist but we recognise that it is part of who you are so we’re going to give you 3 years to adjust to the fact that society has moved on in this regard’. The Catholic church argued that the homosexual lifestyle was not one they were comfortable with and they would therefore be negligent in their duty of care to children by allowing them to be brought up in that environment. Now I have to say the Catholic church being allowed to look after children itself is a somewhat shaky issue, their record is hardly exemplary and if I were called upon to decide whether I wished my children to be looked after a gay couple or a Catholic priest I have no doubt at all which I would choose and it isn’t because I’m an atheist!

Who are the Catholics really attempting to look after here? Are they acting to protect the interests of the church itself or are they genuinely acting as we expect parents to act and put the children first before one’s own beliefs? I cannot see it as being the latter because as a parent I know that the most important thing for children is love, if they receive this everything else will largely take care of itself. I’m sure the Catholics would rather a child did not go to any other belief system than their own just as I would not want my children adopted by a religious conservative but there is a difference in objecting for one’s own selfish reasons and ideosyncracies and objecting on behalf of what is right for a child. The first is understandable but should not sway any decision, the second of paramount importance and to be examined very carefully.

The senior Anglican clerics, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, have also supported the Catholic stance stating “the rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.” Which is an interesting statement when you think about it. Bearing in mind I think in all conscience that religion is responsible for much of the world’s evil does this mean that if I were to act in order to bring it down church by church that legislation could not touch me for doing so? Would the Archbishops support me in this endeavour?

I wonder if the Catholic church would seek to be so bold as to say that Islam was not the same lifestyle and therefore they would like an exemption for that too, I’m quite sure they are thinking it, why don’t they come out and say it?

The most worrying and offensive tenet that is clearly still very much at large is the issue of choice, that homosexuality is somehow all a matter of volition coupled with empirical influences during upbringing. Otherwise how could one possibly explain the difference in perception between it being acceptable to discriminate against those on sexual orientation grounds but not on nicene or colour grounds? This is part of the whole lifestyle choice myth that is very much one’s choice to live a certain way but should this inconvenience others then it is a different matter. The same horseshit is peddled in the case of having children. It is seen as a lifestyle choice to have children and why should hard-working single people have to pay for the provisions of parents? Why, because the fucking human race would cease to exist if people didn’t procreate. Do people really suggest that homosexuality is something learned rather than something inherent? Were that the case then people such as actor Kenneth Williams, who actively despised his homosexuality, would have been able to unlearn it. Are the bigots and the ignorant really suggesting that gay men and women could change if they so chose, and then are they going a step further to assert that they should do so? If not then they are basically saying that something that is biological should preclude one from adopting and bringing up children because certain parts of society don’t like it and if we put that in the physical realm to apply hypothetically to such arbitrary concepts as colour of skin, eyes, hair, size of feet etc. that is the foundation of eugenics and was the sort of thing that Dr. Joseph Mengele was very interested in.

As if it wasn’t disturbing enough that the media focused far far more on the Big Brother non-issue than the homosexuality and adoption case I was pretty stunned that 2 pieces of news in the same week that should have launched a decent debate were handled in such an attrocious manner that they served only to preserve bigotry, ignorance, hatred and ambivalence in both cases. The race issue was handled in a politically correct way which did not debate, did not educate merely brushed under the carpet with platitudes, whilst the homosexuality issue was handled in the open in a way that would not have looked out of place in Victorian times with the church essentially allowed to escape with it’s homophobia intact and without rebuke. Why, because deep down whilst they may think otherwise people know that if you’re black then they can’t be quite so openly discriminatory whereas if you’re a ‘bender’ then you’re on your own.

Song Of The Day ~ The Twang – Either Way