Friday, April 13, 2007

British hospital banned hot cross buns to avoid offending non-Christians

Hospital staff claim they were banned from handing out hot cross buns this Easter in case they upset non-Christians. The decision disappointed patients at Poole Hospital in Dorset and angered catering staff. In an email to their local paper, sent on Good Friday, catering staff said: 'We the kitchen staff of Poole Hospital were disgusted to find that the patients were not getting hot cross buns this morning. "The manager of the catering department said he was worried about the ethnic minorities that work here." The workers, who did not want to be named, said they had been inundated with calls from nurses on the wards asking why there were no buns this year.

Eventually hospital bosses relented and they were distributed on Easter Monday. A spokesman for Poole Hospital NHS Trust denied, however, that the absence of hot cross buns on Good Friday was anything to do with political correctness. She claimed: "We do apologise to patients who missed out on their hot cross buns on Good Friday. "This was due to an oversight by the catering manager who forgot to order them in time. It was nothing to do with religious beliefs. "The buns were handed out on Easter Monday instead."

Hot cross buns have been eaten on Good Friday for centuries. They are believed by some historians to pre- date Christianity, although they were not called "hot cross buns" until the late 18th century. They should contain no eggs or dairy products so those who are observing Lent in the traditional way are able to eat them.

This is not the first time they have been the source of controversy. After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century the English monarchy saw the buns as a symbol of Catholicism because they were baked from the consecrated dough used to make communion wafers. But an attempt to ban them failed because they were so popular. Queen Elizabeth I eventually passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them, but only at Easter and Christmas.

Representatives of other religions in the Poole area did not see any problem with serving the buns in hospital. Rabbi Neil Amswych from the Bournemouth Reform Synagogue said: "I don't eat hot cross buns for two reasons. "One is that it is a Christian custom and the second reason is that I am on a diet. "But I don't see why they shouldn't be available. After all, we're in a Christian country and the state religion is Christianity. "They shouldn't be force-fed, but there is no reason why they shouldn't be available. "Perhaps they should offer other ethnic foods - that might be a nice gesture. They could offer latkes for the festival of Chanukah, which is in December. They are oily potato pancakes and very nice."

There have been many examples of official bodies attempting to remove the religious message from Christian festivals in the name of political correctness. Birmingham Council notoriously called its festive celebrations "Winterval" while Luton advertised its Christmas lights as "luminos". Christmas cards sent out by public bodies have, almost without exception, been stripped of any Christian references. Last year's Christmas stamps bore no trace of the Bible story.



Despite Green/Left hatred of it, it is in modern civilization that killing and violence are least common. Excerpt below from Steven Pinker

Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage, quantitative body-counts-such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with axemarks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men-suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own. It is true that raids and battles killed a tiny percentage of the numbers that die in modern warfare. But, in tribal violence, the clashes are more frequent, the percentage of men in the population who fight is greater, and the rates of death per battle are higher. According to anthropologists like Lawrence Keeley, Stephen LeBlanc, Phillip Walker, and Bruce Knauft, these factors combine to yield population-wide rates of death in tribal warfare that dwarf those of modern times. If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million.

Political correctness from the other end of the ideological spectrum has also distorted many people's conception of violence in early civilizations-namely, those featured in the Bible. This supposed source of moral values contains many celebrations of genocide, in which the Hebrews, egged on by God, slaughter every last resident of an invaded city. The Bible also prescribes death by stoning as the penalty for a long list of nonviolent infractions, including idolatry, blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, disrespecting one's parents, and picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The Hebrews, of course, were no more murderous than other tribes; one also finds frequent boasts of torture and genocide in the early histories of the Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Chinese.

At the century scale, it is hard to find quantitative studies of deaths in warfare spanning medieval and modern times. Several historians have suggested that there has been an increase in the number of recorded wars across the centuries to the present, but, as political scientist James Payne has noted, this may show only that "the Associated Press is a more comprehensive source of information about battles around the world than were sixteenth-century monks." Social histories of the West provide evidence of numerous barbaric practices that became obsolete in the last five centuries, such as slavery, amputation, blinding, branding, flaying, disembowelment, burning at the stake, breaking on the wheel, and so on. Meanwhile, for another kind of violence-homicide-the data are abundant and striking. The criminologist Manuel Eisner has assembled hundreds of homicide estimates from Western European localities that kept records at some point between 1200 and the mid-1990s. In every country he analyzed, murder rates declined steeply-for example, from 24 homicides per 100,000 Englishmen in the fourteenth century to 0.6 per 100,000 by the early 1960s.

On the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture: Global violence has fallen steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade. In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.

Zooming in by a further power of ten exposes yet another reduction. After the cold war, every part of the world saw a steep drop-off in state-based conflicts, and those that do occur are more likely to end in negotiated settlements rather than being fought to the bitter end. Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent.

The decline of killing and cruelty poses several challenges to our ability to make sense of the world. To begin with, how could so many people be so wrong about something so important? Partly, it's because of a cognitive illusion: We estimate the probability of an event from how easy it is to recall examples. Scenes of carnage are more likely to be relayed to our living rooms and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. Partly, it's an intellectual culture that is loath to admit that there could be anything good about the institutions of civilization and Western society. Partly, it's the incentive structure of the activism and opinion markets: No one ever attracted followers and donations by announcing that things keep getting better. And part of the explanation lies in the phenomenon itself. The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead. As deplorable as they are, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the lethal injections of a few murderers in Texas are mild by the standards of atrocities in human history. But, from a contemporary vantage point, we see them as signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen.

The other major challenge posed by the decline of violence is how to explain it. A force that pushes in the same direction across many epochs, continents, and scales of social organization mocks our standard tools of causal explanation. The usual suspects-guns, drugs, the press, American culture-aren't nearly up to the job. Nor could it possibly be explained by evolution in the biologist's sense: Even if the meek could inherit the earth, natural selection could not favor the genes for meekness quickly enough. In any case, human nature has not changed so much as to have lost its taste for violence. Social psychologists find that at least 80 percent of people have fantasized about killing someone they don't like. And modern humans still take pleasure in viewing violence, if we are to judge by the popularity of murder mysteries, Shakespearean dramas, Mel Gibson movies, video games, and hockey.

What has changed, of course, is people's willingness to act on these fantasies. The sociologist Norbert Elias suggested that European modernity accelerated a "civilizing process" marked by increases in self-control, long-term planning, and sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others. These are precisely the functions that today's cognitive neuroscientists attribute to the prefrontal cortex. But this only raises the question of why humans have increasingly exercised that part of their brains. No one knows why our behavior has come under the control of the better angels of our nature, but there are four plausible suggestions.

The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy. Any beings with a modicum of self-interest may be tempted to invade their neighbors to steal their resources. The resulting fear of attack will tempt the neighbors to strike first in preemptive self-defense, which will in turn tempt the first group to strike against them preemptively, and so on. This danger can be defused by a policy of deterrence-don't strike first, retaliate if struck-but, to guarantee its credibility, parties must avenge all insults and settle all scores, leading to cycles of bloody vendetta. These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation. Indeed, Eisner and Elias attribute the decline in European homicide to the transition from knightly warrior societies to the centralized governments of early modernity. And, today, violence continues to fester in zones of anarchy, such as frontier regions, failed states, collapsed empires, and territories contested by mafias, gangs, and other dealers of contraband.

Payne suggests another possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. When pain and early death are everyday features of one's own life, one feels fewer compunctions about inflicting them on others. As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life in general.

A third theory, championed by Robert Wright, invokes the logic of non-zero-sum games: scenarios in which two agents can each come out ahead if they cooperate, such as trading goods, dividing up labor, or sharing the peace dividend that comes from laying down their arms. As people acquire know-how that they can share cheaply with others and develop technologies that allow them to spread their goods and ideas over larger territories at lower cost, their incentive to cooperate steadily increases, because other people become more valuable alive than dead.

Then there is the scenario sketched by philosopher Peter Singer. Evolution, he suggests, bequeathed people a small kernel of empathy, which by default they apply only within a narrow circle of friends and relations. Over the millennia, people's moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity, a la Wright, but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one's own station, more palpable-the feeling that "there but for fortune go I".

Whatever its causes, the decline of violence has profound implications. It is not a license for complacency: We enjoy the peace we find today because people in past generations were appalled by the violence in their time and worked to end it, and so we should work to end the appalling violence in our time. Nor is it necessarily grounds for optimism about the immediate future, since the world has never before had national leaders who combine pre-modern sensibilities with modern weapons.

But the phenomenon does force us to rethink our understanding of violence. Man's inhumanity to man has long been a subject for moralization. With the knowledge that something has driven it dramatically down, we can also treat it as a matter of cause and effect. Instead of asking, "Why is there war?" we might ask, "Why is there peace?" From the likelihood that states will commit genocide to the way that people treat cats, we must have been doing something right. And it would be nice to know what, exactly, it is.


Anzac Day 'may offend' says politically correct report

This is an attack on Australia's most hallowed tradition. Anzac day is Australia's national day of commemoration for our war-dead and is treated with great seriousness by young and old -- with commemorative services and parades through the streets of most towns and cities

ANZAC Day commemorations may offend some religious and ethnic minorities, a new report has claimed. The study commissioned by Multicultural Affairs Queensland found some immigrants associated Anzac Day with the "increased nationalism" expressed most graphically at the Cronulla riots in 2005. The report also claimed a "climate of fear" has seized Queensland's Muslim community, which it blamed on federal immigration and anti-terrorist policies and the media. The situation is so dire that some Brisbane Muslims suspect they might be sent to concentration camps, while others live in fear of bomb attacks. Some refugees even told researchers they felt safer in their countries of origin than in Australia.

But RSL state president Doug Formby said they were wrong to associate Anzac Day with racism. "Anzac Day is purely to recognise the deeds of our servicemen and women," Mr Formby said. "No one is forced to attend and no one should take offence at a long-standing tradition in this country."

Dr Mohamad Abdalla, an imam at Brisbane's Kuraby Mosque and head of the Islamic Research Unit at Griffith University, agreed. "Embracing events such as Anzac Day does not contradict Islamic teaching," Dr Abdalla said. "Muslims have joined the Australian armed forces and received medals. Anzac Day events are not factors in inciting hatred. In fact, they can help Muslims and non-Muslims interact positively."

The report, carried out by Victoria's Monash University and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, was based on interviews with 183 people in Queensland and Victoria. Its aim was to assess the impact of events such as the September 11 attacks, Bali bombings and the Darfur crisis on multiculturalism in Australia. The study, which received two grants of $35,000 from Victoria and Queensland, praised Premier Peter Beattie and his Victorian counterpart Steve Bracks for "upholding the principles of multiculturalism".

However, Dr Abdalla was unenthusiastic about some of the suggestions in the report, such as legislation "to prevent the media from inciting violence", compelling schools to teach Islamic history and the scheduling of exams around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. "It's not sufficient for Muslims to say others have to take action," he said. "The onus is also on them to go out and engage with non-Muslims."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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