Tuesday, October 06, 2015
German Lawyers Instruct Citizens to Inform on Parents Opposed to Illegal Immigration
Urges behavior reminiscent of East Germany's Stasi
Citizens who oppose a mass influx of culturally incompatible immigrants in Germany risk having the state take away their children, according to the German Bar Association.
DeutscheAnwaltauskunft Magazine notes an increasing number of Germans are expressing “openly xenophobic” opinions and demonstrating against the presence of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and the third world.
Expressing these opinions may result in the seizure of children and summons before the Family Court.
The German Bar Association suggests family members concerned about the politically incorrect opinions of a parent should “collect screenshots and printouts” of social media pages and submit them to the Youth Welfare Office.
According to the magazine, even apolitical opinions expressed by parents may result in action by the state.
“Negative influence of the child, which can lead to the deprivation of rights, may not always be political,” DeutscheAnwaltauskunft notes.
The establishment media in Europe and the United States characterize growing opposition to illegal immigrants as the racist reaction of “far-right groups” to humanitarian aid.
“What we’re seeing in connection with the refugee crisis is a mobilization on the street of right-wing extremists, but also of some left-wing extremists,” German intelligence boss Hans-Georg Maassen said on Saturday.
Polls reveal 51 percent of Germans fear the mass immigration of refugees from Arab countries and Central Asia.
As a result, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has lost support.
Don't microwave sausage rolls - it'll upset other faiths! New guidelines on communal kitchen etiquette for the workplace are suggested
It may seem an innocent enough act to warm up your sausage roll in the microwave during lunch hour. But think again, because doing so could seriously upset colleagues of certain faiths, new guidelines on the etiquette of using communal kitchens at work suggest.
Similarly, it would also be advisable to avoid keeping bacon rolls in a fridge shared with people whose religious beliefs prohibit them from eating pork.
Adam Dinham, professor of faith and public policy at Goldsmiths, University of London, has drawn up a religious literacy programme due to be presented to employers this week.
He said: ‘The microwaves example is a good one. We also say, ‘Don’t put kosher or halal and other . . . special foods next to another [food] or, God forbid, on the same plate.’
Halal and kosher food served at corporate events should be certified, and consideration should be given to whether to serve alcohol, the guidelines further suggest.
Professor Dinham warned that employers should consider new religions and cults, including Scientology, and beliefs such as environmentalism and vegetarianism, as well as the established faiths of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
The programme, commissioned by CoExist House, an interfaith group, will also deal with other matters including clothing, the right to wear religious symbols such as crucifixes and hijabs, and whether to allow time off on religious holidays.
Professor Dinham said: ‘We have lost the ability to talk about religious belief because of a century of secular assumptions, and most religious belief is either highly visible and we don’t recognise it, or it’s invisible and we miss it entirely.’
The guidelines are due to be presented to employers by EY, the Nprofessional services firm.
Professor Dinham told the Sunday Times: ‘We can’t be didactic. You can’t say, ‘Do this, this and this and you’ll get it right’.
‘We point out that there is no definition in law of religion and belief. The Equality Act has [made] an attempt . . . but it is so woolly as to be useless.’
The degradation of the right to petition
A once noble tradition is now used for intolerant ends
Ahead of our First Amendment conference in Washington DC, Tim Black looks at a once vital means of protest.
Thanks to online platforms, complete with auto-fill data-entry fields, and big digital buttons, the world-shaking force of the petition has been reborn. Change.org, 38 Degrees, and Avaaza, to name only the most well-known facilitators of get-online-and-do-something digital activism, have all helped to reinvigorate political life through the power of the online petition. The figures speak for themselves: over six million people from the UK have signed or started a Change.org petition since the website launched in 2012; over three million people from the UK are members of 38 Degrees; and over 1,500 Change.org petitions are launched each month.
The world’s leaders are keen to listen, too. Hence the governments of the UK and the US, and even the bureaucrats at the EU, have established their own online petitions services. That ancient right, ‘to petition the Government for a redress of grievances’ as the First Amendment puts it, has been revived for the 21st century to world-changing effect.
That at least is the digital activists’ narrative. But in the course of its revival, petitioning has changed in form and function. What was once a vital means of subjecting those in power, no matter how vainly, to the interests and wishes of a section of the people has become a means of subjecting sections of the public to the wishes and interests of other sections of the public. A tool of liberty has turned into its opposite. It has become a weapon of the illiberal, a way of soliciting the power of the authorities to prohibit this, ban that, or condemn him or her.
It wasn’t always this way. From its pre-Magna Carta origins, through the English Civil War and the American Revolution, and later still, through the Chartist movement and the Dreyfusards, up until universal suffrage and mass-party democracy, the petition was one of the most important mechanisms available for subjects to air their grievances and demands before a civil authority, be it the monarch, or, later, a decidedly unrepresentative parliament.
In its pre-Civil War form, the petitions provided those without power the ability to exert some influence over their rulers. Petitions allowed for commoners to request a change to the price of foodstuffs, or to call to account the behaviour of royal officers, or to urge a reduction in corn tariffs. The petition’s tripartite form reflected its hierarchy-reinforcing function. It was addressed to an authority, mainly the monarch; it stated a grievance; and, crucially, it prayed for relief. In a semi-feudal society, the petition was the principal means by which the ruled corrected, or attempted to correct, the course of the rulers – by praying to the powers-that-be for relief.
As parliament’s struggle with monarchical authority developed during the seventeenth century, so petitions acquired an ever-more explosive aspect. They often constituted parliament’s entire agenda, as the voice of the commons against the king. But for radicals like the Levellers, affirming the potential of petitions, as the ‘right to petition against things established by law’, also exposed the limits of petitions. As a troop of Roundheads put it in 1648, parliament could simply ‘reject and slight the just directions and petitions of the people…’. So, just as the democratic instinct bloomed in petitioning (and pamphleteering) form, so it was stymied, too, by the nature of the petition. The importance of petitioning was also an index of petitioners’ ultimate powerlessness, their dependence on the whims and decisions of others.
The American colonists were immersed in this petitioning tradition. The right to petition, enshrined in countless local assemblies, was the most potent means available to the colonists to represent their interests to their English rulers. And this sense of petitioning’s importance writes its way into the First Amendment, as the crowning last-clause glory of individual liberty.
But what’s interesting is that the importance of petitioning decreases as individuals’ liberty increases. That is, as more representative, democratic forms of government emerged from the great struggles of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, so petitioning becomes less central, less vital. It’s still important, of course, but it’s important to those struggling for enfranchisement, to those without access to governance. Hence, the right to petition was important, for instance, to the Chartists in England, and to free blacks in the US – to those, that is, who were yet to enjoy the benefits of the emerging liberal polity.
But from the perspective of the committed democrat, fired up by the American and French Revolutions, petitioning was something of a sop, a consolation for those to whom the freedoms of the liberal polity had been denied. Hence Thomas Paine, in Rights of Man, slammed the paltry settlement of England’s 1689 Bill of Rights in the following terms: ‘What is [the Bill of Rights] but a bargain, which the parts of government made with each other to divide powers, profits and privileges? You shall have so much, and I will have the rest; and with respect to the nation, it said, for your share, You shall have the right of petitioning. This being the case, the Bill of Rights is more properly a bill of wrongs, and of insult.’
By the early twentieth century, the petition was increasingly seen as an obsolete form of political participation. In 1901, The Times referred to it as having only ‘sentimental value’. While that was an exaggeration, there was little doubt that the right to petition had lost much of its lustre. The struggle for universal suffrage and political challenges to the established powers were to the fore, not hierarchy-respecting petitions.
So what does that tell us about the nature of petitioning’s revival in the 21st century? It’s still called petitioning, of course, but, in a liberal polity practising formal democracy, its role has changed. Yes, there are petitions that recall that older tradition of seeking redress for particular grievances, such as the half-a-million-signed petition in 2011 that asked the UK government to reverse its decision to sell off England’s publicly owned forests. But that is an exception. More often than not, in the context of a liberal, democratic political system, the petition is being used to circumvent the democratic rights and liberties of citizens. It has become an illiberal force, a means for self-selecting cliques to ask the authorities to do something about other citizens, or to pressure individuals or companies into some illiberal course of action.
Some of them are trivial, such as the petition to make Beyoncé and Jay-Z comb their daughter’s hair. Or the petition to ‘discourage rags on head in nativity plays’ because they are a sign of ‘creeping Sharia law’. Or the petition demanding ‘No taxpayer funding for “Margaret Thatcher Memorial Museum and Library’”. But many are seriously directed at other individuals’ liberty, such as the petition last year calling for Joan Rivers’ comedy gigs to be cancelled in the UK on account of her pro-Israel views, or the petition this week calling on a student nightclub to change its name from ‘P.U.L.L’ because of ‘the expectations it creates’ for clubbers.
Petitions are no longer a way for subjects to air their criticisms of rulers. They’re a license for the censorious to call for the banning and prohibition of things and people they don’t like. They are a vehicle not for subjects to air their grievances, but for citizens to vent their prejudices. ‘How can anyone deny the world-changing power of online activism now?’, shouted a supporter of online petitions last year. And what did she claim digital campaigning had achieved? Had it overturned a particularly nasty piece of legislation, or reversed an especially restrictive new policy? Nope. It’s two crowning achievements were: getting a comedian’s TV show cancelled; and stopping an American pick-up artist from giving some talks in the UK.
And what’s more, the 21st-century petition, in all its illiberal, conformity-inducing glory, requires so little effort, beyond the click of a mouse, on the part of signatories. While illiberal cliques might be digitally active, drawing up petitions and emailing them out, the vast majority backing calls to censor a comedian, or sack a columnist, are digitally passive. As one critic notes, ‘to inflate participation rates, these organisations increasingly ask less and less of their members. The end result is the degradation of activism into a series of petition drives that capitalise on current events.’
A passive force of illiberalism. That’s the petition in the 21st century. A once vital means for subjects to protest against their rulers is now a vicious, citizen-on-citizen parody of itself.
It's time to shame 'shame culture'. All this trivial victimisation has to stop
By British actor Alex Proud
Taking offence over every little thing and forcing people to walk on eggshells is a very worrying modern phenomenon, says Alex Proud
Last week, I read a remarkable piece in The Guardian. It was by Amy Roe, an American woman who said she’d been “sweat-shamed” in Starbucks. If, like me, you were previously unaware of sweat-shaming, allow me to explain.
Ms Roe had been for a long run, prior to entering Starbucks and was sweaty. Someone else in the queue commented on this. She felt a bit awkward. End of story, right? Not a bit of it. A few minutes later, when she got into her car, she realised that this was no ordinary social interaction:
“Eventually the caffeine kicked in and it hit me: I’d been sweat-shamed. Sweat-shaming is when someone points out your sweatiness as a way to signal disapproval. Like its counterparts, slut-shaming and fat-shaming, sweat-shaming is aimed mainly at women, who are actually not supposed to sweat at all.”
I know, me too. Let’s start with the sheer solipsistic ridiculousness of this. Going into a Starbucks drenched in sweat is yucky. You created the problem. The other person in the queue was probably a bit grossed out. Perhaps they were a little bit rude. Perhaps you were a little bit sensitive. I don’t know. But what I do know is that, if anyone, male or female, was drenched in sweat next to me in a coffee queue, my natural reaction would be “eww”.
Most people shower after exercise. It’s one of those social things, like using deodorant or brushing your teeth.
But actually this had me thinking. I’m pretty sure I’ve been called out for having BO before. I’ve certainly been called out for farting. Back then, I took it on the chin and admitted liability. I’d farted. My bad. But now I realise that I was the victim. I’d been fart-shamed. Of course, if I were a woman, it would be a hundred times worse because women are not supposed to fart at all...
To most, smelling another person's flatulence is an unpleasant experience. But the world's first case study of a man who is sexually aroused by other people passing wind has now been published.
This brings us to sweat-shaming being aimed “mainly at women.” What? It has nothing to do with your gender. Nothing at all. Using your definition, I have personally been sweat-shamed a number of times. I have walked into pubs after running (or brisk walks) and had people have comment on my sweatiness. In fact, were I so inclined, I could take offence at a woman trying to “own” sweat-shaming.
As a group, men sweat far more than women and our sweat smells considerably worse. I’m pretty sure that a sizeable majority of both genders find guys’ sweat grosser than girls’ sweat. So, please, stop trying to muscle into one of the few remaining areas of legitimate victimhood left to us men.
Although, I suppose I must concede a grudging admiration for the pretzel-like logic you have used to make this utterly meaningless incident into a feminist thing.
OK, on to the important stuff because, believe it or not, there is a needle of seriousness hiding in this haystack of utter stupidity. I think The Guardian is a great newspaper – and a necessary check to the overall right-wing slant of the British press.
But I also believe that Comment is Free can be a kind of left-wing zoo full of special snowflakes, all trying to desperately to out-victim each other or find new niche reasons to get upset. Here are few samples.
Barbecue is an American tradition – of enslaved Africans and Native Americas.
I Dread The Day My Daughters Poos Get Smaller.
You Might Not Think You’re Sexist Until You Take A Look at Your Bookshelf. You get the idea.
It’s very easy to laugh these off as navel gazing, largely-imaginary rubbish. But actually, I think they are a real problem. I may not believe in sweat-shaming but I am a liberal and I support all sorts of progressive causes. The standard defence of this sort of guff is that it’s the thin end of the wedge. Yes, sweat shaming might be trivial but if we ignore the sweat-shamed today, we ignore the fat-shamed tomorrow and we’re all racists by the weekend. It’s a kind of “First they came for the socialists” argument.
However, in real life, I think it works the other way. Right-wingers had a field day with this stuff – but the trouble is, it allows them to treat huge swathes of the Left as one great big, over-sensitive PC joke. By giving things like sweat-shaming credibility you actually undermine far more important causes. So, Ms Roe’s inability to shrug off a minor, quite possibly imaginary, slight is, in fact, powerful ammunition for those who have their guns trained on things that actually matter.
More generally, taking offence over every little thing and forcing people to walk on eggshells is a very worrying modern phenomenon. Recently we saw Warwick University’s Students Union bar the ex-Muslim human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie from speaking because it was concerned she might offend Muslim students.
The ban was rescinded after a public outcry, but it’s still a very nasty development at an excellent university in a western democracy. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned but I believe that questioning religion is exactly the sort of thing that British universities should be doing.
This, of course, is one of the Left’s great Achilles heels. They often wind up allying themselves with very dubious groups and taking very dodgy positions because they worry so much about offending anyone. But by doing this they offend moderates.
Sorry guys, but the day you start arguing against free speech is the day you have people like me shaking our heads and saying, “Well, I suppose I agree with some of the Conservatives’ policies...”
Sadly, though, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a serious, evidence-based debate about obesity and health. And this is the problem in a nutshell. A fair chunk of the current Left-wing discourse (what the right often calls “resurgent PC”) seems to be about creating an atmosphere where it’s impossible to have a proper discussion for fear of upsetting someone and being cast as a bigot by their supporters. Thus, things we desperately need to debate, get ignored.
So I suppose all I’m calling for is a bit of common sense and a return to some of the resilient, take-it-on the chin attitude that we Brits used to pride ourselves on.
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 INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.