Archive for Society

I can’t breathe

Posted in Society with tags , , , on December 14, 2014 by shirhashirim

There’s been quite some upheaval in the US recently as a result of the killing of black people by white policemen, who subsequently do not get punished. I am not familiar enough with the cases themselves to have an opinion, but I did see the video that featured Eric Garners last minutes in this life. Something struck me that seems to have gotten less attention than it deserves.

The point that Eric Garner was the victim of racist violence may or may not be warranted, I simply do not know. But from watching the video it struck me that he is in any case the victim of unnecessary violence. It seems to me be another structural problem for the police in the US.

I’ll try to disregard the way US police is depicted in film and on TV, that may be an exaggeration of real life. But judging from what Americans have told me about attitudes of their police, and the attitudes of US civilians towards their police, it seems to me these attitudes are prone to cause violence of an unnecessary nature.

US policemen – I am generalising now for the sake of clarity – seem to expect that civilians obediently follow their instructions, without questioning. If that doesn’t happen, discussion is not what follows, but coercion. I’m not going to claim that my country does not know police violence, it does, but whenever I’ve seen our police handle ‘situations’, I’ve always been impressed by their tenacity in trying to solve the problem by discussion. I’ve never seen that happen in the US, nor heard about it.

I’ve seen the same tenacity depicted in US films, in hostage-situations or other occurences where the suspect had a position of power over the police. Where the police – in other words – had no other choice but to negociate. Again, I’m not sure whether these films reflect real life, but the fact that it’s depicted means that the concept of negociating between police and civilians is known.

Yet from what I know first-hand about US culture that concept is not applied with the same diligence as over here. I think this is a second, nay first, problem that needs to be solved.


Dear Mr. Erdogan

Posted in Society with tags , , on June 26, 2013 by shirhashirim


May I be so bold to suggest an answer in response to your rhetorical question whether you should kneel to the protesters in Taksim Square (and other places)?

Without wanting to belittle your own personal achievements in politics, I would point out that greater politicians than you have done it, so why not you?

It would not end the protests. It would not solve any of Turkey’s problems. It would not even solve any problem any Turk might have. It would change nothing in Turkish politics of society. It would not even change or solve anything at all.

But it would do you a world of good. You personally. Seriously.

Malice or madness

Posted in Religion, Society with tags , , , on June 6, 2011 by shirhashirim

Never assume a conspiracy where mere stupidity suffices, it is said, but what if there’s method in our madness?

A pretty nineteen year old Ukrainian girl is found dead in the woods near her home town, her head smashed with a stone. She came seventh in a recent local beauty pageant. So what gets into the newspaper?

This: three Muslim men stoned the Muslim girl under sharia law for not abiding Islamic rules, complete with quotes from one of the alleged perpetrators. What turns out to be true?

This: the girl is Russian (i.e. of Orthodox descent) and only one man, of mixed Russian/Tatar descent (i.e. half Orthodox, half Muslim) is a suspect of the murder. The guy is a teenager who’d apparently been infatuated with the poor girl and reportedly has a psychiatric history. The main European newspaper that first published the story has retracted it, sort of.

How the sharia-angle got in there, nobody knows. And just maybe there actually is a sharia-angle (after all: after one screwup, why not another one?). But that’s not the point. The point is that when a sharia-angle seems remotely possible, that is the story that’s being published.

And that is the story that we will keep reading everywhere long after the myth-busters have done their good but ultimately fruitless work. Western media are neither mad nor malicious I believe, but it does look frighteningly like something in between.

Thank God!

Posted in Religion, Society with tags , , on May 29, 2011 by shirhashirim

The Oregon Senate has passed a bill, or is in the process of doing so, that solves a problem I blogged about earlier.

It’s bill 2721, which will make it possible for the state to prosecute parents who’ve deprived their children from medical treatment in favour of prayer, and whose children have died as a result of that.

In my country there is a law that makes it possible to temporarily relieve parents of their parental rights. It’s specifically used for the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses who will generally refuse a life-saving blood transfusion to rhesus-babies.

I don’t know if there’s anything like that in Oregon, but if not, this is a good alternative. I’m not too sure if mad people should be treated as criminals, but still, it’s something to be applauded.

Quote of the day (23)

Posted in Quote of the day, Society, The odd post with tags , , on April 5, 2011 by shirhashirim

The rich have no idea how expensive it is to be poor

Inclined to no good

Posted in Religion, Society with tags , on March 2, 2011 by shirhashirim

Question no 8 of the Heidelberg Catechism states that man is wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness. As a good Catholic boy I have to disagree, especially with the latter part.

The other day I overheard the conversation of two young men in the tram that nicely illustrated the opposite of what the Reformation has brought us. One of the youngsters had had his share of dealing with the police and the judiciary system. He’d been to court and even been to jail for robbing and public violence. He’d learned his lesson and was adamant that he would lead a better life.

But what struck me most was the way he recollected his recent criminal past. Even though he realised it was criminal, it was still a collection of things that could not be considered ‘evil’. He was satisfied for example by the fact that he had never robbed ‘normal people’, but only drug dealers. He was proud that he had never used the two knuckle dusters he used to be carrying. And foremost: he was proud of the fact that the violence he did use was to protect those he considered his friends.

It was St. Augustine who said that evil did not exist of itself, but was simply a shortage of good. This young man had not realised that he was evil, he’d realised he could be good just by being a better person.


Posted in Religion, Society, The odd post with tags , , on February 9, 2011 by shirhashirim

I know a young Catholic priest whose sister regularly has to answer the question why her brother still works for ‘that institute’. It is the direct result of all the child abuse scandals in the Catholic church.

Since 2008 greedy banks issuing fishy mortgages have thrown the economy in a worldwide crisis that has affected millions of people. A friend of mine who works at a bank, department of selling mortgages, has never been asked a comparable question.