Abortion was just one front in a wider religious war

Fintan O’Toole provides some background on Ireland’s appalling “Pro-Life” amendment to its constitution.

The most successful single issue movement in the history of the State, the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC), was established in January 1981 by 13 organisations: the Congress of Catholic Secondary School Parents’ Associations; the Irish Catholic Doctors’ Guild; the Guild of Catholic Nurses; the Guild of Catholic Pharmacists; the Catholic Young Men’s Society; the St Thomas More Society; the Irish Pro-Life Movement; the National Association of the Ovulation Method (“natural” contraception endorsed by the Catholic church); the Council of Social Concern (COSC); the Irish Responsible Society; the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children; the St Joseph’s Young Priests Society (young Catholic priests, that is); and the Christian Brothers Schools Parents’ Federation. The initial meeting was chaired by the head of a 14th organisation that was immensely influential on the campaign behind the scenes, the secretive, all-male brotherhood the Order of the Knights of Columbanus.

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De-segregating the Housman room

David Colquhoun has a brilliant post that starts out being about ending the all-male status of the main and best UCL common room in the 1960s, and goes on to be about the importance of confidence for achievement, and continues on to be about the importance of role models and zeitgeist, and ends up being about the way over-competitiveness in academia drives out people who don’t like over-competitiveness and thus distorts and impoverishes academia.

Colquhoun loves UCL – its godless tradition, its multi-faculty nature, its comparative democracy.

From the start, the intellectual heart of UCL has been the staff Common Room. As I so often say, failing to waste time drinking coffee with people who are cleverer than yourself can seriously damage your career (and your happiness). And there’s no better place for that than the Housman room. [Read more...]

Tropes v women

Anita Sarkeesian looks at women as background decoration in video games. Cool stuff: murdered women lying around in sexy poses with few clothes on. Phwoarrrr, sexy, also entertaining and funny, right? RIGHT?

For some strange reason the comments are disabled. So puzzling.

Guest post: There was so much suffering, so far beyond endurance

Originally a comment by quixote on “If you are from the Mehatar caste, you have to do this work.”

This post gave me a fullblown flashback. One of my most vivid memories from visiting India decades ago was the look in the eyes of one of the sweepers.

His job was dealing with a public toilet I was walking past. I can’t imagine who would use one of them because there were piles of shit everywhere inside (I could see partway into the door) and plenty outside from people who no doubt didn’t want to contend with the conditions inside. Indian food can be hard on the intestines, so the piles were not necessarily well-formed. He was sweeping this unspeakably foul glop with one of those short no-handle brooms. He was avoiding looking at anyone. [Read more...]

Their caste-designated occupation reinforces the social stigma

That HRW report on dalits and cleaning up human shit every day.

There are laws against hiring people to do this horrible job, but they’re not enforced.

However, because these policies are not properly implemented, people remain unaware of their right to refuse this role, and those who do refuse may face intense social pressure, including threats of violence and expulsion from their village, often with the complicity of local government officials.

Manual scavengers are usually from caste groups customarily relegated to the bottom of the caste hierarchy and confined to livelihood tasks viewed as deplorable or deemed too menial by higher caste groups. Their caste-designated occupation reinforces the social stigma that they are unclean or “untouchable” and perpetuates widespread discrimination.  Women usually clean dry toilets, men and women clean excrement from open defecation sites, gutters, and drains, and men are called upon to do the more physically demanding work of cleaning sewers and septic tanks.

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Not scrupulously fair

What was that I was saying about managing disagreement ethically? I must have been dreaming.

There’s a new article at the Richard Dawkins website, by one “Notung” who is a blogger at Skeptic Ink. So the article is pseudonymous, so it had better be scrupulously fair in whatever it says, right? Because surely it’s dirty pool to be unfair and be pseudonymous. Isn’t it?

An article on Religion News Service by Catholic journalist Kimberly Winston (an expert in the effects of different prayer beads on prayer) asks whether Richard Dawkins is an asset or a liability to atheism. Actually it tells us: he’s a liability. 

Nope, not scrupulously fair. Rudely inaccurate about a named journalist, rather than scrupulously fair. Jesus, Richard – this is how you take your revenge? You let A Nameless smear a named journalist on your website? [Read more...]

“If you are from the Mehatar caste, you have to do this work.”

BBC News reports on dalits in India whose job it is to empty non-flush toilets and carry away the shit for disposal.

Human Rights Watch has called on the Indian government to end “manual scavenging” – the practice of cleaning human waste by low-caste communities – in a new report.

The practice is banned by law in India, but it is rampant and activists say nearly 10 million are involved in this demeaning work which opens them to prejudice and abuse.

The report calls on the government “to ensure that local officials enforce the laws prohibiting this discriminatory practice”.

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The vitriol pours in

Another day another tweet.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins
I apologise for impugning the morality of the approximately ten percent of women who deliberately choose NOT to abort a Down’s fetus.

It’s a Basil Fawlty apology.

One of the reasons I’ve always found Basil Fawlty so hilarious is that I’m like that myself. There’s generally a snotty asshole in me roaring to get out, and it often does get out. (I usually regret it when it does.) Some of Basil’s rages are my rages too, and I sympathized with some of them and cringed at others. It’s much the same with Richard. His Basil Fawlty runs away with him sometimes. [Read more...]

Into realms that belong to God and God alone

I’ve long disliked Vandana Shiva, and here’s more reason to dislike her: Michael Specter in the New Yorker:

Like Gandhi, whom she reveres, Shiva questions many of the goals of contemporary civilization. Last year, Prince Charles, who keeps a bust of Shiva on display at Highgrove, his family house, visited her at the Navdanya farm, in Dehradun, about a hundred and fifty miles north of New Delhi. Charles, perhaps the world’s best-known critic of modern life, has for years denounced transgenic crops. “This kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone,” he wrote in the nineteen-nineties, when Monsanto tried to sell its genetically engineered seeds in Europe. Shiva, too, invokes religion in her assault on agricultural biotechnology. “G.M.O. stands for ‘God, Move Over,’ we are the creators now,” she said in a speech earlier this year. 

Oh piss off, both of you. You could say the same thing about farming of any kind, including “organic.” You could say it about houses (how many of those do you have, Charles?) and medical care and cooking.

Piss off.