It’s a good day for Kenya

More good news!

Kenya has adopted a new constitution, more than three weeks after it was overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum… The document provides for greater checks on presidential powers and more regional devolution. It also recognises the UN human rights charter and creates a second parliamentary chamber – the senate.

It may seem a little unusual for me to provide commentary on a purely political story on this blog, which is purportedly about race, free speech, and religion (although somehow gay shit keeps creeping in… paging Dr. Freud). I’ve been following this story for a number of months now without commenting on it, but I can tell you that it’s highly appropriate.

First, there is a fundamental (and racist) misunderstanding we have in North America about Africa. The first thing to consider is the fact that Africa is not a country. You didn’t have to look much farther than the promotion of the World Cup to see that Europe and North America seem to consider Africa to be a homogeneous entity, but it is peopled by vastly different cultures and histories. There are modern democracies like Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria; there are corrupt dictatorships like Zimbabwe and the Congo; and there are dictatorial theocracies like Sudan and Somalia (the latter without a central government of any kind). Much of the strife plaguing the continent can be traced back to exploitation by colonial powers who used (and continue to use) the countries of Africa as a source of material wealth without building up the infrastructure needed to make the countries self-sufficient. Without the ability to harness their own natural wealth, the people of Africa are at the mercy of warlord-like governments who are largely controlled by foreign corporate regimes.

By ratifying a constitution, one that decentralizes the powers of the presidency and creates both a bill of rights and a second branch of government (ah, checks and balances), Kenya has taken a step towards true independence and freedom for its people. Such protections allow Kenya to (eventually) become a player on the international stage, much as Uganda and Ethiopia once were, and challenge the prevailing winds of prejudice against the continent.

Second, the ratification of this document was plagued by violent opposition, hate speech accusations, and (of course) religious conflict:

Church leaders who organised Sunday’s rally have also accused the government of being behind the grenade attack which led to a stampede. At least 20 people were injured in Sunday’s blast. Many Kenyans doubt the Church leaders’ claim that the government could be behind the blasts, especially as it seems most people are already backing the “Yes” campaign, says the BBC’s Will Ross in Nairobi… Sunday’s rally was organised by Christian groups opposed to a draft constitution because it retains recognition of existing Islamic courts and includes a clause on abortion.

But despite the obstacles, and despite Kenya’s entrenched religiousness (see? more gay shit!), the measure passed with a healthy 2/3 majority. This is the right step for Kenya, the right step for Africa, and the right step for the rest of the world.

Seems funny but isn’t: Hostage taking at Discovery Channel

This post will be pretty much just a stub. There is currently a hostage situation taking place at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Maryland. The assailant, James Lee, has posted a radical list of demands, encompassing environmentalist policy, military intervention, and with particular vitriol for human reproduction. A partial list of demands can be seen at Pharyngula.

I am writing this in order to state clearly and immediately that I repudiate and condemn this action by Mr. Lee, who does not speak for me as an atheist, an environmentalist, a military objector, or a fan of Daniel Quinn. Innocent people should never be used as fodder in an ideological struggle, and I abhor violence as a means of social protest. I encourage all those in the secular movement to do the same – we are quick to malign moderate Christians and Muslims for not speaking up against extremists. We now have an example of a far-left atheist extremist – let’s not forget our principles.

It seems that Mr. Lee is mentally unhinged, and while I hope this standoff ends without anyone being hurt, my concern is for the hostages. I am also not looking forward to watching smug assholes on the right turn this into justification for anti-environmentalism and anti-atheism (which they are virtually guaranteed to do – they love pointing out hypocrisy, as long as it isn’t theirs).


UPDATE: Mr. Lee has been shot and killed by police (3:20 PST). As of 2:30 PST there is no word on his condition, but it seems like he might not be dead.

Kim Jong Il is a Twit too!

Sure, as soon as I get Twitter, all of a sudden everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon:

Last Thursday, the North Koreans created a Twitter account – @uriminzok, a shortened version of a Korean word that translates as “our people”. It already has more than 4,500 followers.

Oh sure, North Korea gets 4500 followers, and I’ve only got 20. Fine, today I announce that I am starting a nuclear program. I will also be systematically oppressing myself and denying me basic food and medical care. I will refer to myself only as the Dear Leader, and will worship myself as a living deity. I’m also stepping up my aggression against Matt, the guy who lives in the apartment next to mine. An international investigation has revealed that I slashed his bike tires, which I am labeling as Matt-ist propaganda designed to cast aspersions at my good name.


There, that should take care of that…

Wait, they have a Facebook page too? FFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUU…

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter! Or I’ll nuke you!

Lebanon struggles for civil rights

How can people think that religion advances the cause of humanity? At every major milestone of the past century – women’s rights, black civil rights, gay rights – have been vigorously opposed by religious groups. And then, as though we’re all collectively the guy from Memento, Christian groups turn around and start talking about “Christian ideals of tolerance and acceptance.” Nope, sorry, some of us actually read the history books instead of just skimming through the pictures. You don’t get to claim the advances of secular society as religious accomplishments; particularly those done over your strong objections.

Right now a similar fight is happening in Lebanon:

Lebanon’s parliament has, after long delay, passed a law which allows Palestinian refugees to work legally. There are an estimated 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon and, given its delicate sectarian balance, their status is a sensitive issue.

Ah, good. People are being granted the right to make an honest living rather than being forced to either live in squalor or return to a homeland where their lives are under constant threat. And where’s our Christian spirit of tolerance and acceptance?

But the law is unlikely to transform their lives, as they will not be able to work in the public sector or for certain professions, nor buy property. To meet objections from a number of Christian factions, the legislation was heavily diluted from the version proposed earlier in the summer by the Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt.

Ah, there it is. There’s the bigotry and intolerance that we’ve come to expect whenever a religious group is granted any kind of political influence. Similar to what Catholics have done in the Phillipines, Christian groups have gutted the legislation so that it barely has a hope of working. Then, in 6 months time, they will come back and say “see? It doesn’t work! Scrap the whole thing!”

Incidentally, we’re not talking about a fringe group here, or radical extremists. These are your so-called “moderate” Christians. What does it say when you are the right-wing opposition to liberal Muslims in the middle-east? It says that something has seriously fucked up.