Monday, June 22, 2009 

A new media martyr.

If the events in Iran are the first time that "citizen journalism" has truly come into its own, helped undoubtedly by the fact that the foreign media have for the most part been successfully banished from the streets, then Neda Agha-Soltan(i), a young protester apparently shot dead by a Basij militiaman has become the first most visible martyr, not just of the uprising, but also of the new media age.

Partly this is because the video of her death is both so horrifying and with it, so cathartic. Unlike many of the other videos which litter the internet which show death and violence, few if any so vividly show a life ebbing away, the soul breaking free of the corporeal body. As her eyes glaze over and as the blood, filling her lungs, is breathed out of her nose and mouth, there are few ends that could so disturb, galvanise and ensure that she will be mourned for years to come. It helps that we don't actually see her murderer, or the moment when she was actually shot; that would diminish the empathy that comes naturally, and instead direct the anger at the individual responsible rather than the state that he or she represents.

Undoubtedly, many will be uncomfortable with the fact that this revolution in filming and writing to the bottom means that we get the sort of material, such as the death of Neda, that broadcasters themselves will not generally show. The BBC have only shown grabs of her on the ground, and before the blood begins to pour from her mouth and nose. Some will argue that such censorship, or rather moderation, is not something to object to: after all, not everyone wants to see such material, even on the news, especially when children also might be watching. Yet it also means that we don't have the full picture, or see the brutality and violence at first hand which such crackdowns bring. Even when such material was more carefully veted however, some of the most iconic images of war remain from the Vietnam era: the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém, and the naked Phan Thị Kim Phúc running from a napalm attack still have the power, even today, to shock and awe.

Others will object that someone's death could be used in ways in which that person may not have wanted, or even how her family would want. Whether she was actually protesting may be in doubt; latest reports say that she left a car she was in for only a period of minutes, but that those minutes turned deadly does only illustrate just what those protesting are defying in order to demand that their votes count. It can't be denied that dying in such a way means that it becomes public property, by definition. Most would rather want their final moments to be private, but no one also would wish to die in such a way. When we lose the choice in how we pass from this world, we can only hope that our deaths are not prolonged and that we are surrounded by friends, although it remains a truism that everyone dies alone, regardless of method or cause. Neda's was not a lonely death, and the power of it may well yet further help the protests towards a brighter future for Iran as a whole. The idea of martyrdom and sacrifice is highly ingrained in both Shia and Persian culture, and despite our reservations, we can only hope that it further denies moral authority from both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei. Regardless of how the next days and weeks pan out, she is unlikely to be forgotten.

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Monday, July 16, 2007 

You would, wouldn't you?

Heartening to see that Lydia Playfoot, the Silver Ring Thing martyr, has had her ridiculous case against her school banning her from wearing her purity ring thrown out by the judge in the case, and also ordered her father, who just happens to be a pastor, to pay £12,000 towards the school's costs.

Unfortunately, it's likely to only be a drop in the ocean in her family's coffers, considering that her family is inextricably connected with the entire Silver Ring Thing programme,
as Unity ably exposed, as well as uncovering the rather strange individuals who consider themselves promoters of the evangelical organisation.

Despite her defeat, the whole sordid little affair, pursued by a branch of Christianity which wallows in a phony victimhood, encouraged by the completely erroneous reports in the press each year claiming that Christmas is being banned and that the politically correct, secular elite discriminate against their faith while they wouldn't dare against Islam, ought to have never occurred. It quickly became obvious that she and her parents were in cahoots, peddling their own agenda and getting publicity out of their case, while at the same time forcing the school to waste money that should have been spent on the education of others, rather than on dealing with the petulant demands of a girl with such a serious of ludicrous, illogical and irrational arguments. With such a blatant conflict of interest evident, the judge could have refused to even hear the case.

Said little Miss Playfoot:
"I believe I have a right not only to state my Christian views on sex, but also to demonstrate my Christian faith and commitment to God and my future husband not to have sex before marriage, through the wearing of a purity ring."

She could have demonstrated her Christian faith through wearing a cross, on which the ban on jewellery would not have applied, which as the judge said in his findings, she even acknowledged. Instead, she continued and continues to dogmatically stick to her ignorant contention that a ring with a rather ambiguous scripture inscribed on it is somehow as essential to her faith as either the hijab is to certain strains of cultural Islam, or a kara bracelet is to Sikhism.

The great irony of all this is that their programme is doomed to inevitable failure, and a particularly egregious failure at that, with 80% of those taking the worthless pledge breaking it in a predictable, bloody fashion. No worries though, as for a fee, like in all the other exploitative, grasping sects peddling their own warped world view, you can have your innocence restored and take the pledge again. While there's those that keeping on forking out and giving them the benefit of the doubt, the world will keep on turning, and God, with his preposterous interest in your sexual purity and his fast approaching storm of fire and brimstone, which you can escape by giving just that little bit more brother, will remain a fixture of our short, pointless little lives until the real end of time.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007 

Get off your fucking cross.

Why are so many people increasingly insistent on martyring themselves? Apart from our friends seeking those elusive 72 virgins, we have of late increasingly witnessed those of faith trying to nail themselves up on their own makeshift, poorly constructed crucifixies, in the case of Nadia Eweida almost literally so.

At least Eweida had something approaching a legitimate grievance, barred from wearing a tiny cross for little to no real reason.
Shabina Begum, who wanted to wear the jilbab rather than the the hijab to school, rightly eventually lost her case against the uniform policy, although she carried with her a certain dignity, even if there were allegations of Hizb ut-Tahrir being involved.

None of this applies to Lydia Playfoot, the latest in a probably yet to end line of Christians, encouraged by some sections of the media, to cry about the great unfairness of alleged secularisation and how they're being discriminated against while the Sikhs and Muslims and other faiths can wear their religious clothing without being challenged. It makes no difference to them that Sikhs are required by the "Five Ks" to wear bracelets/turbans, or that a good number of Muslims regard the wearing of the hijab, for reasons of modesty, as similarly sacrosanct to their faith.

Miss Playfoot's father just happens to be a pastor, while her mother is part of the team that runs the UK branch of the "Silver Ring Thing", a deeply sinister organisation which seems to take the worst traits of evangelical Christian doctrine and put them into something which greatly appeals to the easily influenced teenager who feels like an outsider because of their faith. In case you think this might have something to do with her taking the case of not being allowed to wear such a vital part of her beliefs in the classroom, her parents assure us that it doesn't. How dare you think such a thing?

Initially, it does seem that the school is being rather petty. It's a small ring, and unless one of those hormone timebombs known as teenagers decided to feel her up, most of her fellow students were unlikely to take much notice of another whining, angsty 16-year-old with bizarre ideas about sex wandering around the corridors.

It's pretty obvious though that this is a vendetta of the Playfoot's own making out of their wider view of society, at the same time promoting the Silver Ring Thing, with their daughter either being a willing accomplice or unusually comfortable for a teenager with following her parents' wishes. This isn't about having the right to wear a small piece of jewelery in school, it's about nailing themselves up for the entire country to see, at the same time draining a school's resources for their own rather than the greater good. If it also wasn't such a stupid, regressive, worthless pledge that will be broken by thousands of those who make it, things might be different. As it stands, there are fewer dafter, juvenile ideas than saving your "purity" for marriage, as if your first sex won't be just as disappointing, bloody, embarrassing and potentially painful than it would otherwise be if it wasn't someone you supposedly loved. Best to get it out the way than be let down by the reality. It also ignores the obvious: that Miss Playfoot won't already be frigging herself silly whenever she feels like it. Purity is both hypocritical and overrated.

Perhaps in a couple of years she'll have realised this. Most 16-year-olds don't have a clue; I'm far past that age and I still don't. The stigmata look is even less attractive.

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