Offending the offenders

Stephen Conroy asked YouTube to take this down. NSW MLC, Shaoquett Moselmane wants to introduce religious anti vilification laws. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah insisted that whole world should enforce-ably respect his prophet. What should we do?

There are many things I could say, movies I could make, ideas I could propose that would even today cause an uproar. People would perhaps get angry, protest, call me names, try to discredit what I have said … and that is OK with me.

Historically speaking this has not always been the case. People have not always been free to speak their mind. They have been detained, “re-programmed”, threatened, beaten and even killed. There are places in the world were this is still the case.

Throughout history, many people have worked, argued, protested, used violent means and even died in order to move towards the freedoms we have in Australia today. Our culture has changed in line with this movement. There are things I could say today that fifty years ago would have caused great angst, which today people cheer. Even more so, when it does come to someone saying something offensive, it is generally met with little more aggression than a verballing.

This is why the violence over the weekend shocks us, but it probably shouldn’t. We should always be willing to accept that from time to time our freedom will be challenged and this challenge may in fact be violent. Some of us might even die. I am not saying this is a good thing, just a realistic thing to anticipate.

We should constantly work to mitigate this violence. We should work hard to prevent it from happening again. However, if we do this by protecting the offenders from being offended, we are deceiving ourselves. If we put the group that used violence against us beyond any form of scrutiny that may offend them, then we have weakened ourselves and we in no way honour the victims that lay on the bloody path that led us to the freedoms we do have.


  • I do not like it very much when people say offensive things about Jesus. Sometimes I even speak out in his defence, there may even be anger in my voice, but never would I react in a violent way. Perhaps if Muslims around the world reacted in the same way this storm would still be in the tea-cup it belongs in.
  • I watched the film in question. Apart from  it being offensive in production quality, I can also accept that it is offensive toward the prophet Mohammed. If the person(s) who made it did so for the express purpose of offending then they are immoral and should themselves consider the withdrawal of the video clip from YouTube. If they are claiming that it is an attempt at depicting some sort of  historical truth then it is up to Islamic apologists to  rebut the video in a rational manner.
  • Even if the sole purpose of the video was to offend, then the maker of the video is still in no way responsible for the violent and deadly reaction against unrelated third-parties.

Inverse Equality

There seems to me to have been a shift in the usage of the word equality lately. I am not speaking of logical equality, but of human equality.

From a logical point of view, when I am writing a computer program, I evaluate two different entities to determine if their value is the same. If the value of these two is the same then I can perform any set of actions; otherwise if they are not the same I can perform a different set of actions. Logical equality is only relevant if I want to use that equality (or lack thereof) to determine a branch within a procedure.

A strong basis for equality is famously described in the United States Declaration of independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even though it uses a specific gender and although we can debate whether or not the people at the time felt it applied to slaves, the vibe is that it speaks to humanity. Unlike logical equality, “human entities” are given equal value. Their value is not tested for equality. Their value is assumed to be equal. One human is “equal” to another.

When discussing marriage this week in the Sydney Morning Herald, a significant number of people did not like Peter Jensen’s point that: men and women are different and therefore it is appropriate for them to have different vows. Many were posting that men and women are in essence the same. Thus they should have the same vows otherwise they somehow lack equality.

I really think they miss the point. The reason why Thomas Jefferson felt the need to say “all men are created equal” is that while all people are created equal, they are also created different. There is a real thrust behind much of the “equality language” at the moment which seeks to achieve a level of sameness by discounting difference. We seem to be seeking equality by deceiving ourselves. By defining difference out of the equation we lie to ourselves and we are going about it topsy-turvy.

Equality is a given (in my opinion by God), not something to be achieved. Therefore we should treat others as if they are our equals and respect any differences we have. We should not be redefining others to be like us (or us to be like others) in order to achieve equality.