What is morality?

August 27, 2007 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 1 Comment

How can one judge whether something in this world is “moral” or not? Is it fair to believe that one particular culture is morally superior to another? What is morality, anyway? Yes, I know, using rhetorical questions as a device to get a conversation started or to go on a rant is considered by many to be poor usage of written English, but these are all questions I think a lot more people should start asking themselves. Allow me to use a much-stereotyped group to make a point–Muslims, or more specifically– middle-eastern and south-Asian Muslim cultures. You’ve no doubt heard about some of the more popular–and sometimes accurate stereotypes of those regions–misogyny, “honour” killings, American, Danish and Israeli flag-burnings, anger, irritability and so forth. More specifically, let’s look at the recent “Red Mosque” incident in Pakistan. The protesters holed up inside the mosque were demanding that greater Islamabad, in fact all of Pakistan, practice their very strict version of Wahabi Islam, which is very Taliban-like. They were prepared to use force to accomplish their goals and often they did (and still do), showing Musharaff to be almost like a sitting-duck president. Even more particularly, let’s remember Afghanistan from the mid-90’s to October 2001 when it was almost all under complete Taliban control. For a great refresher on the plight of women during that period and even now you should check out RAWA’s web site.

All these incidents of death-by-stoning, gang-rape and edicts not to wear shoes that click lest they “corrupt” young men are regarded as highly immoral in our Western culture, but misogyny in Afghanistan is deep-rooted, spanning at least over a thousand years, so who are we to judge another society’s culture? After all, what’s considered wrong in one culture might be consider right in another and vice-versa. In other words, some may argue that morality is relative.

But I’m not one of those people. I will boldly claim that some cultures are superior to others if they have demonstrated intellectual growth. To those who advocate the Taliban lifestyle in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, I unabashedly state that I am morally superior to you. This is because some religious and cultural practices are just plain wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s rooted in thousands of years in history: what is old is not necessarily synonymous with what is good.

But then, if this is the case, then where does one draw the line? I grew up in the Jewish faith–although I’m actually agnostic–and I happen to know that the Torah and even the Talmud state some very anti-female messages as well. Likewise does the New Testament, I am sure. The stereotype of anti-women sentiment is supposedly located within the Koran and maybe even the Hadith (and especially Shariah) but the truth is both Christianity and Judaism are at times hostile toward women, or at least their respective texts are. So does this mean that practicing Christians and Jews are morally inferior to agnostics? What about Richard Dawkins’ version of atheism (sigh…I apologise once again for all the rhetorical devices)? Dawkins is wrong to claim that atheists are morally superior to religionists, as he undoubtedly has, although I’m sure I am paraphrasing him. After all, Josef Stalin was an atheist and he murdered tens of millions of people through mass starvartion, overwork at reeducation camps and other methods. Millions also died similarily under Cambodia’s Pol Pot, and these are only but a few examples.

This all just goes to show what a complicated question this is–it is difficult to know if one culture/society/religion is superior to another. I think we all have to find our own moral code. But irrespective of what this moral code is, there are certain particulars that should not be included and are always immoral–abuse against women, murdering of people who don’t want to be murdered, and coercion and forced submission of any kind. The rest is all subjective. Of course if anyone disagrees with my conclusion on morality, please bring forth your own revisions; I might want to get a conversation started here.

Russian murder investigations

August 27, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

In news that’s sure to be an absolute shock to everyone, as absolutely no one saw this coming, Russian prosecutors have heavily implied that exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky was behind the murder of noted journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the latter of whom exposed many of Russia’s untruths. Berezovsky’s motive? Why, to discredit the Kremlin and make Russia as a whole look bad, of course and, according to Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika,

Forces interested in destabilizing the country, changing its constitutional order, in stoking crisis, in a return to the old system where money and oligarchs ruled, in discrediting national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime.

He also stated the “investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya.” Please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Prosecutor-General work under the Kremlin? And if he doesn’t, does it really matter? After all, the prosecution is doing such a good job finding out who the killers might be after almost a year. Only a very unimaginative, boring, logical-thinking prosecutor would think that because Politkovskaya had many enemies in the Kremlin and the FSB her killer or killers were likely from those establishments. It takes a true genius to figure out that the real culprits initiated this plot so that people would falsely assume the government was involved even though it was really a plot to discredit Russia’s image. My hat is off to you, Yuri Chaika, for proving beyond compare that despite recent hyperbolic criticisms, the Russian justice system is alive, well and is functioning with maximum efficiency and fairness.

To see the news-article in its full context, please click here. To see my previous commentaries on related Russian issues, please click here and here.

Am I ready for my first marathon?

August 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 2 Comments

This is basically just a stream-of-consciousness extension of my thoughts–nothing particularly articulate here today: Yes, I am ready for a full marathon because I’ve already done several half-marathons in an official capacity–and when I run on my own it is no longer an exception to take 2 hours and 15 minutes, not because I’m slow–I can do 8-minute miles now–but because under the right conditions my endurance allows me to run for very extended periods. Of course, how long would it take to complete a full marathon–3 hours and 30 minutes? I’ve never ran that long before, so in that regard there’s an element of risk. Also, I like variety on my routes. Yesterday I tried to find out how some of Toronto’s parks connect together–and I confirmed that many seemingly distant parks do in fact connect but I have yet to get the precise routes correct in my head. In that process of discovery I entered many trails in the forest and had to dodge branches and even cross the odd stream. I liked that; it’s not that I purposely seeked out such obstacles, but it’s nice for variety. I concluded by reaching the Dairy Queen at Pottery and Broadview via this very (to me, anyway) steep hill–and I have to admit I’m really starting to like steep inclines upwards–it makes the runs even more exhilarating. The vanilla soft-serve was an especially refreshing treat afterwards, even though I know it’s not made with real vanilla bean. Anyway, this Toronto waterfront marathon is nice because of the water, but it’s too flat. So I don’t know yet.

On a completely unrelated front, I have got to stop watching BBC World news. The reporting is too elitist and clearly leftist. I don’t find anything wrong with the left per se, but I want neutrality in my news unless it’s explicitly stated that this is an editorial. They never do that on BBC, just like on most news shows.

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