Friday, February 10, 2006

Making Hamburgers out of Sacred Cows

... As my friend Ryan used to say.

Just so that I don't appear to be too shallow by whining about the small stuff, there's been some interesting reading stuff on the internet about the wider world around us.

For example, on the matter of the controversy surrounding the Danish cartoons that had targeted the Islam religion, a debate on freedom of speech vs. cultural sensitivity had sprouted at the Frameshift forum (read the issue here). The debate was certainly enlightening with comments from authors R. Scott Bakker, Matt Stover, Gary Wassner and Scott Lynch as well as regulars Shevyk, Doc Shehzad, Bob the Glock, and a whole host of others.

For example, Bakker put in:

My question is simply this: Why should any 'personal viewpoint' be exempt from satire? What, aside from special pleading, could possibly warrant cloistering certain beliefs from being deflated or otherwise called to account? What can be more ridiculous than saying, I believe this, I'm right you're wrong, and you're not allowed to suggest otherwise? If anything, attitudes like this warrant even more critical and satirical scrutiny. We should make fun of people who believe such self-aggrandizing, thought-anaesthetizing nonsense. For their sake as much as our own.

And Doc Shehzad:

Satire requires an understanding of the subject you are satirizing. Clearly, both those who created the so-called "satire" as well as those who are defending it as such lack any amount of understanding of the Muslim faith. This automatically renders suspect any description of the cartoons as satire.

Some thought-provoking stuff there, especially considering I'm working in the media presently and it deals with responsibility and free-speech.

On the local front, there were a lot of blogger responses on the Ultra stampede that left 70+ dead and 300 more wounded. However, I thought the good ones that drew a reaction from cynical ole' me was from sky and matabangpusa.

Coming from an engineer's viewpoint, sky had detailed how the stampede could have come about objectively and pointed out:

There is science in crowd management, and it doesn't hurt if we understand it, however complex it may be, it only boils down to two things: crowds behave like fluid flow (from placidity to turbulence) and emotions play a decisive role in how people behave in crowds.

On the other hand, in the wake of the finger-pointing and the blame-laying, I thought matabangpusa had raised a good point about who was at fault:

And I knew that he was referring to people who didn't t care that they might have killed someone weaker because they wanted a million pesos. People who placed a value on someone else's life; one million pesos was enough for them to forget to care that someone else stood in their way. What's worse is that they probably don't know what they did, and don't care. The mob, the herd took away their capacity to reason, to think, to care; all they could think of was "I want a raffle ticket."

It's true: who is going after those people who had directly caused the deaths of the women and children killed in the stampede? Granted the local government and the television station had liability in the incident, who is going after the people who stampeded, who trampled the old women and children in trying to get their piece of the pie?

Interesting, no? Personally, these two topics got me thinking: what constitutes sacred to us? in case of the Danish cartoons issue, is it free speech? Respect for religion? Or in the case of the stampede, is it turning a forgiving eye constantly to the poor because they're worse off?

Why should we be charitable to what you believe (whether it's reason or piety) or what you are (like class)? When can we not question anymore? Should we not ask questions to begin with?

Where does understanding end and provocation begin?

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