Occupational Hazard

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Since I’ve started this blog some two-odd years ago, I’ve noticed some interesting dynamics and shifts. Blogging, particularly on touchy subjects such as religion and politics, is not a “harmless” pastime anymore. In fact, it can even be downright hazardous.

Seems like some people who are offended by what you’re writing or posting, don’t understand the concept of differing opinions and views. The last US national election comes to mind. The amount of vitriol, hate, disdain, and disrespect from the right was beyond belief (note: I’m a political moderate with libertarian leanings). This wasn’t just about not liking Obama. It WAS about resorting to whatever means necessary to destroy the man. It WAS about propagating the worst kinds of lies in order to discredit him. It was about elevating a mindless, un-principled, magic-underwear-wearing money hack like Mitt Romney, with the false guise of him being a statesman.

 

When in reality, the GOP could not have picked a candidate more devoid of principle, political track record, and charisma. Granted, they didn’t have a great pool to pick from to start with. But let’s agree that at least a couple of GOP candidates would have been a better pick than Romney.

Anyway, here are people I’ve known virtually my whole life unfriending, or going off on some other tangent. Simply because I expressed my thoughts about Romney being a selfish, lying, sellout. Turns out the majority of voters thought so too. All despite the GOP’s best efforts to rig the election ala Bush 2000. The amount of hate mail, crude statements and personal attacks were STAGGERING. And these were mostly from people I knew and who knew me. Who just a few years ago, we were having beers on the deck of my boat, having a good laugh about something stupid happening back stateside. Or, a few decades ago, we flirted with each other in the high school halls.

GOOD people, who just couldn’t stomach the fact that I had a different opinion than they did. A pragmatic opinion based on facts and reality, not ideology. A view dosed with logic, that didn’t involve “picking a side”. The fact that I wasn’t jumping on board their GOP crazy train, despite my libertarian leanings, was too much for them to take. And boy, did I ever hear about it.

 

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How did things get this far? Well, interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that it’s gone this far across the board. Whether you’re watching TV news, or surfing Huffpost, Politico, NYT and sites of their ilk. The idealogues have taken over, and there is literally no middle ground anymore. There are very few places where a spirited discussion of opposing or clashing views can even take place. It’s not happening in Washington, that’s for sure. Hell, it’s not even happening in Brussels.

The sad state of affairs is that reasoned, tempered, and ‘god-forbid’ intelligent debate is virtually non-existent these days. Particularly when zealots get involved, which is most of the time.

You know the type. The ones who refuse to accept any concept of being wrong. Even with proof. And yeah, they’re usually religious. The ones who willingly and knowingly take distorted numbers and statistics and twist and distort them even further. Then, almost comically, try to use them as factual arguments. One of the greatest examples of this during the last election. When the Romney camp and GOP’ers across the board tried to say that the staggering job losses that occurred in 2009 were Obama’s fault.

Despite the fact clearly being that the job nosedive trend actually commenced in September 2008, two months before Obama was even elected. By late 2010, that trend was reversed under Obama’s watch. By 2011, all the jobs that were lost during his first year, were gained back. Nobody on the right acknowledges these facts, and then claim that Obama’s jobs record was zero. Even when being grossly inaccurate.

We can go on and on with other examples, but I digress. The real point of this article, is not because of what happened in November, or even in recent years on the US political scene. It’s because of the disturbing trend I’ve noticed on the rise recently globally, particularly regarding religion.

The climate for discourse has gone so far off the tracks, that vocal-albeit-innocent people are paying with their lives. In Bangladesh, bloggers are being singled out and even killed, due to their thoughts and ideas that clash with their backwards-ass, fundamentalist ways. Bloggers. People like me who sit behind a computer and let their musings be known by way of words and representative media.

The islamic world has become quite incensed at the new voice that has been given to otherwise-average people thanks to the internet. Dissent is on the rise in countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, and other predominantly Islamic nations. Dissent that just a few years ago could have been easily quelled with a few public beheadings and eviscerations, can no longer be silenced. You can’t behead Twitter, Facebook or even a website. You can’t stop technology from getting into the average person’s hands anymore. Other than, of course, keeping them so dirt-poor that technology becomes unimportant. It’s hard to follow Twitter when all you do is worry about feeding yourself and your family today. Getting online and slightly more educated, takes a backseat to merely surviving.

Yeah, they're gonna get you Facebook!

Yeah, they’re gonna get you Facebook!

 

The clerics are losing their hold on the masses. Pretty quickly I might add. And they know it. So what do they do? They take the “fatwa” up a notch from Rushdie level. They incite violence against the cyber-dissenters. Death to the infidel bloggers.

I read with horror and sorrow, about the horrific killing of Ahmed Rajib Haider. He was a young, bright, architect who simply wanted to promote ideas for a secular government in Bangladesh. Despite his being atheist, his real effort was to simply promote limiting the power of the islamists on the Bangladeshi government. Reading the story, and seeing the grisly photos, gave me pause.

 

No, look at it... I insist.

No, look at it… I insist.

 

I came to a realization. He was considered a threat, a danger, because of his words, his ideas, and because of his ability to spread them. Books can be burned. Great minds can be silenced by force. Once you release an idea via the net, no amount of burning, or silencing, can stop them from spreading.

The zealots who killed him out of blind faith, would do it to anyone they considered an infidel, or any kind of threat to their religion. Given the chance, they would have no problem whatsoever coming after comparative hacks like me given the opportunity. Or ANY far more popular atheist activist for that matter.

Sobering? Yes. Scary? Sure. Inspiring? Definitely.

These acts of unspeakable evil, in the name of that other fake god, against people who just want to see positive change in their homeland despite knowing the dangers, must not win. The dissenters need to be encouraged to keep speaking out. Dissent does ultimately bring discourse. And discourse brings change. And even though we like to have fun with the ideals we’re challenging, there is a serious side to what we do. There is strength in numbers. The more blogs, the more FB pages, the more dissent that permeates the cyber-waves, the louder the voice that promotes reason becomes. The more powerful the message becomes. We are all part of that message. 

Despite the different cultures, locations, and individual challenges, though mine are nothing in comparison to what others face, make no mistake. We are all part of the same fight.


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