Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Identity Before Society
Sikhs should be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers - Kirpans - to school and other public places, according to Britain's first Asian judge, Sir Mota Singh QC. Taking the morning panel and audience of TV panel show The Wright Stuff as a barometer of opinion, most people questioned appeared to agree.
Aside from the idea of "religious children", which seems to have become accepted wholeheartedly as normal and healthy, - would the same be said of Communist or Tory children? - we are reaching a point of no return in respect to a society that is fracturing into smaller and smaller groups: each demanding their individual slice of the "identity" pie with little or no obligation to the wider community; or understanding of how this effects the now forgotten idea that we live in a society.
Liberalism has become a byword for the right to demand behaviour that would otherwise be forbidden, criminal or frowned upon. And all in the name of "cultural identity". The ironic part is that those who shout the loudest for multi-culturalism actually in practice promote a form of mono-culturalism; and when this happens to involve one of Britain's many ethnic minority groups demanding the right to transplant a cultural idea into the British system, any opposition to the motion is liable to put one immediately up for audition for the role of "racist". "Culture" and "identity" having become the buzzwords of inclusion; cultural relativism being very much the consensus rather than the idea of cultures as mutually competing ideas - unless we mean British culture of course, which must be defecated on from the moral high ground at every opportunity.
The point however is not about defending any particular culture, or about knee-jerk reactions to misunderstood facets of other cultures - which can and do have qualities the British would do very well to adopt in some way or another, - it is about the vapid notion that cultural criticism is the same as prejudice. That the criticism of an idea or practice gives a person the right to take offence, when that person has consciously adopted the idea or practice in question and chosen to make it a part of their identity. In this age of solipsism, what "being offended" usually means is the wish to censor another whom one disagrees with.
When does it become off-limits to declare that one does not wish to see children take daggers to school? How "religious" does one need to be to carry what, in any other citizen's hands, would be deemed an offensive weapon? How do we measure the quality of a person's "deeply held beliefs"? (Personally, I find the very idea of the religious as more responsible with weaponry of any kind downright delusional in this age of Islamic Jihad.) And what happened to good old anti-discrimination? Are we really to accept that those who indulge in bronze-age silliness in the 21st century are to be given special treatment akin to rights that are denied to others?
Mr Singh himself said, "The fact that I'm a Sikh matters more to me than anything else". More presumably that any notion of equality, which would dictate that nobody is allowed to carry a knife in school, regardless of colour, religion or any other mark of separation.
Let us at least stop pretending that this is somehow progressive.