Tag Archives: Catholicism

Foreigners in Local Protests

napoleon

Working in the heart of Seoul where protests usually happen, I’ve seen it so many times, foreigners looking at protests. Now, the protests in Seoul rarely get violent, so it’s a bit of a spectacle for tourists to come and see how protests are in other countries. It makes them seem like they’re seeing an unusual political event aside from the usual touristy fare. Unfortunately, protests here happen at least once a week. They usually interrupt my work on Thursday afternoons.

The recent string of protests that got the president of South Korea impeached however are much larger than regular protests. They’re bigger and are more elaborate affairs, with choreographed light shows and musical entertainment. It can be quite tempting for foreigners to come and see the protests and witness history taking place. But in such cases, there’s a very blurred line between witnessing a government protest and taking part in it.

Several people in Korea have invited me to join them in the protests, and as much a political junkie as I am, it is really not in my place to take part in a protest in a country where I am technically a guest by the government. There’s also some chance of violence erupting, and I’m sure most embassies wouldn’t encourage people to be near the protests. I haven’t heard of anybody being arrested and deported for participating in a government protest, but just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do. It also doesn’t mean that the government is not well within their rights to deport any foreign visitors participating in anti-government activities. How would Canada react to foreigners coming in to Canada to protest the government? I would be thinking differently if the issues directly affected foreigners, say Canada decided that all permanent residents (landed immigrants/ non-Canadian residents) must now pay higher taxes than Canadian citizens. But many of the protests I’ve seen where foreigners are wandering into are about issues that don’t really affect them directly.

One of the protests in the past that comes to mind is the mad cow protests several years ago. Koreans didn’t want American beef imports to Korea because of suspected cases of mad cow. Now, this was all just a massive hysteria with a healthy dose of anti-Americanism, but this didn’t stop millions of people protesting in the streets. In these protests, I even saw foreigners participating. Now, I couldn’t tell whether they were Americans or not, but seeing how the country now fully accepts American beef imports with little consequences, not only are the protests a big egg on the face of the Koreans but also to the foreigners who participated. There must be better ways to bond with the locals than joining protests.

The local media however sure loves pointing cameras at visibly foreign faces during news stories. It gives events an international vibe. Perhaps that’s part of the allure. Hey, we might get on TV in Asia!

The thing is foreigners don’t have a dog in the fight, so why go against the country which gave them the privilege to visit? The one time foreigners had an issue to legitimately protest the Korean government was when they made it mandatory for all foreign teachers to pass an AIDS test prior to getting teaching visas in fear of them giving AIDS to school children. That was a horrible piece of racist, xenophobic legislation that didn’t get any protest in the streets, not from locals or foreigners. And to this day, foreign teachers are still taking AIDS tests, some of them believing the lie that it’s for their health insurance.

So what is a foreigner to do? Stay out of it. If you have to be a tourist, take a picture, and spread the story to your friends. Locals love it when their stories reach an audience overseas. Otherwise, know why you’re really here (as a guest) and know why people are protesting (It’s usually not about you).

 

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Killing Catholics

Rat_King

The problem with Twitter is that it’s a vortex that gets you sucked in to arguments where you’re trying to convince people who have no interest in being convinced. This happened to me last night for the better part of an hour, arguing about the Philippines and their outrageous leader, President Duterte. The last time I visited the Philippines was 2011. Back then, like many people, the country’s problem with poverty is quite apparent. But the problem is not only that. At the time, I also noted that the country had a tendency to elect leaders based on populist appeal, with several people banking either on their celebrity appeal or regional political dynasties. I also noticed that there is not much concern about the separation of church and state, and thus some, if not the majority of people, don’t mind if religiously-inspired policies affect them negatively. So last night, I ended up arguing based on the Filipino Catholic background, the pretense of doing the purge for law and order, and the two-tiered justice system when it comes to Filipinos and their worship of celebrities.

I always found it very ironic that the only Catholic country in the Philippines would openly insult the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the representative of Christ in the planet. By condoning the extrajudicial killings, the president and his followers are going against the very teaching of Jesus Christ. Love thy neighbors, thou shalt not kill, etc. I’m not a theological expert, but I always thought that one of the foundations of the Catholic Church is the concept of forgiveness. And while many of the president’s supporters are quick to defend him and forgive him for his brashness and errors as a leader, they don’t extend that same spirit of forgiveness to victims of the killings. It would seem that the country is not as religious as many people would have you believe. After all, why would the country elect and give high approval ratings to a person who promised to kill several people and so far has made good on that promise. Duterte on his campaign had two major political goals: A) kill thousands of drug dealers and users and B) reform the country into federalism in order to spread the country’s wealth and resources among its different regions. So far, he’s only killed people. Killing people is not only against the Catholic Church, it also won’t put food on people’s plate.

Now, the president claims that he is doing things for law and order. He even mused about instating martial law to quell lawlessness. Forgetting the abuse of the Marcos regime and the horrors of martial law, his supporters say that martial law wouldn’t be a bad idea; after all, it is well within his rights in the Philippine constitution as the leader of the country. Looking at the Philippine constitution, it is well within his rights. Article VII, Section 18 states that he may take command of all armed forces and suspend habeas corpus to prevent or suppress lawless violence. That’s well and good. But the last time I checked, the Philippines is still quite orderly. There is no lawless violence. In fact, it is the president who is encouraging lawlessness with statements like, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.” Article III, Section 1 of the Philippine Bill of Rights states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Yet, people conveniently shrug when people get shot without spending their time in court, examining evidence of their guilt, or facing their accusers. There is nothing lawful about this anti-drug campaign. And as for people saying that the murder are done by phantom “killers” and not by the government or the police, and that the president regrets such extrajudicial killings, let me quote that again, “Please feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the fun… you have my support. Shoot him (the accused) and I’ll give you a medal.”

When arguing these things, I got accused of being prejudiced against the Philippines, of seeing the country as some sort of backwards banana republic and not a sophisticated metropolitan society. The problem with prejudice is that it also applies to the poor and those with drug history. The killings only seem to apply to the poor. Doing a quick search on Google, it’s not that difficult to find Filipino celebrities with histories of drug abuse. I doubt if they would be affected by this anti-drug campaign. No one is gunning for them. Drug use is often brought on by poverty. And the prejudice against the poor leads to the rather nonchalant local attitude towards the killings. Crimes against the pretty people on this page (https://kami.com.ph/29157-filipino-celebrities-involved-illegal-drugs.html) would elicit national outrage, but there’s not so much outrage when the victims are poor, young drug users and their families have to deal with the aftermath.

The most inane argument I get is that I’m not a true Filipino; I’m not in the country and thus have no say in such things. I am not familiar with their problems. True, but I am also unfamiliar with the problems of impoverished family members of drug users. While my opinions might insult Duterte’s supporters, the unfortunate consequence of supporting Duterte is the murder of people. Their opinions and support kills people. One does not need to be a Filipino citizen to realize this. You don’t need to be in the Philippines to see the hypocrisy in regards to Duterte versus religion, the law, and prejudice. The thing is, I actually have high hopes for the country. There are even some things that I agree with Duterte about (his stance on contraception and birth control for one. And I actually think federalism would benefit the country. ). But this zeal for a strong man worries me. Civilization and law evolved as such. First there was the literal strong man in very primitive groups. This was the man who could physically implement his personal view of law and order in his small community. Then came more democratic tribes; this was when communities established rules and mores, and power was not centralized into one figure. Perhaps there was a council of elders and influential members of the community. Later on, law and order became more complex, and we now have the many checks and balances of current systems in different countries. This devolution to needing a strongman leader is a sign of a more basic urge, a return to a primitive way of looking at things, a need for simplistic solutions to more sophisticated, nuanced problems. This is not the Philippines moving forward.

Of course, with Twitter and the Internet, I find myself arguing against unmovable converts. The same goes with Trump supporters and proponents of Brexit. Ironic that in a platform which allows for the free access to different opinions, we all tend to gravitate to information and “facts” which reflect our own opinions. Perhaps, at the risk of sounding arrogant, this is Duterte’s supporters and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

And speaking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I believe true Canadians are immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not that Canadians are smarter than the average person, but compared to our southern neighbors, we’re not as adamant with our opinions. We tend to be more pliable. Just as Catholics have an enduring place in their hearts for guilt, Canadians have an enduring place in their hearts for self-doubt. It is the part of us that says, “I believe this, but maybe I’m wrong.” So with that in mind, maybe I’m wrong about the Philippines. But for now, it looks like a total disaster.

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What Passes for Conversation

Tommy_Prince

The problem with most issues these days is that people get married into their camps and more often than not would defend their worst members. It makes a lot of political/social debates disingenuous and quite unbearable when sides spend a lot of their energies defending their weakest links as if they were their strongest.

An example: a week ago, I’ve been called a “shitty, shitty person” because of my opinion regarding a rape activist who live-blogged her rape minutes after it happened. She’s an activist and thus an educator, so I don’t think this sets a good example for people. I believe victims should report their attack first and not have Instagram as their priority. I’m also particularly turned off by some facts regarding the case. I know a woman’s actions should never justify an attack, but the woman went to a foreign country and showered naked with a stranger in a hostel. After said attack, she posted the alleged attackers picture on the Internet. It appears she’s trying to convict her alleged attacker via social media. Not only that, her previous efforts at activism haven’t really garnered much media attention, and this appears to be a cry for attention. So much about it just sounds either foolish or disingenuous.

Now, many feminists and advocates would advise that people suspend all of their suspicions when it comes to rape victims despite Occam’s razor. I tend to agree, but I also believe in things such as innocent until proven guilty, and not showering with strangers in hostels. So the conversation in the Internet goes:

Me: Rape victims should report the crime first. Give social media a rest.
Commenter: Misogyny will even dictate to women how they should react after suffering rape. (Because apparently that’s exactly what I was doing, hating women and “dictating” to them how they should react.)
Me: New feminists define misogyny as anything counter to their message, no matter how ill-advised that message is.
Commenter: You’re a shitty, shitty person. (So much for a debate!)

This attitude is not unique to new feminists. You can also see this among atheists, religious people, and both sides of the political aisle. People will defend everything the likes of Dawkins and Harris say despite both men fueling Islamophobia. Same thing with the religious. How many times have people excused their actions “because of faith?” And while sometimes people won’t defend every fundamentalist on their camp, they would sometimes vilify everything on the other side, no matter how much it benefits them. Just look at all of the conservatives who rail against Obamacare.

I once joked that I’m now too old to follow professional wrestling, so now I follow politics for my drama. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people do so but with much more fervor and they’re not aware of how swept up they are in the whole thing. The drama consumes them (Going back to the wrestling analogy, they’re the fans who believe it’s all real). They get so entrenched on their own side of the argument that they fail to examine opposing point of views. Worse, they neglect to be critical of things happening in their camp. Just look at Fox News when they wonder why Muslim communities don’t condemn acts of fundamentalist Islamic terror, even when most Muslim communities actually do. The same Fox talkers turn a blind eye to crimes committed by Christians, like the uniquely American Christian anti-gay wave in Africa (“Kill the Gays” anyone?).

So yeah, good luck in finding an honest debate/opinion/report on any issue. Many of the major news outlets have their own slant, and the minute you voice an opinion, you’re bound to find some nut job just waiting to contradict anyone on the other side.

I guess what I’m advocating is not to be married to an ideology. I’m a Catholic, but I acknowledge the fact that Mother Teresa is a fraud and that the church has been covering up pedophilia. I like Dawkins, but sometimes he can either get petty or downright bigoted. I consider myself a feminist, but I’m not gonna jump into every feminist/rape bandwagon.

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News Friday

A couple of things about the news:

Why are people surprised at the pope visiting a gay-hating bigot? The Catholic church, as progressive as the current pope has been on income inequality and environmental issues, is still a regressive institution when it comes to gender and women’s rights. The church still doesn’t like the idea of birth control and abortion (great idea for poor, overpopulated countries!). The priesthood is still a men’s club! The order of the world is still God > man > woman > children > animals.

A part of me tends to be nitpicky about the whole thing however. Growing up Catholic, I’m sensitive to the differences between Roman Catholics and Christians. Aside from Christians separating themselves from the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago, why would Kim Davis, a Oneness Pentecostal, be interested in seeing the pope and vice versa? Shouldn’t the two be arguing over the nature of the Holy Trinity and calling the other a heathen?

Also, why Kim Davis? Were the Duck Dynasty guys too busy for the Pope that week? What about the God Hates Fags people? At least I find them more logically consistent than Kim Davis. Like the Catholic church, they stand up against divorce , which really is the bigger threat against traditional marriages.

I can’t stand Obama when it comes to gun control. He rails against lawmakers and the NRA every time there’s a school shooting, speaking as if he has no power to makes changes. He’s the leader of the most powerful country in the planet! He can push his agenda if he wanted to. He certainly did with Obamacare. And he’s certainly trying with the Keystone pipeline. But when it comes to gun violence, police violence, income inequality, immigration, etc. it’s just one flower speech after another. Someone remind him that he’s not Maya Angelou. He’s the president. At least critics like Cornel West are willing to put some skin in the game and get themselves arrested in order to affect some change on important issues.

Why is the UN having talks against cyber violence? And why is cyber violence solely “against women and girls?” I understand things such as revenge porn is mostly aimed against women, but a lot of the vitriol on the Internet is aimed towards everyone. It’s not gender specific. I would even guess there’s more animosity against gays and lesbians on the Internet than there would be against women. In any case, the Internet, due to anonymity, makes it a breeding ground for general negativity. Women claiming that cyber violence does serious harm especially to women is a disservice to the strength of women and downplays the effect of cyber bullying on men.

Also, shouldn’t the UN be focusing more on REAL violence? This seems more like a sham show to support censorship in many countries.

Listening to some sweet Willie Nelson to calm down.

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What Have I Done Now?

Noah_Dove

 

Religious Rant Warning!

People have different religions, and even those of the same religion have different versions of the of the god they’re supposed to be worshipping. Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God. I’m a Roman Catholic, and there are two different versions of my personal savior, the Old Testament version and the New Testament. The New Testament is a Trinity as well, so there are three different versions of Him. I hope things get better for me though, cause lately, I feel like my personal savior is the Old Testament God… the vengeful and jealous version who tests his followers, makes dietary requirements, brings plague and pestilence, turns the curious into pillars of salt, banishes people from paradise, and takes away everything he has given.

Or maybe that’s just my Catholic guilt.

I wish I was raised more with the Christian God who loves unconditionally, the one who understands that we are human with human weaknesses, the one who loves the sinner, encourages us to turn the other cheek, and keeps us from hell.

But teaching me about that God was too much to ask for the headmasters in my old Catholic school. How else can you control a classroom with fifty kids? You scare them into obedience, that’s how. And now when things beyond my control go wrong, I usually think, “What have you done, Joe? This is somehow related to your failings. You’re an awful person.” as opposed to, “Don’t worry, Joe. It’ll be alright. You’re only human, and shit happens.”

I end up punishing myself mentally until I get ulcers.

Update: Less than ten minutes after this post, bad news hit me.

 

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