Ep 09: Simon Barrow | Exploring religious freedom


Alastair Lichten: Hello and welcome to the National
Secular society podcast. I am Alastair Lichten, Head of Education at the NSS. Today’s
episode is part 9 in a 10 part series of interviews where I speak with
activists and experts about religious freedom and what it means to them.
What does religious freedom truly mean? While some religious lobbyists use the term to
demand privilege, this series will serve to highlight that true religious
freedom means freedom of belief for peoples of all religion and none. This is
leading up to our major conference Secularism 2019: If this conversation has whet
your appetite, then I hope you’ll join us at the Tower Hotel in London on the 18th
of May – details are at the end the show and in the show notes. Today I spoke with
Simon Barrow. Simon is director of Ekklesia – a
non-profit think tank focusing on the changing world of beliefs, values and
faith and non faith belief in public life. Simon has a background as a
commentator, journalist and lecturer and theologian as well as various NGO roles.
So without further ado let’s get the interview. Enjoy. Simon, welcome to the
National Secular society podcast. Simon Barrow: Thank you very much indeed. Delighted to be
with you. (AL) Happy to have you here. I thought perhaps you could start by
introducing yourself to the audience – just telling them who you are and what
you do. (SB) Okay. Well, I’m Simon Barrow as you’ve
already said, and I’m based in Edinburgh in Scotland and I’m the director of
Ekklesia which is a think-tank that looks at the relationship between
beliefs and ethics on the one hand and then politics, economics, environment and
so on on the other hand and we have quite a long track record of dealing
with these issues of religious freedom and the role of religion in public life
and I guess the orientation we have is is what you would describe as at the
dissenting end of Christianity, the progressive end of Christianity,
arguing against overbearing religious privilege and arguing very much in favor
of a conversational approach between people of different convictions and also
collaboration wherever possible. So I’m delighted that we have been on
the same side as the National Secular society on a number of issues and the
Humanists UK as well and so on and we’ve also drawn into conversation about these
big public issues people of all religious traditions and none, so that’s
very much part of my personal commitment as well and so I, as I say, I’m director
of Ekklesia. I’ve been working with Ekklesia since 2003 really and before
that I was actually assistant general secretary of churches together in
Britain and Ireland and have a background both in public affairs
journalism but also in working for the the churches. So these days, apart from
directing a think-tank, I do sort of commentary in journalism and bits of
teaching at university level as well – it’s what my wife describes as my way of
earning a lack of income. (AL) Very good. So what does religious freedom mean to
you personally? (SB) It means a lot to me personally though, forgive me, I’m a policy wonk – I’m immediately going to kind of want to redefine the term a
little bit – I tend to refer to freedom of religion or belief first of all to
stress that what I’m concerned about is not just people of my own beliefs and
convictions but people of all other beliefs and convictions who might find
their freedom of expression or their freedom of actions threatened by others
and so I regard my freedom of thought and action as interrelated to other
people’s freedom of thought and action and, and indeed I think I’m a little bit
nervous about talking of freedom of religion because we’re not talking about
the freedom to hold or dispute ideas, we’re talking about people. In a sense
it’s freedom of believers whether those are religious or non-religious believers
and it means a lot to me personally because for example I have friends –
Christians and humanists and others in the Middle East and other parts of the
world who’ve had direct experience of imprisonment and harassment, threats of
death and so on, so this is a very personal issue and
it’s something that we, you know, have to find ways of working together on across
our other differences in order to begin to create a world where actually we do
not need to threaten and harass and imprison and torture and kill those who
are different to ourselves. That’s absolutely fundamental. (AL) I guess one of
the things that brings up is if we look around the world, Christians are the
group, if we look at abuses of freedom of religion and belief, Christians are by and large the largest group suffering those. (SB) Yeah (AL) …. and I mean we
look at quite horrific stuff, you know, we see churches being bulldozed in China,
you see house churches being raised in Saudi Arabia and they’re often
some Christians in the UK, sort of talk about the persecution of Christians and
then they also lump in ‘…..and also this this Christian had to serve a gay person
in their shop in the UK. (SB) Yeah, absolutely. Well indeed and and let me say to start off with that
I think attempts to suggest that Christians are persecuted in the UK, is
simply an abuse of language – it’s extremely insulting to Christians and
other people who really are threatened and persecuted throughout the world, and
it’s an ideological attempt to advance a particular narrow form of religion by
using that kind of language. Now as a matter of fact, a couple of years ago
Ekklesia published a very interesting book called The Jesus Candidate:
Political religion in a Secular age by Paul Lusk, who comes from an evangelical
Christian background as well as having very wide experience in public affairs
and one of the things that Paul does in that book is to go into detail regarding
the kind of cases that some well-known Christian lobby groups in Britain had
been using to suggest that there is persecution and he dismantles those
really rather effectively from a legal point of view but also from a Christian
point of view because what this is really about is an attempt to institute
a kind of religious privilege and to use
the language of religious freedom in order to disguise that, and I think, you
know, I find that something that that’s insulting as I say to those who
genuinely are persecuted and something that we all need to expose and
combat and along with that of course more recently has become the attempt to
introduce the term Christophobia and so again that’s another attempt to turn into
ideology a particular viewpoint that’s trying to assert itself from a position
of dominance which is what it really seeks I think. I mean that also relates
to to the sort of changing place of of different forms of Christianity in
different forms of religion in society in Britain and more widely in the West
which we might go on and and have a look about, look at, as a sort of contributory
factor here. (AL) How much is Ekklesia’s focus or work divided between sort of those
international freedom of belief issues and more domestic concerns? (SB) Well,
freedom of belief is I suppose something that cuts across a number of other
issues. As a matter of fact, probably the majority of our work in recent years has
been on public policy issues to do with poverty, working with disabled people on
disability issues and all of that kind of stuff and in our earlier years we
worked quite heavily on those questions of religion in public life and we
perhaps done less of that more recently. So amongst other things, it’s
good to be brought back to that and to have this opportunity to have a
conversation with the NSS and its partners about that because I think it’s
very much coming back into the arena and something that we need some fresh ways
of tackling but the one thing that I would say about Ekklesia in terms of the
work that we’ve done over the years, is that a common thread has been a critique
of what we would call Christendom – indeed that’s a term that’s been used
throughout history – Kierkegaard for example distinguished between what he
saw as a sort of liberating Christianity on the one hand and the dead hand of
institutional religion that he labeled Christendom on the other hand. When we
use the term, what we mean by it is that period
which is really 1700 years, particularly in European history, where some of the
major churches have done a kind of deal with ‘Governing Authority’ and effectively
what they’ve done is to say look, we will give you our religious blessing on the
one hand if you give us particular positions of privilege and protection on
the other hand and that era for a number of years has been coming to an end. Now
Ekklesia’s perspective is that it’s good that that’s coming to an end because our
understanding of the core of the Christian message is about liberation
not about an imperial dominating kind of religion, indeed, we do need to remind
ourselves from time to time that Jesus was actually executed by a toxic
combination of the wrong kind of religion and the wrong kind of politics –
so that’s very important, but there’s a new possibility emerging out of that, that
what we’re seeing is really quite a strong backlash from ideologues against,
in a sense, the removal of privilege and prestige and that kind of Imperial
top-down church and top-down religion. So people are feeling threatened and one of
the responses of that is is those who are using a narrative of persecution
within the UK to describe what is in fact the loss of their ability to tell
other people within the churches and outside the churches what they should
do and to try and enforce that by law. (AL) So would you say then, would you diagnose
this problem as a bit of a Christian identity crisis, perhaps similar
to the crisis in masculinity caused by moves towards gender equality. (SB) Yeah.
I, I think that’s absolutely the case, that when you find movements of
change and of liberation within society there is an identity crisis and some
people feel threatened. I certainly don’t think the majority of people who
identify as active Christians in the UK actually buy into this persecution
narrative – I think its a very small number of people are trying to promote it but some
people are rather prey to it because they’re confused and baffled by the fact
that they they used to be able to count on,
you know, a certain kind of recognition, a certain kind of social status
coming out of their, their Christianity and that’s no longer the case, and what
we’re doing is saying actually you know that kind of privilege really didn’t
have anything to do with the core of what the Christian gospel is about, if
you look at it hard, and it’s something we need to move away from and actually
there are lots of new opportunities for finding bridges rather than walls
between ourselves and other people, finding common cause – also, you know, where
there are disagreements on the basis of religion or anything else, finding
different and better ways of disagreeing rather than trying to enforce your, your
views but I mean the kind of issues that are really important around this are for
example equality issues and Ekklesia has argued for long a long time that’s it’s
entirely wrong for example that the Church of England, if I might talk about
a church across the border from where I live, that the Church of England has
exemptions to equalities legislation, that it is a church established under
the crown – we think that’s wrong – as well, we think that it’s wrong that
there are in the second unelected chamber of Westminster people from, leaders from one religion of one country who actually take part in the
legislative process. Everyone who is in Parliament, however they get there – by
election or nomination should do so on the same basis. You know, if bishops want
to to to put themselves forward for, you know, a second chamber that’s absolutely
fine but it should be on the same basis as everybody else not because they’re
bishops of one Church of one religion of one country and so on, so those kind of
things we would challenge from a Christian point of view and enable,
hopefully enable, people to see that there’s a positive case for that change
and it actually opens up a new kind of path for a different kind of
Christianity in the 21st century, which interestingly enough will perhaps have a
little more in common with with some of the earliest strands in Christianity
before it became an imperial religion. (AL) Might an effort to make more Christians
aware of the tradition of, you know, secular, secularist thought within
Christianity and more aware of the experiences of,
because Christians in this country are becoming a minority religion, as we become
a majority non-religious country. (SB) Yes (AL) So perhaps, you know, more knowledge of
what it’s like to be a Christian community in a, say, a majority Muslim or
majority Hindu country. (SB) Yeah, well that’s a really interesting point actually
because of course Christians in other parts of the world
have long experience of being minority communities. I mean, Christians in the
Middle East, let’s remember that Christianity in in the Middle East is,
has a longer tradition than Islam for example – it’s the cradle of Christianity
and in most countries in the Middle East Christians are minority so they’ve had
to negotiate their position in society from a very different kind of
perspective and actually over the years that’s often been a very positive
experience. At the moment of course for many it’s an extremely negative
experience for reasons that I hope we’re going to go on and discuss in terms of
worldwide persecution of people on the basis of religion or belief, which, as you
said, does affect Christians particularly badly though, I don’t think we should be
trying to in a sense out-compete each other as different kinds of communities but I mean unless it’s important to recognize that.
So yes, that’s one thing – beginning to rethink your position, your place and
your opportunities – I think it’s about two things – I think it’s about looking
for the sources of pluralism and bridge-building within your own
community and tradition and I would want to say as a Christian that Christianity
is an internal argument – there are strands historically within Christianity,
within the life of the church, within the Christian scriptures and so on which are
monarchical and overbearing and somewhat authoritarian but there are also
strongly liberating traditions which are about freedom and autonomy and justice
for the poor and peacemaking and other kinds of things and that argument has
gone on throughout Christian history and it’s going on at the moment and I’m part
of that argument and I would want to advocate a Christian perspective which
is, wants to see a plural society, a level playing field,
the freedom of ourselves tied into the necessary freedom of other people who
are different to ourselves and so on. So there’s a kind of pragmatic argument for
secularism, there’s also I think an argument from within each of our
traditions for a secular polity which is about a level playing field and I mean,
last comment to make on that, in in his book that Jesus candidate Paul Lusk
makes the point that Christians within Europe have actually contributed to the
development of a secular polity in a positive way. Again, I would want to be
very careful and not sort of, you know, do the Imperial thing of claiming that
somehow secularism is the product of Christians and so we take credit for it
and so on and so on – it’s something that’s developed from a number of
different sources, as has humanism, but it does seem to me if we can recover a
sense of that, that there is a shared thing that we’re trying to do here which
is to create freedom and opportunity for all, then we can find a pragmatic way
forward as well as finding those resources deep within our own traditions
which argue in favor of that. (AL) Hmm. I mean I would sort of conceptualize it as
perhaps, something I’ve been thinking about recently, of secularism as like a language, if two
people are speaking different moral languages – one is speaking the moral
language of Christianity and one is the moral language of atheism and secularism
is sort of a language that’s neither of their native tongues but they can, they
both can share, but then would both be speaking it with their own accent. (SB) Yes, I
really like that. I think that’s important. I think we can all contribute
something to it. It is a common space, a common language and a common
opportunity that we are trying to create and I think that’s that’s really really
important. I mean, I would say also that that we need to recognize that
secularism as a way of thinking and as a path for action has taken different
forms and I’m, I’m at the kind of liberal plural end of it if you like. I mean, some
people have interpreted secularism as an attempt to exclude religion from public
life and I think that’s much less helpful and
much less healthy – I think the way in which secularism developed in France
is not so much to my taste for a number of reasons, though I understand why it’s
happened in the way that it has. I think we need a more plural path so on the
one hand what I would say is we need a separation of religion and state and
government and I would argue that we need that on in my case Christian
grounds as well as on secular grounds but you know there’s plenty of space for
people of different religious convictions and no religious conviction
in civil society in public life – they shouldn’t claim a privilege in the way
that they engage, they should seek to engage in a conversational way, to try
and persuade one another about public Goods and so I think that’s that’s
really quite possible, and I mean I noticed that when a lot of my atheist
and humanist friends you know object to religion being involved in politics what
they tend to mean by that I think quite rightly is is manipulative domineering
attempts by religious organizations to privilege themselves at the expense of
others. I don’t know that many atheists who complain about let’s say Desmond
Tutu and Martin Luther King and there’s a good reason for that which is that
they that their involvement in politics is very strong and their argument is
that their politics is resourced from the liberating strands in Christianity
but they’re not trying to privilege themselves, they’re trying to campaign
for human freedom, justice and peace for everybody and therefore they’re very
willing to work with other people and so on. That seems to me to model the
positive engagement of religion in public life as distinct from that
dominating attempt or the confusion of religion with state and government, so I,
you know, I I want a level playing field for us all – I want a space where we feel
we really can bring the depths of our own traditions and thinking to public
debate but in a way that opens up possibilities rather than contributes to
a narrative of domination. (AL) I’m often very confused by these opinion polls that we
see – you ask people a question of ‘do you think religion should influence
politics?’ and you tend to get sort of these vast majorities up in the eighties,
nineties percent that people saying no but I think that’s a product of the
question is is too narrow – as you say, someone who is influenced by
their faith to support equality, versus someone who’s influenced by their
faith to support discrimination – that, that’s the difference – it’s
not where the influence comes from. (SB) I, I think that’s absolutely right and, I
mean, when I’m asked that question well, you know, ‘do you think we should
separate religion and politics?’ I say two things really- I say well first of all
I’m not in favor of the wrong kind of religion being involved in promoting the
wrong kind of politics, by which I mean the kind of politics and the kind of
religion which denies human dignity, which denies human rights,
which takes civil liberties away from people etc. etc. – I want to argue against
that and I think we should, but where people are using their religious
tradition and their motivation to open up space and possibility for other
people, that’s a really quite different thing. So I think there are two kinds of
things that we’re talking about when we talk about religion and politics in
those terms but the other thing is, I mean, sometimes people will say and it’s
commonly said in a sort of liberal democratic society, ‘well, religion is a
purely private thing and it needs to be kept to the private sphere’ well first of
all, you know, I would have to say personally that, as a Christian, my
Christianity impels me to get involved with issues of peace and justice so I
don’t see it as a purely private thing – I see it as a matter of public engagement –
but the second thing is that when people gather together for religious or any
other purposes, they create institutions, they have buildings, they pay taxes, they
employ people – there’s no way in which it can be a
purely private enterprise – that’s just not possible – so the issue then becomes
what kind of public enterprise is it?, you know, how do we pay our taxes, how do
we treat ourselves and other people with equality and justice and so on and what
are the values that actually underpin that? and that’s what we need a
conversation about. (AL) Yes, I think that is a product – when people say that it’s
often a product of language not being very precise so, for
example, I meet for my role, work in education in NSS many many people who say
they don’t want any religious education in schools but then I’ve never met
anyone I have a conversation with that actually means that. What they mean is
there’s this idea of, or there’s this type of religious education I don’t want,
and I think that’s very similar many people would say I don’t want religion
involved in politics and if, and if you had, like, you know, a yes/no tick box, you
know, I think I’d probably tick the yes I agree with that statement tick box but
if I was given, you know, 140 characters to expand on that versus, and then a
five-minute conversation to expand on that, that position is, even though
you or I, you might tick the no, I might tick the yes,
actually in the longer conversation our position is much more aligned. (SB) Yeah, I
mean, well, being being a natural member of the awkward squad I would just across
the box out and write something else underneath it but, but I think it is
important that we really need to create better understanding in a better
conversation and since you come on to the matter of education again Ekklesia
was part of setting up the Accord Coalition which campaigns against
religious discrimination in education and wants to see the reform of schools
that are religious foundation schools away from excluding people on the basis
of religion or giving privilege to certain kinds of perspectives and so on
so again there’s a large measure of agreement between us as Christians and
humanists and atheists in that kind of area but as far as religious education
is concerned, again, I would want to talk about education about religion or belief
and values and life stances and so on to broaden it out and it seems to me
absolutely essential in the kind of world we have at the moment that kids
grow up learning about the different convictions that that people hold and
ways of handling all of that stuff but it’s not about propaganda or trying to
inculcate people into one way rather than another way, it’s about, you know,
learning how to be citizens, that amongst other things, deal with issues of
religion, belief, along with politics, economics, environment and so on so I
think when people want to say you know they want to keep religious teaching out
of schools what they mean is they want to keep propaganda and attempts to
indoctrinate people into one way out of schools and of course I entirely agree
with that. Not, incidentally, that I think anyone should be doing indoctrination
and propaganda but it is the role for example of Christian communities you
know to bring up people within those communities, to give them an
understanding of what that community stands for and of course then also to
give people the choice to to stay in that community or leave that community
– that seems to me to be really important but it’s the job of the church is to
teach Christianity. It isn’t the job of a public, publicly funded school to try and
make people Christians or indeed atheists or Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or
Hindus or anything else from that point of view, that the job of the public
school is to enable us to engage together and I think of course that
happens when you have the kind of schools which can be mixed, where people
meet not just in in textbooks or in propositions but they actually meet
people in the playground, down their Street etc and I think the problem with
faith schooling at the moment is that it’s actually dividing people on on
grounds of religion and I as a Christian think that’s wrong. (AL) Hmm. And I think that does go then back to the question of the crisis of identity
and the, I think fear among some religious groups that that
internal community Faith Formation aspect isn’t sustainable in the long run –
that, that if we don’t have the faith formation taking place in schools that
it’s not going to be able to take place and some Christians will then say well
what we need to do in response to this is we need to find a new way to engage
the public through perhaps increased charitable
work that sort of reaching out to people and some Christians would say well we
need to double down on, you know, the Faith Formation can’t take face in
churches, so take place in schools. (SB) Well, yes. I mean, my response to that would be
well first of all you know if as Christian communities you can’t even
have your own, you know, forms of education which show that that
Christianity is a viable belief, a viable way of life etc, that’s that’s a counsel
of complete despair and you should perhaps pack up and go home. Also, you
shouldn’t be expecting someone who isn’t Christian to somehow make Christians of
us but I do sometimes think that the sort of, within parts of the Church of
England as the established Church for example is this kind of idea that the
next generation will be produced by, you know, increasing our stake in public
schooling etc. Of course the actual evidence is that when you try and put
religion on to the curriculum as a way of inculcating people into a certain
form of belief, be it Christianity or anything else, what you usually do is you
inoculate people against it and indeed that’s what’s been happening I think
really. So, you know, the churches have to take responsibility for their own staff
and stop believing that someone else should do it for them really but that’s
part of the kind of Christendom mindset that, you know, we should be privileged, we
should be in control, other people should be serving our interests – that’s
disappearing and I think it’s spiritually healthy that it’s
disappearing and we’re likely to see I think the continuation of the decline of
institutional and formal religion but I believe that out of that there’s the
possibility of the recreation of a much more healthy form of Christian community
and and witness if you like and by the term witness I mean simply living out a
good example of what you’re about really not trying to propagandize other people
in in forced ways, so there’s a whole lot of stuff there which relates to what
you’ve called the identity crisis and I think that’s right but you know I think
now let’s also get back to this whole question of what we mean by
religious freedom or freedom of religion and belief and what are the threats to
it because this is something I think where Christians and atheists and other
people have a very common agenda in seeking to identify what’s going wrong
and how we challenge it. (AL) Give us your diagnosis and your prescription. (SB) Okay,
well I mean first of all what are the threats to freedom of religion and
belief, to the freedom of believers whether they’re religious or
non-religious believers as I prefer to put it throughout the world? Now I think
ironically of course one of the answers to that is that one of the biggest
threats to freedom of religion comes from religion. In other words, from
dominating and top-down forms of religion that really develop a narrative
of exclusion and domination and frankly hatred as well and that does happen
within pretty well all religious traditions – I think I might
exclude the Quakers from that for example – I think those of us who are both
religious or non-religious can learn an awful lot from the Quakers both
historically and from their practice but unfortunately that is a trend within a
lot of religion. The second thing I’d say is that the threat comes from people of
a totalitarian mindset who kind of believe that only they should really
have freedom and everyone else should do what they want and I’m afraid you find
these people, you know, you find them amongst religious communities, you find
them amongst political ideological non religious communities, political parties
and groups as well – so that’s the second kind of threat. The third threat at the
moment that I think is particularly prominent in different parts of the
world is the growth of the far-right and often the way in which the far-right
can co-opt religion, perhaps particularly Christianity, as we’re seeing in the
United States at the moment or we’re seeiing in the likes of someone like
Nigel Farage – says we should be a Christian nation which keeps immigrants
out etc etc – he has a very particular ideological picture of what Christianity
has and in terms of white evangelicals in the United States, many of them have
almost totally abandoned core aspects of the Christian message
and turned it into a hard right-wing ideology – it’s become evacuated really of
spiritual meaning. So it’s interesting. I’ve referred a couple
of times to Paul Lusk’s book The Jesus candidate that came from, I can’t
remember which of the religious right candidates in a previous American
election, first used that term the Jesus candidate but the whoever said it,
that their point was that every election needs a Jesus candidate and they went
then went on to say extraordinarily of course this, this Jesus candidate, this
Christian candidate, shouldn’t do any of the things that Jesus talked about –
shouldn’t love our enemies, shouldn’t forgive people, shouldn’t stand up for
the poor and so on – that’s all entirely unrealistic. What we must do essentially,
is put ourselves in control so what it’s done is to turn Christianity into an
ideology which says we are the representatives of God and we will rule
and dominate other, other people. Now I think that’s – I’m tempted to use the word
blasphemous – for certain reasons I don’t tend to use that word very much, which
we’ll come on to in a minute, I would say it’s it’s an obscenity really and
there’s a massive crisis of identity within Christianity in the United States
as a result but undoubtedly a certain kind of Christianity has been co-opted
for a certain kind of political agenda which seeks to, to go against equality
for all people, human rights, it’s even in favor of torture and other kinds of
things and from my point of view it’s something I as a Christian because this
is justified in terms of Christian language scripture and so on have a
particular responsibility to be engaged in combatting and certainly that is one
of the things that Ekklesia is seeking to do. So that kind of co-option of
religion – and then i think that the last kind of threat to freedom of religion
and belief comes from what I would call exceptionalism – the temptation of
all communities to say we above all people are treated badly and so you know
we will pursue our own interests without really paying attention to other people
and it seems to me that actually freedom of believers
whether religious or non-religious is indivisible – if we are not campaigning
for the other but only campaigning for ourselves, were not really campaigning
for freedom – we’re campaigning for privilege and so it’s extremely
important that we find ways of standing together across our other differences
for the indivisibility of freedom of thought and freedom of action in this
kind of context. (AL) One of the issues you raised there is a phenomenon which I
would refer to as either Christian nationalism or Christian supremacy and I
don’t want to get into this trap of, I think many religious people do, of when
someone’s manifestation of religion you don’t like you say well they’re not a
real Christian or they’re not a real Muslim or they’re not a real atheist but there does seem to be these
people, I think there’s a significant number of them even within the various
atheist communities, that view whether or not they’re personally religious, view privileging Christianity as central to a certain form of Western
civilization, and I think when people say Western civilization we know
what that’s code for, so, we see this among certain leading figures
within the English Defence League and within Britain First who don’t seem to
be personally religious or have even said stuff that suggests they don’t believe
in God but are very much invested in defending the idea of a Christian
country and Donald Trump, Donald Trump is is an atheist by
all accounts but is also certainly a Christian nationalist in turns of his
political thinking. (SB) Yeah, well, I mean, you know, I have no idea about what his
personal beliefs are apart from very clearly believing in Donald Trump and
his own interests but and really that’s not my concern – my concern is the way in
which he has quite openly courted what you rightly called Christian
nationalists. Now again, from my point of view I’d say that Christian nationalists
are a lot to do with nationalism and not much to do with Christianity but I I
think there’s something you said there is incredibly important – I’m not going to
sort of say oh these people aren’t real Christians so you know I can ignore them
etc – if they use a Christian language and source
themselves in that way, I as a Christian have some responsibility to engage with
that and I have some specialist experience in using and understanding
what that language is about and so I have a responsibility to try and combat
that. They will of course deny that I’m a Christian but I have no need to do that.
I’m interested in what their ideas are, how they’re using them and how they’re
harming people. So that’s one side of an equation but I’ve also been in the
situation which I think at least one member of the National Secular society,
I’m sure not necessarily representative in this, accused me once of being a cover
for such people – you know, the very fact that I’m a Christian, and I think I was
designated as a liberal Christian, means that I’m providing cover for all kinds
of terrible fundamentalists and so on which i think is also wrong – I mean
simply from the point of view that if you look at, I don’t know someone like
Franklin Graham in the United States, people like me are far worse than
atheists or all kinds of other people that he regards as terrible because he
knows… (AL) You’re an appostate (SB) …well that’s right and because he knows that when he
tries to use the Bible to justify all kinds of awful things,
I am amongst other things a theologian and understand principles of legitimate
and illegitimate interpretation and use of texts and will challenge all of that
and so there’s nothing more that totalitarians hate than people who have
the same kind of labels from them but actually can call them out for what they
are doing and again therefore for me it is extremely important to do that but
also to make common cause with atheists and humanists friends and Muslim friends
and Jews and Sikhs and Hindus and others who are trying to do the same things
within their own communities and across those kind of boundaries, those are the
the common bonds that we actually need to develop because amongst other things
that proves that one of the central narratives of Christian nationalism is
wrong and part of that narrative is that somehow you know people are different to
you or a threat and must be excluded. No, actually in our diversity lies our
strength, if we can find better ways of cooperating and better
ways of conversing together. (AL) Simon, it seems like every question sort of
opens up whole new avenues and things, things for us to talk about, you know.
Perhaps we just need to sit down with some coffees and tea and
biscuits and chat all these things through much more at our leisure but you’ve
been very generous with your time so I think we’re gonna draw it to a close
there. Simon, thank you very much for your time. Before you go we always like to ask
our guests are there any recommendations for books or films that you think do a
good job of exploring freedom of religion and belief? (SB) Yeah, well I’ll
mention a couple of books and I won’t mention ones that I’ve been involved in
myself – very self-effacingingly here… (AL) It’s not a strict rule (SB) …..but in this case I think
that there are a couple of others that – I’ve already mentioned The Jesus
Candidate: political religion in a secular age by Paul Lusk and that’s an
Ekklesia book, you can find it on Amazon and you can find it on a number of other
sites that don’t involve colluding with Amazon’s non-payment of taxes, as you
choose, another couple of books that I’d mention, I’d mention Faith and Politics
after Christendom which is by Jonathan Bartley. Jonathan, of course, doesn’t have
anything to do with Ekklesia anymore – he was the founder of it and we worked
together for a number of years – he’s now working as co-leader at the Green Party
of England of Wales, so that book was written a number of years ago back in
2006 but it’s a fabulous exploration of the sort of scene of Christianity in the
UK including the sort of right-wing radicalization that’s been happening in
some Christian circles and those issues of freedom and belief that come up as a
result of that, so I think that’s quite insightful – it also illustrates our
understanding of what Christendom means and why we need to be moving away from
that from a Christian point of view as well as from the point of view of a
secularist and then the last book I would mention
isn’t directly on this subject, but I have touched on Quakers in the midst of
all of this and my colleague Jill Segger who’s an associate director of Ekklesia
has just published a book called Words out of
Silence which is a collection of poetry and prose and in writing something about
this, I said I think it will appeal to people of both religious and
non-religious persuasion and begin to open up the kind of conversations which
enable us to think and act together much more collegially and show also how
someone from a particular spiritual path can, you know, have deep understanding in
connection with with people who are quite different to them as well and I
think that’s as important as the campaigning action for civil rights
against the erosion of equalities on religious or other grounds and so on
that we must be engaged in together. (AL) Okay well we’ll have links those in the
show notes and as well to our review or the Jesus candidate. (SB) Oh, excellent. Good. (AL) …. so thank
you very much and I hope we speak again soon. Well that was the penultimate
episode of this series, so thanks for joining us. Episode 10 – my interview with
Pragna Patel should be out next week and at that point I’ll have some closing
thoughts on the whole series. This won’t be the last podcast on the
National Secular Society – we have plans for future interviews, in-depth coverage
of specific issues and other news and commentary so please keep subscribed,
please keep sharing with your friends and leaving us 5-star reviews everywhere
you can. This will be my final or maybe penultimate chance to plug our major
upcoming conference Secularism 2019 – that’s on Saturday 18th of May at the Tower
Hotel in central London. When this episode comes out there’ll be about a
week left to book tickets but they are running out fast. Tickets are just fifty
pounds with fifty percent and 80 percent discounts available for NSS members and
students – so pretty incredible value. They include the full-day conference with our
internationally esteemed line-up of speakers, lunch, refreshments and our
Secularist of the Year awards drinks reception overlooking Tower Bridge.
You can visit secularism.org.uk/2019 for details on all our
speakers and to buy tickets. This podcast is made possible by the
National Secular society – a nonprofit organization which works for the
separation of religion and state and equal respect for everyone’s human
rights so that no one is either advantaged or disadvantaged on account of their
beliefs. Please make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your
voice to the call for a secular democracy at secularism.org.uk . I’ve
been Alastair Lichten – Thank you again for joining us. Until next time, goodbye.

Liberal vs. Conservative: A Neuroscientific Analysis with Gail Saltz


So I think what’s really fascinating is
that there have been a number of recent studies looking at brain structural differences between
liberals and conservatives. And what’s been found in several studies is that liberals
tend to have a larger anterior cingulate gyrus. That is an area that is responsible for taking
in new information and that impact of the new information on decision making or choices.
Conservatives tended on the whole to have a larger right amygdala. Amygdala being a
deeper brain structure that processes more emotional information – specifically fear
based information. So it’s really responsible for the flight or fright response. And this
isn’t everybody. It’s not black and white and of course then, you know, what about all
of the people in the middle? But basically the study showed that if you just based it
on brain structural size different you could predict who would be a conservative and who
would be a liberal with frequency of 71.6 percent. 71.6 percent is a pretty high ability to predict
who is a conservative and who is a liberal just from brain structure. When you look at
what your parents were in terms of predicting what you might be in terms of conservative
versus liberal, that enabled you to predict in studies at a rate of 69.5 percent. So very
close. Not quite as good and why is that interesting? It’s because the brain is plastic. So the
question as to whether you have a brain structure to start with that informs whether you will
be a liberal or conservative or whether the formation of certain thoughts from your parents
for example shapes your brain structure. Because the brain is plastic and ever changing, particularly
in youth. So does thinking certain thoughts or predominantly let’s say utilizing your
right amygdala versus your anterior cingulate gyrus inform the growth of those areas and
therefore help you predict later who is liberal and who is conservative. So in terms of interpreting the meaning of
different sized structures for a liberal versus a conservative I think you have to look at
what that area is predominantly responsible for. So for instance for conservatives if
you’re right amygdala is enlarged and that’s the fear processing area you would expect
maybe choices or decisions or character and personality to be more informed by a response
to a fearful situation. So for example conservatives in fact in personality studies do tend to
rate higher in areas of stability, loyalty, not liking change, being more religiously
involved in terms of decision making, having that rate higher for them in making certain
choices. And if you look at liberals from a personality character standpoint you’re
going to find stronger ratings in terms of liking change wanting to actually base decision
making on new information, on science information. And so those differences are not surprising
in light of these brain structural differences. Being a liberal or being a conservative really
is not black and white. It’s really a bell shaped curve where, you know, someone who
considers themselves conservative may be far less conservative so to speak than someone
else who still calls themselves a conservative. And that bell shaped curve continues all the
way through where in the middle there may be a large group that calls themselves independents. What we don’t know is whether that has to
do with differences in brain structure and so would we see in independents, no one’s
does that study to say oh, independents don’t show any differences in brain structure or
any differences in say risk taking reaction. So we don’t know for sure what that means
but I think it’s fair to say that even when we looked at differences in brain structure
with a reliability of 71.6 percent that still leaves, you know, a very larger number that
don’t fit into that category. So, you know, where do they fall out? Are they more likely
to be independents in their mind? We don’t know the answer to that but certainly, you
know, these are not hard and fast rules. This is not diagnostic science and people who are
independent obviously have certain characteristics I’ll say of both sides are somewhere just
like they sound in the middle. I think by understanding what’s going on
structurally in the brain and functionally in the brain we can better understand what
informs people’s very strong opinions that ultimately inform our political system, right.
Because it’s one person, one vote. And in trying to change people’s minds I think
everybody has to look at what’s behind the ability to change a mind. Is it really changeable? When we look at voting and changing minds
and say political advertising you have to recognize that all of that new information
always comes in through the prism of your brain. Which means that what I say to you
versus you may be heard differently even though I’ve said the same thing. So it comes in
through the prism of does what you said make me nervous and afraid and therefore I’m
going to resort to my old standby I don’t want to change my decision? Or am I going
to hear the same information and say oh, that’s novel. I have a receptivity to novel information.
Therefore that’s interesting to me and I’m going to think about whether I might change
my mind based on that new information. I think that’s what the science is basically
saying to us that there are going to be some people who are going to hear the information
and retreat to their original thinking. And other people are going to hear new information
and say that really does change my mind. If we’re trying to have a society that will
work in its own best interest let’s say then we do want to be able to communicate
with one another. And so if you’re a liberal and say you want to talk to a conservative
about gay marriage you want to have in your mind how it might still speak to loyalty,
stability and religious belief in some way. You want to have those ideas inform your communication
as opposed to simply saying but, you know, this percentage of the population is homosexual
and therefore, you know, we should consider whether everybody should have those same rights.
And, you know, science shows it’s not a choice. It’s simply a fact you’re gay
or not gay. And therefore shouldn’t those people have the same rights? That’s not
the best way to appeal perhaps to a conservative on this issue. You want to appeal to them in terms of how
for example marital rules or history might be maintained and not really altered for those
who are in let’s say a “traditional marriage.” How it won’t interrupt the fabric for example
of their lives, of the rules that they adhere to. Those kinds of things would be more appealing
to them whether or not that might be the most appealing argument to you as a liberal. The truth is a conservative is more likely
to be able to appeal to a liberal using novel new information that is science based and
showing certain facts and allowing for it not necessarily to be purely religiously based.
That not be the rule system so to speak. By being empathically understanding. And by that
I don’t mean sympathetically understanding. I mean truly being able to stand in the other
person’s shoes and have some insight into where their brain is directing them and appealing
to that argument. So if you are a conservative you will want to appeal with new information
because liberals are more novelty seeking potentially. And often science based is a
good way to present new information. Part of what’s difficult in terms of what
I’m seeing now is that actually people are tending to double down on their own style
and what appeals to their own group of thinkers. And that is increasingly preventing the kind
of communication that would be important to our future so that we can’t so to speak
cross the aisle because it would require trying on for size the thought pattern of the other
group. And that’s hard to do. Let me say that is difficult to do. So if your amygdala
is screaming at you, you know, run for the hills or double down and fight it’s hard
to say well, let me take a step back and not have a fear based reaction but instead present
the science or present the new information. A good example would be that of gun ownership.
If I speak about gun ownership to a liberal group they automatically have thoughts probably
about, particularly if they’re in an urban area, crime and danger because statistically
that is what they have been privy to. The information has been given to them about how
many homicides are committed, who is, you know, dying by gun violence, et cetera. If I speak about gun ownership to a conservative
group they are more likely in their loyal stable way to think about a sportsmanship,
hunting with family particularly again if they’re in a rural area. Because that is
what they grew up with, that is what has been stable for them, that is the memory that they
have about guns. And so you can see how that’s coming from two completely different directions
perhaps the same word, gun. And that it is hard to stand in the shoes for example of
the other group so that you can come to make decisions about it. So, for example, the CDC has been prevented
from doing any research so that we could have new science about gun violence as a public
health issue by actually the conservative political group has said, you know, you can’t
do research on this area. We won’t call it a public health issue and therefore you’re
prevented from getting dollars and prevented from having research into gun violence per
se. And that comes probably from a fear position that if there is any new information that
sways opinion we will lose our loyal standing to something that we firmly believe in and
harks back to very pleasurable comforting memories from earlier life. So it’s very
complicated in a certain kind of way. You know the liberal group is wanting there to
be this research not necessarily to take guns away but to say we’d like to see the science
to validate whether or not certain things about guns are good for us or not good for
us. The most recent study looking at what is going
on in the brain in terms of politics predicted with the greatest value being able to identify
a conservative versus a liberal 82.6 percent. And this was a look at brain activity which
is different. You put someone in a functional MRI which his different than just taking a
picture. It picks up activity in a certain area of the brain. And found that when you
have them do a risky behavior and look at their activity in their brain conservatives
were more likely to light up in the fright and flight response area, the amygdala, and
liberals were more likely to light up in areas that have to do with social awareness. Again you could see how therefore this difference
would inform what comes to the mind of either a liberal or a conservative while either involved
in a risky behavior or even something that’s happening external to them but feels like
it might impact them in a risky way. And that was actually even more predictive than looking
at structure of the brain or what your parents were in terms of liberal versus conservative.

LifeTalk Breaking News: MeToo & Politicians Ignore America’s Hidden Sex Scandal!


🎶 Music 🎶 Hello. I’m Mark Crutcher,
president of Life Dynamics. On this Tuesday’s edition of Life Talk,
we released our new report documenting that thousands of women and girls have been raped
or sexually assaulted in American abortion clinics. This has been going on for decades
and since the release of our report, the cover-up by the abortion Lobby and
the mainstream media has continued. We’ve also contacted the #MeToo movement as
well as more than 50 of their political supporters . So far we’ve had absolutely
no response from #MeToo, and only one inquiry from
one of these politicians. Their claim to care about sexual assault
victims is being exposed as they lie. So I’m asking each one of you for your help. First, go to www.LifeDynamics.com/rape and inform yourself – and then
encourage all your friends to do the same. Then write letters to the editor,
call in on talk shows, use social media, or do whatever you can to get this
message in front of the American people. You can even have these talk shows
contact us about an interview. And if you don’t think that’s
important, remember this: at least four of the sexual predators
we identified in our report are STILL working in American
abortion clinics right now. We are counting on you – because without
your help this scandal will remain hidden. Thank You. you

Taiwan pro-Beijing politician: You can change China | Conflict Zone


we can make China a peaceful country you ever said no to Beijing yes for many times I’m telling you the fact why don’t you listen politicians in Taiwan have been out campaigning in presidential primaries ahead of next year’s election with the topic of relations with China very much on the agenda my guest this week outside the capital Taipei is Cho she way who’s been seeking the nomination of his pro-beijing party the Kuomintang as China pushes with increasing urgency for reunification and the Taiwanese continue to reject it what on earth as his party got to offer [Music] Josie wave welcome to comfort zone thank you very much for inviting me you said the only way to resolve antagonism between China and Taiwan is to talk and to love yes you love a China that is threatening Taiwan both verbally and militarily and holding a sword over your head continually how do you love that’s your impression actually if you talk to some Chinese in mainland China as long as you don’t support separation from China they will not treat you like that they’ll not attack you so don’t say the wrong thing otherwise generally right right and you know you would normalize that you think that’s a normal way to live that our power across 180 kilometers of the Straits as to you if you say the wrong thing you’re finished why don’t I don’t think it’s that serious you have to keep saying I think you have to talk to each other if you try to visit China so called the China we called mainland okay we are Taiwan they are a mainland we together is a China it’s a one China well if you think the threats from China is so serious to Taiwan why do you European people all the people around the world all the members are in the UN tried to work with the China try to have dialogue with China try to solve problems it’s true you know that as a human rights record is there working it’s right and we can do that too apart from trade what exactly does Democratic Taiwan have in common these days with one-party Communist China you have free elections yes we change your party in power they don’t you have independent courts they don’t you have a free press they don’t you can speak out against abuses of power and they can’t what on earth have you got in common with mainland China these days I think we should emphasize the differences go there work with them be their friends be their brothers and change them instead of being their enemies go there walk with them you can change them like what you are doing with them now about human rights what are not in China’s that you can change them what on earth is the evidence well you see the trade surplus China with mainland rights you see a lot of changes in Hong Kong recently why China is not using force to press down the demonstration why they compromise why because they seek opportunity to prove they can change they can prove well come on to Hong Kong a little later I want to go into some detail on that but the serious issue is the military pressure from China’s and even two years ago your government’s National Defense report highlighted concerns the Chinese military activity near Taiwan posed an enormous threat to security in the Taiwan States now just a few days ago you had Washington saying that China has stepped up its pressure campaign seeing the largest increase in military activity around Taiwan for 20 years as you and you think that’s meaningless why USA China is going to interfere the election in Taiwan so US is coming here to interfere Taiwan’s election you happy with these bullying time no because I’m not happy about bullying thing but that’s what you’re doing I’m happy about you know we can do Pistons with each other we can ask a China to make changes we are the only people on earth believe that we can make that happen we can make China a peaceful country well you look back the history who’s who are the invaders who are the invaders Japan right who participate the wars in Asia do you want to live in history or you want to live in the no I want in modern national people I want to make history clear that who are the invaders okay if you won’t be someone’s enemy then they will be your enemy if you won’t be someone’s friend oh it was let me tell you one one thing why US is selling f-16 to taiwan instead of f-35 and the u.s. is selling f-35 to Korea to Japan to Singapore to other countries why the United States gave the galley island to I to Japan instead of Taiwan it was our territory why the u.s. is doing that to Taiwan mr. Chou Katie Chen vice president of the Thailand foundation for democracy said last month that more and more taiwanese feel their nation is now under existential threat and you seem to be out of touch with that feeling totally don’t you you know the reality i feel the reality i know how to deal with it chinese in mainland i know what’s the facts I know you haven’t had to deal with them you won’t have to deal with them as a politician I try to deal with them when I was the mayor here the depicts the city mayor I worked with the city in nineteen I do communicate with them I try to work with with them try to ameliorate carbon emission issues environmental issues education issues will work with them that were Matic front where they continue to squeeze you where they ramp up the pressure where they try and persuade countries to drop their recognition of diplomatic recognition you did that you not China didn’t ever remember this you lost in 2018 right to Chinese Russia you’ve not done in a second Tina thank you you recognized China you don’t recognize the Republic of China you recognize Republic of China is Taiwan we were the representative of China before 1971 and the UN I know I’m telling you the fact we exist here the the ROC sit here and that’s what you call the Taiwan but you never knew recognize the hours see here you recognize the PRC rights well in the UN I read an article recently we adhere to one China policy as regards to Taiwan and Hong Kong and I think you should be defined like this wait we are here to one China policy as regards to mainland Taiwan Hong Kong and Macau mr. Chau you’re not talking about China that continues efforts to thwart Taiwan’s participation in international organizations like the World Health Organization and Interpol for instance you want to be members of those organisation help us if trying to stop it why are you agreed to why do you never criticize debating I’m scared everybody I know in China I – no I didn’t say that we’ve read a lot I had no chance time to express my opinion about China’s No – stop this is wrong this is tell you I haven’t said one more thing the UN the EU even Germany you recognize the PRC you don’t recognize the ROC and I truly hope one day you recognize the our see you’ll help us to participate wh oh ok I am using Chinese oh no luck that they tried to talk to you you’re talking as well such great reality see that can t did that can t try to talk to mainland they tried to try yeah they tried to do let us participate show especially charlie heo and icao mr. cho beijing is clearly losing patience with taiwan while you dream of some vague love in between Taipei and and the mainland China is crystal clear what it wants from you and that’s reunification and it refuses to rule out the use of force together doesn’t it and you live with that and you normalize that on a daily basis okay he our comes instead of saying to the no you can’t come crashing you can’t adjust the Constitution okay there’s only one China policy and that includes mainland Taiwan Hong Kong and Macau that’s in our Constitution we should fight by Oregon just Constitution right you’re being taught by Xi Jinping as you were in January unification is an inevitable requirement for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people he said Taiwan should accept that it must and will be reunited with China whatever talks you’ve been having with China hasn’t got them a better idea and how many people in Taiwan want that reunification under three percent don’t worry about that don’t worry about you don’t worry about people think but don’t worry about their threatening words why don’t you stand up to those threatening words well we stand up to you we stand up to that but in our sitting room and try one must and low-k reunited with China he doesn’t automate have you tried to take a look of our Constitution – have you tried to take a look of our laws mr. Chen at what China not saying our laws an ER Constitution we want a peaceful relationship we want a unification the people don’t the people don’t that’s in our law in the Constitution then try to amend the Constitution that’s your perception our people here want to have a peaceful relationship with the mainland and we want to make money we want to do business together we want to have a democracy in the future in mainland China but not fighting it’s that against them not taking them as an enemy trying to be their friends and try to change them by participation like what you do that’s whether you go that’s working so well is that the reality is mr. Cho that Beijing’s push on unification puts your party the Kuomintang into a very difficult position doesn’t it your veteran China expert su Chi actually said that he said Xi Jinping took away all the space for ambiguity and that puts us the Kuomintang in a very difficult situation that difficulty being that your party is being told get on with this by China and you don’t have a policy of standing up to it do you I do have a policy what is it I declare that I claim that I want to unify China I want unified under Taiwan nameless young chance 23 million people in Taiwan against Medicare against me that’s my policy I descend to see it’s fantasy you have to remember in the world you have to understand the history in the world what’s happening now unification separation yes yes that’s the process unification in separation separation unification that’s the track of the history but there’s one thing very important not by often lower odds nevermind the track of history isn’t it jacket is just worth it’s the facts the question is what people want in argument is that the majority of your population do me a favor once unification do me a favor have you ever stood up I stand up you ever said no to them I stand up for the brute public of the China have you ever said no to Beijing yes for many times what on human rights issues for yes gen’l’men issue accident accident happened that was fertilizer I veto them I was paid to use whenever I went to China I told them you need to introduce democracy to your society oh they’re listening yes so I’ll see the first of the most crackdown in 25 years taking place on human rights activists Human Rights Watch reported last year human rights defenders continue to endure arbitrary detentions imprisonment and enforced disappearance yes and you say nothing about that have you heard I said anything about that I did just now I even told them I even told them because you don’t know my history dealing with them I have a many dialogues with them I told them you have to improve that’s human rights that’s international standards of treating your people I told them to okay I have to tell you one thing if you don’t participate if you don’t join them if you don’t treat them like they can improve then nothing good is going to happen and what it’s a fine line between that and appeasement isn’t it yes it’s a very fast very fine line it’s very ambiguous but you have to do that from your heart people know that ever spoken up for the tiny Taiwanese democracy activist Li Ming che it’s more than EJ Li Ming che it’s more than two years since he was forcibly disappeared you haven’t heard of him Li Ming che it’s more than two years since he was forcibly disappeared by police in China’s Guangdong province and charged with subversion of state power he’s a citizen of Taiwan you don’t talk about you don’t even know his name no he’s in terrible conditions human rights groups around the world have been campaigning for his release no what about garbey sentenced to five years in jail can’t get phone calls can’t get letters four times his wife was prevented from from going to mainland China to visit him and you know his rights of being a parent around 20 years ago I tried to talk to Chinese Communists to release an espionage suspects a lady who just got married and he was released recently I talked to our government too when coming down was the ruling party and they didn’t step in they didn’t try to rescue her she was sentenced to death however in jail for 20 years just a year ago she was released probably just at the end this year she was released and look what the people here have done to help human rights you know we should try to work together and we should try to talk to them and what the government here do let’s talk about Hong Kong again you mentioned it earlier of the interview and you were you were praising China that they had shown restraint with the demonstration I’m not praising them for that who started this in the first place okay that’s the law right for what the demonstrators will tell you that was a constant erosion of their freedoms under the one country two systems’ formula that forced them onto the streets anyway the denial of universal suffrage the the kidnapping of booksellers the banning of a political party the prevention of elected legislative counselors taking their seats because they didn’t like their politics it’s that constant erosion of freedom under the one country two systems that’s the system that Xi Jinping is offering you one country two systems I suggest you take a look what’s happening here in Taiwan in the ROC the ruling party DPP who claimed they protect human rights democracy no I have to tell when the Berenstain thing happening here that’s the reason why it’s so embarrassing because our ruling party is trying to enact martial law here doing something even worse and there is one law related to national security you know that’s what they are doing here our ruling party here in Taiwan of course we criticize the Hong Kong government especially the council try to establish a law which Hong Kong residents disagree and that doesn’t trust so that we’re sure that do you the chief executive you blame the Carrie Carrie Lam the chief exec sees Beijing as appointing right history she’s do point he even so-called elected by some Hong Kong represent why she still there why well that’s come from people s come from people it’s their democracy it’s their system as Hong Kong people let me come back to the question and this is what one thing is important they withdraw the law draft rights they’ve suspended they said they’ve said it’s dead they said they would draw because they did something wrong there in the mid I think something receding with it but not no that’s that’s what’s happening before now they say they withdraw you’re satisfied it’s over no I’m not satisfied about that I’m worried about what’s happening here in Taiwan and the one country two systems’ formula that Xi Jinping has offered to Taiwan we don’t read know that well that’s not gonna happen that’s not gonna happen then you mean Hong Kong is not going to have different systems from China’s system isn’t the lastly I think the system what should exist because that’s the the window shop for Chinese they should show that improvement of democracy to the world Hong Kong system sure isn’t if they try to violate that it’s going to embarrass them mr. Cho isn’t a lesson that you should take away from Hong Kong is that China doesn’t live up to its promises on democracy isn’t that the lesson I think I think talking and one I love chai I don’t live up to the promise I had to think we should try to change them we should try to improve them you should first say no to them well how do you know I didn’t say no to them I’ve doing that I’ve been doing that for so many years every time I visit the China I talk to them I say improve your system especially a democratic system and they step up their interference well they listen look at the propaganda war that’s being waged against Taiwan a study by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said you’re one of China’s major targets for spreading disinformation happy about that direct interference well I think ROC so-called Taiwan should be more open to outside world especially Western society you’re avoiding my question is disinformation campaign yeah well China is trying to do that but other countries also try to do that too I think we should take active actions in solving their problems we’re very open society but not open enough to the outside world take a look how many english-speaking channels here so take a look at how many how much international media existing here in Taiwan when I exposed enough to the outside world however the politicians here tried to close the door China closed you know we China when we internationally for you we we emphasize localization so much instead of internationalization that’s what you tell ourselves first you don’t want to admit it no we want to improve ourselves too we also want to improve China remember I want to take active active process active approach to China to make China change this idea that you can make China change which frankly is pretty much of a longshot why should people vote for your party next year well if you’re selling fantasies like that why no we’re not selling fantasies you’re realistic it’s a difficult competition why don’t you try to realize what DPP can do DPP influence really in action and why don’t you take a look what we’re fighting for we’re fighting for true democracy here and DPP see ruined democracy here we’re trying to build up a peaceful relationship with the China with mainland we’re trying to create a better society here we’re trying to introduce your systems your values here to Taiwan we’re trying so hard to do that if we want to condense all people here that came he can rule this country perfectly well then we have to respect the democracy we have to open our society to the outside world we have to be honest to peek to our people the fact that our ruling party is cheating our people well the bad news for you is that a plurality of Taiwanese 45% don’t identify with your party or the ruling DPP then take a look take a look you’re right you’re right they don’t trust the parties here yeah they don’t trust them they don’t trust all parties you’re not saying any thing that they think is relevant well I believe that what they’re saying is relevant we realize the fact already people don’t trust the parties here people don’t trust the politicians here which is why would they trust you I mean you you said in the second primary debate in the primary do you claim that the number of Taiwanese people below the poverty line was believed to be around 3.8 million right which is that’s simply not true it’s simply not cheers true but a new research organization says Taiwan proportionally contains fewer people living in poverty than any other country in Asia no no time limit limit less than two don’t listen to me patience Lee you know when I was the mayor in Taba County they are around one quarter of the students couldn’t afford their lunch that’s one quarter if you times that proportion to the total population here in Taiwan I’m telling you the facts I’m not lying that’s terrible I’m telling you the fact that’s not the facts that’s the fact I’m telling you the fact why don’t you listen almost no Taiwanese live on less than 1.9 US dollars a day that’s noble poverty that’s of poverty is different oh really my definition right yes – yeah that’s my definition and you can criticize my damnation you live in so I can tell you if any student cannot afford their lunch then he’s and his family is living in poverty that’s my definition if it all goes wrong here in Taiwan and Xi Jinping loses patience and somebody says something they shouldn’t say and China looks as though it’s moving towards an invasion would you fight for Taiwan or not where do your ultimate loyalties lie mr. Chou we are loyal to our country the Republic of China we’re loyal to our institution you would have idea surely now yes you yes yes if they violated our Constitution to preserve and protect our people and defend our people I’ll fight against the China Josie why it’s good to have your own conflicts on thank you thank you very much [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music]

President Obama Presents Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award


The President:
Thank you so much. Thank you. Please, everybody have a seat. Everybody
have a seat. What a wonderful evening. Before I begin,
let me just acknowledge some folks here in the crowd. First of all, Ms. Kerry Kennedy,
for the great work that she’s doing day in and day out. Mr. Philip Johnston, thank
you to both of you for helping to organize this tonight. Obviously I’ve got to say
thanks to my favorite people — Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, also known as Ethel Kennedy.
(applause) To Representative Donald Payne, Representative Gregory Meeks, and Representative
Edward Markey, who are all here — thank you for your attendance and your support of this
important award. You know, every year for 24 years, starting
the year this award was established, my friend, Senator Edward — Ted — Kennedy, spoke at
this event. And I’m told that he looked forward to it all year — that he relished
the chance to shine a bright light on an injustice and on those fighting it, and to support them
in that fight. He also enjoyed a family reunion. He relished the chance to pay tribute
to those carrying on the unfinished work of his brother’s life — work that for nearly
half a century in the U.S. Senate he made his own. He was pleased that this award honored men
and women across the globe doing a wide range of urgent work — fighting to end apartheid,
advance democracy, empower minorities and indigenous peoples, promote free speech and
elections and more. Because Ted understood that Bobby’s legacy wasn’t a devotion to one
particular cause, or a faith in a certain ideology — but rather, it was a sensibility. 
A belief that in this world, there is right and there is wrong, and it is our job to build
our laws and our lives around recognizing the difference. A sensitivity to injustice so acute that it
can’t be relieved by the rationalizations that make life comfortable for the rest of
us — that others’ suffering is not our problem, that the ills of the world are somehow not
our concern. A moral orientation that renders certain people
constitutionally incapable of remaining a bystander in the face of evil — a sensibility
that recognizes the power of all people, however humble their circumstances, to change the
course of history. Those are the traits of Bobby Kennedy that
this award recognizes — the very traits that define the character and guide the life of
this year’s recipient. And while we feel a certain sadness that Senator Kennedy is
not with us to honor her, let us also take pleasure tonight in knowing just how much
he would have loved and admired Magodonga Mahlangu and the organization that she helps
lead — WOZA, which stands for Women of Zimbabwe Arise, and is represented tonight by one of
its founders, Jenni Williams. As a young girl raised in Matabeleland —
in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, Magodonga witnessed the
— I’ve got to make sure I get this right — Gukurahundi massacres — the systematic
murder of many thousands of people, including her uncle and several cousins — many of whom
were buried in mass graves that they’d been forced to dig themselves. She witnessed the fearful silence that followed,
as talking about these events was forbidden. Magodonga found this to be intolerable.
She wanted to speak out — she wanted people to know the truth about what was happening
in her country. So it was a revelation when, years later,
she discovered a group called WOZA whose mission is the very opposite of silence. WOZA was
started back in 2003 to empower women to speak out about the issues affecting their families
and their country — desperate hunger; crumbling health and education systems; domestic violence
and rape; and government repression ranging from restrictions on free expression to abduction
and murder of dissidents. WOZA’s guiding principle is “tough love”
— the idea that political leaders in Zimbabwe could use a little discipline. And who better
to provide that than the nation’s mothers? Since its founding, the organization has grown
from a handful of activists to a movement of 75,000 strong. There’s even a men’s branch,
I understand — MOZA. And over the past seven years, they have conducted more than
a hundred protests — maids and hairdressers, vegetable sellers and seamstresses, taking
to the streets; singing and dancing; banging on pots empty of food and brandishing brooms
to express their wish to sweep the government clean. They often don’t get far before being confronted
by President Mugabe’s riot police. They have been gassed, abducted, threatened with
guns, and badly beaten — forced to count out loud as each blow was administered.
Three thousand WOZA members have spent time in custody or in prison, sometimes dragged
with their babies into cells. Magodonga and Jenni are due back in court on December
7th, charged with “conduct likely to cause a breach of [the] peace.” They face a five
year sentence if convicted. That so many women have decided to risk and
endure so much is in many ways a testament to the extraordinary example of tonight’s
honoree. Each time they see Magodonga beaten back
— beaten black and blue during one protest, only to get right back up and lead another
— singing freedom songs at the top of her lungs in full view of security forces —
the threat of a policeman’s baton loses some of its power. Each time her house is searched, or her life
is threatened, or she’s once again arrested — more than 30 times so far — she continues
to stand in public and inspire the people of Zimbabwe — the power of the state then
seems a little less absolute. Each time she has emerged from incarceration
after enduring deplorable conditions and brutal abuse — and gone right back to work — the
prospect of prison loses some of its capacity to deter. By her example, Magodonga has shown the women
of WOZA and the people of Zimbabwe that they can undermine their oppressors’ power with
their own power — that they can sap a dictator’s strength with their own.  Her courage has
inspired others to summon theirs. And the organization’s name, WOZA — which means “come
forward” — has become its impact — its impact has been even more as people know of the violence
that they face, and more people have come forward to join them. More people have come to realize what Magodonga
and the women of WOZA have known all along: that the only real way to teach love and non-violence
is by example. Even when that means sitting down while being arrested, both as a sign
that they refuse to retaliate, absorbing each blow without striking back — and a warning
that, come what may, they’re not going anywhere. They even manage to show love to those who
imprison them.  As Jenni put it, “Many a time we have in effect conducted a ‘workshop’
for our jailers, acting out the role of a mother and teaching how the country can be
rebuilt if we have love in our hearts.” When asked how they can endure so much violence
— and what keeps them going in the face of such overwhelming odds — the women of
WOZA reply, simply:  “each other.” And that may be Magodonga’s greatest achievement
— that she has given the women of Zimbabwe each other.  That she has given people who
long for peace and justice each other. That she has given them a voice they can only have
collectively — and a strength that they can only have together. They are a force to be reckoned with. Because
history tells us, truth has a life of its own once it’s told. Love can transform a
nation once it’s taught. Courage can be contagious; righteousness can spread; and
there is much wisdom in the old proverb: that God could not be everywhere, so he created
mothers. In the end, history has a clear direction
— and it is not the way of those who arrest women and babies for singing in the streets.
It’s not the way of those who starve and silence their own people, and cling to power by threat
of force. It is the way of the maid walking home in
Montgomery; the young woman marching silently in the streets of Tehran; the leader imprisoned
in her own home for her commitment to democracy. It is the way of young people in Cape Town
who braved the wrath of their government to hear a young senator from New York speak about
the ripples of hope one righteous act can create. And it is the way that Magadonga Mahlangu
and Jenni Williams and the women and men who take to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo
and Victoria Falls because they love their country and love their children and know that
something better is possible. Bobby Kennedy once said, “All great questions
must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people — speaking
out — in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out — in homes and halls,
streets and farms, courts and cafes — let that voice speak and the stillness you hear
will be the gratitude of mankind.” Magodongo and WOZA have given so many of their
fellow citizens of Zimbabwe that voice — and tonight, we express our gratitude for
their work. It is now my pleasure to join with Mrs. Robert
F. Kennedy to present the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Magodonga Mahlangu and
WOZA. (Applause.)

Humanities + Digital Tools: Writing Rights


This program is brought to
you by the Stanford Humanity Center. For more information, please
visit us at shc.stanford.edu. The Writing Rights
Project is an effort to look again at one of
the most famous documents in European history, “The
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.” [MUSIC PLAYING] The French Revolution
is the first declaration of rights of man
and the citizen that is meant to apply to all
human beings, in all places. And that really is the
agenda of modern politics for two centuries. Our ambition is to
use the digitization and the visualization
to try to look at this literally in a new way. What’s interesting about
this for an historian is to see how precisely we can
track a kind of decision making that ends up with a truly
remarkable and profoundly influential document. When you take letters
and read them– whether it’s online
in an online archive, or you’re sitting
in a dusty archive, going through boxes
of letters– that’s an entirely different experience
than being able to see them plotted as data points on a map. It’s not that one experiences
is better than the other. It’s just that it
gives you new insights, a new way of looking
at the material, to provoke new questions. My colleague, Dan
Edelstein and I have this shared interest
in textual analysis and also in the whole
tradition of rights and the nature of rights
in the Enlightenment. And so we just thought it
would be an interesting idea to see if we could think about
“The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
Citizen” in this way, and see how the language flowed
from the draft declarations, into the eventual text. One of the things that we’ve
been doing is Keith Baker and Dan Edelstein will
work through the assembly discussions and capture the
kind of controversy that’s going on in the back
and forth discussion. And they write that
down in a Word document. So it’s a bunch of prose
that they’ve parsed. And they look at a proposal,
an amendment, a rebuttal, that sort of thing. We collect all of these
different events, put this into a table with all kinds of
detailed information about it. And simply by doing that, we’ve
already effectively constructed a visualization. One of the things
we propose to do is to animate the process
by which these articles are reformulated. We can animate that and show the
way in which each set of words enters into the
text or drop out, as a result of the discussion. We started with Writing
Rights, just printing out all of the draft projects that
went into the final articles. Printing them out, and
then sitting around a table and going through them line
by line with Dan and Keith to find things that
were of interest. What’s interesting
here, for example, is that this whole
set of articles here, from the draft of
their discussion, simply gets thrown out. Then they have this article
here, three articles, which become Article
VI, which is perhaps the most famous– well,
the most famous article of “The Declaration of
Rights of Man” is this one. “Men are born and remain free
and equal in their rights. “Social distinctions can only
be found on common utility.” Writing Rights came about out
of a just really fortuitous meeting with a design team from
the University of Technology at Sydney. They came right at a
time when we were working within Humanities + Design. They’re trying to build this
part of the program, which puts designers–
design faculty, in particular– into collaboration
with our humanities faculty. The reason we saw a
need to do that is the beginnings of
Humanities + Design are really in the Mapping
Republic of Letters project. From the early stages of
Mapping the Republic of Letters, we knew that we wanted
to be visualizing data. That’s really one of the
reasons why Kate and I came to [INAUDIBLE]
because they were thinking about the
limits of visualization. The kinds of visual explorations
that the designers started with was for example, taking all
of the draft declarations and running the text
together and then lining them up and connecting
them on a single center point. And what that did
for Keith Baker, for example, never having seen
this before, was just say, all of a sudden, you can see
all of these draft declarations in context. You see that some are much,
much longer than others. Some are long, some are short. One example is this
one, which at a distance looks like an audio signal,
which is really appropriate. Because each one of
these bars that you see represents one of the
draft declarations or one of the projects that was
submitted, in hopes of becoming the final declaration. This is an alignment of this
term, la volonte generale, the general will. Finding that within all of those
different draft declarations and then giving it the
context of the sentence. So several words on either
side, and aligning all just on that term. So you can see what
came before and after. Since we can zoom
in and see the text, we can see these suggested
articles, Article I, Article II, Article III. We can take that
information and then compare it to what ends up
being the final, completed 17 articles. Find individual
words or phrases, find those threads throughout
these previous draft documents. Visual language can
allow for complexity. It can allow for difference. We’re informing
design in a way that I think is going to have
really, really long term effects on the sorts of tools
that humanity scholars end up using. That’s what we mean about
injecting humanities thinking into design. And I think it’s going to
make these sorts of tools that are commonly used
more beneficial for society in general. Because we’re thinking
about building digital tools that are actually
informed by content and informed by a
kind of human scale way of relating to information.

Animal Farm (Political Oppression)


“We animals are brothers. Large or small, clever or simple, fur or feathers. Now and forever, all animals are equal!” Based on George Orwell’s famous novel of the
same name, Animal Farm uses the incongruous device of animal characters, such as cartoon
characters from a Disney film, to create an allegory for Communist oppression in the aftermath
of revolution. The animated film tells the story of an uprising
led by farm animals after being mistreated and abused by their owner, Mr. Jones, who
subjected the farm animals to physical abuse, overwork, and often starvation. “Sooner, perhaps, than Old Major would have
predicted, the animals found their situation quite unbearable.” After the successful revolution, the animals
try to build an egalitarian society. But one pig named Napoleon, who represents
Stalin, decides that he is able to rule the animal farm better. He takes power by killing Snowden, the chosen
leader of the farm, and uses fear tactics to keep all of the other animals in line while
he and other pigs use and abuse the farm’s resources. In a scene that represents the Stalinist starvation
policy in the Ukraine, where the harvest was stolen by Soviet Communists while the Ukranians
starved, the pigs too steal all the eggs produced by the chickens. When the chickens investigate, they discover
that the pigs are feasting while the other animals starve. They also discover that the pigs sleep all
day in beds, a practice associated with their former oppressive owner, while the other animals
work constantly and sleep on the ground. In an allegory for Communist oppression of
dissent, the chickens are caught and persecuted along with any other animals that resist the
pigs’ selfish rule. “The animals thought they remembered a law
against beds, but obviously they were mistaken. The innocent suffered with the guilty, and
the chickens’ uprising was short-lived.” Communism promises people a better life. But far from elevating people to a new level
of equality, Communism treats people worse than animals. Human rights are the last defense of the weak
against the strong, the poor against the rich, and the powerless against the powerful. Any nation that rejects human rights in the
name of political ideology, even if the ideology promises equality, is on the road to oppressing
people in ways so powerfully portrayed in Animal Farm. This dehumanization is a timeless irony at
the heart of Animal Farm. It is a reminder that human dignity is both
fragile and precious, and worth fighting for in every generation. “The revolution is now complete. We have no more use for that song. See it is now forbidden under penalty of death.”

How Government Corruption is a Precursor to Extremism | Sarah Chayes | TEDxFultonStreet



so I didn't set out to be an anti-corruption Crusader right I was an NPR correspondent I covered the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and then I decided to stay behind because it just seemed like it was time to do something already so our first project was to rebuild one of the villages that had been destroyed in the American bombing in 2001 we're talking mud-brick villages but even mud-brick villages you need stone you need stone for the Foundation's in southern Afghanistan one of the really few things that there's absolutely plenty of is stone but we couldn't get any stone because the governor he awarded himself a monopoly on stone so that he could crush it and sell it to the Americans for $100 a tractor load instead of the going market rate which was 8 that was corruption 101 for me so corruption what do I mean by corruption it's a really old crime right but it's taken on sort of some new threads of late and I'd like to kind of talk about three traits in particular first we're not talking chump change right the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria early last year submitted a detailed memo to the Senate of his country pointing out that there was not a 50 it turns out that there was an excuse for some of it but there was only a 20 billion dollar shortfall in the amount of money that the National Oil Company was remitting meaning it had sold oil but it was remitting 20 billion dollars to little money over a mere 19 month period so that's basically a billion dollars of that was being stolen from the Nigerian people by the elites of Nigeria I sat down with an FBI agent who worked these they're called kleptocracy cases she said man I've got five billion dollar cases underway all at the same time it's unheard of I mean imagine being an FBI agent in the Albuquerque field station you don't work too many billion-dollar cases and the problem with this is that these people are not exactly hiding it they're kind of flaunting it right and the real tragedy for ordinary people it's the contrast that really hurts that's point one a lot of money point two it's not actually just a kind of rot that we're talking about it's not a cancer that's kind of eating away at the bodies of governments we're not talking about governments that are failing we're actually talking about criminal organizations that are succeeding these are businesses they're successful businesses they're sophisticated and they are structured what I mean in particular by their structured is that they're vertically integrated and that means you know you get shaken down by a cop on the street and believe me in Afghanistan it happens every day in Afghanistan in Nigeria where I've spent time in Uzbekistan in all of the Arab Spring countries I mean it's not weekly it's daily you get shaken down but that cop he's not just putting the money in his pocket it's going up the line he's paying a portion to his superior his superior pays a portion of everything he gets and it goes up the lines so this is vertically integrated in return for the money that's going upwards protection goes downwards the second point about this structure is that it is horizontally and integrated and what that means is the government officials private sector private industry outright criminals and in some cases terrorists are all wired into the same integrated network now here we go the third point about this has to do with personal dignity you think when a cop shakes you down in the street to ask you for money he's asking you think he's saying please hardly it's incredibly humiliating he's flaunting that protection that he's received from the government in return for the money he's got impunity and he's rubbing your face in it and here's how we get to extremism if a young man in Afghanistan gets hit in the face by a cop when he won't COFF up the petty bribe or if a Nigerians sister is raped by a judge for the privilege of having her case heard what do you suppose those two young men want to do they want to kill the guy well in southern Afghanistan in northern Nigeria Boko Haram or the Taliban and Boko Haram are standing right beside them saying yeah kill the guy here's a gun and what they're saying the argument that they're making is that the reason that judge or that cop is so wrought the reason he's so corrupt is because our government isn't organized around God's law he doesn't obey God's law if only he obeyed God's law if only our government were structured according to God's law there's no way he could treat you so badly what's interesting about this argument is it's not just Islam and it's not just today as I started doing research into this I discovered that one of the biggest revolutions in Western history was really driven by a lot of the same principles it's called the Protestant Reformation I started reading Martin Luther not King the guy that King was named after he was a priest in the sixteenth century and he hammered these 95 theses up on the wall of a church and they were challenging fundamental elements of Catholic dogma you read the thing it's all about corruption it's about simony it's about indulgences indulgences that's basically paying to get somebody out of purgatory so you're essentially buying and selling salvation they were buying and selling legal cases they're legal decisions they were buying and selling plots in a cemetery one of the biggest revolutions in Western history was all about corruption and oh by the way it wasn't a particularly nonviolent movement it was really bloody they start attacking buildings they start attacking really symbolic buildings like churches Wow it looks a little bit familiar doesn't it I'm not trying to excuse these people that's not the point of this conversation what I'm trying to say is that if we don't understand what drives people to extremes then we're gonna have a really hard time trying to reduce extremism in our world and if you look at let's take Isis let's take the Taliban let's take Boko Haram let's take the anti-corruption revolutions that we've seen since like 2010 Kyrgyzstan the whole Arab Spring Ukraine we've all been talking about Ukraine some of these have been spun out of control into some of the most severe security crises that we're dealing with today add to that protests right now we've got Guatemala Honduras Chile Brazil Moldova Malaysia Iraq Lebanon we've got seven or eight anti-corruption mass protests going on today add to that environmental degradation and I think it's fair to say that corruption is either helping to cause or is exacerbating just about every severe security crisis we're looking at today don't change the channel next time you hear the word corruption it's not about boring stuff like right and wrong and doing the right thing or business ethics it's about what really concerned that's the most at the moment as Americans often security so what does that mean to us what should we be doing about it first thing I would say is just like a lot of us have stopped buying sneakers or clothing that's built in sweatshops where people you know are working 12 hours a day for no pay there are banks there are legal firms there are real estate firms there are registered agents who make their money off of providing services to these kleptocrats I think it's time that we figured out a way to make them change their business model and secondly I think we better be really careful that our own country doesn't start to resemble the ones I've been talking about any more than it already does thank you you