Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


Have we changed forever?

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand:
“We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we’re a safe harbour for those who hate, we were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we’re an enclave for extremists, we were chosen for the very fact we are none of these things.”

I have been able to look at the world, and think how irrational, intolerant and hate-filled it is and think that this little corner of the South Pacific is so very different. We pride ourselves that we are a compassionate and caring people. We can fly around the country and at domestic terminals being checked only for a valid boarding pass – no baggage checks or x-ray machines and no armed police or security guards. The Prime minister and members of the Cabinet travel on public transport and may not even have personal “minders”.

We expect to be able to approach members of parliament, from the newest backbencher right up to the Prime Minister to express our opinions and concerns. We are a very open society. Members of the government can expect disgruntled member of the public to express anger or frustration from time to time, but until recently such emotions would be expressed by hurling eggs, cow manure or even dildos, at a politician. Violent acts? Sure, but it’s mostly self esteem or pride and not body that has been hurt.

Yesterday morning, the Minister for the Environment was assaulted punched to the ground as he walked to his parliamentary office. Typically, he wasn’t accompanied by security personnel, and although we all felt angry that someone would abuse their right to approach a government minister, we all felt this was a one-off incident, and unlikely to be repeated. Ant then today we learn that a group of four terrorists attacked two mosques in Christchurch. Im a few months short of my 70th birthday, and up until today, there had been few terrorist attacks in Aotearoa New Zealand in my lifetime:

  • 1961: Four students attempted to blow up a flag pole on the Waitangi treaty grounds.
  • 1982: A pun rock anarchist blw himself up in the entrance of the Wanganui law enforcement computer centre.
  • 1984: A suitcase bomb killed the building caretaker of the Trades Hall in Wellington.
  • 1985: the French DGSE sunk the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour killing one member of the crew
  • 2008: a Somali refugee attempted to hijack a domestic flight and divert it to Australia.

Perhaps trivial by world standards, but not by ours. But today all that changed. 40 people are now confirmed dead and another 20 critically ill from gunshot wounds. What makes it so gut wrenching is that many of the victims are new New Zealanders, having chosen Aotearoa New Zealand to be a safe haven from the violence they experienced in their homeland. The evil in the world has arrived at our doorstep and barged straight in.

I would like to hope that this event will not change the way we kiwis see ourselves and we continue to place as much, if not more, faith and trust in the almost 200 ethnicities that make up New Zealand as we have in the past. It would be very sad if we as a nation became suspicious of our fellow citizens simply because they follow a different religion, have a different coloured skin, wear different clothing, or speak a different language.

We should remember especially at times like this that we must avoid “othering” anyone who is different from ourselves in any way, be it language, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender identity, or ability. The best way to show the terrorists that they will fail is to become more inclusive and do it willingly and cheerfully.

My heart goes out to all those directly and indirectly affected by this outrage. If I believed in a deity, I’d be torn between praying for the victims and expressing hatred at the deity for allowing it to happen. Instead, I will consider what practical assistance I can give to make the lives of all those affected a little less painful.


I am atheism

I am atheism.
I’m visible in your children, but if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it’s too late.
I know where you live.
And guess what? I live there too.
I hover around all of you.
I know no colour barrier, no religion, no morality, no currency.
I speak your language fluently.
And with every voice I take away, I acquire yet another language.
I work very quickly.
I work faster than paediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined
And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails.
Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain.
I don’t sleep, so I make sure you don’t either.
I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, birthday party, or public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain.
You have no cure for me.
Your scientists don’t have the resources, and I relish their desperation. Your neighbours are happier to pretend that I don’t exist—of course, until it’s their child.
I am atheism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness.
I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up you will cry, wondering who will take care of my child after I die?
And the truth is, I am still winning, and you are scared. And you should be.
I am atheism. You ignored me. That was a mistake.
And to atheism I say:
I am a father, a mother, a grandparent, a brother, a sister.
We will spend every waking hour trying to weaken you.
We don’t need sleep because we will not rest until you do.
Family can be much stronger than atheism ever anticipated, and we will not be intimidated by you, nor will the love and strength of my community.
I am a parent riding toward you, and you can push me off this horse time and time again, but I will get up, climb back on, and ride on with the message.
Atheism, you forget who we are. You forget who you are dealing with. You forget the spirit of mothers, and daughters, and fathers and sons.
We are Qatar. We are the United Kingdom. We are the United States. We are China. We are Argentina. We are Russia. We are the Eurpoean Union. We are the United Nations.
We are coming together in all climates. We call on all faiths. We search with technology and voodoo and prayer and herbs and genetic studies and a growing awareness you never anticipated.
We have had challenges, but we are the best when overcoming them. We speak the only language that matters: love for our children.
Our capacity to love is greater than your capacity to overwhelm.
Atheism is naïve. You are alone. We are a community of warriors. We have a voice.
You think because some of our children cannot speak, we cannot hear them? That is atheism’s weakness.
You think that because my child lives behind a wall, I am afraid to knock it down with my bare hands?
You have not properly been introduced to this community of parents and grandparents, of siblings and friends and schoolteachers and therapists and pediatricians and scientists.
Atheism, if you are not scared, you should be.
When you came for my child, you forgot: you came for me.
Atheism, are you listening?

Are you an atheist? Did the message above appal you? I hope it did.

Are you religious? Did the message above appal you? I hope it did.

In some regions of the world, atheists are victims of the attitudes displayed in the transcript above, and many of the religious in those regions would support the sentiments it contains, even if they would be reluctant to voice them openly. Fortunately I live in a region where all forms of religion and non-religion are accepted and valued. Atheism along with the world’s major religions are regarded in a positive light by around 90% of the population.

That’s about all I’m going to say about atheism and religion in this post as it is not really about religion (or lack of it) at all.

Huh? I hear you say? Truly it’s not. The transcript above has been very slightly modified from the original by replacing one word with the word atheism. I could have changed a few additional words the make it more consistent, but I think the message is very clear as it is, and that is that atheism is a very bad thing indeed.

While I concede that the harm manifest in the transcript will not be recognised by some fundamentalists of any religious flavour, I think the rest of us, religious or not, can see it. In some parts of the world, the transcript might be considered hate speech and the speakers sanctioned accordingly.

Most people like me will recognise the transcript, and know what word originally stood in place of atheism. We know it is hateful and harmful. People like me experience the result of the demonising of our person-hood that voices such as the ones in the original transcript cause – every day.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be subjected to not just disapproval or hatred, but intense compliance-based training to ensure every action, every deed, every word that you utter or write makes you indistinguishable from others in a devout religious community? Many like me don’t need to imagine. We’ve lived it.

Although the analogy of atheism is not perfect, if it’s made you uncomfortable or angry,  or given you food for thought, then I’ve succeeded. If you don’t know what the original word is in the transcript that I replaced with atheism, I’ll help you out. It’s another word starting with “A“. The transcript is of an advertisement put out by an organisation that supposedly has our best interests at heart, but fails to consult us or allow us to take a part in its activities, and makes others fear and hate what we are. No matter where we are in the world, we cannot escape the attitudes expressed in the transcript.

The original word in the transcript that I replaced with atheism is autism, and the advertisement is I Am Autism put out by Autism Speaks. I’m not going to put a link to the video, but if you want to see it in all its horror, search YouTube for “I Am Autism commercial by Autism Speaks”.

It does not speak for me!