Thursday, 1 August 2013
A hero of our times
Breaking a self-imposed rule not to pile up posts - as well as a vow to get on with 'proper' work - I have to give vent to this. Out of the heart of a continent where gays are being executed, imprisoned or just driven underground - 'there is no homosexuality in Mali', even our liberal-minded Sophie once said - and unspeakable state-directed barbarism in Russia comes this voice of consistent sanity and courage. Retired 81-year-old forrmer archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu does not mince his words like the Pope - though his were welcome too after Ratzinger's hypocrisy - or our own Archbishop(s) of Canterbury. Here is exactly what he said according to The Independent.
I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.
I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.
I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.
Predictably he was lambasted by Bob 'Hanging's too good for 'em' Mugabe, who suggested he might want to take a husband rather than a wife. But you might have expected that, and Tutu's words, too, are exactly what I would have hoped for from the man who wrote such an eloquent introduction to Bishop Gene Robinson's In the Eye of the Storm back in 2009. Mostly praising Robinson's courage, he included another unequivocal statement.
For me, the question of human sexuality is really a matter of human justice; of course I would be willing to show that my beliefs are not inconsistent with how we have come to understand the scriptures. It is not enough to say 'the Bible says...,' for the Bible says many things that I find totally unacceptable and indeed abhorrent. I accept the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, but I remember that the Bible has been used to justify racism, slavery and the humiliation of women...Apartheid was supported by the white Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, which claimed that there was biblical sanction for that vicious system.
...May I wholly inadequately apologise to my sisters and brothers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered for the cruelty and injustice that you have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of us, your fellow Anglicans; I am sorry.
He doesn't need to apologise to me; I can't imagine why anyone would want to be a member of a church whose head only welcomes gay people so long as they don't express their love in sexual terms - as one wise American nun put it, like saying 'you're a bird, but you can't fly' - but I do want to see change there. It will come, sooner or later. The enormous Wiki entry on Tutu details on just how many fronts he has fought, and keeps fighting, not least support for Bradley Manning. Perhaps the greatest figure of our times, even while Mandela still lives?
Meanwhile there is much that is good elsewhere in carrying on the fight. Even Cameron impressed me with his words on why the Gay Marriage Bill, deeply flawed as it is, needed to happen. But I'm thinking mainly of excellent articles in the papers like Hugo Rifkind's light-of-touch comment on Putin's Russia in the Times, which sadly can't be read unless you contribute to the Murdoch coffers (though I would, in passing, recommend you do read Tanya Gold in The Guardian on the pathological outburst of vilest Tweeted rape threats against the woman who wanted Jane Austen on the £10 note and her defender, MP Stella Creasy).
Rifkind begins by listing the edicts that have so horrified the liberal corners of the world: 'one law prohibits the adoption of Russian children not only by gay people but also by single people living in countries that allow gay marriage, presumably just in case they ever get the urge.' [A recent extension of this logic has been to legislate for the removal of children from gay couples, or even from couples where one partner or the other is suspected of being gay]. 'Another allows for the two-week detention of gay or even "pro-gay" tourists' . That also means 'suspected of being gay', so it puts the khybosh on travel to Russia by concerned would-be visitors. My blog pals Will and Laurent have already cancelled their 2014 Volga trip; good for them.
Meanwhile violence and injustice against gays in Russia escalate daily. Perhaps the lesson embodied in Berlusconi's conviction - che gioia - is to tell us that Putin, like Mugabe, is only lashing out in his decadence and will end his career ignominiously - but when?
We can all do something in this case, even if it's as seemingly pathetic as not drinking Russian vodka, not buying Anna Netrebko CDs (perish the thought) or not going to Gergiev concerts. Does that sound weird to you? Well, let me explain. Both are among the 500 artists who lent their signature to the Putin campaign. Both have got themselves embroiled in politics, so are not performers living entirely within the musical sphere who should just be left in peace. Gergiev, as we all know, is as deeply implicated as he could possibly be. Netrebko - who, heaven knows, can't be anti-gay, and was snapped above by Manfred Werner at Vienna's Life Ball earlier this year - was told by one American activist she MUST make a stance on her attitude to the gay persecution. Well, the word 'must' is not to be used to divas, as La Cieca rather over-insistently made clear in an intriguing debate on Parterre dominated by the admirable 'M Croche'.
But it would be good if she did. It would also be good if out, proud and absolutely fabulous Marius Kwiecien - pictured above, photo from the Teatr Wieki website, though not sure what the message on the T shirt is trying to say and yes, he IS top barihunk as far as I'm concerned - could make a statement as he sings alongside Trebs and under the baton of Gergiev in the Met Onegin. But that, again, is very much a matter for his own conscience, and we won't condemn him for not doing so. Worth pointing, out, though, that even the opera's composer lived a freer life under the repressive tsarist regime, at least until his questionable end, than those who can only benefit from his example across Russia do now.
Update (7/8): Stephen Fry has just covered all we could wish and more about Putin's Nazi rulebook tactics in this superlative 'open letter' to Cameron and Co about the Sochi Winter Olympics. I'd give him a knighthood for this.
Labels: Anna Netrebko, Desmond Tutu, Gay rights, Gene Robinson, Hugo Rifkind, Marius Kwiecien, Putin, Tanya Gold, Tchaikovsky, Valery Gergiev
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We must always, always, remember that however we ourselves see the here and now we are the result of millions of years and thousands of generations of evolution. Gay relationships produce no children and are not valuable to the tribe. It requires a rationality to rise above the entrenched emotions which result from this fact, and which can judge the outliers like gays in what we regard as a civilised and sensible way. And that level of rationality requires a civilised society, composed of the children of the Enlightenment and the Greeks, or at any rate of a modern education - societies which we can hardly yet see in the aftermath of the vicious foolishness of Marx and Lenin, or in many of the African States. The spread of the culture we accept - even one with defects as well as benefits - through the new media and in many other ways - will eventually have its effect, and the change can be influenced by contacts with those that are still trapped in their evolutionary past, rather than cutting ourselves off from them. They will wake up and see our point of view, especially in the case of men and women acting internationally
This is not in any way to set aside campaigns to get things right sooner, but to point out that we are NOT talking about people who have looked at the matter rationally and come to the wrong conclusion. We are facing the dark forces of the forest, a fact that might influence our judgement as to how to change things
So eloquently put, Sir David: 'the dark forces of the forest' across at least a third of the world is one way of putting it, and my notion that we are living in different centuries on the same planet is another.
Your point that 'gay relationships produce no children' might be challenged just a little, though: many children are now being born as the collaboration between gay and lesbian couples, who then give them an extended family of two fathers and two mothers. Something that could hardly have been foreseen a couple of decades ago.
I have two experiences of two gays and two lesbians having children ( this would not have happened in the forest)and I must say that the offspring ( a few years old)glow with happiness. It is lovely to watch them. There is twice as much money around, but it is much more than that. (Much better than a single mother with no man for a son to identify with)
As regards your point about different centuries, one of my closest friends is now comfortable with me and also with a gay brother in law, but he said quite frankly that in the 1960s when we first met he could not have taken it if I had come out to him then. Time can have its effect, though that is no reason for not trying to accelerate matters
And better far a loving single mum than an inadequate pair of 'standard' parents... Tho' on your point of identifying with a father-figure, I read a very interesting article on the sons of single mothers in the Afro-Caribbean community, where the 'babyfather' is often absent, growing up aggressively macho and homophobic through fear of having been over-feminised. Interesting.
American preacher Pat Robertson uses a "relatively small minority" argument (he places the number of homosexuals in the population at large at 2% to diminish the presence of gays and lesbians in American life--surely a ridiculously low number) to prove that there aren't enough of us to be worth changing, or making, laws to protect us and our rights.
What nobody, even gay advocacy organizations, seems to figure into the mix is the unknown number of closeted gays and lesbians in "traditional" marriages from which they may never be able to leave, or the unknown number who are closeted because being out could be a death sentence or an excuse to be made unemployable in parts of the United States.
The last American census was supposed to allow us to declare whether we were gay, in same sex relationships, or were same sex heads of families, but the census form Fritz and I received offered no such opportunity. I have not seen any figures published by the Census Bureau, either.
I was startled and even impressed by the pope's use of the word gay, but was also intrigued by his use of the word "is," as in "If a person is gay . . ." NOT, if a person decided to be gay, or if a person became gay, the cpmmon phrases used to indicate belief that being gay is a choice, not an inborn trait. It seemed to me that it might be an indication that he is open to the possibility that we are born gay, that we simply ARE gay.
Yes, it was Fr Andrew who first picked up in our e-correspondence on the significance of the Pope's using the word 'gay', unheard of I think in that context. He fails in my opinion to reconcile that with the Catholic Church's seemingly unalterable statutes, but then even Tutu doesn't quite overcome the thorny question in that quote above over 'what the Bible teaches'. And he did say that in S Africa when he was a practising Archbishop, gay priests were welcome so long as they remained celibate. I wonder what he thinks of that special issue now.
Some have said that the situation in some parts of the States is every bit as bad as it is in Russia now. That's down to the peculiar independence of state legislation. But nobody could say that repression is led from on high by Obama's government - there's the big difference.
The position taken by many in the churches - and I think officially in the Anglican Church - is that priests can be gay if they are celibate. I believe this to be against the teaching of Christ, who said (Matthew 5 vv 27/28) " You have heard that it was said Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart"
Of course that is true. To say that the physical act is separate from the emotional act is a primitive idea probably stemming from a desire to avoid children out of wedlock. The distinction is a disgraceful one, which does the Church no credit at all
A telling reference. I think the American nun hits the target with appropriate ridicule.
No doubt about it, Desmond Tutu is a hero. As for the “dark forces of the forest,” these attitudes certainly die hard, don’t they?
Meanwhile, there is much by which to be encouraged. Every year, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center hosts a benefit at the Central Park Zoo called “Walk on the Wild Side.” It’s a family event for gay and lesbian families, and they are legion! I don’t think you can see these photographs unless you are on Facebook, but if you can, click <a href="https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151697191970709.1073741834.41834300708&type=3>here</a>, where you will see legions of kids with cotton candy, kids with their faces painted, kids watching dolphins being fed, kids of gay and lesbian families, lots and lots of them. It’s a beautiful thing.
Not only do those 'dark forces of the forest' die hard, they grow luxuriantly when you're not looking. Like kudzu. It amazes me how much vigilance is needed just when you think the real fight has been won.
Delighted to hear about that 'Walk on the Wild Side' (aka the light forces of the forest). Will ask J to check out those photos.
Have you read this terrifying article in the New York Times? I have to say there is a part of me that just simply does not understand why people like Putin are so threatened by the mere notion of homosexuality. But then I look at France and the reception of gay marriage.
Harvey has been another hero ever since Torch Song Trilogy - surely the first film to feature a gay couple's adoption - and more so with this and his tweets keeping people informed. But the action needs to spread to governments and wider boycotts.
On the burgeoning families front, there's this super article by Yotan Ottolenghi in The Guardian.
I see I goofed up on creating a hyperlink, but, anyway, you get the idea. But the main reason I'm writing is to note your extraordinarily apt use of the word kudzu!
A country coming out of a totalitarian regime is without doubt backward when it comes to basic human rights. It will take time for ordinary people to evolve but even taking that into account and it is over twenty years lest we forget, this is beyond scapegoating. It is a cynical easy vote winner for Russians outside metropolitan areas and crazy orthodox believers. But it is also victimisation of the first order and for something completely natural.
The problem is, it represents a going-backwards: Gay Pride marches were always attacked by the police, but gay clubs flourished in Moscow. The new legislation will surely drive everything underground. And I have to say that while I strongly disagreed with most of Putin's policies up to now, you might see where they came from in trying to reconstruct a 'strong Russia'. This has no basis in any kind of justifiable policy and evocations of Germany in the 1930s are not misplaced, which is why the free world - whatever you may deem that to be, and there are still commonwealth countries where homosexuality is illegal - has to act.
One problem in Russia is that the ten years after the collapse of communism were years of economic and to an extent social choas......as was natural in the change from a command economy to the free market. There was dreadful inflation, a lack of cash leading to barter etc etc. But the problems were soluble because of the vast natural resources of the country. Unfortunately that decade is seen as the decade of democriacy, which is therefore seen to have been less than efficient, and the "strong government" that Putin has developed is seen as putting the problems right. So ( apart from any yearning for strong leadership inherited from the more distant past) what was economic coincidence leads many to say - better a strong Putin than the choas of the democratic nineties
I remember that era so vividly: crowds packed into St Petersburg's squares selling everything they could: a boot, a packet of cigarettes, a plastic toy, anything. Culture was vibrant, though, as ever in a time of chaos. Maybe it still is, but I imagine the Bolshoi's creative era is over (Rozhdestvensky lasted one season, Ratmansky who created such a large body of important new work was kicked out and look at the 'politics' of the Russian ballet world now).
I only hope that even those 500 artists who admired Putin's strength begin to see that this is a step too far. Most of the Russian public couldn't care less, unfortunately (30 per cent even thought that attempted blinding by acid was a legitimate way of going about trying to remove an opponent. That's the real measure of a sick society).
I admire Tutu enormously, and yet he remains someone who still sees the Bible as the direct word of a God, and I say this not to discredit him but to emphasise the hold that that text, the over-edited and collated ramblings of tribal elders, etc, still has. I recommend (Episcopalian bishop) Jack Shelby Spong as the one who deals with this best, in my humble, as well as sexuality and Christianity and the Bible. He could just be the holiest man I've ever met.
And then David D quotes it as if he is quoting Jesus. Matthew might have said something like that, maybe maybe, but who knows what Jesus said. Call me Thomas, but I want to see the live video. Anyway, what David D does raise is the brilliant point that to wish something is the same as to do it. (I hope I'm in context here David). That to lust is to have lusted. To wish dead is to have killed. This is the stunning conclusion from the belief that on the level that matters we are our thoughts and our thoughts alone.
I loved the image of children of loving parents, sex whatever, glowing with happiness.
As to gays and evolution and Africa and Putin and babies and same sex marriage, the only thing which is likely to shift imposed tolerance toward true acceptance is education, and then I'm not optimistic that difference will not always provoke fear, and that fear will not always provoke attack. (If there's too many negatives I'm sorry, I get tangled sometimes).
As for Netrebko, I'm not holding my breath - self-interest (she travels on an Austrian passport) seems a bit of a hallmark. When we were in Russia some years ago (and not going back anytime soon) she was poorly regarded by our (university educated personal) guide who called her a deserter and anyway a peasant - the eyes too black!
Yes, I sense a little that conflict within Tutu, too: though the quotation from the preface to Robinson's book suggests otherwise. I'll check out Spong, who can't be wrong (couldn't resist that). And I commend the essays of the happily gay (sadly late) priest Eric James, recommended to me by my Parsee friend Themy.
Whew, peasant, that's strong. I'm afraid I won't listen to much Netrebko because her singing seems to me so uncultured - no finesse, no taste. And I'm still unconvinced by the lustre of a voice which started as a tweety-pie coloratura with dodgy tuning (still a problem). If that sounds snobbish, so be it.
Those that take the Bible as the Word of God will take it as that. So the Bible's record of Christ's words are relevant - even if scholars can show that the record is in some degree unreliable. Another example is from St Paul - he said ( 1 Corinthians 7/8) that it would be best if everyone remained as he was - that is unmarried and completely chaste. In which case the human race would have died out (maybe he expected an early Second Coming). Therefore nothing he said on sex is in logic admissible. So in these ways the use of the Bible as a literal guide can point to conclusions quite different from those that the fundamentalists usually insist upon.
I am aware that St Paul also said that if one burned with lust then marry, but that was certainly second best, in his view.
I wish someone could clarify for me once and for all whether Jesus existed or not. When we were in Jerusalem I was told that there was not one scrap of historical evidence to prove it. But that may have been propaganda too.
The balance of scholarship appears to be heavily in favour of the extistence of Jesus as a person, albeit without any detailed analysis of what sort of person. My own argument ( it may of course appear elsewhere) is that a message so flexible in the way it adapts itself to so many human hearts,so intellectually wide in its world view, and so successful, requires a source which can only irrupt into the world in a person charismatic to a very high degree
Hmm. The proof, the proof. But no doubt Xians would howl me down as a Doubting Thomas, as a priest at a funeral service J went to last week did to the non-believers (many) in the congregation. He said the fatal words 'I know', which always provoke me to shout 'no you don't, you can only believe'.
I do not see why the existence of Jesus is a central point. And for the reasons I mentioned his existence is extremely probable. The central point is whether the message that has come down to us is true or not.
One of the logical questions I studied at Cambridge was the difference between knowledge and belief. Not as easy as one might think
But, believing is seeing.
The trouble is - and we're way off track now, but so what? - that there isn't one true message, but far too many confusing ones, and I'm not sure that Xians should be able to pick the ones they like while rejecting the dodgier issues. I have a real problem with the miracles, and wonder if they were added later to an essentially simple life and message.
But you remember we discussed this with regard to Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. There are novels which discuss the anomalies more subtly, like Jim Crace's Quarantine, which posits the idea the Jesus couldn't possibly have fasted forty days and forty nights...
Wanderer - your last slipped while I was composing the above. Would you care to expand?
The Roman Catholic Church still believes in miracles, as witnessed by the need to find two miracles attributed to Jean Paul II before declaring him a saint. I remember an Anglican priest leaning across a dinner table in Cambridge to remark to a Roman priest involved in the process of making an earlier candidate a saint, and where the miracles had been agreed, "I hear your man has passed his practical"
David, nothing more than it's more the case that people 'see' what they believe, or are lead to believe, rather than 'believe' what they see, that is, the evidence. Climate change comes to mind.
As Freud said, when the emotions are engaged, the intellect comes to the conclusions that the emotions dictate
Stephen Fry was at Queens' Cambridge, my own college, which has made him an Honorary Fellow, an accolade awarded only to a small group, often very senior lawyers, civil servants etc. Splendid and highly commendable.
But I cannot agree with the argument that the Olympics in Russia should be withdrawn. It is a very prevalent and unfortunate view that in the face of evil regimes one should cut oneself off from the evil. But if we adopt this approach to all evil regimes there will be many very valid causes to list as to what is evil; and as Kant said, we should act as though our individual actions were to be made general rules. Then we should cut ourselves off from a large slice of countries, with many complex and undesirable results.
As for the Olympics as such, had we adopted this approach the 1980 Games would have been withdrawn from Moscow ( especially as the USSR had just invaded Afghanistan). Seb Coe after consideration ( and bearing in mind his leadership role)decided to compete in Moscow, so he has been round this question before. In the case of China, still a regime with many negatives, the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008. Is the IOC to consider for the Games only those regimes regarded as ethical? Not easy to agree on a definition, plus the Olympic movement would collapse. And contacts have beneficial effects. The West has by opening up assisted in the move by China to a free market economy which has led to many good things and will eventually lead to political change.
But the Western view that Putin is taking several highly undesirable actions should be made very clear - as President Obama is doing. I would still give Fry a knighthood
After some reflection, I'm still with Fry on withdrawing. If we participate, the Olympic clauses he lists will be transgressed. If Russia decides as a facesaving exercise to suspend the laws on 14 day detention of 'gay-promoting' - whatever that might mean in practice - foreigners, then it will be just like Stalin's shop window tours for GBS and the Fabians, or the Nazi's promotion of Theresienstadt.
And although there are plenty of countries similarly implicated, not least in Africa, the introduction of all the new laws IS akin to apartheid, as Tutu points out, and a licence to murder. The world has to show its horror.
But so were the Olympic clauses transgressed ( in various serious ways) in 1980 in Russia and 2008 in China. I think that other means should be taken to make your ( and Fry's) absolutely valid points
But neither country had gone so far down the line as Russia has now to institutionalise a scapegoat for a failing government (some might argue the contrary, but I would have hesitated to use the Hitler parallel until now).
What a wonderful and lovely man Bishop Tutu is, full of love for everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation. I applaud him.
Of course Gay marriage was once a Christian rite http://www.humanitysteam.org/node/3299
The problem with bigots is they let their wild and filthy imaginations wander to the anus when they think about homosexuals ! and only a small minority of homosexuals indulge in anal intercourse, whereas it is rife in heterosexual relationships. This is a wonderful parody on the subject http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/Articles/000,015.pdf
God would not condemn any part of his own creation !
However, homophobia is on the rise. We have the Russian and Ugandan Gay Rights problems at the moment. However, we need to look closer to home before our governments and institutions criticize other countries. The Gay Rights Campaigner and former MP Peter Tatchell has exposed institutionalised homophobia in the UK Police. You can see a horrendous institutionalised homophobic dorset police force who have destroyed the lives, reputations and careers of two elderly gay men who have been together for 34 years in this recent scandalous and very well documented blog http://homophobicdorsetpolice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-pre-meditated-and-manipulated-16th.html
Thanks for your thoughtful contribution, Anon. I agree that we need to look at our own problems, but AS WELL as, not BEFORE the big issues. I think the same point was made about America, an even more complex case. But the essential point is that in neither country is the oppression state-initiated. I really don't think from all I keep hearing recently that the parallels between Putin and Hitler are any longer far fetched. What's happening in Russia is government-licensed brutality and murder, and it seems to be getting worse.
As for the anal fixation, well, I do find it strange that gay people are so subject to scrutiny as to what they get up to in the privacy of their own homes in the way that straight folk, until a scandal breaks, rarely are.
the blog link above from ANON no longer contains the story. It has been replaced and updated and proves that Dorset Police and the Wessex Crown Persecution Service still maintain their homophobic stance.
This afternoon after a pretend 8 months criminal investigation of the men's abuser they have let him off. The Crown Persecution Service stating that homophobic crimes against the men including proven death threats and contract killing arrangements as well as an orchestrated gay hate campaign by the main known convicted criminal abuser is not in the public interest to prosecute and it would not be worth the financial expense to do so. They are all homophobic hypocrites. Peter Tatchell is still staunchly behind the men's campaign for justice but it is now looking highly likely that on the 1st of January 2015 a Thelma & Louise grand canyon scenario is likely to occur off of the high bournemouth cliff near where the men live, after they have ensured that their parrots are cared for after they have gone. They have been reduced to poverty in the last seven years by the actions of their proven abusers, and no one gives a damn. They had to sell their home and rent it back and all the money has now gone on rent. They cannot afford to move out of the godforsaken county of dorset, and even if they did, the government has now given private landlords the indisputable right not to rent to housing benefit claimants.
Please read the new updated blog, and please I beg you, join in this campaign to help two wonderful elderly gay men in bournemouth. Even gay organizations in bournemouth refuse to help them and totally ignore their requests for help. Even the hypcritical Metropolitan Community Church who support homosexuals, they think !
Here is the blog, be prepared to be shocked beyond all expectations
The dorset police told the elderly non camp GoodAsYou gentlemen that if the blogger does not remove the blog you see, they will take no action against their abuser if he continues his reign of terror over them.
I forgot to ask, please anyone reading the blog, please leave a comment of support and express what you feel about this, thanks.
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