25 October 2009

In Defence of Life

John Maxwell

Freedom and Liberty are properties of a free society.
A free society is one which is able to govern itself because all its members have equal right to take part in making the rules by which it is governed
All of us are equal and no one is more 'Equal' than any other. Mr Anthony Hylton has no more right to decide the fate of Falmouth than does the most miserable homeless person on the streets of Yallahs or Heartease.
All sorts of far-reaching decisions affecting work, health, security and welfare are being taken by people who believe that their temporary authority gives them the right to change the rules under which we operate – usually to their advantage.
Obviously, governments must be able to change the ordinary rules to fit them better to public satisfaction, but there are some rules that are so important that they should always require a special mandate from the society – a certification that the people have discussed the question and agree how it should be resolved.
In modern democracies, particularly those who take their cues from the US, there has arisen a tendency to employ hysteria and expensive public relations campaigns to change laws to accommodate some private interest with the excuse that such change will benefit the public. The snow job of the 20th century was the eventually successful campaign to neuter the Glass-Steagall Act, of which you have probably never heard. What you may have observed, however, is the catastrophic human suffering and financial carnage which were consequences of the dismantling of the Act.
The Glass-Steagall Act was the last constraint preventing US banks from turning themselves into casinoes, bucket shops and high class financial brothels, evading tax, breaking laws left, right and centre while pauperising millions of working and middleclass people all over the world.
This week, a personage as august and unlikely as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, launched his campaign for the breaking up of the big banks, plus tough new regulations to force them to behave more like banks and less like the Mafia.
In his drive to break up the banks Mr King joins a distinguished assemblage on this side of the Atlantic. They include, mirabile dictu, Alan Greenspan, the single major factor in the recent lunacy; Mr Paul Volcker, Greenspan's predecessor; the former eminence grise of the IMF, Stanley Fischer; Nobel prizewinning economists including Joe Stiglitz and Ed Prescott, MIT professor and former Chief Economist at the World Bank Don Johnson, the president of the Independent Community Bankers of America (5,000 members); the head of the FDIC (Bank regulator) Sheila Bair; the leading monetary economist and co-author with Milton Friedman of the leading treatise on the Great Depression, Anna Schwartz; Profs. Nouriel Roubini and Prem Sikka and a whole galaxy of economists of greater or lesser magnitude. Eliot Spitzer, former Attorney General and Governor of New York says that the only people who don't seem to understand what's necessary are President Obama and his advisers, Geithner, Summers and Bernanke – and, of course, Goldman Sachs.
Whatever happens, whether the banks are rationally re-sectioned or simply collapse from the weight of their criminal incompetence and corruption, it should be obvious to all of us that the cost of snow jobs may be catastrophic and may engulf entire societies.


Hanging for Abortion ?

More than half a century ago there was published one of the first, if not the first scientific survey of a Jamaican population. It was authored by J. Mayone Stycos and Don Mills, both of whom are now world famous. The survey was as far as I can remember called something like the Jamaican Fertility Survey and it investigated the practice and prospects of family planning among Jamaican women. I am reminded by references on the Internet that this was a groundbreaking study for several reasons, among them its developing country primacy, but also because it contained devices which could test the veracity of the respondents.
This was necessary because of the intimacy of the questions and the suspicions of a largely illiterate sample in an exercise that was totally new to them.
For me, the most surprising result of the survey was that Roman Catholics, largely middle class, were the most enthusiastic receivers of family planning information and were the most likely to practice birth control. The better educated, the more likely to accept family planning, regardless of faith.
In its latest fantasia the Don Anderson polls report that Just under 80 per cent of adult Jamaicans surveyed believe that abortion is murder, and "are strongly convinced that abortion should be regarded as murder …"

This of course brings up some serious questions, especially with the Opposition baying for capital punishment in a savage reversion to primal mores; with the leader of the Opposition asking the rest of the world to be charitable towards Jamaica's new taste for barbarism and with the government apparently willing to ' do a ting' for any interest group that can seriously allege that it has 500 votes.
Will Mr Golding consider hanging (working class) women who abort, the doctors and others who assist them? Are we preparing for American style shoot-outs at doctor's offices?
Are we really ready for the logical consequences of our lunacy?
Before we do ourselves serious mental, physical, material, economic and political injury I would ask my readers to have a look at some thoughts of a learned Roman Catholic nun, who is also a theologian and one who has worked among poor people for most of her life.
Sister Ivonne Gebara was silenced by her Archbishop, Cardinal Cardozo Sobrinho of Recife, and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil. In refusing to shut up, Sister Gebara replied:

In Defence of LIfe

"The question of legalized abortion has for too many years undergone a notable process of mutation, not only in society in general, but also in the church.  In the same way as the mirrors and the coloured stones of the social and religious kaleidoscope change, so too do the discussions concerning this difficult question; and this has generated a tremendous diversity of philosophical, religious, psychological, political, and legal discussions, not always with the direct participation of women. 
"Today I am in favour of decriminalizing and legalizing abortion as one means of lessening the violence against life.  I am also aware of the inherent irritations of this position, and of the difficulties, legal and otherwise, due in particular to the inefficiency of our public institutions. 
"Living in a neighbourhood on the periphery of the city and having contact with the suffering of hundreds of women (especially poor women who live under tremendous stress due to their personal problems as well as problems of survival), gives me the necessary backing for some of the affirmations that in conscience I must make.  I address the question more from the perspective of poor women because they are the main victims of this tragic situation. 
"According to statistics published by various health organizations, it is estimated that in Brazil there are millions of illegal abortions annually, with maternal mortality at 10 percent.  Such frightening figures are indicators of a serious social problem that needs to be brought under control.  Thus, it is primarily the duty of the state to guarantee order and to legislate in a way that assures that the life of all citizens is respected.  Legalizing abortion does not mean the affirmation of the 'goodness,' 'innocence,' or even 'unconditional defence' of the act of abortion: rather, it offers the possibility of humanizing and making safe what is already being practiced. 


"Legalizing abortion is merely one of the important aspects of a broader struggle within a society that condones the social abortion of its sons and daughters.  A society that does not provide the conditions of adequate employment, health, housing, and schools is an abortive society.  A society that obliges women to choose between keeping their jobs and terminating a pregnancy is an abortive society.  A society that continues to permit pregnancy testing as a requirement for hiring women is abortive.  A society that remains silent about the responsibility of the men and blames only women, disrespects their bodies and their history, that is exclusive and sexist, is an abortive society. 

"Decriminalizing abortion could be considered, according to this way of thinking, a means to perpetuate institutionalized violence; a kind of violent response to a violent situation.  But such a thesis would apply only if the thousands of abortions and women's deaths did not in fact already exist.  As these are indisputable facts, to legislate them in the most respectful manner possible becomes a way of diminishing the violence against women and society in general. 

"In this line of thought, to focus on the 'defense of the innocent' from its most embryonic stage, as some people propose, is a way of concealing the indiscriminate killing of whole populations – who are equally innocent albeit in a different way – as a result of wars, or of economic, political, military, and cultural processes that take place in our societies today. 

"For me as a Christian, to defend decriminalizing and regulating abortion does not mean disavowing the traditional teachings of the Gospel of Jesus and the church; rather it is a way of entering into them more deeply given the paradox of our human history, a way of actually decreasing violence against life. 
"Christian principles, as well as others, do not always withstand the imperatives of concrete life, imperatives that make us more compliant, more merciful, more understanding, and more convinced that the law is for people and not people for the law; that the law should help us in our weakness, above all when our liberty is crushed by unjust structures that do not permit the realization of free and totally human acts. 

"My position with regard to the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, as a citizen, a Christian, and a member of a religious community is one of denouncing the evil, the institutionalized violence, the abuses, and the hypocrisy that envelop us.  It is a testimony to life; it is in defense of life." 

Sister Gebara now teaches at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The clipping was sent to me by one of my readers, Fred Nunes.

I think all who intend to take part in this discussion owe themselves the duty and privilege of re-reading Sister Gebara's testimony.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

No comments: