Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Which way is it to be?

In Australia, some women are claiming the right to be front-line soldiers on the same basis as men. The claim is that they should be allowed to go into battle as combatants on precisely the same terms as male soldiers, as part of equal rights. There could be a problem here that some people have not considered.
If the world wants to prevent violence against women, women should not be put in situations where they could experience unavoidable violence, such as a combat zone. And nor should they behave violently towards men, if the man is not to retaliate. To put it simply, if a woman attacks a man she cannot blame him for defending himself; and in combat, she could find herself attacking a man, forcing him to fight back. This could give the female soldier an unfair advantage. If a man has been taught not to offer violence to a woman, or has a natural aversion to doing so, then he can't fight back against a female soldier the way he could do against a male one. It is sometimes possible in combat to clearly see and identify your adversary. A man realizing that the soldier in his line of fire is female may be less able to fight back against her. This gives the female soldier an illegitimate advantage. Of course, we can say violence should be avoided altogether, but so far no-one has found a way of preventing war. It only takes one side to insist on getting their way by armed or physical force, and their intended victim has to defend themselves. At least if we can't stop war we might limit the evil of it by restricting the way it is conducted. That is the basis of the Geneva Convention, with rules such as no killing of prisoners.
Some commentators say that women are less suited to combatant duty than men. That probably varies with the individual. Some men loath violence utterly. Some women resort to it very easily. The point here is that if violence against women is a thing we want to abolish, then women should not be in a situation where they would either inflict it or suffer it. For that matter, if it is worse for a man to attack a woman than to attack another man, the same applies in reverse. It is bad for a woman to attack another woman, worse to attack a man. Cross gender violence violates the special relationship that should exist between the two genders.
Equality in principle is not the same thing as being identical in practice. It may be that in some ways the two sexes are different and that should be reflected in the duties they undertake. Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

False distinctions

According to an Australian newspaper, Muhammed Ali has visited Ireland - to get in touch with some of his relatives. That's right - Muhammed Ali, the Afro-American boxer, is part Irish. One of his great grandfathers came from the town in Ireland, emigrated to the U.S., and Muhammed has traceable relatives there. It seems to me like one of the greatest things he has ever done. The reciprocal gesture would be if a prominent white sportsman who has in fact got some African ancestry to say the same thing. The bitter division between the races that sometimes arises overlooks the fact that in fact some people of each race have blood kinspeople belonging to the other. The same thing happens in Australia. Some people who identify as white do in fact have some Aboriginal ancestry. And many people who identify as Aboriginal are quite obviously part European (white, if you like). It is quite easy to see why the feelings of anger are there. Too much blood has been shed. There are reasons for the anger and hostility. But no good comes of it. It just causes the hostility to carry on. Apparently the Irish people in this town welcomed Muhammed Ali as one of their own migrant sons. Good on them! Why should they reject him on racial grounds! Now can someone tell people like Jeremiah Wright? Or Michael Mansell, or Jeff Clark?
These last two are Australian Aboriginal activist leaders, the second of them apparently the son of a Scottish migrant to Australia. Making a war over race simply means the hate goes on. We ARE one and the same race. God did not invent racial distinctions. Abram, later Abraham, was originally a Babylonian. He came fro Ur, of the Chaldees. And Peter was sent his vision, that God is no preferer of persons. We are all made in God's image. We need to remember that.