10 augusti 2005

Be truly human

Jag såg på Svenska Dagbladets hemsida att en video hade kommit ut med direkta hot mot Tony Blair och George Bush. Jag såg en bit. han som kom med hoten var definitivt född i Storbritanien. Det finns ingenting om detta i de Brittiska medierna idag... Det är för känsligt nu och BBC kom just ut med en undersökning om multikulturalism. Det var mycket som intreserade mig idag, och jag blev inspirerad att skriva något på min engelska sida. Kunde lika gärna publicera den här:

There were a lot of items that caught my attention today in PM. The multiculturalism debate is a fascinating one which I would like to write about, but it will have to be another time.

Some British museums hold items considered sacred in some cultures, and the program gave the example of objects used in special sacred ceremonies among Australian aborigines. The curator held those objects in a box, which was not shown to the public so to not offend the sentiments of the people of that culture. It was an interesting piece of cultural sensitivity.

A side point is that even though British imperialism, or any imperialism for that matter, is in itself not worthy of praise, there are some good points that came out of it. A lot of ancient scriptures, painting, artefacts etc were collected and would most probably not have been with us to this day. It might be worth giving back a lot of those them when these cultures have created facilities and expertise to handle such items. It would be a great gift.

However, they brought in a researcher on the program, Tiffany Jenkins from the Institute of Ideas, which opposes the sensitive handling of sacred objects; she doesn’t want our museums to become like churches. She said “There is something deeply worrying about curators in rational institutions, secular institutions, encouraging the embrace of other beliefs, over others. It privileges and prioritises the sacred. I think they should instead let people take what they want from the objects; for example, they may go to the National Gallery, they may be Catholics, and they might derive particular meaning from the artefact pieces there […] The institution itself should not encourage a sacred meaning.”

It’s an interesting comment for she mentions rational as if religious and sacred beliefs are not rational. They are in fact often deeply rational in their own context. If you believe in the sacred, in God, in an afterlife of some sort, you have your own rationale and your own priorities in life. If you don’t, then you have other rationales and priorities. It would, contrary to what Tiffany Jenkins said, contravene neutrality to decide that there is nothing beyond this life. The sacred can’t be proven, but it’s neither possible to disprove it. So who is to say that the public sphere should be dominate by an anti-sacred attitude?

One of the problems with the kind of enlightenment thinking that Tiffany Jenkins represents is that it unfortunately is permeated by pride, a pride of superior understanding and of personal neutrality and rationality above all others. It’s unfortunately the same kind of pride that fuelled British and other imperialisms ideologically during the last few centuries.

It would be wonderful if humanism could take the human experience as it is, without making ideological assumptions and decisions and calling it rational and neutral. That would be truly human indeed.