Another Brick In The Wall.


The Berlin Wall.
To be sure, this was a busy week for the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. In addition to the obligations caused by a state visit of Queen Elizabteth II, which, not unexpectedly, took place in an atmosphere of tabloid turmoil on both sides of the channel, the autumn European summit in Brussels, and the political digestion of the US election, he managed to upset pretty much everyone in political Germany – and beyond (Bild.de) – with the most bizarre proposal to – sort of – abolish the German national holiday, October 3, in order to boost GDP growth and, as a consequence, eventually meet the fiscal criteria set out in the stability and growth pact.

Due to a number of reasons, Germany hasn’t met the criteria for three consecutive years, and has, recently, actively supported attempts to “interpret” the critera more flexibly – a move forcing economists like Barry Eichengreen (in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine) to conclude that “the pact is dead”.

I don’t think that the pact is dead – despite it’s disputed macroeconomic value, the German public remains a staunch supporter thereof. Interestingly, the additional budget constraints created by this belief is helping the German government pass the labour market reforms a considerable part of the same public is vehemently opposed to.

It is hard to believe that the Chancellor has lost his mind as suggested by many observers. While I suppose there is some truth to the claim that it’s more difficult to gauge the public’s reaction when just four people are making secret plans in the Chancellery, the public’s reaction to this proposal wasn’t hard to predict.

Not that I don’t think it would be entirely inappropriate to celebrate the German unity on every first Sunday in October and work on October 3 for its material realization. Even one of Schroeder’s most vocal critics, Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian state premier and leader of the conservative CSU, who is still clinging to the hope of getting another go against Schroeder in 2006, made a similar proposal a couple of years ago.

But if the year 2004 stands for anything in German politics, it is the realization that it is just as easy to tell a tale of two Germanies as it is to tell that of two Americas – although the punchlines would not be about sex, but about unemployment, despair, and the prospects of improvement. Despite having lived “together” for more than a decade, the understanding between East Germans and West Germans seems to have reached a historical low.

In the summer, a mild culture war broke out about a statement by German President Koehler that it would not be possible to reach equal standards of living throughout Germany anytime soon – and that it would be foolish for any politician to continue to play pretend. Recently, a satire magazine even founded a party with the explicit proposal to re-erect the Berlin wall.

Satire. Fair enough. But the grain of truth is that there are indeed more bricks in the wall now then there were a couple of years ago. Thus, no politician in his right mind would have floated a proposal to abolish the National Holiday now. And most certainly not without embedding it in a national discourse like the one I sketched out above.

So, the only reason for the proposal I can see is to pave the way to get something else from those who are vocal opponents now – probably a religious holiday in May. In Germany’s federal system, only two holidays are simple federal law – Labour day, and the National Holiday. All other holidays are either state law, or, if federal, need the state chamber’s, and thus the opposition’s, approval.

Apparenly, after the first outrage, more and more people are beginning to interpret Schroeder’s move in this way. As a precaution, the Churches have already vowed their staunch opposition to any, even regional, abolition of existing Church holidays.

Yet I doubt they will be able to prevail in the end. This time it’s for real – again. In 1994, the protestant “Bu?- and Bettag” has been abolished as a federal holiday (except for the state Sachsen-Anhalt) to pay for improvements in old-age care. The need to expand working time is undisputed by the opposition, Germany is getting more and more secular, and this would be a move that even unions would approve of because it would not diminish their power.

And now everyone is on record claiming the importance of the National Holiday.

31 thoughts on “Another Brick In The Wall.

  1. See, it’s right about now that fiscally responsible Bavarians and Rhinelanders will be regretting that the Reformation didn’t prevail in their regions. The RCs just have so many more holidays. Had a grim protestant work ethic kept holidays to a minimum everywhere in the country, just think how high productivity might be!

    Anyway, it seems a bit unfair to do away with Kiss & Bed Day when there are still Jesus & Mary Fly to Heaven Days and Happy Cadaver Day.

  2. Mrs Tilton,

    you need not share the religious belief of Catholics or Christians in general.
    But there is a line between being not religious oneself and hurting religious feelings of others.

    The latter ist bad manners and unsensitive behaviour.
    It proves nothing but your own rudeness.

    And of course, it highlights the fact, that anti-liberal attitudes are no privilege of the conservative Right.
    (“liberal” in the European definition as in “I do not mind what my neighbour is doing or believing, as long as he isn’t disturbing my own peace and freedom”).

  3. Florian,

    If you are upset at my suggesting that a move towards a less generous, ‘protestant’ approach to religious holidays would improve productivity, you need to acquaint yourself with the concept of irony.

    If you are upset at the irreverent (mis)translations of Christi Himmelfahrt, Fronleichnam etc., you will need to take the matter up with your fellow Germans. It is they, not I, who invented them, and it is from a number of them (by no means all of them irreligious) that I learned them.

    More generally, if you really think any of the above is ‘hurting the religious feelings of others’, I urge you for your own safety to tie big soft cushions round your feelings every time you leave the house. You are clearly a person of exquisite sensitivities and I should hate to think of your feelings being bruised by every passing breeze.

    On a more serious note, you’ve no idea what religious beliefs (if any) I have. So spare me your pious wounded pseudoliberalism (‘I do not demand that you accept my beliefs, merely that you do not insult them’). Throughout history, profoundly illiberal Christian (and most especially Roman Catholic) institutional religion has been quick to develop great concern for civil and religious liberty when it finds itself out of power and in the minority. So long as it can put its boot in people’s neck, though, it is more relaxed about these things. It ill behooves the church of Ratzinger, Meissner, Dyba, Krenn and Wojtyla to demand ‘liberalism’ of others. You are offended that I used some silly names for religious holidays? Well, I’m offended that (just for example) the Vatican has joined forces with fundamentalist Muslim regimes to deny women information about contraception (let alone contraception itself). If you can manage to get it to stop doing that sort of thing, I promise you I’ll avoid saying ‘Happy cadaver day’ in future, and then we’ll both have grounds to be happy, won’t we?

    As it happens I do ‘share the religious beliefs of Christians in general’; or, put more simply, I am a Christian. So keep your bleatings about not mocking the beliefs of others to yourself. If I criticise the historical role of human ecclesiastical institutions — though that was not, repeat not, what I was doing in the comment that so wounded you — it is as much because I am a member of the church as because I am a liberal. You’re right: others’ feelings shouldn’t be unnecessarily hurt. But at the same time, l’inf?me must be ?cras?.

  4. Mrs. Tilton:

    no, I did grasp your irony.
    And yes, I took offense at your “(mis)translations “.

    Mistranslation indeed.
    Though not even every native German speaker might know that, “Fronleichnam” certainly does not translate to “Happy Cadaver Day”.
    Literally it means “Body of Our Lord”.
    (“Fron” is not the same as “froh”, but rather an old German word for Lord, still preserved in words such as “Frondienst”, “Fronfeste”, or even – in its female form in “Frau”).

    Apart from linguistic details, I do not subscribe to your argument that being rude to Catholics is ok, just because Catholics themselves in the past have behaved less than noble. After all, the people involved are not the same.
    On the same basis, it would be ok to make fun of every Italian you meet because you do not like the way the Romans conducted their wars.

  5. Florian,

    I don’t see how poking fun at beliefs is equivalent to poking fun at the individuals who hold them. “Politeness” has gone too far when we can’t mock other people’s *ideas*, and taken to its logical conclusion, your argument results in absurdities like the following “proof” of God’s existence:ARGUMENT FROM OFFENSE
    (1) God exists.
    (atheist makes counterarguments)
    (2) You know what? I am offended.
    (3) Therefore, God exists. How exactly are you different in spirit from those Islamist fanatics who want to gun down others for “defaming” Allah, other than in how far you’re willing to go? If God exists, and he’s as you think he is, then he hardly needs defending from the likes of you and I.

    Going by how touchy so many “believers” are about their precious “beliefs”, the only conclusion I can draw is that they’re scared that they aren’t half as secure in their “beliefs” as they claim. I know that if someone came by mocking me for believing in relativity or the evolution of mankind, I’d simply laugh off such ignorance and be done with it, as would anyone else secure in his conviction of the rightness of an idea.

  6. Abiola, any implementation of the categorical imperative will cause some hands-on problems.
    And though I agree with you in principle about this case, I think you mention an important point…

    >How exactly are you different in spirit from >those Islamist fanatics who want to gun down >others for “defaming” Allah, other than in how >far you’re willing to go?

    The last bit DOES makes a very big difference.

  7. “The last bit DOES makes a very big difference.”

    Sure, but in respecting outbursts like Florian’s, one paves the way to legitimizing the sort of anger that led to the killing of Theo van Gogh. The notion that there are beliefs so sacred that poking fun at them should be considered an outrage needs to be stopped dead in its tracks, rather than allowed to fester and grow.

    What it comes down to is that there really isn’t any difference between Florian’s attitude and that of the Muslim extremists outside of his greater (to date) ability to maintain self-control, and only God knows if there isn’t some “insult” that might him push him that far someday (though I doubt it). He, like they, is convinced that his “beliefs” ought to be beyond all questioning or “disrespect”, and that it is a grave insult to his person to do so.

  8. I don’t believe my eyes!

    “outbursts like Florian’s”
    Come on. My above post hardly qualifies as “outburst”, does it?

    All I did was to suggest to Mrs Tilton that in my opinion, making fun of other people’s religion does not appear to be very mature behaviour.

    Note:
    a) I hold this to be true for any religion.
    b) “Making fun of” is not the same as “critizizing”. Critizizing the catholic church (or any christian dogma) is certainly ok. Using abusive language (“Happy Cadaver Day”) as an aim in itself without any further argument merely is childish.
    c) I never even suggested that I was personally insulted (neither was I).

    I am rather surprised that (for Abiola) my asking for basic good manners seems to contain evidence that I am a likely candidate for extremist physical action.

    Obviously, it is so much easier to portray me as some religious nazi than to consider my arguments.

  9. Florian,

    Why does “religion” (generically speaking) deserve more respect than any other body of ideas? Why must one show “good manners” in discussing it? It would be one thing to ask for “good manners” in talking about its practitioners, but you’re asking that the ideas themselves be treated with kid gloves, and that is the crucial point. I see no reason why religion deserves more “good mannered” handling than does evolution, or parliamentary democracy, or conic sections.

  10. Why limit your caustic remarks to religion? If you’re going to go after people who take offense when their beliefs are ridiculed, why not include socialists, free-marketeers, environmentalists or well… everyone? Take care not to argue that only the religious believe in things based on faith, nor that they can get violent when their beliefs are ridiculed since it can be demonstrably proven that neither article is the sole property of the religious.

    If Florian takes offense to jokes about religion too easily, I’m inclined to think that’s because it is joked about more than the average topic and with sharper rididule, and not because of some personal failing of Florians.

    Personally, I find it noble that their are people in this world with a benign faith in things that I find unlikely. If the price of having them around is that I don’t(overly?) ridicule their beliefs, or that I recognize those people via something as small as a holiday, it seems like a small matter to me.

  11. “If you?re going to go after people who take offense when their beliefs are ridiculed, why not include socialists, free-marketeers, environmentalists or well? everyone?”

    Guess what – I do! I make fun of anarcho-capitalists, Randians, leftists, enviro-wackos, you name it, but the only ones who ever get all hot and bothered under the collar are the religious types. Somehow I doubt you’d be springing to Florian’s defense if I’d said something snarky about Newtonian physics, would you?

    Perhaps you ought to refrain from making silly assumptions in the future.

    “I’m inclined to think that’s because it is joked about more than the average topic and with sharper rididule, and not because of some personal failing of Florians.”

    Think what you please, I don’t agree in the slightest. Religion is a load of rubbish that is actually far too often deferred to, and I have no intention of doing so. Furthermore, anyone who thinks religion deserves such treatment is at best not worth taking seriously, and at worst a menace to a free society.

  12. “Guess what – I do! I make fun of anarcho-capitalists, Randians, leftists, enviro-wackos, you name it, but the only ones who ever get all hot and bothered under the collar are the religious types.”

    Really? You feel justified saying that, considering where we’re having this discussion? I’ll have to go back and look through all the heated comments I’ve read on the various AfoE entries and look for the religious meanings which I must have obviously missed.

    “Think what you please, I don’t agree in the slightest. Religion is a load of rubbish that is actually far too often deferred to, and I have no intention of doing so. Furthermore, anyone who thinks religion deserves such treatment is at best not worth taking seriously, and at worst a menace to a free society.”

    So speaks a small mind. We all have philosophies we disagree with, it takes a special kind of weakness to require everyone else to disagree with them as well.

  13. “I?ll have to go back and look through all the heated comments I?ve read on the various AfoE entries and look for the religious meanings which I must have obviously missed.”

    You have to be pretty daft to imagine that this is the only place I’ve ever had anything to say.

    “So speaks a small mind.”

    Said by an idiot. You’re hardly in any position to be talking about “small minds.”

    “We all have philosophies we disagree with, it takes a special kind of weakness to require everyone else to disagree with them as well.”

    It takes an utter moron to imagine that I care whether you agree with me or not. I speak my mind for my own sake, not for the benefit of the likes of you. Believe any old rubbish you want, just don’t expect me or any other sane person to genuflect before your nonsense.

  14. “You have to be pretty daft to imagine that this is the only place I’ve ever had anything to say.”

    I didn’t claim that. You said only the religious “get all hot and bothered under the collar” and I pointed out that there have been plenty of people “all hot and bothered under the collar” sans religion just on this website. Try to keep up.

    “Said by an idiot. You’re hardly in any position to be talking about “small minds.””

    Right. Care to explain why, or did your argument run out of steam when you realized you don’t know anything about me?

    And if you can’t take some mild criticism without going all to pieces, then you are small-minded.

    “It takes an utter moron to imagine that I care whether you agree with me or not. I speak my mind for my own sake, not for the benefit of the likes of you. Believe any old rubbish you want, just don’t expect me or any other sane person to genuflect before your nonsense.”

    Obviously you do care if people agree with you or not, considering how strongly you reacted to criticism.

    It’s also obvious that you’re not just speaking for your own sake, but are rather trying to persuade others in this entry to your way of thinking. Otherwise, why post? And why engage Florian? Why engage me?

    By the way, the way you’ve been “speaking your mind” in this entry is to no ones benefit. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re being profound.

    I must have missed the part where they asked you to genuflect. I came in just after you compared Florian to Islamic fanatics because he objected to some of the religious jokes. It sounded to me like you were being an asshole.

    Of course, if you think I’m wrong then just post your ethnicity, nationality or sexual affiliation so that I can post some relevant jokes and we can see how you react to it. And remember your own advice; even though your first reaction might be to object, that path leads to Islamo-fascism…

  15. In a world torn between the Islamo-fascists and Christian Bigots in alliance with the effing crazies – to quote Colin Powell – even President Chirac starts to look rather wise.

  16. Florian,

    I don’t think anybody here considers you a ‘religious nazi’. At least one person here, though (this would be me) thinks you are dramatically oversensitive.

    I’m well aware of the etymology of Fronleichnam. And I’m well aware of the significance in Roman Catholic theology of the concept behind the holiday. That concept is, after all, one of the major points of difference between catholics/orthodox and (most) protestants.

    You take offence at the joke-translation ‘happy cadaver day’. (As an aside, I should point out for non-Germanophones that this translation, as Florian notes, deliberately confuses the very common froh with the archaic Fron-, while Leichnam is a formal word for ‘body’ and closely related to Leiche, corpse or cadaver.) Very well. Then, as I have suggested before, you really need to take this point up with your fellow RCs. I learnt the phrase by hearing it used many times back in the days when I lived at W?rzburg, a town which, as you probably know, numbers a few catholics among its residents. (Again, as an aside for non-Germans, W?rzburg is one of the most staunchly catholic of German towns. It is one of the few heavily RC places in Germany that was not recatholicised during the Counter-Reformation. Rather, the Reformation never managed to take root there to begin with, perhaps because its princes were also bishops.) And many of those from whom I heard it were themselves catholics — most of these, to be sure, catholics in a purely nominal sense, which is the case for most German catholics (and protestants as well). But not a few were practising catholics. They didn’t seem to find the phrase anything more than an admittedly rather silly joke. And I have since heard it used by any number of catholic Hessians, Rhinelanders, Swabians and Badenser. If catholics themselves make this joke, then we non-catholics can only conclude that it does not cross the threshold of offence. I’m sorry that you, personally, find it rude; but I have to say, you seem to be in a distinct minority, even among your fellow catholics.

    You’re right that one shouldn’t be rude to catholics (or anybody else) simply because other members of their group did bad things in the past. I try not to make a habit of being rude to catholics. (It would make life awkward if I did, as I am married to a catholic — to a catholic, BTW, who does not find ‘happy cadaver day’ offensive.) But given what I have discussed above, I cannot see that this joke translation of Fronleichnam is rude, any more than is the joke translation of the protestant Buss- und Bettag (which, admittedly, doesn’t work as well under the new Rechtschreibung).

    But enough about that phrase, which after all reflects nothing more than the fact that there are, coincidentally, similar-sounding German words that mean something else. Let me ask you – did you take offence at that cartoon in the Titanic, the one that has as its heading ‘Neues vom Vatikan — Abtreibung ab sofort erlaubt!, and shows an elderly gent in full clerical regalia asking an altar-boy, ‘Na, Kleiner – heute schon Abt gerieben?’ (To non-Germanophones: the joke hinges on changing the syllabic division of Abtreibung so as to change its meaning from ‘abortion’ to ‘rubbing an abbot’.) ‘Happy cadaver day’ is merely a silly pun. The abortion/abbot-rubbing thing is far harsher. But there is a reason why that joke has its point, and it is not, as in the case of H.C.D., merely a matter of coincidental similarity of words. It would seem to me that, if you find the Titanic joke offensive, your best course of action would not be to come over all wounded about the joke itself, but to make sure the clergy of your church stopped creating a reason for the joke.

    I agree with you that one shouldn’t be rude to individual catholics today because of what other catholics have done in the past (or to Italians today because of the depredations of the Roman empire. etc. etc.). One can, in an historical context, criticise the RC church for persecuting protestants (or protestants for persecuting catholics), or for its dalliances with the nazi regime (and yes, the protestant churches in Germany were just as guilty; on both sides, there were a few valiant opponents of the regime, but most were Mitl?ufer if not active supporters). But it would be stupid as well as unfair to be rude to, or even to criticise, present-day catholics (or protestants) for these things. For a long time now, the overwhelming majority of catholics and protestants have had no interest whatever in persecuting the other side; they would think it highly evil to do so, and most would be baffled as to why one would possibly want to do it to begin with. And that’s a good development. There are sound reasons to criticise both churches for these things, but that criticism is limited to historical studies.

    But there also things for which the churches of today are open to legitimate criticism. One of them, as alluded to above, is certainly the predation of paedophilic clergy on children. And even worse here than the actual sexual assaults — any body of people will have some bad members — are the efforts by the hierarchy (efforts largely successful until recently) to cover the matter up and to protect the clerical perpetrators at the expense of their young victims. There are still high-ranking prelates who arrogantly insist that this is an internal church-discipline matter that the state should keep its nose out of, and who claim that the press’s bringing the story to light is an ‘anti-catholic persecution’ on par with those of Nero, Diocletian and Stalin. It would be wrong to blame individual catholics for the scandal. Most of them are as appalled as anybody else, if not more so; and in the United States, most of the criticism levelled at the hierarchy has come from catholics, not others. (Even the Boston Globe reporters who broke the story are, for the most part, themselves RCs.) But, for all the innocence of most catholics in this scandal, and for all their justified outrage, the fact remains that hierarchy of their church tried its damnedest to suppress the truth, and many of its bishops (there are some praiseworthy exceptions) continue to do so to the extent they can get away with it. Criticising the hierarchy for its actions in this scandal is legitimate; they deserve this criticism (indeed, they probably deserve criminal prosecution), and it’s galling to hear them try to spin it as ‘anti-catholic bigotry’, the more so when many of the loudest critics are themselves committed catholics.

    [BTW, I don’t want you to think I have nothing but condemnation for the Roman Catholic church. In the USA, there is a large network of so-called ‘parochial schools’, RC religious schools administered at the level of local congregations. They were started in the 19th century for an ignoble reason — to keep catholic schoolchildren ‘safe’ from American ideals of pluralism. But today, many of them are doing a fantastic job of educating poor children in the inner cities — a surprising number of whom are not catholics. That’s just one example. I think the RC church’s religious teachings wrong in many important ways (not surprisingly, as I am not a Roman Catholic); and I think that, on a secular level, its influence over the centuries has been mostly baleful. But any honest person has got to recognise that there have been many catholics whose faith has motivated them to do good, and sometimes heroic, things.]

    But again, we are wandering far afield. My comment at which you took such offence wasn’t criticism at all. It was a string of silly puns. You found it offensive. In my experience, few of your fellow catholics do; they make the same puns themselves. One does try not to be unnecessarily rude or offensive. But you’re expecting a bit much if you demand that everybody adjust their offence-o-metres to the standards of somebody off at the far end of the sensitivity scale.

    But what about the substance of what I wrote (to the small extent there was any substance)?. Nobody suggests that religious groups be forced to abandon their holidays. But if it would help boost productivity to do so (an assumption, but let’s accept it for now for the sake of argument), what objection would you have to eliminating religious holidays as public holidays? Every worker should be free to take time off on these days to attend a religious service, but why should the entire economy shut down? Do you think it ipso facto anti-religious prejudice to suggest that this be done (especially if the state in question is ostensibly non-confessional)?

  17. Felix and Abiola,

    you differ with each other, that’s obvious. I value the visits both of you make to afoe (and I’m sure I speak for the rest of collective in saying this). In the interest of preserving that value, may I ask you to tone down the personal attacks a notch or two? Each of you may attack the other’s position as strenuously as you like; we should all be happy to subject our ideas to the refinement of the crucible. But please try not to let your debate degenerate into a personal slagging match.

    In his capacity as referee on Slugger O’Toole, Mick Fealty often warns his commenters to ‘play the ball, not the man’. Mick is an excellent ref, and his rule is a sound one. Tackle as viciously as you like; but play the ball, not the man. (That goes for everybody, of course, not just Felix and Abiola. If you find me attacking a commenter personally, I hope you will blow the whistle.)

  18. @ Mrs Tilton:
    Ok, fair enough.
    And thanks for the detailed and well balanced arguements.

    “My comment at which you took such offence wasn’t criticism at all. It was a string of silly puns.”

    I realized that, of course.
    And as you might have noticed, I never questioned your right to criticize whatever institution you want to.
    My point has only been about the style of your puns which I found silly indeed (though I have to admit, that I didn’t get all of them and that I hadn’t realized the amount of thought you apparently have invested in them).

    I would like to call the matter settled, between the two of us.

    “I don’t think anybody here considers you a ‘religious nazi’.”
    Well…
    I was seriously shocked by Abiola’s attitude towards me.
    Quote: “What it comes down to is that there really isn’t any difference between Florian’s attitude and that of the Muslim extremists outside of his greater (to date) ability to maintain self-control, and only God knows if there isn’t some “insult” that might him push him that far someday (though I doubt it).”

    I don’t know on what basis Abiola formed this bizarre picture of my character. It wasn’t fact based, anyway.
    An apology by Abiola might reasonably be expected, though I doubt she sees it that way.

  19. “An apology by Abiola might reasonably be expected, though I doubt she sees it that way.”

    I’m not going to apologize for what is an accurate perception of your viewpoint. Your beliefs simply do not deserve any more respectful handling because they are of a religious nature than anyone else’s. Go ahead and poke fun at libertarianism or atheism for all I care, make the most outrageous puns you can think of on either theme – heck, lampoon libertarians and atheists as buffoons and fanatics if you feel like it – and see if I blink an eyelid, even though both are beliefs of mine. I don’t expect any deference to beliefs I hold simply because they are “sacred”, and I will never grant the same to anyone else.

    PS: For the record, I am a “he”, not a “she.”

  20. Florian,

    fair enough, as you say. I would only point out that they aren’t my puns, and none of the thought that went into them is my own. (I don’t think I would have known what ‘Fronleichnam’ is had I not heard it explained by catholic friends.)

    I still honestly do not believe that most catholics would find ‘happy cadaver day’ offensive. But I have learned that at least some do, and that’s worth knowing.

    If you read what Abiola (a man, by the way) wrote more closely, I think you’ll find that he does not equate you with the murderer of Theo van Gogh or the mullahs who pronounced fatwahs against Salman Rushdie. He doubts, as he says, that you would go as far as they have. But I suspect he does see a continuity, with you on the benign end. Clearly, though, there is a difference between posting a comment to a blog saying, ‘Hey, I found that offensive’ and shooting somebody because he has said something offensive.

  21. sorry for the gender mix-up.

    “I don’t expect any deference to beliefs I hold simply because they are “sacred”, and I will never grant the same to anyone else.”

    You needn’t. And I didn’t ask for it.
    But neither is it good style to call your opponent in a discussion a fanatic and potential murderer, just because you don’t like his position.
    I don’t know how you conduct your social life, but in my experience it isn’t helpful to go around insulting people you don’t agree with. That just isn’t considered decent behaviour, even if you tell them to go ahead and insult you back.

    And, just for the record:
    It most certainly is not an “accurate perception of my viewpoint” that I am a religious fanatic.
    The irony in this discussion is, that – while you accuse me without any supporting evidence of being a religious fanatic who might attack anyone not sharing his beliefs – it is actually _you_ rather than me who has shown himself unable to distinguish between person and position.
    The notion that it is possible to attack a position without personally attacking the person (persumably) holding them is apparently alien to you.

    These are the very symptoms of a fanatic which you pretend to despise.
    A symptoms of small mind, as FelixUSA has correctly pointed out.

  22. what objection would you have to eliminating religious holidays as public holidays?

    I know its not as much fun as a virtual rumble, but got me thinking. Options are:
    public holidays are chosen for non-religious reasons
    there are no public holidays and everybody gets x days extra annual leave.

    Although having everything shut down for a holiday strikes me as industrial revolution-ish, better to have the factory close and not pay anyone than have it under-staffed and have to pay those that arrive, public holidays go back far further than that. They have been an essential part of community life since communities. Additionally, although today’s holidays have recent religious significance most go back much further. Christ was not born at Christmas, however the Romans did have a public holiday at that time, and Christ did not die at Easter, although a spring-time festival is found in most cultures long before christianity. Public holidays are already, essentially, a-religious.

    However, the world turns. Few industries now rely on a full complement of workers. Spring ‘fertility’ rights don’t hold the same appeal as they once did. Communities are as likely to be international as village oriented. (An AfoE day holiday?) Do we need public holidays at all?

    For the traditional holiday-as-rest reasons, probably not. However, people are still people and they still need a nudge sometimes to sync-up with those they don’t see so often, be they family, friends or just neighbours. For me, Christmas is a time for family and I can ignore the hi-jacking attempts by both the religious community and by the commercialization squads. ‘Mary goes to heaven’ day is the only time the village meets together disregarding race or creed. I wouldn’t like to lose most of these days, and I don’t really care what they are called or where they came from.

  23. Florian, regarding your statement that you “didn’t get all of [the puns] and that [you] hadn’t realized the amount of thought [Mrs Tilton] apparently [has] invested in them”: They are in fairly widespread use in Germany; I am surprised that you haven’t encountered any of them earlier. After all, this is the country that produced Heinrich Heine, Karl Valentin, Kurt Tucholsky, Erich K?stner, and Dieter Hildebrandt, among others. See, for instance, where in “Deutschland. Ein Winterm?rchen” the narrator reminisces about the history of the cathedral of Cologne.

  24. Reimer,

    as long as you are recounting the Pantheon, I must ask you not to forget Gerhard Polt (or his angelic choir, the Bierm?sl Blosn).

  25. “But neither is it good style to call your opponent in a discussion a fanatic and potential murderer, just because you don?t like his position.”

    You’re free to play the victim game if you please, but the fact is that the attitude you displayed is one that is a menace to freedom of expression. That is simply a fact, and one I will never ever apologize for stating.

    “while you accuse me without any supporting evidence of being a religious fanatic who might attack anyone not sharing his beliefs”

    An utter non-sequitur. This is simply posturing on your part; please provide the quotes where I said any such thing.

    ” it is actually _you_ rather than me who has shown himself unable to distinguish between person and position.”

    Somehow I doubt that.

    “The notion that it is possible to attack a position without personally attacking the person (persumably) holding them is apparently alien to you.”

    Yawn. Argument by assertion …

    “A symptoms of small mind, as FelixUSA has correctly pointed out.”

    And a direct insult. I insist you retract your words, and I would like to see what the administrators of this blog intend to do about them. If you think me incapable of repaying the insult in spades, with interest, you are severely mistaken, but I’ll refrain from doing so on the advice of our hosts.

  26. “I insist you retract your words”

    You took the hook.
    I didn’t mean to insult you (as you are quite obivously no small mind) but after all you invited me to “see if I blink an eyelid”.
    And you did.


    An utter non-sequitur. This is simply posturing on your part; please provide the quotes where I said any such thing.

    OK, so I give you the quote:
    “What it comes down to is that there really isn’t any difference between Florian’s attitude and that of the Muslim extremists outside of his greater (to date) ability to maintain self-control, and only God knows if there isn’t some “insult” that might him push him that far someday (though I doubt it).”

    Thanks for the doubt, anyway.

  27. Florian:

    Let’s recast this discussion in other terms. Have you heard of the “Right to Offend”?
    I don’t remember where I came across this idea but IIRC, it goes something like this:
    (a) freedom of speech must be upheld
    (b) having a consensus not to offend the sensibilities of others makes it far too easy for people to restrict freedom of speech by playing the offended victim
    (c) therefore, offending others should be a right (i.e. upholding freedom of speech for everyone is worth hurting a few real feelings here and there).

    To put it more drastically, you either support the Right to Offend or you legitimise the assassination of Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Irshad Manji, and countless others who have dared to say things that others have declared offensive. It may sound simple, but I personally agree with the idea.

    It might help to clarify one’s position on this. Were you attacking Mrs Tilton’s Right to Offend, or merely telling her that her puns were in bad taste (in your opinion)?

  28. Being on the receiving end, I had the impression it was the latter.

    In any event, if there is a Right to Offend (and there is), then surely there is a concomitant Right to Note That One Has Been Offended.

  29. Quite right, Mrs Tilton. I would also postulate a Right Not to Listen to What One Finds Offensive. But no Right to Stop People Saying Stuff You Consider Offensive (except by actual persuasion, of course).

    The question is, though: Why bother noting that you’ve been offended? It doesn’t advance the discussion. And in the case of Florian: why bother noting that someone else might possibly be offended, even though you personally aren’t?

  30. @Sotong:
    You did ask exactly the right question. Thanks.

    @ Mrs. Tilton:
    You did give exactly the right answer. Thanks.
    I fully subscribe to every part of your last sentence:
    “In any event, if there is a Right to Offend (and there is), then surely there is a concomitant Right to Note That One Has Been Offended.”

    (Exactly. It was the latter right, which Abiola didn’t want to grant me. And this disargreement is really at the core of the argument the two of us have).

    @ Sotong:
    “why bother?”
    Good question.
    Had I known what a thunderstorm my first post would provoke, I would have remained silent.
    The matter wasn’t all _that_ important to me.
    But sometimes, such discussions just get out of control.

    By the way: the sheer length of this thread is, I think, the answer to a very justified question Abiola asked earlier:
    “Why does “religion” (generically speaking) deserve more respect than (…) conic sections”.

    Good question, really. And I am inclined to agree that Abiola has a point here.
    Yet there is an obvious difference between conic sections and religion:
    A thread about the former would certainly not have been as heated as this one. Abiola himself would not have invested as much time in revoking the arguments of someone with different ideas about conic sections, I assume. And neither would anyone else.
    This highlights the fact that, for many people, religion is very important and touches them deeply (whether they agree with religious ideas or not). And this is the reason, why it is no good style to needlessly make fun of religious ideas.
    Only in this respect do religious topics deserve special treatment.

  31. I see the good people of Fistful of Euros have had the pleasure of entertaining a discussion with Abiola Lapite.

    Oh what fun those always are!

    Cheers!

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