I have briefly touched on some of the various forms of discrimination in other blogs. Today, I want to look at why we need legislation governing discrimination.
One of the earliest forms of discrimination for which we have legislation, is that of the area of being a man or a woman sex. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God. Both have overlapping functions, like in the area of conception, but apart from that, there is no difference. Therefore, it is logical that both sexes should be empowered to realise their full potential as an individual, and to see how they fit into the community and the world. For, it should not just be about ‘oneself’, but also others, as we all are part of a ‘jigsaw’, and we need both men and women to do that. If one part is not fully functional, then the other parts are not at their peak. Of course, there are exceptions. There may be situations where only one sex can apply for employment, but these are not many. The problem is that many women are not given the opportunity to shine in certain positions or sector. Solving that issue is difficult without changing the culture of an organisation. And that starts in the schools, especially in the ‘posh’ schools like Eton. They should be setting an example. In all subjects, both boys and girls should be given a rounded education including how to run a home, cook and manage budgets. In the Church there is much misunderstanding of the Scriptures over the role of women in leadership. The Bible quite clearly states that all are given various spiritual gifts and natural talents, including leadership, to fulfil a ministry, whether it be a minister or a CEO. Within a marriage, the Scriptures also says they are equal, but the husband is the ‘head’ of the family (in that he has the responsibility to provide and protect). One other aspect of gender discrimination is when a woman becomes pregnant. Some businesses discriminate against women because they worry it will cost them more money when she goes off on maternity leave. Even though, it is illegal, the discrimination exists. Maybe, there should be a system where firms have to give reasons why a male is employed and not a woman and sent a report to the Equality Commission.
Another form of discrimination is in the area of race and ethnicity. Race seems to focus on the colour of your skin, whereas ethnicity concerns where one comes from. They usually overlap. We all seem to discriminate in this area, particularly when comes to nationalism. A lot of discrimination is against people who have a darker skin. Yet, many Indians, for example, will discriminate against those not part of their ‘caste’, especially if the person is from a lower ‘caste’. (We also forget the indigenous peoples of the world who are often victimised or simply excluded from any benefits a country may have in terms of its resources (eg the Native Indians in the USA and Aborigines in Australia) Discrimination also happens the other way like the attitudes of Blacks towards White people – they have a ‘chip on their shoulder about being a ‘victim’ of the system. A lot of the discrimination stems from the colonisation of the lands of many different peoples as well as the slave trade. Most of it though is all about power, having control over others, and not seeing them as equal. The issue of honour and shame also comes into the equation. For example, a woman marrying outside her religion or ethnicity or caste could bring dishonour to either side’s family name. This sometimes will lead to violence. This is because of our superior/inferiority complex and thus we are always seeking to protect our culture from outside influences instead of being enriched by others. We also think that because of a bad experience with a group, the whole group is tarnished in negativity. Some of this is done to history, instead of looking at today, and giving the other the benefit of doubt. Here again, it is all about changing the ‘culture’ of discrimination, not necessarily the society of the people concerned. Here, we need small groups of people from many different backgrounds to come together to discuss common issues like housing, led by a knowledgeable facilitator. And yet again, it is also about empowering all people to live out their full potential.
Next, we look at age discrimination. With people living longer, we need to re-think our whole approach to age. In many Western countries, the fertility rate is such that we will get to a stage where we will not ‘produce’ enough children to replace those who die or even to pay for the pensions of those living past 70, causing economic hardship. Part of that is due to the easy availability of abortion where we are missing 8 million people since 1967. Though the UK no longer has a ‘retirement’ age, some people argue that older people should ‘retire’ so younger people can apply, or because they are not open to change or the increasing pace of business. Then there is the issue of young people never having enough ‘experience’, and if they are taken on, they are only paid the ‘young person’ rate which is less than the current legal minimum wage. This works out cheaper than employing an older person. It also does not help when there are generational gaps where each age group does not have anything to do with other and therefore there is much mis-understanding. Part of the problem is a lack of respect for, and patience with, each other and not thinking of others, only yourself – the cause of the breakdown of family, community and authority. Businesses, Education and each community need to come up with ways to integrate all age groups through doing activities and being taught listening skills. This is also a cultural thing. In the past young people where very much ignored and had to listen to strict parents. But then, after the war discipline broke down as young people asserted their ‘independence’. So we went from one extreme to the other. We need a ‘middle road’ between the two where everyone is empowered to be their best, and everyone is involved such that people will self-discipline themselves after a certain age (say, 10 years), or parents will discipline them in an appropriate way. If there is no discipline, there is no respect. But discipline must be done in creative ways to build the child up through continuous love shown to them. It is important that we find time to be with others, especially in the wider family. An example of this is primary school children visiting an old people’s home and doing activities with them. Or students can have free lodging if they spend lots of quality time with an old person (The Netherlands).
And what about ‘class‘ discrimination. This is similar to the ‘caste’ system in India. In the UK we have the Upper Class, Middle Class and the Working Class. Even though the lines between them are blurred, there is till that attitude that one does not ‘mix’ with other classes. Some of this is down to ownership of property and goods. Many ‘posh’ people own large properties, often inherited from many generations. It is interesting to note, whether these properties were ‘lawfully’ obtained when in history, the King or Queen could allocate land as the Monarchy owned virtually the whole country. Today, many ‘posh’ people are those who have made their millions through business, not always ethically. (For example IBM helped the Nazis in developing a sort of computerised filing system to keep tabs on all the Jews in Germany.) When one comes to the tax system, Governments often help ‘rich’ people and their Corporations’ to avoid tax altogether through tax havens. The UK has many of these as does Switzerland, the USA and a few other places. Because of inequality in the class system, we need to really change the whole financial system we have so that the benefits of income generation is distributed more fairly, and part of that will be achieved by abolishing all tax havens whether onshore or offshore. Also, communities need to be built with many types of housing so the various ‘classes’ can live together and encouraged to form community groups so they can learn from each other and share resources to make each other’s lives fulfilling.
In a slightly different vein, there is economic discrimination. This tends to apply to trade between countries, and how a country’s budget is allocated to different regions. One of the main culprits in this type of discrimination is the uncertainities caused by commodity and currency trading. The other is the ability to find ways to produce goods where labour is cheap, like it is in India and Pakistan or in various African countries. Because of this, many poor workers are paid a pittance, with hardly enough to live on, and work long hours in appalling conditions devoid of any health and safety practices. Most businesses and leadership of some countries cream off any profits, leaving the workers and communities no better off from before the overseas companies starting working in the country. Take for example, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Kabila clan has deposited many millions in Swiss bank accounts, and the western companies put any profits they get into their tax havens and pay their executives huge salaries. We are all part of this because we are the end of the supplier chain of a product mined by locals who work with basic tools and in unsafe conditions. This situation is beginning to change with people being concerned about supply chains and the well-being of workers in Africa, Asia and South America in particular, and are becoming activists through many campaign groups. Hopefully, all businesses will begin to take responsibility for people throughout the supply chain, and stop exploiting customers to make a select few becoming disgustingly rich. In fact, I would say that, not only should the rich be heavily taxed, but they should also be giving much of the wealth away to causes that help humanity survive and thrive.
I now come on to the subject of religious discrimination. This can be a sensitive issue, especially as some followers of a number of religions become very violent if they do not get their way. Virtually all the sovereign states of the world have signed up to the UN Charter which includes the right to freely congregate to worship, the freedom to change one’s religion, and the freedom to disseminate ones beliefs in a way that is not coercive nor involves monetary persuasion. In some countries, the discrimination is between the different persuasions of a religion (eg Sunnis and Shi’ite Muslims) or it could be against another religion, especially if it is a minority one (eg Muslims been discriminated by Hindus in India). But the main religion which is being persecuted virtually everywhere is Christianity. This usually takes various forms – using blasphemy accusations (by Muslims against Christians in Pakistan) which often leads to the death penalty; employers refusing to employ Christians or people refusing to buy from them; or are beheaded for simply being a Christian, especially if you converted from another religion (in particular Islam). Even if you belief that your religion is the only religion, I cannot understand why people get so up in arms about any conversions from their religion; surely one should have a strong enough faith that your God will deal with those who leave your religion. Of course some of it is about ‘honour’ and ‘shame’. It is shameful because it taints one’s family, community or religion. That often leads to violent action to uphold one’s honour and thus disavowing that person. Another aspect of this is when a missionary religion like Islam in countries where it is a minority, try to use deceit to ‘take over’ various parts of a society, like the schools, and able to persuade Governments to find favour with them and not other groups. Of course, it is not just religious discrimination Christians face in many countries, it is in the area of secularism and humanism/atheism. It is in this area that the Christians are mainly being undermined. For example, a Christian nurse asked a patient if she would like to be prayed for. The patient could just say no, but instead she complained and as a result the nurse was disciplined. Christians are not allowed to be a conscientious objector, yet Muslims are – this is not equality. Governments need to wake up and see the subtle ways society is being eroded with many values fast disappearing in such things as respect, sexual mores, marriage and a whole list of others. Of course, it does not help that many Christians, because they are not taught to practice what the Bible commands, many are falling into the trap and are not any different from anybody else.
It is interesting that there is much discrimination when it comes to having differing points of view. Now, I am not advocating that anything goes, but freedom of speech exists to critique a different viewpoint of from one’s own. One could call this viewpoint discrimination. I find it difficult to understand why people say one cannot have a different viewpoint, even if it is wrong or not helpful. It is difficult sometimes to know where to draw the line between helpful and hateful criticism, because we all respond in different ways. That is why we need a better understanding of the belief/value system of the person giving criticism. By actively listening and learning from each other in an attitude of love and care for the other person, there would be less acrimony. At the same time we all have to stop over-reacting to statements made. This is where the media comes in. It needs to be better informed of the different groups of people and stop tarring a whole group based on the actions of one or more people. They need to be far more objective and balanced in their reporting. Take for example the issue of the abortion debate. The media are usually, however subtly, pro-abortion without really thinking through the issues and therefore anti-abortionists are seen as the enemy. Then there is the discussion about immigration where the ‘facts’ are distorted and thus not objective and therefore this leads to alarmist reactions by the public. Another area of contention is when it comes to criticism of another religion. Here, unfortunately, some Muslims take offence when this happens, especially if done by a street preacher. It is seen as ‘hate’ speech. Unfortunately, the police do not seem to understand the law of freedom of speech. If people are arrested for stating Islam is wrong, then people who criticise Christianity should also be arrested. This, of course, is ridiculous. People need to learn to take criticism and learn from it, especially if it is constructive and said in a caring way.
We also have marriage discrimination where there is much resistance from mainly family, but also some communities, to a joining together between someone from one community to another from a different one. It can also happen in the public sphere. An example of this was when JF Kennedy ran for President. The Protestant community were not sure about him because he was a Roman Catholic. Other areas where this happens is between different races, religions and classes (or castes). Most of this discrimination is about bringing dishonour to the community and especially the family, instead of rejoicing that two people have found love and happiness. Of course, it is not as simple as that because often two cultures are involved and people worry that each couple’s background may cause tensions in the marriage over the years. That is why it is essential that there is understanding of the commonality in each culture as well as the differences and how that will be reconciled in the marriage. There can also be discrimination when it comes to arranged marriages whereby a marriage takes place because it is expected and there are political reasons for it. An example of this is found in many royal marriages.
Disability discrimination comes in many forms – accessibility (being able to use facilities eg public transport and cinemas), attitudes (seen as ‘odd’; talking as though they are stupid), healthcare (not being seen as important – eg life support equipment turned off earlier than is necessary), and opportunities (difficulties to get a job or play sport because of lack of adaptions or expectations that a disabled person is still capable of doing a job, with adjustments). The biggest discrimination is in the womb, where a disabled baby is often aborted. (There is a Bill going through Parliament to stop this discrimination.)It is good to see legislation that is making sure that accessibility is in existence, yet on the other hand, businesses have not really thought this through. Take trains and other similar forms of transport. There are low level entrance/exits, but they are not level, so there is still some obstacles, mainly because platforms and train carriages are not at the right heights. Another example is of a cinema which has an external door which can be opened by pushing a button, but then the internal doors do not have a button. And whilst many wheelchair owners have had improved accessibility, those who are blind or deaf, there is not much in the way of aids, like braille signs. The biggest issue is changing one’s perspective about disability, seeing them as people, who just happen to have the odd issue stopping them doing certain things. That is why disabled and non-disable people need to work together to help each other to be empowered to live to their full potential.
And finally, I come to gender discrimination. This is a rather sensitive issue as there is a lot of debate surrounding it. We are talking about homosexuality, transgenderism, and other areas involving our gender and our relationships. On the one hand there is the debate about whether these gender ‘states’ should be recognised, and then there is the issue of how we manage teaching about it, and finally how one is to treat people as regards to areas like employment, marriage and church leadership. As I have mentioned earlier, God made each one of us unique and special, so whatever one believes, especially in this area, everyone deserves respect and care, not hatred. Everyone is a human being whatever their sexual orientation may be. With homosexuality, I believe that it is wrong as God made us to be attracted to a member of the opposite sex, not the same sex. Of course, not all homosexuals are interested in sex or marriage. When it comes to seeking to not be a homosexual, there is much controversy over so called ‘conversion’ therapy. Whether it works or is abusive depends on whether the individual has voluntarily asked for it and whether the therapy used is done in a loving and caring way. Because people who say homosexuality is alright, they need to realise not all people are happy being a homosexual. Coming to transgenderism, we are talking about a different ‘condition’ whereby someone who is born with both sets of genitalia or has female mammary glands, and male genitals, so the sex is not obvious. Here, after much discussion between parents and doctors, a decision needs to be made as to what is the appropriate surgery is required. Some children grow feeling they are in the wrong body and are often encouraged to change sex. That is abuse, because their bodies are still undergoing change and generally end up becoming happy with their body without the need for action when they reach adulthood. So, apart from exceptional circumstances, transgenderism should not be accepted. All this applies to other situations like transvestites and other ‘confused’ genders. Now with regard to discrimination, they should not be treated any less than as a human being. But, there needs to be legislation that stops discrimination against them as people, but does not recognise that they have any specific rights eg in same-sex marriage or to have transgender operations on the NHS. Also, such topics should not be taught in schools as the correct lifestyle and at the same time, children are helped to treat all children and adults as human beings, whatever their background. Also, the legislation should not criminalise people because of their belief that homosexuality is alright. Instead, there should be a cultural understanding that these forms of lifestyle do not fulfil God’s plan for them, done in an attitude of love and understanding. Here, the Church should be taking the lead in demonstrating the lifestyle as taught by Jesus, hence those who are ‘active’ homosexuals and those who have changed their sex (unless it was because of gender dystopia) should not be in leadership. At the same time, homosexuals and other gender change individuals should be welcomed into the community and at an appropriate time given material that will help them understand the biblical teaching, so they by themselves can decide what to do under God’s guidance. There should be no pressure.
What I have said above is probably not well-put, but I hope you get the gist of what I am trying to get across on this complex subject, and which I hope comes across as loving.
There are probably other forms of discrimination I have not covered here. But, I hope I have made clear that discrimination in itself should not be tolerated, and at the same time, we need to be open to both sides of the argument said in a balanced and loving way, ie be gentle not aggressive.