15 May 2012

Preparing Young English Boys, and Lawsuits

Some of you may remember this little meme from a previous post of mine that found its way astonishingly quickly onto the internet after the Dawkins/Pell ‘debate’ on the cusp of this year’s Global Atheist Convention.
[Before I go on here, just a quick note to point out that though I previously indicated my mate Sam Dekok as the originator of this meme, he was merely an agent through which this cultural gene proliferated. Considering the furore created by these thin skinned, lawyered up believers, I thought it might be worth mentioning on here.]
I am reiterating this because apparently the innocuous piece of photoshop didn’t escape the attention of Mr Pell, who promptly threatened to sue Twitter for defamation and loss of reputation, after comedian Catherine Deveny tweeted a link to the 'offending' image. As if his own performance on the night, whether it be questioning the intellectual capacity of ancient Jews, or stating that man evolved from Neanderthals, didn’t do more harm to his reputation.
Now my opinion of people hiding behind the ability to take offense at anything they are opposed to has been well documented on here, but I couldn't help writing a quick rant in response to this.
The theory behind Pell's litigious paroxysm is that the aforementioned image suggested either that Pell was a paedophile himself, or that he was complicit in the sexual abuse of children. One would think that given the state of affairs in the Catholic Church at the moment, Pell’s mere mention of involvement with children is suspect enough, and that any overt suggestions of a link, are only there to highlight the preexisting connection between the Catholic Church and child abuse.
Perhaps it is worth noting here that I am not insinuating that all Catholic clergy are latent abusers; I am just pointing out that the link between Catholic Clergy and the abuse (let’s call it what it is; rape) of children is so ingrained in the public conscious to the point that one hardly needs to remind people explicitly of this connection.
But you have to wonder how it could get to the point where one party can be threatened with legal action simply for redistributing something that another party said, regardless of if it was a mere snippet of the original, and could be taken out of context.
I mean, wouldn’t the joke work pretty much the same even if the ‘for communion’ kicker were thrown in? After all, the joke does not rely on the omission of the communion part of the anecdote in order to get its laughs. Rather it simply rests upon the dubious notion of Catholic priests ‘preparing’ children in any circumstances. The verb ‘prepare’ is not where the negative association lies, nor would the supposedly slanderous implications inherent in this half quote somehow be negated by the addition of the boys being prepared ‘for communion’. Instead, the Catholic Church takes the brunt of the irony in this situation, as the unfortunate state of affairs at the moment mean that the mere mention of Catholic clergy, in particular around children, inevitably brings about the notion of abuse.
And with good reason.
If Pell and his cronies don’t want to have their religion and its employees associated with such slanderous possibilities, then perhaps they should reconsider policies that have not only helped to cover up abuse in the past, but which also facilitate further abuse and the circumvention of justice, by knowingly ferrying rapists across the country.
Just a quick rant tonight.

08 May 2012

No More Encyclopaedias

Quick, when I mention the word Encyclopaedia, what brand springs to mind? Depending on how recently you were born I would wager that you either said Encyclopaedia Britannica, or else Wikipedia. True there may also have been some Encartas thrown in there, or if you are like me, a reference to good old Funk and Wagnall’s. But chances are that Encyclopaedia Britannica, once considered the epitome of condensed and categorised knowledge, was the first brand to spring to mind.
It bugs me that this image has disorganised books a little too much....
But the times have changed. To those of you who have only just discovered the internet and this so-called information revolution (there might be some of you out there), it may shock you to discover that electronic mediums are slowly replacing many forms of physical ones. However, to the rest of us living in the modern world, this has long been an accepted turn of affairs. The latest casualty of this natural progression is the aforementioned repository of earthly knowledge.
That's right, the last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, edition 15 which was printed in 2010, will indeed be just that; the last one ever printed.
2010 took both Britannica and Lost from us; it was a tough year.
I feel a slight pang of nostalgia here, as having hailed from the days before the internet I fondly remember constantly flicking through my parents Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopaedias, and searching for answers on a variety of unrelated questions. I was a very curious child, and had the questionably endearing quality so often prized in children of asking ‘why, why; why!’ of everyone until invariably I had to move from reluctant and annoyed people, to amenable and complacent books.
Ah books, you shall never call me annoying, nor implore me to shut up.
But all that being said, any sadness I feel at losing these old physically bound books pales in comparison to the excitement (and thinly veiled jealousy) I feel every time my son and I consult the internet, with its vast catacombs of information, at his persistent (and I wish I could claim genetically inherited) requests of ‘why, why; why!’. After all, things generally find themselves being replaced by more fitting alternatives; such is the nature of progress. Who can deny that the new mediums of computers, the internet, and a multitude of other connectable devices, have far greater capacity for the advance of knowledge than the still admirable, though wholly innovation saturated, physical books?
However Britannica lovers out there, do not despair; the Encyclopaedia bearing its name isn’t disappearing entirely. The company responsible for its creation is simply doing the smart thing and embracing the online frontier, with their focus now being delivering their lauded product in the digital arena.
At least the ascension of Wikipedia means that given we are looking at an Americanized (the 'z' in there is on purpose) information source as the go to receptacle for this generation, I won’t have to try and remember which order the 'a's and 'e's go in 'paedia'.