Anger and intolerance

“ANGER and  intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Under the guise of righteous anger, various Roman Catholic and fundamentalist Christian groups pressured the visual arts director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Karen Flores  into resigning her post following her approval of the “Kulo Exhibit” which featured Mideo Cruz’ controversial image of Jesus Christ with a wooden penis on his face.

Cruz’ controversial work immediately became the target of politicians, religious fanatics and crusaders who found it ‘obscene and profane.” Some of these zealots even threatened to harm those involved in the exhibit hence its abrupt cancellation early this week.

What happened here immediately reminded me of the into-lerance of the Taliban that led them to blow up the thousand year old statues of Buddha in Afghanistan in 2001. It appears to me that  both the Taliban and the Christian zealots who vehemently wanted an end to Cruz’ exhibit have both exercised religious power to achieve their respective goals – that is to suppress ideas different from their own.

This fundamentalist beha-vior or bigotry is clearly a throwback to the 12th century, a time when the Inquisition (Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis – inquiry on heretical perversity) started. The almost seven centuries of the Inquisition led to the death of perceived enemies of Christendom, even those who merely questioned the power of the church over lay issues. They were either slaughtered or imprisoned under very inhumane conditions.

The same prevailing fundamentalist understanding of faith during modern times led to numerous religious wars and persecution which also cost countless innocent lives. It is the same religious beliefs and holier than thou attitudes that led to them to the modern version of the Inquisition.

Unfortunately for us Filipinos, the Age of Reason, which began in the 18th century in Europe, has yet to fully dispel the darkness brought about by religious fanaticism in our land.

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It is a basic democratic principle that all views, especially those contrary to the majority, are to be heard or, in this case, seen.

Respect for divergent views is what advances the cause of equality, liberty, progress and happiness for mankind.

Suppression of this basic right is not only an outright contempt of democratic ideals, for which a lot of people all over the world fought and died for, but a tragic backward step to ignorance.

Let us not  forget that our own liberation from the clutches of the Marcos dictatorship was preci-pitated by free thought and expression (remember the mosquito press). It was also the right to free expression that, among    others, led to uncovering of the numerous anomalies of the previous regime.

I respectfully submit Ignorance must be banished and the right to free expression be protected whether we like it or not. Kindly allow me then to paraphrase Voltaire, the French philosopher known for his advocacies of civil liberties: “I may not like or even agree with Cruz’ exhibit but I will defend his right to exhibit it.”

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The main argument of these religious fanatics against Cruz’ exhibit is that  it is offensive. Some admonished me for defending Cruz (as I was educated in a Catholic school) and even reminded me (sic) that tolerance is different  from profanity.

It is precisely due to the education that I got from the University of Santo Tomas that I am defending Cruz’s right to exhibit his work as I was taught by the only Catholic, Royal and Pontifical University in Asia that religious bigotry has no place in a democratic society and that the modern Christian faith is about hope and charity meaning mercy and tolerance.

I wonder where these self appointed defenders of the faith were while the culture of impunity permeates every aspect of our society.

Where are you when ordinary people are being massacred by the organs of State? Where are you while the rich and powerful rape our environment and economy? (TO BE CONTINUED)

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