Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thanks, but I can think on my own.

Freethought is a philosophy which states that opinions should be independent from tradition, religion or any other authority. Rather, the source of opinions should only be influenced by logic, reason and science. One of the problems in this country that I noticed more and more frequently is the absence of freethinking. We seem to have this obsession with the idea that another party can do all the thinking for us. Somehow we not only found it okay to do so but shockingly enough it is what is preferred. And as if that wasn't dangerous enough, people don't even realize they're doing it. Everyday people live their lives and make their decisions according to how someone else wants them to act. By acting and speaking according to the ideologies of others, how, when and where exactly do we define our humanity? In the end, our humanity is all we have that is really ours. So why is it so easy to hand it over to be tainted by someone else?

The phrases "God says so" or "Religion dictates so" are ever popular and ever resonant on TV, radio, internet and just about everywhere else. Throughout history, countless people have hidden behind these phrases to prey on others who are looking for answers. These are people whose voices are loud and substance is little. These are the people who have told us how to dress, what to eat, where to sit, and outrageously enough, what to believe in, no questions asked. Millions have listened and adjusted their lives according to phrases like these without even a second thought. Why? Why would free and seemingly intelligent people allow themselves to be violated in such a sense without even realizing it?

I understand that everyone is looking for answers, but logical and scientific reasoning aren't out to violate anyone, and offer answers to anyone who bothered to find them for themselves. We are curious beings by nature, and as such, we have an innate need to understand the world around us. Religion for example, tells us that the universe was created as a stage for man's spiritual conquests which, if worthy enough, ends up in paradise. Science is a little more humble. According to science, we are here by chance. There was nothing planned. And when our life ends, it just ends. Science does not promise an eternal afterlife filled with earthly pleasures. It also does not glamorize or sugarcoat. It is concerned only with fact, yet it provides us with the answers we are looking for, as grim as they can be sometimes. With these answers, we understand the world around us. Religion however, asks of us to be quietly satisfied with things that we do not fully understand. Despite all of this, it is harder for most people to believe in science than in religion. Why? Because that is what they were told.

I am not speaking out against religion. I am speaking out against a bad habit that a lot of us have viewed as a luxury and have gotten used to. A habit that others are taking advantage of. Thinking is a gift and we are intelligent and able. Able enough to think for ourselves. It is our right as human beings and a duty to ourselves. It is time for a change, for progress. Closed books can never be altered, and now is the time to open them. Think long and hard, and then decide: How much of you is really you?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Liberalism: The L Word

Kuwait prides itself to be a conservative country. Kuwait also prides itself to be an Islamic country, and that's fine. But is everyone happy? Kuwait is home to a multitude of nationalities, cultures and religions. Not everyone is Muslim. Not everyone is conservative. Not everyone is Kuwaiti. It's great if you are though, because you get benefits galore. If you're not, however, what is it like?

At the hands of men with authority, while hiding behind the mask of religion, schools became segregated, censorship flourished, male MPs tried to enforce Hijab on their female counterparts, and religious minorities were denied their need to build a place of worship. Some would call it progress. Well, the way I see it, unless they somehow found a way to progress backwards, this is not progress.

This is where Liberalism should step in. Unfortunately, liberalism, along with the dreaded S word (Secularism), aren't words -let alone ideas- that the average citizen would want anything to do with. There is this uniformity in thinking that the belief in liberalism will lead to the loss of morals and values when in actual fact, the whole foundation of liberalism is based on protecting the morals and values of all individuals no matter what they may be. So why the stigma? To attempt to answer this, lets turn to the definition of liberalism. Liberalism comes from the Latin liberalis meaning "of freedom", and basically it is the belief in personal freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of expression being two examples. The dictionary defines it as:

"A political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties." 

It seems simple enough. A government that respects and protects the freedom of the governed. It almost sounds ideal. The absence of the word religion, however, has proven to be problematic. This is not, in the least, to say that liberalism does not protect religious rights because it certainly does. All religions, all faiths, all beliefs. This is also problematic. The Kuwaiti people are used to Islam being the main source of ... just about everything. So when an idea comes across that would advocate and protect the rights of other religious views, they won't know what to make of it, until they hear claims by a sea of overzealous religious clerics comparing liberalism and secularism to heresy. Once something is said in the name of religion, people tend not to argue.

So what has to be done? We need to wake up, educate ourselves, and speak up. There is increasing tension in this country, and personal freedom is worth fighting for. It is a fight for a country that supports the ideologies that religion  is supposed to stand for: justice, liberty and equality, for everyone. Now THAT, would be progress.