Since the turn of the century the rushing flow of events has swept us all, nations, communities and individuals. Political and social polarization has reached an unprecedented level of intensity. Diplomacy in its traditional role has all but vanished, and it has become not only fashionable but rather acceptable that coercion is the new lingua franca of the world. From the micro scale of the basic family upward to the clash of civilizations, one side is trying to shove its sense of justice, of right or wrong down the other’s throat. Dialogue is fading from our collective conscience like a piece of meat rots in the sun. Although censorship, in all of its manifestations, is not a novel development, political, social and economic evolutions have always been successful in eroding the extent of its prevalence. The mere fact that censorship is on the rise again is an evolutionary mutation. It has appeared time and again in human history in the form of indoctrinated politics and religion. My focus in this article is “moral censorship”, although I would rather call it moral oppression and tyranny.
A blind, rash, senseless and stupid stroke of political genius rendered Blogspot inaccessible to Internet browsers in Syria earlier this year. The majority of these users certainly opposed this decision. Many bloggers expressed their frustration with the known and often unknown decision makers behind the scenes. At the time, I wrote a bitter and angry article but never published it afterward for two reasons. First, one has to remember where he or she is and not stretch his or her luck too thin. Then, and more significantly, scoring goals is more important than beating up the goalkeeper. I continued blogging and circumnavigated yet another obstacle in a course full of them. Political censorship is wrong, but this post, as I have indicated earlier, is after another culprit which is sneaking up on our already almost non-existent freedom of expression.
Certain voices then and now keep bringing up a point of immense consequences, why does the government, any government that is, oppress political freedom of speech while turning a blind eye on the immoral literature, be it on internet sites, television stations, magazines or books. They are literally advocating and calling on the powers in control to exercise moral censorship on the masses. Pornography, nude pictures of men and women, suggestive music and inappropriate or explicit content are invading our cultural and religious fabric and integrity, they claim. They want the censor to tear off pages, to unplug cables and to break the waves of the onslaught of foreign and decadent influence on our puritan society. These individuals whose numbers are certainly on the rise, are using their religious beliefs or inscriptions, as they prefer to call them, to dictate and to impose their own sense of morality on the rest of society. They are absolutely convinced that they are right and that the others are wrong because the word of God is on their side.
Shouldn’t we question the validity of the hypothesis advocated by millions of followers that theirs is the one true and universal religion? I have no idea about the exact number of religions in existence today (there are far too many). However, you and I are certain that many adherents to every single one of these religions believe that they solely possess the eternal truth, the only and unique key to the gate of heaven. If that were to be true then what is the grand idea behind mass producing generation after generation of humans born to the wrong religion. If God only meant Religion X to be the perfect path, why is HE throwing newborns, left and right on the Y and Z roads. What is the point behind this biased game? I would heartily accept that all religions possess a certain amount of truth in them, of decency, of goodwill. After all, they are all human. Their dark sides are also inherent traits of their human pedigree. Is it not a little strange that no single religion could ever exist alone? Is it not true that their version of good can not survive if it were not for the presence of evil? Be that as it may, trying to impose a sense of morality on the grounds of divine rights is totally unacceptable.
We all have, as individuals and not as a group, an obligation toward our offspring. We are required to stimulate their senses and intellect in order for them to develop their own conscience. As adults, we raise our children on a matrix of threads. We protect them from the unknown and from what we deem to be dangerous. This is perfectly normal and as thus, if I were a religious person I would show my kids the signs that might lead them eventually to the stairway to heaven. But I would never give up my right of parenthood and ask the government to take over the responsibility of raising up my kids. It is my duty as a parent to supervise and guide them as far as what they watch, hear and read. I do not need a public servant to decide for me which particular internet site is offensive and which one is acceptable. If I have succeeded in my role of bringing them in touch with their own conscience then I have nothing to fear. Let them surf and sail every which way their untethered minds take them. They have nothing to fear.
I have previously expressed my dislike of and disagreement with a few blogs on political grounds. However, blocking them is wrong and nobody has the right to do so. I have made that choice on my own and refused to read them long before Blogspot was blacklisted. I feel exactly the same about pornography and "morally" questionable material. I would not go purposely on a quest to find pornographic sites. However, I stand by their right to exist and the right of any adult to browse these sites till he or she drops. Is it not strange that in a city like Dubai, where soliciting the services of a prostitute is as easy as ordering a pizza by phone, internet sites are blocked because of their morally unacceptable content? What about the other Arab countries from where I keep getting hits everyday on a long gone post about Fairuz. Through search engines and from behind firewalls, these maverick browsers were looking for a “smooth ass”. Who has the right to deny these poor souls their right to see an ass? I have previously made a joke about this particular incidence but now I repent.
It is beyond the scope of this article to differentiate between art and pornography as in doing so I would be negating the beliefs I so dearly hold. Whether I find a novel, a photo, a video or a song as a majestic objet d’art or as a tasteless, pointless and shameless piece of shit is my opinion only. It is also beyond the capacity, the duty and the right of a civil servant to appoint himself or to be appointed for such a malicious endeavor. If we fail to see the beauty that lies in between the extremes of human taste it is a shortcoming of our own eyes, of our own minds. It is my ethical obligation to defend beauty, abstract and earthly. I highly appreciate the spiritual content of all the religions I have read about but I disagree with their insistence on refusing the other, on indoctrinating a way of life for their followers, on permitting and forbidding. Humans have evolved (yes dear, evolution is not called “the theory of Darwin” anymore, it is a fact of life) and through their evolution they have developed a highly intricate conscience. At a certain stage in their social evolution, moral guidance through religion was a much needed step. But as in all dynamic processes, the possibility of something going wrong is ever present. Yet the powers of the human brain are unimaginable and it had eventually crossed this and other hurdles. Pornography is another mutation in our social evolution. It also is a result of human folly, when the line between beauty and bad taste is crossed.
If our traditions, arts and culture stumble under the heavy weight of external influences, it is our own failure. We can either choose to burry our heads defensively under the sand like a damn flock of ostriches or fight back by providing the entire world with our own, new and improved, versions of traditions, arts and culture. We need to wake up and finally reach the simple yet eternal truth, our sense of morality is not and could never be any better than the rest.