Sunday, December 18, 2011

Male genital mutilation

Female genitalmutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."

It is ironic and scary that religious and ritually motivated mutilation of genitals on young baby boys is only called circumcision. And in Norway, we are in full seriousness debating if the state is to do and pay for male genital mutilation - in the year of 2011.

Male genital mutilation removes the ridged band at the end of the foreskin on the penis. One can debate how many corpuscles (a kind of nerve ending that is concentrated in areas of greatest sensitivity) the ridged band has, or if it has sexually sensitive and plays a role in normal sexual function, etc. While these questions might always be debated even by science, it will surely also be individual differences that we can't measure. The only important points here are that we don't know what we remove, but we know there is no immediate medical reason to do it. This operation is irreversible and it also adds potential post operation complications.

No actions, especially the controversial ones, can build its support only on tradition. As a matter of fact, the longer ago it was started the more we should question if the reasons for it is well founded or rational.

The argument that ignorant or bad parents will do it illegally anyway has no merit as it then should also apply to all other bad traditions we have gotten rid of. Do some still hit or harm their children? Yes, but it is not accepted in our society now because we created that change. Children are treated better today and more abuse is being stopped because we don't accept the argument that we should allow something just because we expect someone might break the law.

One of very many perspectives here is this: Type IV of FMG includes the traditional practice of pricking the clitoral hood or clitoris of a baby girl to get a drop of blood. While it isn't close to physically cutting of foreskin on a baby boy, you hear no politicians or religious leaders publicly advocating for pricking being legalized or paid for by the state. All agree that all forms of FMG should be illegal. I claim the reason for this double standard is ignorance and/or misplaced tolerance.

Most of us agree that the very harmful and more known forms of FMG are absolutely terrible and we can't have any tolerance for it today. Still we are seriously, in this modern society, asked to tolerate genital mutilation of baby boys, for absolutely no medical reason, because it is a very old tradition.

I vote for the little baby boy. What he decides to do with himself and his body when he turns 18 is none of my business, but until he is of an age where he is capable of making adult decisions, adults have an obligation to protect him. First and foremost that is supposed to be his parents, but when they fail, it is the responsibility of society to put the human child before any human traditions.

As none of us accept any type of female genital mutilation today (irreversible or not), so do I predict none will accept male genital mutilation in the near future.  

When history one day looks back, how do you want to be judged?

Pet owner: -What would you say if I wanted to get my dog circumcised?
Vet (after a silence): -I'd have to report you to the ASPCA for cruelty.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I think, therefore I am

The principle of 'free will' is that you are free to make any decision. Examples:

  1. You are free to jump off a bridge.
  2. You are free to believe in God.
  3. You are free to go to the right instead of the left.

With 1 you are physically free, there is no thing or person holding you back. Why do you or don't you? Probably there are immediate instincts weighing in, telling you what you should do (e.g. fright). Maybe it is really high or the water below very cold. You decide not to jump because you can imagine possible consequences based on what you know.

With 2 you argue pro and cons in your head. There are a lot of emotional triggers connected to experiences from your childhood on to adulthood. And there are consequences of going either way - personally and socially - and not all are conscious. You weight these against each other and you select what sounds and feels most likely to you. With a mix of hope, maybe.

With 3 you are at this crossroad. There is an ice-cream parlor to the right and the office to the left. You know what you should do and you definitely know what you want to do. Your brain goes through the consequences and it challenges your values and principles. Based on a long life of learning you pretty much know all the pros and cons the two options have. You choose to go to work and you agree with your choice because you have the experience you know and understand the reasoning process behind it. At the same time the other option was fully possible, But all your considerations have causes even if we aren't smart enough to dissect them all.

The fact that you feel the process of processing all alternatives does not mean you are in a situation to handle the options equally. And as long as they aren't equal they aren't free. You land on your preference. This does not mean everything predestined, it means that everything has a logical cause.

Our choices feel free because we end up selecting what we agree is best. It makes most sense there and then so we do it. But you can't choose to jump off a bridge into your possible death if you aren't suicidal or have that lust for excitement. You can't choose to love the image of a god you find crazy and evil, just like you can't choose to like the taste of poop. And you did choose to go to work because of emotions and logical reasons. With a different brain or other experiences you might have chosen differently.

Free will would have to be a 'device' in your mind with the power to override your ability to reason and knowledge and experience. What is good with that? Wouldn't that just be a meaningless randomize function?

I'd much rather base my actions and choices in life on my ability to think and all my knowledge and experience, than on an ability to randomly make choices unbound by the same. I think, therefore I am.

"What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized. What we call random is just patterns we cant decipher. What we can't understand we call nonsense. What we can't read we call gibberish. There is no free will. There are no variables. There is only the inevitable.”
[Chuck Palahniuk]

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Silly ideas

The whole idea of monarchy is silly.

Some believe it makes good representation for Norway when its representatives (read royal family) travel the world. I doubt that is the whole truth. I am embarrassed that we send someone who is born into such a position to represent us. And I am everything but impressed if a nation send an individual with an inherited position to represent them. To believe our democratically elected representatives treat them with anything more than an obliged politeness is silly. The whole thing is beyond rational and I am not proud to be a part of it.

We live in a democratic state, monarchy represent a very different time and is the opposite of democracy. The majority may very well elect the current king or crown prince to represent us, but it should be based on a democratic and regularly repeated process.

That the current representatives of the Norwegian royal family are good and nice people might very well be true, I have no personal grievance against any of them. For all I know they are all better and smarter than me, but even if so then we are only lucky and nothing more. We should by 2011 be in a position to expect that whatever we do is based on elementary democratic principals and we should strive to live by such elementary principles. No matter if we currently like the monarchs or not.

"The thoughts of man, in order to be of any real worth, must be free. Under the influence of fear the brain is paralyzed, and instead of bravely solving a problem for itself, tremblingly adopts the solution of another. As long as a majority of men will cringe to the very earth before some petty prince or king, what must be the infinite abjectness of their little souls in the presence of their supposed creator and God? Under such circumstances, what can their thoughts be worth?"
[Robert G. Ingersoll, "The Gods", 1872]

Saturday, March 19, 2011