Monday, 23 November 2015

On an Acultural Society

So, yesterday there was a story on the BBC about how the Church of England was angry because a major cinema chain refused to show an advert for prayer.  They claimed that it was an assault on free speech and another example of Christianity being forced out of the public sphere.

I do not precisely agree with them, but I do think that it’s symptomatic of a slightly different problem.  The cinema chain in question has made it clear that this is not a question of discriminating against Christianity; they have a firm rule against airing any political or religious adverts of any persuasion at all.  Well, fair enough then.  That’s their rule, and as long as they continue to apply it equally, then I don’t really feel that there is any space to argue.

Instead, I consider it another example of what I refer to as aculturalism.  We are informed that we live in a multicultural society, and there are those that approve of this, and those that do not.  However, it seems that efforts are continually being made to ensure that we live in a society without cultures at all, a grey, claggy homogenous mass of human porridge, one spoonful indistinguishable from any other.  Partly it’s our own fault, partly I feel that it’s being forced upon us, and has been for some time.

Surely in a multicultural society, a cinema chain could happily show adverts for Christianity and Islam and Hinduism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats and the Buckets for Shoes Party, and if we weren’t interested in those things, we’d ignore them, as I tend to do for adverts for most things.

I’ve said that it’s partly our own fault, because people seem incapable of ignoring them.  Either we apply ourselves to taking offense or leap upon our charger and go to battle ‘because other people might be offended’, or we start hurling abuse and making ourselves offensive because we happen not to like what’s being advertised.  For proof of this in action, I refer you to the comments section of the story linked, or indeed the ‘Prayer Wall’ of the website being advertised, both of which have swiftly filled up with vitriol from malicious atheists, furious that religion has dared to raise its head above the parapet and bring itself to their attention.

We obviously cannot be trusted to experience difference without fighting and becoming offensive and spiteful, and so it is withheld from us.

However, there is also a deliberate policy of aculturalism.  As the old adage goes, ‘Don’t attribute anything to malice that can just as easily be attributed to incompetence’, or in this case, laziness.  After all, it would be a terrible nuisance having to make sure that no on group was given more advertising time than another, and a cinema is a commercial concern, not a public education centre. 

On the other hand, the same trend has been seen elsewhere.  Some years ago, there was a story about how a prison was ending Christian classes for prisoners, because there was no equivalent for other religions.  The idea of calling other religious leaders in to run classes presumably sounded like far too much work, and much harder than just cancelling the Christian one, so that’s what they did.

Hospitals stopped stocking Bibles in rooms in case they caused offense.  The idea of inviting other groups (religious and secular) to place their own literature was obviously too hard.  Admittedly in this case, you don’t want wards overflowing with books and tracts, but surely each group could be restricted to a single pamphlet?

In every case, the path of least resistance has been followed, and so gradually, rather than a multicultural society, we are getting a society of the bland, of the lukewarm, of the absence of anything rather than the presence of everything, of the grey rather than the rainbow.  Surely this approach fosters ignorance over knowledge?  It’s the very opposite of what the government and numerous governments before them, claim to want.  It ensures that everyone knows nothing about anyone else, and therefore remain suspicious, afraid and hostile, where they should be knowledgeable, and understanding even in their disagreement.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like porridge, I have it almost every day during the winter, but that doesn’t mean I want to live in it.  We don’t need to learn to accept difference, we need to learn to discuss it in a civilised and moderate manner, and agree to disagree in a courteous and respectful manner.

If (and it is an ‘if’) we’re serious about multiculturalism, then we need to ensure a multitude of cultures, and at the moment, that is not what we’re doing.

1 comment:

  1. Paul the pagan housemate24 November 2015 at 19:51

    Fully agree - I really appreciate a place in a hospital, for example, which is a place for reflection and prayer. I'm not Christian myself, but in that place, there is a box with items and icons to 'adapt' the room to whichever you see fit - or none [the simple hook on/off icon for holy symbol slot is pure simplicity in operation and does not cause offence.
    The main concern for me is when ANY religion chooses to push its agenda. By all means, advertise, so long as the place that is advertising it is prepared for that discussion, for openness to any and all who want to advertise [if public domain].
    Company x who says they will only put up religion 'z's advertising is biased and I personally feel wrong, IF IN PUBLIC DOMAIN - ie libraries, council buildings etc. If Little Joe the baker wants to only put up Christian flyers, then fine, do so - BUT be prepared joe for an ulmighty backlash if you don't cater to others and choose to voice that as you will be annihilated in today's media frenzy of PC-ness.
    Do I ewant Joe to be able to do what he likes? Yes, but I also want a society where people can go - "ooh lok, a celebration is on at the mosque and there's a carol concert on later, shall we go to both dear?" and enjoy both, learn from different cultures and then go home to the porridge served up on TV...