Monday, 10 November 2014

AFTERNOTE - Facts, Values, and Logic - why compromise is getting more impossible (The Religious Element)

The two examples from the previous post feature issues affecting the animal welfare lobby. The examples were most recently in the media at the time of this blog piece, and so were the most germane or contemporary. Not that clash of values are only likely or possible with Animal Welfare Groups.

There are other examples of challenges to authority, and the increasing improbability (if not impossibility) of compromise and consensus.

Lawrence Khong and his challenge to the law is an example of a conflict of values. Khong dismissed a staff on moral grounds when the woman was pregnant. This was against the employment act. His position, (he claims) was informed by Christian "morality" as the woman had an adulterous affair with another church staff who was also married. Khong felt that he had the moral authority to dismiss the woman on moral grounds. He was affronted to learn that the laws of the land had precedence and primacy over his religious "morality", especially when it came to protecting the secular rights of employees. He initiated a court action to pursue his position (that the church has independence to act on moral grounds).

His question about how moral values and secular values should be resolved, is not a new one. It has been covered by the Bible.


Apparently he was absent during Sunday School the day they covered Jesus's answer - "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."

Another example comes from some time back when a group of Muslims pushed for the Govt to recognise the Tudong/Hijab (hereinafter referred to as tudong) as a mandatory accoutrement or attire for Muslim women and to allow Muslim women in uniformed services to wear the tudong, or a uniform version of it.

One argument for such a official government (or state) recognition was that there is precedence for such a provision as Sikhs in the police and the military are allowed to wear their turban.

The problem with that argument is that the Sikh requirement for a turban is an unchallenged and unambiguous requirement of their religion. The tudong, however is not.

And therein lies the clash of values or beliefs. There are individuals or groups in the Muslim community who believe that the tudong is a religious requirement. There are also groups and individuals who do not believe so. Islam is a very participatory, even democratic religion, and for any rule, or religious requirement to be held to be applicable to all, the community must agree, must have consensus on the issue. The simple fact is that there is NO consensus in the Muslim community of Singapore that the tudong is a religious requirement, or mandatory. This is an issue for the Muslim community to sort out.

However, some Muslims (those who believe the tudong is or should be mandatory) have decided to push for Government recognition of the tudong as mandatory. This is a fifth column subversion. Instead of working toward consensus within the Muslim community, these activists seek external validation of their views, and if they achieve it, can present it to the others in their community as a fait accompli.

In this, they disrespect the others in the community (perhaps they view them as lesser Muslims? Or not "true" Muslims?), and they think they are smarter than the Government or that they can manipulate the government.

The Tudong issue is probably a good example of how we are fragmenting as a society. Even within the same religion, with supposedly the same values and perspective, the community cannot come to a consensus. What hope for a multi-racial, multi-religious society like Singapore with different faiths, worldview, perspective, and history? And what more with widening income and income inequality?

The future of Singapore lies not in how to come to consensus or how to compromise. It may well lie in how we handle conflicting values.

Or is that the definition of "compromise"?

Or perhaps the future of Singapore is a fractured society, with little in common to pull us together, and a ever-increasing range of values and differences pulling us apart, fragmenting, splintering, dispersing us?

And it is not just religion and the sects within the same religion. There are differences between the capitalists and the more socialist-inclined, between the haves and the have-nots, between the animal welfare groups, the environmentalists, the climate change activists, the vegetarians and vegans, the anti-GMO food activists, the homeopathicists, the car aficionados, the traditionalists, the early adopters, and... I was going to say the rest of us, but really, we all belong to some group or "cell", don't we?

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