Få ting får blodet mitt til å koke som når ungdoms rettigheter overkjøres utelukkende fordi de er ungdommer. Derfor er den nåværende saken om bruk av narkotikahunder på skolen som en gigantisk rød klut. I en serie med spektakulært rotete og profesjonsuetiske beslutninger har først Oslopolitiet og Utdanningsetaten og nå Justiskomiteen i Stortinget blitt enige om at det skal være lov for politihunder å komme på besøk i en skoleklasse. At de der skal få gjennomføre en "frivillig" ransakelse av elevene der elevene "samtykker" til å bli snust på av en narkohund. De som nekter kan da "fritt" gå fra klasserommet og unngå undersøkelsen. For det er jo overhodet ikke sosialt stigmatiserende.
Kanskje ikke fullt så dramatisk i klasserommene. Svenske politihunder i aksjon, nasjonaldagen 2007.
At Justiskomiteen går inn for dette er meg uforståelig, både rent juridisk-faglig, men også moralsk. Saker som gjelder ungdom og barn krever at spesielle hensyn tas. De hensynene skal gi et særlig sterkt vern rundt respekten for ungdommen som medborger, og nedfelles i FNs barnekonvensjon osv. Justiskomiteens beslutning tar overhodet ikke hensyn til den særlig utsatte posisjonen ungdom har i samfunnet. Det alene er nok til å få meg til å synes dette er et forkastelig stykke arbeid.
Det eneste du trenger å spørre for å forstå overgrepsnaturen til disse ransakelsene er dette enkle spørsmålet: Kan du forestille deg en eneste annen arbeidsplass i Norge der politiet hadde fått støtte i Stortinget for regelmessige hundeundersøkelser? Kunne politiet gått inn i Stortingskantinen og gjennomført en "frivillig" undersøkelse av de ansatte? Kunne de gått inn på Deichmanske bibliotek? NAV Haugesund? Flyplassen i Bodø? McDonalds på Torgallmenningen? Hennes & Mauritz i Kvadraturen?
Å stille spørsmålet er å besvare det. Nei. Selvsagt, selvsagt kunne de ikke det. Det finnes ingen hjemmel for slikt utilbørlig og overgrepspreget press mot tilfeldige personer uten skjellig grunn til mistanke. Den eneste grunnen til at dette får skje, er fordi dem som blir utsatt for det er ungdommer. Slik avsløres en manglende respekt for ungdommens rettigheter, individualitet og selvstendighet.
Argumentasjonen fra Oktay Dahl om at dette er et godt forebyggende tiltak fordi det forekommer rusmisbruk og salg av rusmidler på skolen – hvilket er sant og dypt beklagelig – er fullstendig urimelig og kan ikke ha blitt nøye gjennomtenkt. Ungdommer behandles her som en "risikogruppe". En minoritet med utsatt status.
Så la oss stille et kontrollspørsmål til: Ville du akseptere tilfeldige ransakelser av personer med en eller annen form for minoritetsstatus (rullestolbrukere, svarte, eldre, kristne) fordi medlemmer av denne gruppen akkurat for tiden begikk mange lovbrudd? Ville du synes det var greit dersom politiet i morgen tidlig begynte å spørre om å få "frivillig" snuse med narkohund på alle med afrikansk bakgrunn i Grønlandsområdet bare fordi det står svarte narkolangere langs Akerselva?
Nei. Selvsagt, selvsagt ville du ikke det. Fordi sånt hører ikke hjemme i en rettsstat.
Når ungdommer ikke har like sterke interesseorganisasjoner som voksne til å ta vare på seg, så er det nettopp utdanningsinstitusjoner, politi og politikerne som skal ivareta deres integritet. Det er nettopp disse som har feilet nå. Det er ikke disse institusjonene verdig.
Ungdom har lik rett til personvern, rettsvern og beskyttelse fra overgrep som voksne. Dette er det ingen forståelse for i Justiskomiteens innstilling på at Stortinget skal vedta. Komiteen har gjort et slett arbeid. Jeg håper at dette forkastelige forslaget blir kastet ut av Stortinget like fort som Justiskomiteen kastet ut respekten for norsk ungdom. Voteringen skjer 10. mai.
I mellomtiden anbefaler jeg alle å følge med på duellen mellom justiskomiteens André Oktay Dahl (H) og Elevorganisasjonens Axel Fjeldavli. Jeg vet hvem jeg heier på: ungdommen.
"Skummelt å se hvor voldsomme romfolket er" er overskriften nå på Document.no sin artikkel her. Ja, det er skummelt å se. Skummelt, skummelt, skummelt. Romfolket. Romfolket er veldig skumle og voldsomme. Er voldsomme. Er. Romfolket er noe.
Oppførselen til enkeltindivider smitter over på helheten. "Politimester ved Stovner Politistasjon er sjokkert over råskapen som romfolket viser" skriver Document. "Aas synes det er skummelt å se hvor voldsomme romfolket er" skriver Aker Avis.
Det er Aker avis som skriver, og jeg har ikke lest artikkelen, så jeg vet ikke om dette er journalisten eller kilden, men det er verdt å reflektere over hva som sies her. Det sies at et sted mellom 2 og 12 millioner (ifølge Wikipedia) mennesker er voldsomme og utviser råskap. Jeg er rimelig sikker på at et sted mellom 1.999.800 og 11.999.800 av dem ikke er involvert i hva som skjer på Stovner, men whatever, de er voldsomme og de utviser råskap. Det er skummelt å se hvor voldsomme romfolket er. Romfolket er noe. Som helhet.
Rasismen som diskurs har som sitt første kjennetegn dette: At ideer (reelle eller ikke) om enkelte utvides radikalt til å bli en konstruert identitet for en mye større gruppe mennesker. Når man ser dette skje i et samfunn skal man stoppe opp og legge merke til det. Uansett hva enkelte rumenske tiggere gjør. Disse ranene av eldre må stoppes. Og tiggingen i gatene er et sosialt problem som må løses. Men de har ingenting å gjøre med romfolket som helhet. Og dem som sier det må tenke over hva de sier.
Hvis du ikke er overbevist, tenk deg disse overskriftene:
"Skummelt å se hvor voldsomme jødene er"
"Politimesteren ved Stovner politistasjonen er sjokkert over råskapen etniske nordmenn viser"
Alain de Botton has a book out called Religion for Atheists in which he talks about uses of religion for atheists. His view of the problem of religion is interesting enough: the social constructions we call religion have adapted through a range of historical challenges and traumas. They have adapted and evolved and have some features which makes them reproduceable. Culturally speaking, religions, despite their obvious flaws, work. This is also Richard Dawkins' point from The Selfish Gene: the religious memes have a surprising staying power because of their techniques and abilities. De Botton's point is that atheists and should try to adopt these cultural techniques instead of the value system behind them. Since religious sentiment is on the rebound, it's natural and probably not a bad idea that these thoughts crop up.
I've looked a little bit at the book, however, and it doesn't seem all that great. De Botton writes well, but never seems to go deep enough. He is a little bit in love with his own voice and most of the time fails to be the Oscar Wildean bon mot-creator that you see working so hard in his Twitter feed. You can get most of the good stuff from his TED talk below, however. But I still think that his point of view seems to be a fruitful way of approaching religion for atheists who don't subscribe to the Bible-thumping of Dawkins et al.:
Andrew Sullivan, the British/American blogger, on the other hand, has a point of view you should take a closer look at. If nothing else, then for the sheer eccentricity of it: he's a gay, HIV-positive liberal conservative not-so-conservative Catholic Christian. I've been following his blog for years. He's coming from a completely different place than me, and I disagree with most of his values and policy ideas. And yet there is enough common ground that his blog (insanely prolific, engages with readers, a pioneer in the field) becomes relentlessly interesting and challenging: I'll find myself nodding along to Sullivan's condemnation of torture or assault on the defamation of gays and religious minorites and suddenly there'll be some annoyingly well-argued position on drone strikes or personal faith or fiscal policy that jars me. One moment he's going off on the supremacy of Jesus, the next he's talking about his cannabis habit, his meditation practice and the viciousness of Rick Santorum. I enjoy the sheer unpredictability of it (the virtue I am coming to enjoy most in a commentator these days is unpredictability).
Sullivan is almost at his most interesting to me not when he's challenging me, but when he's challenging conservatives. He seems to bring the problems of modern conservatism (especially in the US) into sharper focus for me by critiquing it from a still-rarer Reasonable Conservative position from the inside. He shows how conservatism is a constantly broken promise, the failure to materialise of his own reasonable conservatism. And at the same time he shows me (not always intentionally) the inherent flaws in conservatism. The cognitive dissonance and "epistemic closure" that has come to dominate it, and which seems to me to be an inherent feature of what Corey Robin in his book-I'm-going-to-read-soon calls The Reactionary Mind. Sullivan doesn't always see this himself, but he helps make the case for it.
Jefferson’s vision of a simpler, purer, apolitical Christianity couldn’t be further from the 21st-century American reality. We inhabit a polity now saturated with religion. On one side, the Republican base is made up of evangelical Protestants who believe that religion must consume and influence every aspect of public life. On the other side, the last Democratic primary had candidates profess their faith in public forums, and more recently President Obama appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast, invoking Jesus to defend his plan for universal health care. The crisis of Christianity is perhaps best captured in the new meaning of the word “secular.” It once meant belief in separating the spheres of faith and politics; it now means, for many, simply atheism. The ability to be faithful in a religious space and reasonable in a political one has atrophied before our eyes.
Meanwhile, organized religion itself is in trouble. The Catholic Church’s hierarchy lost much of its authority over the American flock with the unilateral prohibition of the pill in 1968 by Pope Paul VI. But in the last decade, whatever shred of moral authority that remained has evaporated. The hierarchy was exposed as enabling, and then covering up, an international conspiracy to abuse and rape countless youths and children. I don’t know what greater indictment of a church’s authority there can be—except the refusal, even now, of the entire leadership to face their responsibility and resign. Instead, they obsess about others’ sex lives, about who is entitled to civil marriage, and about who pays for birth control in health insurance. Inequality, poverty, even the torture institutionalized by the government after 9/11: these issues attract far less of their public attention.
As a non-believer, this is exactly the kind of criticism of modern Christianity I want to see coming from inside Christianity. The disparity between Christian values as expressed in the Bible and most articulations of the Christian movement is jarring, and it keeps getting stronger, and making life a lot harder for the rest of us. If we have to find a way to make religion work in modern society, and we do, Sullivan's perspective needs to be in the conversation that takes place inside every major religion.
At the end, things get interesting. Sullivan fades out into a vision of a strange, pseudo-Buddhist Christianity. A completely personal salvation:
This Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement. And it is not afraid. In the anxious, crammed lives of our modern twittering souls, in the materialist obsessions we cling to for security in recession, in a world where sectarian extremism threatens to unleash mass destruction, this sheer Christianity, seeking truth without the expectation of resolution, simply living each day doing what we can to fulfill God’s will, is more vital than ever. It may, in fact, be the only spiritual transformation that can in the end transcend the nagging emptiness of our late-capitalist lives, or the cult of distracting contemporaneity, or the threat of apocalyptic war where Jesus once walked. You see attempts to find this everywhere—from experimental spirituality to resurgent fundamentalism. Something inside is telling us we need radical spiritual change.
But the essence of this change has been with us, and defining our own civilization, for two millennia. And one day soon, when politics and doctrine and pride recede, it will rise again.
Well, you know, thanks but no thanks, Andrew, but this could be an interesting direction for Christianity. The quietism voiced by Sullivan here is radical for a religious thinker, despite the fact that it is there in many ways in many of the ancient texts of major religions. There are obvious influences here from Sullivan's mindfulness practice (which he blogs about occasionally). And there is a distinct element of anti-materialist backlash and longing for non-economic values. Sullivan argues for a renounciation of worldly power so complete that he reminds me of the anarchist movement's roots in radical Christian communities. As a socialist, I get that. As an atheist, I don't get the need to go to God for it and see other places he could (probably even should) be looking. But Sullivan gets really close to articulating a religious view I can not only live with as a secular, politically engaged person, but accept beyond mere toleration. If he can really manage to pull of reasoned discourse and religious thought, I'll be first in line to applaud.
I remain skeptical though — pun intended. The obvious danger here being that religion becomes an unarticulated, distorting influence on policy decisions. I'm not sure I can find out how Sullivan answers that based on his article & writings.
Another video, which sort of brings together the themes of religion for atheists, Buddhist influence on secular persons, etc., is this interesting lecture by philosopher Owen Flanagan on "The Boddhisattva Brain". He is trying to use neuroscience and Buddhism to arrive at a secular worldview which incorporates the social and personal techniques, values and mind hacks of Buddhism. It's an interesting attempt, and one I have a lot of sympathy for. Buddhism was always the most appealing of the religions to me, and we can all use a little Buddhism in our lives. Seriously. If nothing else, then for the stress management. Flanagan has written a book on the same subject, if the talk interests you: The Bodhisattva's Brain.
Btw, I should probably mention once more that if you choose to buy Amazon books after clicking my links, I get a ludicrously small percentage.
I promised to try to keep a regular series of posts on lectures I find interesting. And I will (in this post! Which you're reading!). But first: lately I've been listening to audiobooks on Audible.com instead of lectures.
I recently finished the audio version of Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost. It's the sharpest work I've read on political corruption in the United States. I read it for insight into the way money "queers" (Lessig's term) the US political system. But the book really shines most when he delves into the nature of corruption. He gets so deep into the concept — corruption as an economy of influence, as something that can happen accidentally to "good souls", institutionally and structurally — that it becomes almost philosophical. An ingenious and deep work on the interplay between money, economies of political exchange and the political process itself, and a book with intellectual activism at its heart.
(On Audible, it is read — surprisingly well! — by the author himself. I'm now also halfway through an audio re-read of Edward Said's magnum opus from 1978, Orientalism, which still is as mindblowing as it was the first time. The definitive work on the culture of colonialism, racism, islamophobia and relations between the "Occident" and "Orient". Remarkably clear-sighted. Still the book that goes the deepest into the way we talk about groups other than our own, and one of the few books which really helps to explain the post-9/11 world. But the reader on Audible is not very talented, and the style does not lend itself to reading aloud, so get the real-book version instead if you can.)
But I promised lectures and listening, so here are some suggestions:
1. Kevin Slavin's "How Algorithms Shape Our World":
A rhetorically well-turned short and sexy TED-talk on algorithms in the financial sector and other places. It's sexier than it sounds, by which I don't mean that there's any actual sex in it, but it's about algorithms in a really interesting, fun and deep way.
2. This panel on the American Civil War was filled with new ways of seeing its object. All the panelists show us different facets of how the war created and shaped modern America and race relations in it, and by extension the Pax Americana world. Gripping and eye-opening, if you can skip past the introduction which takes about 24 years. I found it via Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, which is required reading.
3. I had the honour of interviewing Ian McEwan a while back. We had an hour-long conversation on climate change, the Rushdie affair, the travails of his now dead friend Christopher Hitchens and how the culture wars of the 90s fed into Saturday. He was an easy and eloquent conversationalist, a well-structured interviewee, and he doesn't give the same answer twice, or at least very rarely. All this is just a way of saying 1. I have talked to Ian McEwan and you have not and 2. But I still like hearing interviews with him. So this hour-long interview with him, from The Guardian, should be enjoyable for anyone interested in his work or in the contemporary British literary scene.
I live in Oslo, Norway. Where I work as a journalist in the literary supplement to the daily newspaper Klassekampen.
This is my personal blog, which I've kept on and off in one incarnation or another since 2003. I post both in Norwegian and English. If you want to read the blog exclusively in one of these languages, use the links below: