Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't let them tell you
who you cannot love

If you know me well, and are reading this, you might know I identify as a Catholic, so forgive me if this posts seems a little hypocritical. I have always believed in the existence of a God, and I most probably always will. Even before any external organization could have had influence, I innately understood that there was a common creator of everything and that it loved it all so much, it was something beyond my comprehension. It is one of the earliest and most consistent memories of my childhood.

That being said, I don't believe that members of any organization in a free society must follow blindly the wider views held by that organization as a whole, nor should they. It is a behavioral trait that seems to me all too common within most large hierarchical and authoritarian systems in society, and this one that I happen to belong to in particular.

If you know this fact about me, you would almost certainly also know that I'm currently finishing a PhD in Chemistry. After seven years, inspiration is in short supply and thus, I am presently reading the biography of the late Linus Pauling in the hope of receiving some. The only sole recipient of two separate Nobel Prizes, one for chemistry (1954) and one for peace (1962), he was a brilliant scientist and a dedicated political activist. A firm advocate of a mandatory scientific education from the earliest levels, he believed this would not only benefit the scientific community, but the world community as a whole. If people were taught to approach problems scientifically he reasoned, with a methodical thought process free of preconceptions and prejudices, they would come to the best possible resolutions to the problems they faced. Weighing all possible outcomes and facts equally, they would be much less likely to partake in the irrational and destructive behaviour that is so becoming of our nature, say for example, resulting to violence in order to resolve even the most minor differences and disagreements. On the occasion of receiving his first Nobel Prize, his memorable acceptance speech included the words:

“When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect---but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or has lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong. The world progresses, year by year, century by century, as the members of the younger generation find out what was wrong among the things that their elders said. So you must always be skeptical—always think for yourself.”

I would have to say that this trait is one of the most unexpected and rewarding things to have come from my own education in science yet. When you look at the current legislation in Australia preventing gay and lesbian couples from being legally married objectively, if you strip away all the right-wing bullshit, opinions and hand waving, all you are left with are the same conservative prejudices. The same fear of things you don't understand. The same distrust of anything different to yourself. They are the same things that lurk in the heart of every racist, sexist and bigot. They are things which I am ashamed to say, have dwelt in my own heart more often than I care to remember.

When I went out and took to the streets with these people to take the images you see below, it confirmed beyond any doubt what I have felt in my heart for so long. That they are not very different from myself at all. That if this god I believe in created them, why would it bother doing so in a way that was inherently displeasing to itself? That myself and a society cannot possibly hope to follow the commandment "Love one another as I have loved you", if we don't grant each other the same personal freedoms. That the day my church stops pursuing the legislation of its ridged and antiquated morality, it might start to again introduce people to the unconditional love of god, instead of driving them away.

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