GD-Zone Archives Logo

GD-Zone Archives Logo
Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Till divorce do us part...

I decided to vote NO to the introduction of divorce for the upcoming referendum. I am not taking this decision on the basis of my religion or belief. Rather, I base my judgment on the simple fact that if I voted yes to divorce, I would be deciding without knowing the possible implications divorce will have on Maltese society as a whole and on the family in particular. Granted, both pro and anti divorce camps have cited evidence that support their arguments. However, useful as they may be, studies conducted abroad go only as far as providing examples of potential scenarios. Indeed, to have a proper insight on the possible impact of divorce legislation, it is crucial that we examine the state of the Maltese family and also take into account our particular cultural, historical and economical characteristics essential if we really want to encourage stronger marriages.

Unfortunately, instead of considering how, for example, divorce will affect future generations or those at risk of poverty and social exclusion, some are exploiting the divorce debate to forward their anti-clerical agendas. While I agree that there needs to be more separation between the state and the Church, using divorce to achieve this goal is both irresponsible and, yes, selfish. As a non-practicing Catholic, I feel that my voice and opinion is being misrepresented as fundamentalist simply because I happen to agree with the Church’s position on the issue. In addition, people who are against divorce like myself are further being accused of ‘imposing’ their views on others and only thinking of their own interests.

However, aren’t we imposing divorce on future generations? Especially, if you consider that we are taking a leap in the dark since we have not bothered to understand why some marriages are failing. Have we stopped to reflect on the causes of marital breakdown in the first place? Have we explored ways to alleviate the pain and suffering of couples experiencing problems and invested in providing proper support and guidance? Have we asked ourselves whether couples are committing themselves to marriage without really appreciating that a married life has its ups and downs? Are we bringing up our children to develop the values of love and respect for others and the skills of listening and communication – so essential for any human relationship and for a healthy married life in particular?

Thus, I sincerely believe that the only responsible answer to the question posed by the divorce referendum is a NO vote. In a future when I am faced by evidence to suggest that divorce will be of benefit to Malta, I might reconsider my stance. But only if such a decision is for the common good and not based on anyone’s personal agendas. Call me egoistic, but at the moment, if I decide to marry in the future, I will do so with a commitment to a life together with my partner till death divides us. After all, in Malta, very few are forced into marriage. But, sadly, very few take the time to understand each other.

Background Information

Malta is the only European member state with no divorce legislation. Even if Malta recognizes the status of foreign divorcees, Maltese people cannot be divorced locally while the process of attaining a divorce involves considerable cost and time. While there have been debates on whether divorce should be introduced in the last few years, a decision to hold a referendum over the issue was reached following the approval of a private members bill proposed by a government MP. The issue of divorce in Malta is still highly controversial, dividing the public between those who are in favour and those who are against.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church still plays an influential position in Maltese society and its strong objection to divorce appears to have exposed a movement that wants to remove the power of the Church in society. To be fair, the Church still plays a considerable amount of influence but, on the other hand, it must be said that it also offers a wide range of social services and support to those in need which is not available by the state.

The debate on the referendum scheduled for Saturday, 28 May, has ended up with issues related to religious teachings with those who are in favor accusing those against divorce of imposing their religious views on others who may be facing difficult marital breakdowns. Ironically, those in favour of divorce have made it a point to emphasize that they are "practicing Christians" but respect the right to others of a different view to choose over their life.

While there is some merit to this reasoning, it is problematic as the pro-divorce lobby has persisted in labeling those who hold another view as, amongst others "selfish", "heartless" and "fundamentalist". However, for those who feel that divorce may be the solution based on evidence or lack of it, the battle that drags in religion into the debate only helps to alienate people, like myself, who hold a stance against divorce unless persuaded otherwise.

The referendum law will decide whether or not a legislation to permit a couple to divorce and remarry after they have been legally separated for at least 4 years. The introduction of divorce has been hailed by the pro-divorce movement as giving another chance to women experiencing domestic violence, while the anti-divorce group has highlighted the harmful implications it will have on children and on the concept of marriage itself.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What would you do?

Recently, I stumbled upon a video originally produced by ABC News for a series called What Would You Do? which explores social behavior in difficult or problematic situations. While there are many clips which set me thinking on my own reactions to particular scenarios where I could risk getting seriously injured (such as if was witness to a hate crime), it was a surprise to discover two clips tackling abuse or exploitation of disable people and to gauge the people's response to such treatment.

The first video concerns a blind person who is cheated of receiving proper change as other customers look on. Will they intervene? It's also interesting to note the difference in the reaction between a blind woman being cheated ddas against a blind man. The second video investigates whether non-disabled customers will intervene when am intellectually disable employee is harassed by an abusive customer (an actor).

What I liked about these clips are:

1. All the actors playing the part of a disabled persons ARE actually disabled people! You'd be surprise how many non-disabled people play the part of a disabled person.
2. The show is not a candid camera and we learn about the experiences of both the unaware participants and the actors themselves.
3. The setup is professional and emergency and law enforcement are aware of what will be happening that day.

While the results of this participatory-type research cannot be generalized, they do provide insight into how people behave when faced with situations where our social values are put to the test. These clips might also help in providing ideas for further research. But that's my academic side writing. Here are the videos:

Stealing from Blind Customers

Verbally Abusing a Disabled Grocery Clerk

You'd be surprised to discover how different people reacted when confronted with blatant abuse and harassment. Another interesting video is unrelated to disability targeted abuse but I wish to share it here as well because on watching it, you'll realize how the most unlikely of people may be the ones to help and fight for others.

Would you stop a hate crime?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Euthanasia: Is it a good death?

Unfortunately, there are more countries and states were the right-to-die movement is growing in strength and support. The argument brought forward by proponents of this dubious right has revolved around emotional bids to end the suffering of certain people by ending their miserable lives. It's always framed in terms of compassion and, ultimately, to do "what is vest for that person".

It's also a sad fact that among the people who have lobbied for euthanasia and its variant, assisted suicide, there were disabled people themselves and parents or next of kin. Again, our heartstrings are pulled as we hear how unbearable life has become - especially after the acquisition of a limiting medical condition.

True, any form of pain - whether physical or psychological - cam make you wish you were never born at all. Indeed, the thought of 'ending it all' passes through many of our minds whether we want to admit it or not. This may be a shock to some but there were times in my life when I considered to commit suicide

That act, however hushed, is often a symptom of another deeper problem. A failure, perhaps, of a society that has become unaware of its own faults. In my case, a silent majority, if they look at me on the streets, might assume that my Life is less than theirs just because I use a wheelchair and have a visual impairment. And thoughts like this that plague you when you're in excruciating pain. Or when you try to earn a living and go on with your daily business when you are told you have to make do with second best. Or that you have to go somewhere else as they only have stairs or, that they don't cater for people like me. It is this that blows the pain out of proportion and drains your will to live.

Thankfully, I found the support I needed from friends, family and professionals. Pain medication also helped. After all, I'm not implying that pain isn't real. What I'm saying that we often stop at looking at a person's life as if we empathize with his or her suffering. We may also sincerely believe that his or her life is not worth living. We may, in the name of a cruel mercy, assist in killing him or her. Rejecting under the pretense of love and compassion.

I know it sounds like a sermon - it's Sunday after all and assuming you're a Christian - but it's really a few thoughts I wished to share. Just ask yourself why some are expressing a desire to die or for their loved ones to die. Are our support services failing to meet the needs? Are our societies persisting in excluding us who are physically, sensorily, intellectually or psychologically diverse? Are we attaching human value to an unattainable ideal with a life that must be rid of pain and suffering that is unavoidable?

I fear what I would have done in those dark times when living appeared futile and without purpose. If I could ask an agency such as the Swiss Dignitas then, would have I insisted that I saw no point in it all. Would I be ... Typing this post here today?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

No Tears for Osama

It seems that 2011 continues to be a year Full of surprise and unexpected turns an twists. The end of April was no exception with a royal wedding at the start of the weekend as well as a beatification on Sunday. Interestingly, both ceremonies derive from old traditions going back at least a thousand of years - the British monarchy and the Catholic Church.

And then, the following Monday, we were told that the most notorious terrorist of the 21st century had been killed. Even if the fact his body was thrown to the sea as part of a burial rite has prompted a number of conspirators to shed some doubts on whether this was really bin Laden, i find little reason to doubt the claims made.

Undoubtedly, the image of Osama will bring out ugly and painful memories for many people, especially those who's lives have been directly affected by the actions of this man and his followers. On the day osama's death was announced, celebrations erupted across the globe. There I was a bit confuse as people as they celebrated the death of this man.

Don't get me wrong now. What Osama did in his life was horrible and inhuman. I can't feel sad that he is dead. What I can be sad about is the fact the world, in a way or another, created someone capable of so much hate and destruction. Because, as a matter of fact, Osama was an ordinary nan and inasmuch as we try to deny it or demonizing bin Laden, this destructive potential is within our reach.

In other words, we may have killed off a bad branch but we haven't defeated terrorism. It is true there will be no tears for Osama bin Laden but I think that we need to look beyond military force alone but realize that the war against terrorism is primarily a war like no other in the past. Its battlefield is the hearts and minds of people. It justifies itself by preying on people's pain and injustice to fuel hate and violence.

Finally, the only way to prevent another Osama from spreading their message of fear, hate and intolerance is to work together as one world to create a state of peace, justice and mutual understanding. This is in many ways an idealistic vision but it may the only answer to the challenges we face in today's world.