I'm curious how many of you might be following these internationally important (if under-reported here in the US) stories: Julian Assange, founder/publisher of Wikileaks, was granted asylum by Ecuador, while British police threatened to remove him forcibly (breaking longstanding international law) from the Ecuadorian embassy in London; and 3 members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to 2 years in prison for putting on an anti-Putin protest in Russia's largest church. Coverage by Amy Goodman is here:
It seems the U.S. (however that entity is to be defined) wants to get its hands on Assange so that it can throw him into prison and subject him to the same kind of extreme measures Bradley Manning is enduring, via a trumped-up charge pending in Sweden. And what is Assange's actual "crime"? Publishing some information about real criminal behavior being committed in the name of "the U.S.," meaning in the name of each one of us as its citizens, drawing collective, worldwide attention to ethical outrages such as seen in the video Collateral Murder, outrages which have probably become quite routine.
In other words, it is not the criminal behavior, behavior prohibited by international law and obviously unacceptable by any standard ethical orientation, that is to be punished, but rather those blowing the whistle on it, "shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful." One might ask, why bother? since many spokespeople for "the U.S." have been pretty open in bragging about carrying out torture, assassination, etc, but apparently there is a need to deny the possibility of any wrongdoing emanating from this privileged entity, and so information to the contrary is to be stamped out, along with its bearers. Does this not embody the same sort of group process that made "heresy" a crime, speaking or writing, or simply believing, a thought that went against the prevailing "religious" orthodoxy in years past?
As for Pussy Riot, it seems the crime would be blasphemy, since these young women penetrated an inner sanctum, strode upon an altar from which females have traditionally been excluded, and put on "shocking" displays of rebellion against religious and sexual traditions as well as the political power structure. Legal supporters fear for their lives if they are placed in the Russian penal system, largely filled with orthodox believers (so much for the "atheism" of the old Soviet Union!).
Religion and politics seem to be different names for what is often a single concentration of power, and I'm afraid our hallowed tradition of separating them is fast disappearing here in America, maybe ever faster in the run-up to the election in November. But human beings do not need the notion of a God of any sort in order to be ethical, to know the difference between right and wrong and act to uphold ethical behavior within the larger group--or so many atheists, more so than most, should be clamoring to have recognized. Immanuel Kant famously believed we each have our own "moral compass" within ourselves (though he did not phrase it that way), if we would only use our reason in deciding how to act. He did, however, think that the notion of an all-seeing, all-knowing God was a useful "regulative idea" to help people stay morally upright, an adjunct to the inner gyroscope. Today, however, it looks like the all-seeing eye in the sky is going to be Trapwire, and the "sins" it will record will not be a matter of behavior that harms others (much of which will be considered justified if committed by the right people) but rather anything that challenges the approved set of beliefs, the "religious" dogma of the centralized entity that hunts down whistleblowers and protestors of all sorts as its new blasphemers and heretics.
Allegiances of the younger generations around the world seem to be quite fluid, and coalescence around telling the truth and doing right over and above identification with particular religious or national entities may be possible. Do any of you folks see current events this way? It's a shame the U.S. media does not cover most of the real news going on in the world!