Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Brain chemicals and fundamentalism - some light-hearted thoughts for the morning
There are days - just occasionally, mind - when I quite enjoy the bumpy fairground ride that is bipolar disorder. Today, for instance, I'm buzzing around the department like a very buzzy little thing (this regardless of the fact that I'm still sick of being overworked, bored with marking and tired out from unenthusiastic classes), feeling chirpier and more energetic than I have since December, when I got ill. It's pleasant. Hurrah for brain chemicals, at least when their effects are mild and useful.
Of course, this sudden cheeriness isn't actually encouraging me to work. I have spent the past hour perusing blogs and considering freedom of speech, particularly in terms of things like these thoughts on employers who limit their workers' opportunities to speak out. While it can perhaps be argued that there are jobs and situations where issues of security outweigh individuals' rights to write - not keen on the idea of an MI5 employee referring to classified operations, for example - it nonetheless seems that this excuse could be used to clamp down on important social criticism.
In not-unrelated thoughts, the flatmate and I watched this last night (on my tiny portable TV with the bad reception, since our incompetent cable company have ruined our viewing enjoyment). Now, it's possible that there was bias in the programme's aims, and I'd like to hear more of 'the other side' from those who work at the schools. Still, as someone who used to be an evangelical fundamentalist (and it feels a lot like I had a lucky escape from a cult there), the claims made in the programme rang some quite terrifying bells for me. What worried me most was seeing that the government is allowing groups who preach bigotry, hatred and some fairly blatant lies to run secular schools. I'm not opposed to faith - I'm still a committed Christian, after all. It's the literalistic, right-wing control of thought and belief that I see in fundamentalism, and its creeping influence in secular society, that I object to. I also have no problem with people taking the Bible literally, as long as they don't impose those ideas on others. I don't even object to faith schools, if parents have chosen to send their children there. But when such extreme ideas are mixed in with the National Curriculum and taught to children as fact, in local comprehensive schools where parents are sending their children to receive a state education, then as both an educator and a proponent of equal rights, I can't keep quiet about it. Especially since I know first-hand what kind of effect these ideas can have on young people. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to rework my thought processes on some very damaging ideas, relating to everything from homosexuality to heaven and hell. Not everyone who's exposed to these ideas will get the chance to challenge them for themselves.
Any opposing views on this one? I'd love to debate it.