Germany’s Path to the World Cup

I finally watched the series, ‘Germany’s Path to the World Cup’ – a collection of every single match they played in Brazil this year. Germany, now four time world champion, were not favored to win this year; Brazil, Spain, Argentina were the favorites. Oh how wrong they would all be.

Germany in 2010

Four years ago, a bright and young German squad graced the World Cup for the first time. Unshackled by boring German dogma, they played in their own style, a beautiful open football that the world has not seen before. No one was prepared for it – Saudi Arabia was buried 8-0, Australia 6-0, England 4-1, and then Argentina 4-0. It was the art of the counterattack taken to a new level – miss a shot against us, and we’ll bring the ball to your net instead. Thomas Muller, the linchpin of all these counterattacks, won the Golden Boot award.

But Spain doused the German fire, playing an incredulous strategy known as tiki-taka, aka “you will never touch the ball for 90 minutes”. It worked because the Spanish midfield was packed with Barcelona talents in their prime. Without the ball, Germany had no attacks, no counterattacks, no nothing. Just sitting back and letting Spanish players pass the ball to each other endlessly. Spain didn’t even try to score, missing could make them lose the ball. They still had to win, so Spain wasted a whole hour before committing to a single, perfectly timed corner kick, and won 1-0.

Germany vs Portugal, 4-0

Four years later, the young squad had grown up. They faced Portugal, another strong counter-attacking side, who also had one of the best players in the world, Christiano Ronaldo. It should be roughly equal, but it wasn’t. With great precision, Germany fired in a free kick, then a corner kick, then a cross-in, then another. Portugal tried to shoot back, but they missed every single shot. Whoops.

Pepe, the Portugese central defender, got sent off near half time for headbutting Thomas Muller (Germany was already leading 2-0). This did not help Portugal at all, and soon they had to book an early plane ride home.

Spain vs Netherlands, 1-5

Meanwhile, Germany’s archnemesis, Spain, got themselves into an embarassing situation. They did the same thing they were doing four years ago, passing the ball around, not attacking, just passing – and then the brash Dutch fouled them, giving Spain an easy penalty kick. Things were going according to plan, Spain in the lead early, and Netherlands just watched the ball from afar with wistful hope.

Just before half time tho, Spain made a rare mistake, allowing the dutch to grab the ball, lob it to Robin van ‘Superman’ Persie. who instantly headed in the most beautiful equalizer of the World Cup. Spain just shrugged their shoulders, and said ‘oh well. lets pass the ball around for another 50 minutes’.

superman

It became quickly apparent that Netherlands had everything planned in advance. Visually Spain had the ball, but in reality, Netherlands was able to snatch it whenever and wherever they wanted. This allowed the Dutch to test the Spanish defence, which was rusty, since their game plan had always depended on keeping ball control, and not on actual defence.

Iker Casillas, the ‘best goalkeeper in the world’ four years ago. was exposed as a fraud. He made simple mistakes, palming a ball into the hands of waiting Dutch strikers, and even at one point allowing Arjen Robben to steal his goalkick, and score. Netherlands finished with 5 goals to 1. It was a thrashing.

Germany vs Ghana, 2-2

Historically, Germany had problems with African teams running fast under hot sun. Ghana was one of these teams. Germany controlled the ball, Ghana just sat back and defend the entire first half. The Germans could not find any angle to attack from, and whenever they got to the goal, they missed.

In the second half, Germany finally got one in. But this woke up Ghana, who finally decided they would start running. It caught the high German defence line unprepared. Breaching the walls easily (thats the weakness of a high defence line), Ghanan counter-attackers outraced the defenders, gaining a 2-1 lead. Things were looking dire for the Germans, so the coached substituted in Miroslav Klose, the old and powerful Master Yoda of Germany. It paid off. Klose immediately scored from a corner kick.

With things back under control, Germany tried to score a third. But they just couldn’t do it – so it was a draw.

Spain vs Chile, 0-2

Still shell shocked from the ass kicking they took, Spain brought the same tiki-taka to Chile, but they discovered that everyone and their grandmother was now prepared for it. Playing a daring, energetic, and direct style of football, Chile launched wave after wave of “all-in” attacks. This involved a series of gambits and audacious bluffs, allowing Chileans to quickly sidestep multiple Spanish lines to reach goalkeeper Ike, whom they knew was human after all.

And he was. Chile scored two in the first half, and then decided it was enough. For the second half, Chile calmly pulled back and parked the bus, letting Spain pass the ball for 45 minutes and knowing that Spain would not be brave enough to attack, let alone score. And they were right.

spain

Germany vs America, 1-0

America was rightly intimidated by Germany, as their own coach, Jurgen, was a German. He knew the difficulties America would face against German attack, and America had no attacking talent to speak of anyway. So the USA just huddled into a diamond defensive shape and tried not to move, conceding full control of the ball to Germany.

TYVM, Germany said, and they kept their high line to squeeze the America and gain a space advantage. Tamely, the Americans never tried to exploit the space Germany left behind, and Muller scored one in, and it was over.

By now, it was apparent that 2014 Germany was vastly different from 2010 Germany. In 2010, they sat deep, snatched balls and launched rolling counterattacks. In 2014, Germany would play high line, keep the ball, and launch direct attacks. This strategy is known to be weak against counterattacks, who can exploit the space between the defenders and the goal.

Brazil vs Chile, 1-1 (3-2 penalties)

Brazil, the host nation of this world cup, and five time lifter of the trophy, was the clear favorite to win this entire tournament. Even so, they barely got past feisty Chile, who already knocked out Spain, the last world cup champion. Brazil needed to take the game to penalties, which in football is like a coin flip. And they won. They just barely won.

It was a bad omen.

Germany vs Algeria, 2-1

Understanding this, underdogs Algeria eschewed defence to attack that vulnerable space. They were very nearly successful, too, except that Germany was saved by their latest innovation, the sweeper keeper. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer left his box to go chasing after Algerian strikers, bailing out the (non-existent) defence time and again. Neuer would touch the ball a whopping 21 times outside the box.

sweeper

Argentina was driven to exhaustion, and by extra time, its players were collapsing on the field. The Germans were tired, too, but they didn’t run as much – so they collected this match, 2-1.

Germany vs France, 1-0

The French had been playing as well as anyone else this tournament, so they entered the quarter finals without any fear of the Germans. The Germans played in the same style of aggressive possession they had used the entire tournament – but with respect to the French, no high line. Philip Lahm and defenders at the back. And the plan actually worked – for all of 5 minutes.

The powerful French midfield could not be restrained. They easily broke through with deft touches to reach the German goal, stopped only – by last minute defence (luckily, the defenders were not playing a high line). Then the Germans would counterattack, reaching the French goal within seconds, only to be stopped by a very good goalkeeper. The immense power of both sides’ attacks, which are no doubt among the best in the world, were stopped by the immense defence of both sides, which are also among the best in the world. In the end, nothing was achieved.

Except that very early on, the ultra-precise Germans had landed in one solitary goal from a free kick, and it proved to be the only difference that separated them both. Very close match, 50-50 could have gone either way.

Germany vs Brazil, 7-1

Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Brazil came to the semi-final without their star player, Neymar, and without their star defender, Silva. Even so, statisticians were “very sure” that Germany would lose. Brazil was on home soil, they said. Five time world cup champions, they said. Highest elo rating squad in the world, they said. German defence looks shaky, they said.

Well, if the German defence is rickety, at least it (sort of) worked. Brazillian defence was totally asleep. They left Thomas Muller criminally unmarked, letting him get away with a corner kick. Then they barreled down the wide open space left by Brazil’s “all-in” attacks, scoring in precise, beautiful, 2010 Germany style four more times in a row. We thought that this magical Germany was gone. Replaced by a pragmatic, brute force Germany. But Deutschland was just waiting for the right time. And today, against the most powerful opponent in the World Cup, it was finally, the right time.

Within 30 minutes, the most powerful footballing nation in the world was down by five beautiful goals. Miroslav Klose (17 goals) overtook Brazillian Ronaldo (16 goals) to become the World Cup record holder. But the Germans were still not finished.

brazil

The Germans absorbed the inevitable second-half Brazillian attack, then counter-attacked to put two more in.

brazil

No one was able to explain what happened.

brazil

Brazil had spent 11 billions on building their stadiums in anticipation of hosting this World Cup.

brazil

Brazil in ruins.

brazil

Germany vs Argentina, 1-0

In the final match of World Cup 2014, Argentina parked the bus and shut down every single route to the goal. All the way from the midfield to the penalty area. Germany would not be allowed to repeat the rape on Brazil. In fact, Argentina would deny Germany the chance to even start an attack for 55 minutes. They were so rough that they made Bastian Schweinsteiger bleed.

bastian

It was impressive defending, certainly more impressive than the Argentinian attack. Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, was completely a no-show, while his compatriot, Higuain, was comically missing every shot. Higuain would finally get sent off injured when Manuel Neuer used his ‘flying punch’ kung fu move.

higuain

higuain

Germany kept moving against the jam-packed Argentinian defence until at the 113th minute, with only seven minutes left in the game, “Super” Mario Gotze sliced a side-ball into the net.

gotze

And that was that. Germany, 2014 World Cup winner.

Soccer: World Cup-Argentina vs Germany

Liberal Catholicism…a Summary

About liberal catholicism…this is a summary of my beliefs, since I was questioned on it.

I believe that Jesus was an actual human, with the ample evidence of at least 5 written records (only one of which is the Bible). During his lifetime, he preached that he was the son of God and came to offer “free heaven” to all humans for the low price of “absolutely nothing except believing what I told u is true”. He also did a great many miracles, which are described as “good works” by believers and “demonic sorcery” by nonbelievers. The very fact that nonbelievers refer to the miracles at all, proves that they did happen. It is hard to be sorcerous about events that never happened.

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This offer is “made valid” by the sacrifice of Jesus’ own life, who satisfied the punishment required for sin. Therefore all sin, be it past present or future has been forgiven. Christianity is about forgiveness.

Christianity does not solve the problem of evil acts. But we solve the problem of evil acts leading to punishment by God. Evil acts may still be punished by other people, using the law. But no evil act, no matter how evil, will cause an unwilling person to go to hell. Because God does not punish. Because God is love.

Why does God want to forgive everyone? Because God is good. And how do people go to heaven? They just walk in the front door. Absolutely no effort is required, in fact, trying to “earn salvation” by righteous acts is a perversion of the gospel.

Jesus Christ, a powerful moral voice even by modern standards. Advocate of non-violence and separation of Church and State.

Since then, I have modified my original belief. In the modification, the offer is “still valid” even after death. The soul of a person goes to sleep (as described by the Bible, unlike the unbiblical official version that we go to heaven immediately upon death). On Ressurection Day, everyone comes back to life, gets to see God, the proper and true version, and accepts “free heaven” again for the low price of “absolutely nothing.”

Therefore this modification solves the problem of people being born in the wrong religion or not hearing the gospel before they die. Or rejecting the gospel due to misunderstandings. Or anything.

God’s name, YHWH. It means “I am what I am”, and was communicated to Moses.

I then hold to the additional belief that God’s grace is a bet. He is giving everyone the absolute freedom to do whatever they wish (they can also commit evil, because evil has been expiated by Jesus’ sacrifice). God believed in the goodness of every single man, so that they would use this powerful and complete freedom to engage in good and worthy acts, instead of choosing evil, even if there are absolutely no consequences for evil. Christianity is therefore a lifetime spent proving that God made a good bet. A bad Christian is dishonors God, but God will still honor the person because of his aforementioned goodness and sacrifice.

Even more consequentially, because Christ gave this perfect freedom, therefore as a Christian I oppose the banning of freedoms, except considering limits imposed by the Harm Principle and very few select cases. Therefore, this justifies the “liberal” portion in liberal Catholicism. There exists within my religion a significant conservative wing which seeks to ban or curtail many things. As a liberal Catholic, I oppose all these conservatives whenever they arise. “Everything is good” except when clear, reasonable, and proven harms can be shown about something.

Pope Francis, unexpected champion of liberal Christianity. Francis reversed the church’s millenia-old exclusion of non-Christians from heaven. Also reversed condemnation of homosexuals.

As a Catholic, I also respect the position of Pope Francis, the legitimate leader of Christiankind, and the unbroken successor of Peter, the first Apostle. This respect does not mean I confer upon him papal infallibility, but I acknowledge that he has jurisdiction to represent Christianity. In other to strengthen the pope’s legitimacy, I also advocate a Proportional Representation democracy to elect the position of Pope, because this will make the Pope more accountable to people. The pope has to be accountable to God, but he also has to be accountable to Christians, because he represents them, even if only symbolically.

I reserve the right to criticise the pope, but so far, I have not used this right, because Francis has been a good pope, one of the finest and makes me proud to be catholic.

Regarding the duty of a christian…my position is the same as one of the former popes: “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Is Christianity superior to other religions? If I did not think so, I would be an atheist or a Buddhist or a Hindhu (but never a Muslim). I studied the strengths and weaknesses of every religion before making my choice, and Christianity is not my first religion. However, it is not my duty to impress this superiority onto others, but everyone makes up their own mind. Some people prefer this religion, others prefer that.

Do atheists go to heaven? Quoting Pope Francis: “Just do good and we’ll meet each other up there. Even the atheists.”

The Bible: One of history’s best-preserved history books, and more reliable than most ancient texts used as the basis for a country’s history. Still not infallible.

Is the Bible infallible? Absolutely not. The Catholic church edited and compiled the Bible from 66 disparate sources. They took care to preserve everything correctly, but no human effort is perfect. We use the Bible in the same way we read our history books…as a good reference, but not as perfectly written Word of God. The Bible is simply a record of “what ancient Christians and Jews believed about God”, and their colorful interaction with Him.

Therefore, if the Bible contains some words about gays being evil and all that, then it is because modern science had not yet discovered that being gay is an inherent trait and not a choice. Such poorly informed verses can be rejected.

So, what about those Protestants? I’m not protestant. I used to be part of this Protestant church but I saw many problems related to Sola Scriptura, specifically in applying the literal Bible to university-level relationships. I saw many people leave the church because such relationships were banned. I might add that this banning contradicts the Bible but conservatives are never good at getting their own facts right.

The founder of Protestantism upheld argument by reason. Modern protestants today dishonor his legacy by advocating Creationism, 6000-year Young Earth, or other failed theories.

If science says anything contradictory to the Bible then science wins, because proof > history book. But if God directly manifested as a burning bush and talked to me, then I will 1) Ask a doctor to check my sanity, 2) Follow what the bush says.

Adding ‘why’ to religion

Much of the traits of religion today arises from the era in which they were formed, the period 2400 BC to 700 AD. ‘Why’ was not a very important question in that period. ‘Obey’ was of supreme importance.

In those 3100 years, religion derived much of their principles. Comparatively, they have been slow to adopt the higher-grade and superior Enlightenment Principles. One of the important principles of the Enlightenment was ‘Why’. ‘Why’ is the foundation of the scientific method, and the end of unjustifiable policies. ‘Why’ is how modern humans keep making better things. In fact, ‘Why Not’, the cousin of ‘Why’, is the reason new things are invented at such accelerated rates.

By contrast, religions are deficient in ‘Why’. They lack Y-vitamins, leading to incorrect judgment, decreased vitality, and rigidity in thought. This is also why any politician identifying as religious will make wrongful policies. In fact, the more religious, the more likely they are to be dead wrong. Because religion itself is missing a vital ingredient.

This is not a summary dismissal of religions, but a Darwinian challenge to it. They have to adapt to survive. We now live in the unquestionable age of ‘Why’, and the golden age in which religion thrived so well (2400 BC to 700 AD) will never return. Religion might as well get used to ‘Why’. It will always be with us, moving forward. Religions might as well adopt ‘Why’ and carry it themselves. The alternative is extinction.

This is what a religion that asks ‘Why’ looks like:

  1. Instead of God hates X, or X is sinful – tell us what exactly is so bad about X and we can discuss it.
  2. If the reason is not strong enough, your rule doesn’t stick. Not even if God himself had personally said so, in his Holy Book, a few thousand years ago.
  3. If God is wrong, then God is wrong. The idea that God “never gets anything wrong” is only by God’s own words, in his Holy Book, a few thousand years ago. I have seen enough to know that God gets things wrong…both in my personal life, and also in the Book of Job.
  4. Any doctrine of the religion can be challenged. Any successful challenge destroys the doctrine.

We have to be more honest about the character of God. This is the person God describes himself to be:

  1. Perfectly good
  2. All knowing
  3. Omnipresent
  4. Perfectly just
  5. All powerful
  6. Worthy of worship

And this, this is the person that we actually experience:

  1. Invisible
  2. Ambiguous
  3. Does very little, if at all
  4. Nothing proven to be done by Him, and no one else
  5. Not that good, some of his actions are criminal
  6. Talks to himself (i.e. crazy)
  7. Makes up his own rules as he goes along
  8. Seldomly answers prayer
  9. Even more seldomly commits a miracle
  10. Promotes outdated and wrong ideas
  11. Does not stop his followers from harming non-followers

Now, God may not actually be such a terrible person, but the impression that He leaves is horrible. Atheists say that this is because God does not exist, and people just made Him up and act in his name. I’m more inclined to think that He is neither a perfect nor all-powerful being. But a sleep-deprived programmer, who built a simulation once. Then left it to run on its own accord.

When we were 3, we used to think our parents were perfect. That they could do no wrong. Religion is the mental state of being three years old. But sadly, humanity has grown up. God is not so shiny anymore.

It’s alright, we still love our parents.

Pope Accepts Gay People

Pope Francis arriving in Rome, 29 July 2013

A landmark decision sends ripples throughout the Christian world.

The pope has spoken, gays are now acceptable.

BBC News

Pope Francis has said gay people should not be marginalised but integrated into society.

Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”

He also said he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but insisted they could not be priests.

The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a week-long tour of Brazil – his first trip abroad as pontiff – which climaxed with a huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach for a world Catholic youth festival.

Festival organisers estimated it attracted more than three million people.

His remarks on gay people are being seen as much more conciliatory than his predecessor’s position on the issue.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

Gay ‘lobbying’

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging 80-minute long interview with Vatican journalists.

“It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society.”

But he condemned what he described as lobbying by gay people.

“The problem is not having this orientation,” he said. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

On the role of women in the Church, he said: “We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.

“But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

Answering questions about the troubled Vatican bank, he said the institution must become “honest and transparent” and that he would listen to advice on whether it could be reformed or should be shut down altogether.

“I don’t know what will become of the bank. Some say it is better that is a bank, others that it should be a charitable fund and others say close it,” he said.

New Words for Common Color Pairs

The limits of language are the limits of our thought. When we encounter situations not expressed by words, it is time to invent new words.

Like a modern-day Shakespeare.

1) Azor

Blue + White = Azor

Common in government buildings, the Azor pattern emphasizes authority by mimicking the sky. The viewer subconsciously associates the thing with “above me”. Note that both Facebook and Twitter are Azor.

Azor is derived from azure, which means something else entirely.

2) Oreel

Oreel = Orange + Teal

Overused in movies, the oreel pattern (teal + orange) is a direct consequence of the Law of Color Contrast. Contrasting colors stand out the most, and orange is taken by the humans actors. This means that the only other color allowed is Teal, the counter to orange, and therefore Teal is almost always the background. Fantasy, sci-fi, action, adventure, or even post-apocalyptic, they always use teal.

3) Tention

Red + Yellow = Tention

Used by barricades, sale signs, and warnings. Tention draws the viewer to something that wants to be known. It’s usually damn annoying. Tention covers additional color patterns:

  1. Red and yellow
  2. Red and white
  3. Orange and white

It wants attention.

4) Caliqo

Caliqo = Black + White + Orange

Inspired by a real life cat, many buildings are black + white + any shade of orange (orange, beige, brown, etc). Most patterns are white-dominant, while the black and orange provides contrast.

Caliqo is used in high-class architecture. Example below.

5) Zeva

Zeva = Black + White + Gray + Silver

Employed to evoke “simplicity”. The Zeva is any combination of Black, White, Gray, and Silver. Note that Zeva is simply Caliqo without any orange.

This blog is designed in Zeva.

Chinese Word Anatomy

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Anatomy of a chinese word (hanzi).

1) Root Word (beige) – A word that cannot be divided into subwords (radicals).  Root words are considered “Level 1″ in difficulty and must be memorized by newbies to Chinese.

2) Radical (blue) – A subword. The typical hanzi has two radicals, one on the left, one on the right.

Radicals sometimes tell a “picture-story”, for example, iron is “lost (defeated) gold”. Yet most of the time, the story is lost to antiquity, making these radicals completely worthless. The student should either create their own story (challenging), or just memorize the “whole word” ignoring the radicals.

3) Mutant (red) – These mutants are deformed radicals. Sometimes, dots or strokes are added to a radical (for god knows what reasons), or the radical is cut in half or squeezed (for space). In extreme cases, the radical cannot be identified at all.

Because Chinese just wants to be difficult.

4) Sound (yellow) –  Seeing a sound radical should bring great joy, since this is the only element in Chinese that improves readability (the rest of it is a nefarious plot to drive you insane). With the aid of the blue or red radicals beside it, the entire word can usually be identified.

Caveats abound – the sound radical does not provide an exact copy of the pinyin, but only an approximation. Also, a radical may be yellow (sound) in one hanzi, but blue (useless) in another hanzi. Therefore, seeing a sound radical may lead to a false identification. Because Chinese is just that difficult.

Hanzi to Pinyin

Predicting pinyin is damn near impossible (unlike English, where the pronounciation is always quite close). Sound radicals, the only element that helps you read, occur less than <50% of the time. Also, you have no way of knowing a given radical is actually a sound, since they sometimes function as useless blues.

For root words, Chinese just expects you to “memorize them already” since these root words often occur again as radicals in other words. Most root words, however, are pretty simple, with only a few strokes.

For blue words, Chinese tells a (hard to guess) story, and sometimes (usually), there is no story at all.

For red words, additional skill is needed to identify the original radical it mutated from.

Guess the Word

In other words, the only way to learn Chinese is to have a very good memory. You will recognize the word, if you already know the word. If you don’t know, then there is no reliable way to “guess” whatsoever. Of course, native Chinese will tell you they can “guess”, but the keyword is “reliable”, i.e. guessing correctly.

Guesswork in Chinese is like flipping a coin. If you’re right, then you will brag about guessing it correctly. But just as often (or more often), you will guess wrongly.

Guesswork improves when reading entire sentences. Of course, this assumes a very high level of speaking comprehension already, so it brings back to the Catch 22 situation: you will recognize what you already know. But what about things you don’t know? Tough luck, sucker.

In the end, the only way to learn Chinese is to memorize 2000+ symbols (8000 to equal a graduate Chinese). So, hope your memory is good.

Constructive Criticism Should Be Encouraged

By Nathalie ‘yay’ Kee via Mohd Rashid

I’ll just say what’s on my mind.

Criticising religion

There have been a variety of mixed reactions to Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee’s recent actions, where they made a Ramadan greeting poster of them eating pork (Bak Kut Teh to be exact), which is forbidden in Islam. And I respect that everyone has their own personal opinion on it. Some may find it amusing, some may find it horrible. The general sentiment of late has been anger, resentment and hatred. Disgust, even. I personally find their actions to be quite crass, although not to the extent of anger, and especially not to the extent that I have to bundle an innocent man up and scrawl ‘Hina Islam’ on his body. As a believer in discourse and debate to enrich our society, I feel that the constructive criticism of religion should be encouraged. Let’s not bastardize the word ‘criticism’ and accept that it is a necessary part of intellectual discussion and the growth of knowledge.

According to the Collins English Dictionary,

criticism [ˈkrɪtɪˌsɪzəm]

n

1. the act or an instance of making an unfavourable or severe judgment, comment, etc.
2. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Art Terms) (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) the analysis or evaluation of a work of art, literature, etc.
3. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Art Terms) (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) the occupation of a critic
4. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) a work that sets out to evaluate or analyse
5. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) Also called textual criticism the investigation of a particular text, with related material, in order to establish an authentic textCriticising religion does not seem so much like a bad thing after all. I think the main focus is on the first definition: ‘making an unfavourable or severe judgment, comment, etc’. What is unfavourable? What can be unfavourable for a Jehovah’s Witness may not be favourable to a Roman Catholic. What can be unfavourable to me might be just alright with my friend.
If we recall Irshad Manji’s bold, intriguing book, ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’, which was somehow construed as an attack on Islam in Malaysian society (how can that pretty little lady hurt a fly?), there is a certain sense of insecurity and prejudice when one says ‘let’s not criticise other religions’, for we often forget that the world is made up of millions of belief systems that often conflict with each other in day-to-day affairs, which should not be simply ignored, but talked about, discussed, the concepts embraced, the differences acknowledged and the similarities cherished together. Debates on whether ‘Christianity or Islam is better’ should happen, but in a self-respecting (e.g. NOT hurling personal attacks at each other) and scholarly manner. Debates on whether Christianisation is rampant in the US, or Islamisation encroaches on the beliefs of non-Muslims in Malaysia, must always be allowed, and not silenced by a simple ‘let’s jail everyone who criticises religion’.Offence and hurt

We have been taught, since a very tender age, that we should not disparage other religions and we have to respect each other. I am completely fine with that. But what do we do when someone does disparage someone’s religion? Do we hit the person? Do we tell the police? Do we jail the offender? Do we tell the State to execute all of those who offends the sentiments of the faithful? The answers to these questions were, unfortunately, not provided to us in our Moral and Civic textbooks, so we naturally look to the majority consensus to figure out how we must deal with the offenders. The question is, how right are they? In some countries, blasphemy is a crime punishable by death. So technically if I say ‘god does not exist’ in those places, I would be either shot dead by an angry mob or hanged by the State. That does not seem very fair, because my non-belief should be just as respected as any other belief, so long that I do not impose my expectations on others.

The problem is, it is difficult to decide what types of criticisms of religion should be punished by the State, and what criticisms of religion should be encouraged to contribute to intellectual discourse, by setting aside our prejudices and emotions and looking at our religions in a very critical manner. If we lose the ability to critically view religion, we lose everything else, for there are religious teachings (whether or not they are true) that have harmed innocent people (Malala Yousafzai) and stifled progress.

Besides that, who will be the ones responsible to choose which religious criticisms are important to intellectual thought and which ones are not? With all the offence and hurt that can arise from hearing that one’s religious convictions are wrong, one must keep calm and stay rational about it, because that is the only righteous way.

Freedom of speech

Once upon a time, I used to think that all forms of hate speech should be banned. That sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic slurs should be banished from the community and they should be punished for what they have said (note: nothing to do with their physical actions).

Then one day, I realised that it would be a severe impediment to progress if we do so. For who will draw the line between the constructive and the destructive? A picture can be offensive to 10 but not offensive to 100. Do we then hide the picture, to be banished for all eternity? What if those who are responsible for drawing the line, are corruptible and biased? What do we do then? If we lock up those who “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against” the government or engender “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races, what if the powerful use it as a tool to lock up innocent people, or political dissenters? How about those who oppose government policies that deal with sensitive racial matters – do we lock them up too? With such wide discretionary powers given by vaguely worded phrases that have severe implications, I daresay laws such as the Sedition Act 1948 put our democracy (well, what’s left of it) at stake.

SO, what do we do with the Alvivis and Ibrahim Alis if there are no laws to silence them?

DROWN THEM.

DROWN THEM WITH LOVE. Compassion. Show the world that their views are in the minority. Chastise them if you want to, chastise them hard, but do not involve the State and do not harm them. Do not stoop to their level. That’s how you fight, not with archaic laws that stifle people and oppress honest opinions. We should realise that religious opinions, like political views, can be construed in different ways by different people. Being offended does not make you a victim of a crime. What crime? Maybe in moral terms it is a crime, but legally speaking, it is not so easy to punish those who, for lack of a better phrase, piss you off. Too much is at stake when you make too much leeway for the authorities to persecute people. Furthermore, let us not forget what the Sedition Act 1948 has done to many good men and women. In recent events, PKR vice-president Tian Chua, PAS leader Tamrin Ghafar, activists Haris Ibrahim, Hishamuddin Rais and Safwan Anang were charged with uttering seditious words during a May 13 forum. I have seen many who, during the time of their arrest, were so abhorred by the Sedition Act. Now that the exact same tool is used against people they don’t particularly like, they suddenly leap to support the move. It is very tempting to say that it could be a ploy to make the people forget about the controversial aspect of silencing political dissent.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall (yes, not Voltaire)

And as lawyer Syahredzan Johan once said,

 “I’m sorry, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with being offended. It is human nature to take offence. But to forgive when offence has been taken, even when that offence goes to your very core, that is divine.

You may be offended, and no one should tell you you should not be offended. But do not drag the State into it. It should not be the State’s business to punish those who offended you.