Supertheory of Supereverything from Gogol Bordello:
This time in Italy. The northern town of Varallo Sesia has banned the Burquini – a swimsuit designed to conceal most of the body – with women caught wearing them facing fines of €500:
“The sight of a ‘masked woman’ could disturb small children, not to mention problems of hygiene,” mayor Gianluca Buonanno was quoted as saying.
“We don’t have to be tolerant all the time.”
Justifying the move, Buonanno added: “Imagine a Western woman bathing in a bikini in a Muslim country. The consequences could be decapitation, prison or deportation. We are merely prohibiting the use of the burqini”.
Afghanistan has passed a law which allows men to withhold food and money from their wives if they fail to put out.* I’m sure glad we liberated that place:
The legislation, which governs many aspects of family life for Afghanistan’s Shiites, has been sparking controversy since Karzai signed an earlier version in March. Critics said the original legislation essentially legalized marital rape and Karzai quickly suspended enforcement after governments around the world condemned it as oppressive and a return to Taliban-era repression of women. (…)
The new law includes a section saying that a husband must provide financially for his wife. It also says he can withhold this support if she refuses to “submit to her husband’s reasonable sexual enjoyment,” according to a translation of the article supplied by New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In other news, Denmark’s Conservative Party wants to ban burqas in public:
“We don’t want to see burqas in Denmark. We simply can’t accept that some of our citizens walk around with their faces covered,” Naser Khader, a Danish member of parliament of Syrian-Palestinian extraction who was recently appointed spokesman for integration issues for the Conservative Party, told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
In comments published on Sunday, Khader said the burqa is un-Danish and oppressive towards women and should be completely banned. He and his party say that what people do in their own homes is their business, but as soon as they walk into the public domain, one should be able to see their faces.
My view is that (the burqa) is not Islamic at all,” Khader says. “The modern burqa was introduced by the Taliban when the movement came to power. So I associate the burqa with the Taliban.”
Both of these stories are awful, but I worry that complaining about one type of bigotry leads to a legitimization of the other in the minds of many people. Many on the conservative right seem to think all Muslims are misogynists, and should not be able to bring any of their customs to the west. Many on the liberal left see the bigotry Muslims face in the west. and are reluctant to criticize genuinely illiberal customs. A pox on both their houses.
*I wouldn’t find that problematic (apart from the symbolic impact of explicitly enshrining a husband’s right to the ‘tang in legislation) if there weren’t a whole lot of legal and cultural barriers to women supporting themselves without a husband.
Moral codes can be produced and enforced through markets or through organizations. In particular, Catholic theology can be interpreted as a paradigm of the organizational production of morality. In contrast, the dominant moral codes are now produced in something resembling more a market.
The organizational character of Catholicism comes from its centralized production and enforcement of the moral code by theologians and priests and the mediation role played by the Church between God and believers. (…)
Instead of centralized decisions by popes, councils, and theologians, the moral code is now written by millions of human decentralized interactions of all sorts. Now that there are thousands of gods, including the environment, mediation has also been transformed or disappeared. These market features make for lesser specialization. Most morality producers also play many other functions, from teaching to advertising.
Thinking about the production of moral norms in these terms certainly seems like a useful way to approach the problem, but I’m not so sure production is really so decentralized today.
My historical knowledge is weak, but I doubt that the moral authority of the Church was anywhere near complete in even the most ardently Catholic societies. The Church claimed a monopoly on morality, and many people went along with it to a greater or lesser degree. This seems pretty close to what government does today. The state doesn’t simply create laws aimed at resolving the inevitable conflicts among people, but attempts to influence public opinion through various types of propaganda – telling people not to smoke or get drunk and dance, for example.
Of course, government is the emergent (and I would say dysfunctional) product of the decentralized interaction of many individuals, rather than a unitary decision-making entity. I would suggest, though, that this is also true of the Catholic Church. The church claims to derive its authority from God, but the economics of religion teaches us that churches do not survive unless they meet the needs of practitioners. The Catholic Church would not have become so dominant in so many places if it weren’t attuned to the preferences of many people, even if its later market power increased the slack available to the clergy.
Church and state both claim a monopoly over legitimate morality, and have often done so quite successfully. Catholics in Ireland and Italy will almost universally pay lip-service the religious diktat against birth control, for example, and it will affect their behaviour somewhat. The same seems to be true of contemporary government diktats against smoking or getting drunk. The moral scope of the government in Western democracies is probably less than that of the Catholic Church at various times and places, but that scope is endogenous and increasing.