Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Other things I'm interested in

Although the major subject of this blog is "early [pre-railway] history," and providing my students with extra material is a priority, sometimes I comment on more recent events.

I've written and researched the world history of democracy, and so I can hardly be indifferent to democratic issues in my own country. One recent issue has been the question kicked around in the last few days: whether veiled women can vote in Canadian elections without showing their faces. The idea that it might be possible to vote veiled has provoked some hostile comment, notably from the Prime Minister. The Chief Electoral Officer of the country points out, though, that he has no legal power to require unveiling and if Parliament doesn't like it, only it can change the law.

I have conflicting feelings about veiling but it occurs to me that in many parts of the world, including this one, veiled Muslim women are quickly becoming an easy target, easier even than thin women (who must be anorexic) or even fat women. Are veiled women victims? If so, "blame the victim" seems to be awfully popular. (It may be a case of "blame the Muslim," but somehow it looks a little more like "blame the woman.")

Thanks to Chet Scoville for discussing this issue in his blog, The Vanity Press, in two recent posts, this one and this one. I particularly liked this historical allusion:

It's worth remembering that until the end of the nineteenth century, we did not have a secret ballot. In those days, people (well, men) voted by standing on a platform and openly declaring their allegiance -- and often fighting off gangs of the other party's thugs while they did so. It was called "the manly art of voting." Alexander MacKenzie introduced the secret ballot, and did away with all that. The "manly art of voting" was all about being required to show your face when you voted, and it was barbaric. There's nothing particularly wonderful, or, as far as I can see, anything urgent, about requiring citizens to show their faces when they vote -- especially not when most will anyway.

I don't always agree with Chet but boy he's interesting and passionate. See his recent postings for more hot stuff.

And who could forget September 11th (which I discuss both in World History and History of Islamic Civilization)?

Well, I went through all of this September 11th without anyone mentioning the six-year-old tragedy to my face. Online I did see some thoughtful reflections; but none as thoughtful as this post from driftglass which was called Sunday Mornin' Coming Down but might have been entitled The Better Universe and This One. Once again it brought home to me what a squalid era, morally and intellectually we live in.

Image: Read this.

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