Friday, July 25, 2003

Uniform Civil Code
The Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court has finally endorsed a common civil code. Readers familiar with the history of efforts know about the Shah Bano case of the 80's in which the Court ruled that her husband could not divorce her using the rules of Muslim law. Rajiv Gandhi overturned that ruling, however. (I'm not sure why the prime minister is allowed to veto SC rulings.) The issue of civil codes vs. religious practices is an interesting one, but as an atheist and as a liberal democrat I'm on the side of civil codes. Religious practices can endorse caste and gender discrimination. Such discrimination is diametrically opposed to the liberal endorsement of equal rights.

Furthermore, religions are so loosely defined that (a) anyone can convert to a different religion at any time, and (b) anyone can create a new religion with rules that can circumvent civil laws. Many non-Muslims in India have already used (a) to practice polygamy. Broadly speaking, choosing to believe in a religion is a libertarian choice, just like choosing to belong to a club. Since religious roots are deep and supernatural, however, many religious people would like to argue that their obligation to their God supercedes all civil codes. Yet the evidence for any particular God's existence would not hold up in a court of law. In addition, the interpretation of religious codes and obligations is so loose that a court of law cannot decide exactly which ones, if any, should be protected even when they are illegal. So the law must simply treat all persons qua persons with equal rights under the law.

The constitutional protection of freedom of religion is simply part of the overall freedom that citizens enjoy under a liberal democracy. Constitutions probably protect religious freedom specifically because history has shown that people are more likely to indulge in religious persecution (as opposed to other types of persecution) when they can.

Brett Marston, who knows far more about the law than I, has comments on this development as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Sue Martha Argerich | discography
Ok, we can't really sue her. But doesn't it piss you off that one of the most talented pianists around hardly does solo recordings or recitals any more? I understand that she has severe stage fright, but a recording studio shouldn't intimidate her. One almost wishes that one could hold performers accountable for acts of omission. Argerich, being a pianistic wonder of the world, has an aesthetic obligation to use her talent -- and not just for chamber music or another Rach 3 performance. (Incidentally, Argerich has only one recording of a Beethoven sonata and it's out-of-print.)

Poll: Which artist or performer would you sue?

Gould's Book of Fish by William Flanagan
Not only is Flanagan's book overshadowed by English Passengers, which also tackles the melange of nineteenth-century Tasmania, it is also weakened by the author's desire to be clever. Gould, the narrator of the major part of the book, constantly quotes famous aphorisms but he never seems to know that he is quoting them. Are we as readers supposed to assume that Gould serendipitously mouths these words without knowing that he is quoting someone? Self-referentiality is also passe these days, but apparently no one has told this to Flanagan. Nevertheless Flanagan's work is recommended if you like magical realism, historical novels, farces and colorful casts of characters.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Sorry about my silence. I will post more often, really.