Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When civil blood makes civil hands unclean

There is something very uncivil happening every day in the world, and it depends on where you are as to what part of it you watch and which part you speak up about.

Today I was watching America during the wait to see what happened in Australia, because on the same day two extraordinary legislative dramas were played out in the Texas Senate and the Supreme Court. Today the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Civil Rights Bill that seeks to prevent electoral discrimination, and Wendy Davis attempted a 13 hour filibuster to block a Senate Bill restricting the operation of abortion clinics in Texas.

From inside American I suspect the issues are complicated and partisan, clouded by history and political polarization, but to me it still seems surprising that legislators are still restricting the health and birth control choices women are allowed access to, and that the legislators in power think that they no longer need to check their own privilege. When those with legislative power consider their opinion and privilege to be the only alternative for the whole of society, uncivil society is legislating.

Legislators are not entitled to tell women when they can or cannot make the choice to carry a pregnancy to term. Legislating on one particular medical procedure whose legality only impacts one particular section of society is damn uncivil. Especially when that section of society is underrepresented in membership of the legislative body and when the majority voting on the legislation are not impacted by the procedure or the outcome of the legality of it. They are not qualified to legislate and they should not legislate; as with every other medical procedure, it should be decided upon legally and on medical grounds between patient and doctor.

The legislatively powerful are not entitled to remove checks that prevent them holding discriminatory power over the route to legislation itself. From my own point of view, I feel weary each time a privileged legislator speaks out from a mob of privileged legislators to claim that we the people no longer need to worry about discrimination because it doesn’t happen anymore. "How (unfucking) civil" I think, "the privileged legislator is not being discriminated against, hence there is no discrimination."

Half the population of the world is women, but not half the membership of legislative bodies. How do these legislators know if sexism is still happening or not? How do the legislative bodies reached by set social and education pathways know about discrimination according to ethnicity, ability or education? Neither America or Australia are made up only of men and women of one type of education, ethnicity or time resident in the country, so even if we achieve a baseline of half female legislators, we still have to make sure we have proportional representation for all the populations of our countries. And that is not even the start of legislative reform, that is just leveling the playing field numerically.

The real fight is when the legislatures of the world are filled with voices for all the people of the world, and then the real civility will have to kick in ... because political, religious, ethnic and social affiliations will have to fall before the vast weight of the need to be humanly civil. Once there is no privilege, only equality, the key deciding factor of each decision will have to be a human one. And then maybe civil hands will be clean of civil blood.

NOTE 27 JUNE: And just when I thought I was being original, The Economist got there first!

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