Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Unreasonably Unaccommodating

The phenomenon of "reasonable accomadation" has hit this city hard and fast; there are very few people who haven't had a conversation on the topic already and even fewer who've found anyone who thinks exactly as they do on the matter (I am intentionally leaving out the Rest of Quebec and the Rest of Canada). All over the city, now, people are bending over backwards for one of two reasons:

1) They're kowtowing to the religious pressures and suddenly becoming "reasonably accommodating," hoping to avoid public ire and basically attempting to please everyone. These are the gyms with frosted windows, preventing pour religious folk from the "offensive" experience of being exposed to what a woman's body actually looks like.

2) They're vehemently opposing the trend of accomodation, not with reasoned arguments or serious complaint, but rather with intolerance and invective. There have been songs and long diatribes written down about the subject; drawn-out, uneducated bar-room arguments which accomplish nothing beyond the exacerbation of hatreds which have been subsiding up until this point have simply been far too numerous.

Neither of these is a viable solution, of course; we'll never be able to make everyone happy and the onus isn't on us to ensure every individual person's happiness. It is also evident that we cannot succumb to the quickly encroaching xenophobia (which has already claimed at least one small town in the province around our fair city), in the current global political climate and in the face of such realities as the declining birth rate in the western world it would be patently foolish to turn away immigrants who could greatly add to our economic stability and allow us to maintain our way of life.

While the two options currently being pursued by the population of Montreal may not be the correct ones, there is an option which has remained unexplored: secularism.

We in this country pride ourselves on multiculturalism and secular legislature and yet there is truth in the observation that the prevalent worldview in our government is plainly judeo-christian; there is, of course, nothing we can do about the views of the politicians themselves, but the laws we can change. We can expunge our country of preferential treatment for any and all religion. This work must begin with our calendar.

We already allow people of various religious sects to take their respective religious holidays off of work and school, it is not a leap of logic to extend this to christianity aswell; Christmas should be an optional holiday, along with easter and whatever else people take off for religious reasons. If we are to have equality, it must be universal equality.

Andrew, a friend of mine, offered a very sensible solution to the problem of religious holidays which encompasses what I have written above; legislators should choose the religion with the highest number of religious holidays and apply that number accross the board, calling them "personal holidays" and leaving it at that - everyone who works would be allowed to use them as they pleased and it would not negatively impact their already existing vacation packages as it does not significantly alter the number of days which an employee works.

It is reasonable and is not patronizingly "accomodating," it simply creates a level playing field.

More significant than any change of the calendar would be to remove the meaningless religious discourse from our laws; the Charter of Rights is one example, stating in the opening sentence that it derives its legitimacy from the supremacy of God: this is meaningless. The Charter derives its legitimacy from us, the people of the country whose democratic support makes it possible (Jean-Jacques Rousseau dealt with this over two-hundred years ago, get with the times).

Now, some may ask themselves why secularism is a better answer than reasonable accommodation (I hope no one questions the wisdom of secularism over blind intolerance) and the answer is simply a matter of equality; under a system which allows preferential treatment of anyone holding a "sacred" text, atheists lose out. In a truly equal society, everyone is truly equal; this is impossible when religious groups can impose their will on the world around them and atheists, who have no holy texts (or any reason to have any) are left high and dry, forced to accommodate people whose ridiculous tenets diminish the freedom of everyone around them for the sole purpose of increasing their own personal comfort.

Accommodation, beyond being a reminder of the Christian predominance in this country, is a politically correct and highly inefficient way of curtailing the freedom of private citizens by appealing to their desire to "live in harmony;" it is a heinous idea which, in attempting to unify and pacify the population is ultimately divisive. We do not need it, on any level.

Not even on those levels which we've taken as granted for a great many years now.

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