Food, dancing, art, music, funny hats. Culture sneaks into our lives in a whole lot of ways. Everyone has their own and anyone who doesn’t accept that is an asshole! Right?
Brunei recently came under fire from the UN when it amended its penal code to include death by stoning for gay sex. This was unsurprising as those blue-helmeted lefty loonies hate that sort of thing. So, in response to stoning being made out to be ‘against human rights laws’, Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote an open letter to the UN asking for Brunei’s culture to be respected.
Now, say what you will about stoning people, but that’s a good twist. And it raises a question: Are we really as open-minded toward other cultures as we like to think we are? And should we even be?
Brunei is a small, deeply devout Muslim country in south-east Asia. Or, as Dick Cheney would describe it, a gas station. As is usually the case, the origins of culture and religions are intertwined like the tails of a rat-king, and so, too, are their effect. They weave a pattern within which thought, and behaviour are governed. This need not be a bad thing; the concept of social shame can be very useful – it can breed out undesirable behaviour, so we don’t fling our fecal matter at each other like apes. It can also go too far and cause us to embroider red A’s on clothes or throw rocks at people who think differently. It drives people to get 18 kids when they can barely afford to feed two and the planet can scarecly afford to sustain one.
For all that culture has given, it is holding us back in many ways. That’s not to say, we should burn it all to the ground, like Rohingya villages were – explained away by culture. Keep the good, the beauty that comes from diversity, but let’s finally rid the world of this bullshit dichotomy that intolerance is culture. Erywan Yusuf is not a Muslim, he is a bigot, but above all he is our Reprobate of the Week. And kid yourselves not that homophobia is a Muslim disease! Any church which bears a cross will offer refuge to any number of good, god-fearing patriots who maintain being gay is a sin. Let’s keep culture to food, dancing, art, music, and funny hats.